Indian Mythologies often refer to worship of Sun that granted valour and well being to the ancient warriors. When I heard those stories during my childhood days, my little mind would wander in the sky wondering how they managed to get Sun to come down to earth for the worship. Over the years I realized the essence of those lines and Amitabh Bachchan’s words that the sun does come down in Modhera Sun Temple ensured that I had Modhera firmly on my must see list.
We reached Modhera just after noon when the sun rays were piercing through the main hall making its presence felt. This brilliant piece of architecture was built during the times of Solanki ruler Bhimdev in 1026 AD. It was plundered during external invasions by Mahmud Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji destroying much of its grandeur but what remains is so mesmerising that it is not hard to imagine its lost glory. The stepwell in nearby Patan was built by his wife Rani Udaymati in his memory is an amazing piece of architecture as well.
The temple stands across a large, intricately designed tank which is also known as Surya Kund. I walked down the zig-zag steps to reach the much lower water level to find beautifully sculptured images of gods and goddesses within its fold and also in the temple like structures on the 4 sides. There are 108 images we are told which is a mystical number in Hinduism intricately connected to Sun and Earth.
We climbed the steps to enter into the Sabha Mandap or the Meeting Hall which is open on 4 sides and stands on 52 carved pillars depicting stories from Indian Mythologies. The number 52 signifies the number of weeks in a year. I stood there, closed my eyes trying to feel the essence of years gone by but the sound of fluttering pigeons brought me back to reality after a while. I wondered if it was an act of welcome or goodbye for stepping into their home uninvited. We walked straight through the halls into the Guda Mandap which houses the Sanctum Sanctorum presently under lock and key.
There was an eerie silence around the place which was broken by the hurried footsteps of a stream of tourists who stumbled in only to retrace their steps quickly when they saw the bats resting along the walls. Its been centuries since Sun has been ceremoniously worshiped in this temple complex but every equinox the Sun comes to visit his abode with the first rays piercing through the Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap onto the closed doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum which once housed a bejeweled idol of Sun.
We walked around the temple to find images of the 12 Adityas, Dikpals and other Gods and Goddesses and a few erotic sculptures. Well these were built at a time when sex was seen as a symbol of creativity and not suppressed or depicted as immoral.
Modhera is about 100 kms away from Ahmedabad. Patan (35 kms away) and Modhera is a great day trip from Ahmedabad. If you are planning to visit Little Rann of Kutch and stay overnight, do visit these architectural gems on the way from Ahmedabad and head to Little Rann.
Modhera Dance Festival is held sometimes in the 3rd week of January just after Uttarayan ie when sun transits from Sagittarius to Capricorn and begins its northward journey