Vadnagar, located north of Ahmedabad, is now famous as our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthplace, though unfortunately I never clicked a picture of his house when I visited the town. He was born in Vadnagar, but lived in many different places across Gujarat. The people in the town do have some fond memories of Narendra Modi's childhood days, but this post is about Vadnagar and everything you would want to know to travel in the city.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally some more interesting images from the town, of the places to see and its people.
As for places to stay, the options are few.
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.