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About Vadnagar And The Sun Temple of Modhera


Two sites in Gujarat have made it to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites: Vadnagar, and the Sun Temple of Modhera, both in the Mehsana district of northern Gujarat.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vadnagar, an ancient ‘Living City’
  2. Vadnagar: A centre of Buddhism
  3. ASI’s claims

Vadnagar, an ancient ‘Living City’

  • Vadnagar, a city known by names like Vridhanagar, Anandapur, Anantapur and Nagar, is said to have been inhabited uninterruptedly for over 2,700 years.
  • The description of Vadnagar in UNESCO’s Tentative List reads:
    •  “The town represents a continuously evolving historic urban landscape/area which played a major role in the hinterland trade network of Western India. The continuity of the historic town proves its resilience and outstanding universal value unlike the sites like Harappa and Kalibangan, (Rajasthan) which were abandoned eventually.”
  • The town’s fortifications, arched gateways (toranas), temples, wells, residential structures (kothis) and excavated sites like Buddhist monasteries and dedicated stupas showcase the architectural influence of various cultural periods.
  • The extensive water management system here has also played a role in the town’s continuity.
  • The study of the historical geography of ancient India reveals Vadnagar was situated at a strategic location of two major ancient trade routes: one joining central India with the Sindh and further northwest regions, while another connected the port towns on Gujarat’s coast to northern India.
  • Excavated cowry shells traced to the Maldives further imply involvement in overseas trade.
  • A gold coin, believed to be from the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt that dated back to the 15th century, was also found.

Vadnagar: A centre of Buddhism

  • Ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to Gujarat in September 2014, Modi spoke of Vadnagar being a centre of Buddhism and how the religion had bonded China and India.
  • When the PM visited China in 2015, he presented archaeological drawings of excavations in his hometown, of “a burnt brick structure that has been identified as a Buddhist monastery” to Xi.
  • Chinese traveller Xuanzang or Hieun Tsang is said to have visited Vadnagar around 641 AD, referring to it as ‘Anandpur’ in his writings, which also record how more than 1,000 monks of the Sammitiya School or Little Vehicle lived in 10 monasteries at Vadnagar, suggesting it was an important centre of Buddhist learning.

ASI’s claims

  • The ASI has claimed in its submission to UNESCO that there was a “Roman connection” in the finding of an intaglio (a printing technique) in clay, in a coin mould of Greco-Indian king Apollodotus II (80-65 BC) and in the sealing of a Roman coin. There may have also been a connection to West Asia.
  • Vadnagar is currently surrounded by the remains of older structures, such as a fortification wall punctured by a series of gates that mark the entry and exit points of the town.
  • Primary entry and exit points are marked by elaborate single-storey stone gateways.
  • Ambaji Mata Temple, the city’s oldest, dates back to the 10th -11th Century CE.
  • Two identical gates outside the fortification wall to the north of the town are Kirti Torans, built in yellow sandstone without mortar or any other cementing material.
  • Vadnagar can be compared to the historic living cities of Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi as cities inhabited since the early historic period and in the modern day.
  • Internationally, the Historic town of Vadnagar can be compared to the Historical City of Masuleh in Iran, Quanzhou in China, and the Historic Town of Beypazarý in Turkiye.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024