Indian small towns are fascinating in their quirky ways, cocooned in their unique history and folklores. Vadnagar, a small town in the Mehsana District of Gujarat, is not only another small town but also an interesting hamlet with a lot of historical significance. A spotlight shined on Vadnagar especially when it was learnt that this quaint little town was the hometown of none other than the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. In fact, after winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the prime minister even visited Vadnagar.
Like any other small town in the country, Vadnagar too was a typical slow township, quietly guarding its 4,500-year-old archaeological secrets in its magnificent ruins and ancient monuments spread across the settlement.
In the past few years, however, the place has undergone a quick makeover although its antiquity remains intact in the alfresco buildings and old-world doorways that add to the hamlet’s peculiar characteristics. One of the most popular tourist spots today is perhaps the Vadnagar Railway Station — here you’d find the old, non-functional tea stall that was once apparently run by PM Modi. The station has undergone a major facelift since 2014 and is surrounded by beautiful modern pillars and walls around the vicinity.
Incidentally, Vadnagar (named after the Banyan tree), which was regarded as a prominent region in the ancient civilisation, was known by different names, including Chamatkarpur, Anandapur, Anarthapur and Vruddhanagar across different eras. In fact, Vadnagar was believed to be the centre of commerce and trade during the reign of Solanki kings in the 12th century.
The main water body in the town is the Sharmistha Lake with a small island connected by a 7-km long inlet canal. The island has been developed into an urban park and has a stadium. Some other tourist attractions are Jain temples, Amarkund and Gauri Kund.
Another famous tourist attraction here is the twin Kirtisthambhas or Kirti Torans (victory columns) built in the 12th century during the Solanki period. Built in red and yellow sandstone, the two columns are supported by arches with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting the architecture of ancient Gujarat kingdoms.
Standing as a symbol of valour on the banks of Sharmistha Lake, these columns are among the few surviving examples of entrance gates that were erected to display battle tales and stories of war.
More tales of the old land
On the road towards these monuments, one can find some unique old-world havelis with brilliant alfresco arts on the exterior walls. Locals claim these residences to be over 200 years old. These still use olden-style wooden doors painted in bright colours, accentuated with metal knobs and handles. In fact, these fascinating olden doors of Vadnagar have a signature window-style opening at the bottom of the door — it was meant for ventilation before the advent of electricity in the region.
A little ahead of the Kirti Torans is the famous 15th-century Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple, a popular shrine for the Nagar Brahmin community. According to folklore, the Shiva linga in this temple emerged on its own (termed “swayambhu” in Sanskrit), around which the shrine was built using red sandstone in Indo-Saracenic architecture. The outer walls of the temple depict the exemplary ornamentation created with sandstone carvings decorated with signature animal and floral motifs embossed around rock sculptures of gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, dancing apsaras, musicians and scenes from ancient scriptures of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
A little offbeat but historically important place to visit in the Vadnagar is a recently excavated Buddhist Monastery from the 7th century CE, which though is mostly ruined still have the remains of stupas and an open central yard identified in the ancient texts.
One of the most popular tourist spots today is perhaps the Vadnagar Railway Station — here you’d find the old, non-functional tea stall that was once apparently run by PM Modi. The station has undergone a major facelift since 2014 and is surrounded by beautiful modern pillars and walls around the vicinity.
Ahead of the Kirti Torans is the famous 15th-century Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple, a popular shrine for the Nagar Brahmin community. According to folklore, the Shiva linga in this temple emerged on its own (termed swayambhu in Sanskrit), around which the shrine was built using red sandstone in Indo-Saracenic architecture.
What to eat and shop for
Upon visiting the town, don’t forget to try out the famous “chai” from any tea joint or cafes in the town, accompanied by any Gujju street food like, mirchi pakora, fafda, thepla or dhokla.
The Gujarati food is a delightful combination of vegetarian dishes with a burst of sweet, salty and tangy flavours, so also another gastronomic recommendation to try in the town would be the traditional Gujarati thaali.
For the shopaholics who love to pick a souvenir through their travels, get some vibrant Gujarati Patola weaves or tie-and-dye dupattas with mirror work or block prints for your wardrobe.
You can also get very cool oxidized silver jewellery, leather juttis, puppets and bright cotton bags with traditional motifs and copper bells at pocket-friendly rates.
How to get to Vadnagar
By road: Mehsana (35 km), Ahmedabad (111 km)
By train: Siddhpur, Patan railway station, 42 km from Vadnagar
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad (111 km)...