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Sep. 19th, 2009

Patan

Sep. 19th, 2009 10:08 pm
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Patan has very old Hindu carvings

This was Sweetie's excursion on Saturday, accompanied by Bhavesh, the MBA professor and our faculty coordinator's best friend. I was at home sick with GI issues, though I recovered by lunchtime and put in almost a full day of work. Michael still hasn't reviewed this, but I'm posting it anyway. I may edit this later and move some details around if I mixed up anything.

The Temple of the Sun

The Mughals are famous, but you never hear much about India's Hindu kings. Like the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Hindu rulers claimed to be descendants of the sun gods--no longer actively worshiped even in the long-running Hindu religion. The temple was outstanding. There were many carvings and pillars. The sun at its zenith shines through a particular window and marker at certain times of the year.

Lake of a thousand temples

This was sad. It should be called, more accurately, a thousand former temples. They've all been vandalized and toppled down. Bhavesh said there used to be at least some temples in the middle of the lake, when he was a teenager. But now they're all down, vandalized. India has an incredible wealth of cultural heritage. It seems like there's so much emphasis on looking forward, there's not much value on the past. Given the choice between a modern shopping mall and centuries-old temples of long-forgotten gods? They'll take the shopping mall.


Patan Step-Well

Patan has the largest of the step wells in western India, the Ran Ki Vav carved in the mid-1000s. These wells were the major sources of water for people in the surrounding towns.  They're multiple stories deep, with elaborate carved steps going down and walls decorated with gods and worshipers. I went to a different well with Michael earlier that week, and write about that separately.

Most of the Patan stepwell was closed off that day; the apparent reason was because another tourist had been severely stung by bees or something. But it helps to have an American along who came thousands of miles for this trip. So Bhavesh and the driver pleaded, and the guards looked the other way while they ducked under the ropes into the restricted area.  (The group behind them also went, but they bribed the guards outright with some good haggling; the price went from 20 dollars to 20 rupees, or 40 cents.) 

The carvings were outstanding. This whole area was only recently excavated in the last few years. The carvings have persisted for centuries,
buried, but now are unprotected from the elements and vandals. It's not certain that they'll persist. Even the architect's original carving and site plan was still preserved, scratched into the wall. 
 
There were also many detailed carvings showing ritual acts of honoring the gods. In the interests of keeping this blog safe for work I'm not posting pictures, but there were all kinds of combinations and configurations: men and women, women and women, groups of people, people and animals, gods and humans. The actions likely have religious significance, but it's not certain if they were done primarily for fun or for worship or both. It was enough to make one of our Indian friends lament the prudishness of modern-day India, where the police will arrest even married couples for kissing in public. 

I'm hoping we will go back there together. Patan is relatively close to Visnagar, less than two hours away, so it's day-trippable.

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