Vadnagar - the land of Temples, Torans, Havelis and Narendra Modi

Update: Vadnagar is now even famous as our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthplace, though unfortunately I never clicked a picture of the house he was born in when visiting the town. He was born here, but lived in many different places across Gujarat. The people in the town have fond memories of Narendra Modi's childhood days...

After being accused of being a pair of suspected Amdavadi tourists in guise of travelers, rejection of our request to prove our identity through our Identity cards, and a thinly veiled threat to leave before dawn, we were given an almost livable room at the Gemini Guest House (for Rs. 350 for two) just outside the Amtol gate of Vadnagar! This hospitable reception late in the night was in stark contrast to the welcome that we got in the town.

Vadnagar is an old historical town located at a distance of about 110 km from Ahmedabad. The easiest and the cheapest (from Rs. 42 to Rs. 65 per head) way to reach is to catch a State Transport bus (we took the 06:30 pm one), and you will reach the town exactly three hours later via Gandhinagar and Visnagar. It would be prudent to suggest that one should make inquiries or preferably booking at the place to stay, before coming to the town. Despite its historical significance, the town has very few places to stay for a tourist. Despite all the accusations, we boarded at the Gemini Guest House and left very early the next morning. Apparently the place becomes popular with the couples in the morning and they pay up to Rs. 500/ per hour on a good day.

Once we were thrown out of the guest house on the main road, a couple of strong chai cups and a good smoke kick-started the day. I had a list in hand, and that made our task easier. But what really guided us through our days were the local inhabitants of the town. Bhavin and me often discussed this and made numerous jokes about the ever-helpful junta there. Men, women and clildren would all make a circle around you and give you directions to reach a place, often resulting in just numerous incoherent noise.

The lane just outside the Gemini guest house
Sun bathing cows!
Man getting bathing water ready for the family
Women chit-chatting, quite a common site on a Sunday morning
More women working and chit-chatting
This is Uttarayan season, work in progress
Kites on sale in the market, lovely colours everywhere

An old couple enjoying the Sunday sun

The most famous landmark of the town is the Hatkeshwar Temple located near the Nadiol gate. The temple is massive with intricately carved walls. We reached there at the golden photography hour and the carvings came out beautifully in these golden pictures. The temple is the biggest tourist draw here, and understandably so. But the number of tourists from outside are so few that you have the space pretty much to your own to walk around and explore.

Hatkeshwar temple from outside
The golden shikhar of the temple
The chief Pujari, for rooms one needs to contact him
The temple again
Temple cleaning in progress
Back side of the temple, Vad in the foreground
Bhavin walking around
Two women, roles

The walk from Pithori gate (near the bus stand) to Nadiol gate (near the temple) is right through the town, passing through the Hindu as well as the Muslim areas. The houses on the way are phenomenal, almost each one has its own identity and its own distinct feel. Especially famous are the Nagar Brahman havelis here, and we passed through many of those. On an early Sunday morning lanes are almost empty and you feel so good to be here, walking through the lanes of such a historical town all by your own. A good time for reflection.

The town lane, sleepy in the morning
Exceptional entrance to the house, quite a common site all through the town
Swaminarayan temple

The other historical landmark in the temple are a couple of Kirti Torans (Victory gates) located near the Arjun Bari gate. These torans were constructed by the Solanki rulers in commemoration of a decisive war victory. These are also interestingly located within the houses in the neighbourhood. Women laze around with each other in the early morning, while kids play with the dogs or fly kites in the surrounding area. Quite unlike the usual park/ garden where such places are usually located. I clicked everyone around, including the young and the old women, their kids, husbands and animals. Some wanted to know if they would die if I shoot them, I tried my best Gujarati to convince them that they won't. They remained only partially convinced!

Kirti Toran
Kirti Toran from below
The mosque near the torans, very similar to Hazaratbal in Srinagar, J&K
Kirti Toran

At the end of this visit we realised that every single thing that had to be seen was outside one gate or the other (there are a total of six gates), something that happened right till the time we saw the last landmark. This was a great thing, as we constantly walked through the town attempting to walk through the smallest path to reach the next gate and in the process saw the beautiful lanes and the house and met with numerous helpful people around.

Another haveli entrance
Another lane
Another beautiful entrance to the house

We stuck to the history still and after walking for another half an hour found the Buddhist monastery remains near Ghaskod gate. The site is a recent excavation, and work went on here till last year. All the idols found here have been sent to the museum at Gandhinagar, but even the monastery walls are impressive enough. Much more work is planned in the surrounding area. The monastery itself has two stupas belonging to two different eras. Apparently Buddhism was the religion of choice back then.

Buddhist monastery remains
Kid flying the kites at the remains, though we were not allowed to enter 
Another kid getting the manjha ready for the kite festival

From Buddha we jumped over to Mughals and visited the Tana Riri memorial, again half an hour walk away. Tana & Riri were two Brahmin sisters who took away Akbar's heart with their voice, and this monument was built as a tribute to them The site is a complete disappointment and perhaps can be skipped from the day's itinerary. Only couples from the local Diploma college visit it and for obvious reasons.

A pond on the way to the Tana-Riri memorial
Tana Riri Memorial
There was so much walking to be done still. We started walking again to the Amarthol gate to visit Amarta temple and Gauri Kund. The temple was the coolest and the most welcoming spot, and we spent a sizeable amount of time there. There is also a sun temple within the complex, one reason which drove me to the place. However, the temple is tiny and almost completely destroyed with time.

Amther mata temple
Interiors of the temple
The Sun temple at the back of the main temple, almost broken

Gauri kund is another twenty minute walk outside the town. Its a nice water-filled pond, with carved stone steps all around. Not exactly breath-taking, but certainly not to be missed.

Gauri kund
Gauri kund

The last major landmark that we saw was the Paschim Mehta ni Vav. The vav is also located outside the town, but quite close to the Gauri Kund. Its seven level vav, of which six levels are under water almost all round the year. The vav was dirty beyond belief, and so we were quite surprised when a local sadhu came there with a soap to swim and take a bath. He also happily allowed me to click him as he got inside the water. I took some interesting pics, but still couldn't digest someone immersing himself in water like that. Such is life! I guess I am still very much a city guy.

Paschim Mehta ni vav
Reflections in the Paschim Mehta ni vav
Pujari taking a bath at the Paschim Mehta ni vav
Finally some more interesting images from the town, of the places to see and its people.

Amar thol gate, near the Amther mata temple
Pithori gate near the bus stand
Nadiol gate, near the Hatkeshwar temple
Man peeping out of the window at the bus stand
We made friends with these kids, ended up meeting their whole family and clicking them all!
Another grand mother posing
A small little kid posing for me

And finally some cute pups, cuddled in the early morning cold

As for places to stay, the options are few.
  • You can stay at Toran, the Gujarat Tourism Guest House and perhaps this is the best option as well, though I would not recommend it. The place is far away from the town and there is hardly any means of transportation. No food is served and if you get late in the night, it might be odd to walk back in darkness on the highway. The number is +912761222051.
  • Alternatively you might also be able to stay at the Gemini Guest House, but I recommend speaking to the owner well in advance. Here is the number for those who might be interested +919824406895.
  • You might even be able to get accommodation at the Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple, and after speaking with the chief priest there, I feel it should not be a problem at all. Make sure you reach before sunset, else the temple might already be closed.
Along with the lack of hotels, the town has very places to eat as well. We had only one meal in the day at the Chinubhai J Mithaiwala in the main market (bazaar as everyone calls it there). Chai is available everywhere and at a reasonable cost. It would be wise to carry some food and water with you all the time.

I saw just one public rest-room, but it has enough open spaces outside the fortified town for any emergency :)

The town is also the birth place of Gujarat's current Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, and perhaps thats the reason why its so clean and relatively well developed. Though for a heritage town, the places to stay and eat are surprisingly limited.

Right below is the map of the town, not exactly a great one and completely useless if you do not understand Gujarati. But perhaps this would be the only Vadnagar map online, till someone updates with a better one.

Vadnagar Map (sadly its in Gujarati, so only useful for a few)
And here is the google map for location of the town.


View Larger Map

For a more historical perspective about the town, see this excellent blog here. Another interesting blog with much useful information is this.

Some more information about the town can be found at 'The forgotten city'.


26 comments:

  1. That's a scary story. I'm not so sure I'd enjoy exploring a place where a threat hangs down my shoulder. But Kirti Toran - and that "pond" - look intricately beautiful.

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  2. Oh do not worry...it was more funny rather than anything else, not at all a threat actually :) I mentioned it more in a non-serious way.

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  3. Very interesting and well covered too.. I doubt, people down south like me would ever be able to visit such places..The virtual darshan is well appreciated.

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  4. thank you for the lovely walk through history

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  5. Every time I wonder what great enthu you have sid for visting diff places and clicking some lovely pictures and educating us with the facts and stories..

    Once again hats off...:)

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  6. @Sridharan: Thanks a lot, am glad I went to this place and for being able to share with everyone. Its a rarely frequented place by most tourists, only pilgrims visit it.

    @Magigeye: Thanks, do go through the links that I have provided. The history of the place is damn interesting!

    @Vishakha: I do have great enthu dear :) I would visit many many more places and would write about them all; hope you keep reading these stories :)

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  7. Amazing, sure will visit these places . thanks for sharing

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  8. @Dhiraj: It would be great if someone visits the place after reading through this, its certainly worth it :)

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  9. Wow, what amazing images! A fantastic tour – thank you!

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  10. Great post, Siddhartha. I loved the photograph of the cows sunning themselves.

    I am really tempted to visit this place after reading it.

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  11. What lovely pictures! That golden dome and the colors in the wheel like thing.

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  12. @Georgianna: Thanks a lot! Nothing compares to the stunning visuals on your blog though :)

    @Sudhagee: You really should visit the place, I really do hope the places gets the exposure it so deserves!

    @Mridula: The wheel like thing is what they use for making 'manjha' used for kite flying. Glad you liked the pics :)

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  13. What a post! It sounds as though you were quite unwelcome in the beginning...I'm surprised you hung around! I think I would have high-tailed it out of there.

    But I'm glad you stayed. You've written a fascinating tale which held my interest all the way through and interspersed your commentary with wonderful photos of the buildings and people!

    Thanks for giving me a little insight into this particular place in India!

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  14. I am very glad that you liked the post Jacob :)

    Apart from the guest house that we spent the night in, people were extremely welcoming in the town, something we least expected. I had a fabolous time there :)

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  15. Great architecture! You live in a colorful and beautiful world. So different from mine..

    Wish you a happy evening:-)

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  16. @Spiderma: I am glad you liked this colorful world as well :)

    Especially at this time of the year the contrasts seem to be so high...and perhaps this is what gets us attracted to all the different places, so different from our own :)

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  17. Chantal - ShakuntalaOctober 11, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Very beautiful pictures and good description of Vadnagar.
    But one think is not exact : you tell that at Toran guest-house, no food is served. It is not true : there is a dining room, and they provide very good thalis for lunch and dinner, and also breakfast without any problem. I could even have butter-toasts ....
    I found that it was a great experience to visit this place, and I will go again. The people are also so friendly, even if it is difficult to find somebody speaking english

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps you are right Chantal about the guest house. Unfortunately we walked all the way from the town to the guest house and they told us no food served. Perhaps, they serves only to those who live there...

      Usually I find the govt guest houses nice, but poor on services...

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    2. There is one more place in Vadnagar called SAPTARSHI on the bank of Vishwamitra Sarovar which is believed to be the Tapobhumi/Ashrama Sthala of Sri Yajnavalkya Maharshi.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. Alka Parikh (alka.parikh@yahoo.in)August 17, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Hi,that was a great virtual tour to the place. I wanted to know something more about Vadnagar (given the story of Tana Riri)and whether we should go there, you did not give just "some insights", you gave a COMPLETE tour of the place!! Thanks a lot. Such blogs are priceless!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Alka, glad you liked the post and the blog and my apologies for such a late reply...

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  19. Very nice work if all people from gujrat start posting history and structures we can see a nice image of Gujrat.. ANY ONE WHO IS FROM PATAN IF YOU CAN POST PICTURE OF temple of mAHALAXMI PATAN .. I WOULD APPRICITE IT ( COZ i have heard that Mahlaxmi came to patan from Bhinmal-Jhaloer- Rajasthan) thanks all

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    1. Hey Alkesh....am glad you liked the pictures here. I lived in Gujarat for many years and love the place. Unfortunately I do not have pictures of Mahalaxmi temple in Patan. If I ever visit the place, you will find them here :)

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  20. Hi Siddharth, I wanted to to get in touch with you on behalf of Suryagarh - explore the unexplored. My email id is itsekta.gautam@gmail.com and im reachable at 99 11445446. Could you please drop in a mail, this is for a familiarization trip we are looking to plan for you. many thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ekta, I wrote to you already but didn't hear back from you...

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