April 22, 2007
VADNAGAR is an ancient city in Gujarat, India. Its known history goes back to 2,500 B.C. Archaeological excavations have established that the settlement of mainly agricultural community existed in the place more than 4,500 years back. Pottery, textiles fragments, ornaments, tools, etc., were found during these excavations from various sites around the present lake Sharmishtha. Some archaeologists suggest that it was one of the many Harappan sites.
THE early settlement was on the bank of river Kapila flowing from the hills of Aravalli. It fed water to a lake, known as Sharmishtha, at the site and the settlement extended around it. Over a period of time the settlement grew into a city of considerable size.
The present city, which appears to be situated on a hill of a height varying from 7 to 30 meters, is actually sitting on a very large artificial mound. This mound is created by a number of layers of buildings built and destroyed in earlier periods. Diggings done for archaeological excavations or construction of houses in recent times show no end to these layers till one reaches to the level of farmland surrounding the city
These layers speak of a very interesting history of several thousand years.

More than four thousand years back, this city was known as Chamatkarpur. The name it earned from a king who was cured of leprosy by bathing in the magical waters of its Shakti Tirth. In gratitude the king built the city anew, replete with temples and palaces. Chamatkarpur was the home of the famous rishi Yagyavalkya or “knower of the Vedas”. It attracted great many scholars and acquired fame as a center of learning.

Saptarshi is a place on the bank of a pond in the east of Sharmishtha lake. This pond is fed with water by the same Kapila river as Sharmishtha. Once upon a time, it was surrounded by some beautiful buildings and temples. Its banks had stone steps all around. It is believed that this was the place where Yagyavalkya’s ashram existed. His son, Katyayan, was also a great sage. He established two magnificent shrines called Vastupad and Mahaganapati in Vadnagar.

In the later period, it grew up further as an important manufacturing and trading center. Now it came to be known as Anartapur. Soon, it became the capital of Anarta Pradesh. The city of Aanartapur seems to have risen to considerable glory by the beginning of the Mahabharata War.

There are several references about Anarta in Mahabharata. The Anarta warriors fought on both the sides of the Great War. Satyaki, chief of Anartas, was the great general in the Pandava army. Kritavarma, a great Anarta warrior, was a general in the Kaurava army. Anarta Kingdom lost so many of its warriors in that war and its aftermath that its military power weakened considerably.

All the same, by the first century the city enjoyed great prosperity, brought by industry and commerce. It grew in size. It nourished arts like music, sculpture, architecture, dance, painting, and so on. It became a hub of cultural activities. Religious and cultural festivities went on round the year and the place acquired yet another name, Anandapur - the city of joy.
Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered a large part of western India, including Kutch, in 325 B.C. While returning from India he left many representatives in India. Many of his soldiers, artisans, entertainers, and other elements of the army, who were afraid of arduous journey back home, chose to remain in the conquered land. Some of these Greeks are believed to have travelled from Kutch to Aanartapur as it was the most attractive city in the region. Fair skinned Greeks, being city-dwellers and worshippers of a pantheon of gods and goddesses, might have easily assimilated with the people of the city. A legend is that the Nagars are their descendants. The Greek Connection legend has persisted over time.

SEVENTH Century Chinese traveler Hsuan-Tsang visited Vadnagar, then known as Anandapur, twice on his loop route to central India. In 627 A.D. he began his journey from the north-east China to far away India and returned to his native land in 643 A.D. It was a long journey by distance and time. He kept a detailed chronicle of his travels and gathered a large collection of books from India. He extensively traveled in Western India comprising of present-day Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Among the cities he visited were Anandapur, Vallabhi, Ujjain, and Bharuch.
Hsuan-Tsang has written a separate chapter on Anandapur. He writes about it:
“This country is about 2000 li in circuit, the capital about 20. The population is dense; the establishments rich. There is no chief ruler, but it is an appanage of Malava. The produce, climate, and literature and laws are the same as those of Malava. There are some ten sangharamas with less than 1000 priests; they study the Little Vehicle of the Sammatiya school. There are several tens of Deva temples, and sectaries of different kinds frequent them. ”Going west from Valabhi 500 li or so, we come to the country of Su-la-ch'a (Surashtra).”
[Ref: SIYUKI : BUDDHIST RECORDS OF THE WESTERN WORLD, First Edition: London 1884 Reprint: Delhi, 1981, 1994, By Samuel Beal, MOTILAL BANARSIDASS PUBLISHERS.]

Buddhism and Jainism came simultaneously to Vadnagar. However, like elsewhere in India, Buddhism faded away after about eighth century. But Jainism continued to flourish in the city.
This was a period of peace and prosperity. The city hummed with industrial and commercial activities of all sorts: manufacturing of textiles, dyeing and printing of calicos, making of utensils, agricultural tools, bullock-carts, stone carvings, and so on. Its bazars were full of customers from near and far. Its traders rich and happy with the business.
In no time the wealth and splendor of the city attracted the Malva rulers. They struck and brought it under their subjugation. The rulers of Malva exploited it to the best of their ability. They neglected its welfare. For them it was no more than a frontier city and source of revenue.
After the decline of the Aanart Kingdom Patan became the new capital of Gujarat. Vanraj Chavda founded it in 745. It flourished and reached its zenith under the Solanki rulers between 942-1244. In wealth and culture there was no other city to rival it in the whole of western India. The Solankis drove out the Malva rulers from the Vadnagar region. Valuing the importance of the city, the Solanki ruler Kumarpal rebuilt the fort around it in 1152 A.D. Almost till the end of the 13th century the city remained well protected under the Solankis and its trade and industry prospered. For nearly four centuries Gujarat prospered under the Solanki rulers so much that historians call it “the golden period”. And along with it Vadnagar too enjoyed the peace and prosperity. Great many temples, palaces, residences, bazaars (market places), and public amenities like wells, vavs (stepwells), kunds (public baths), roads, and inns were built in and around the city.

Toranas or Victory Arches are the most outstanding historical monuments of Vadnagar. These magnificent arches, standing on the western shore of Lake Sharmishtha, are believed to have been erected by the Solanki rulers (942-1242A.D.) in the 10th century. And probably they symbolize the victory over the occupiers from the north-east. More than four-stories tall, these intricately carved arches are made from red sandstone.

Some historians believe that the Toranas are remnants of a very large palace or temple complex. It is quite possible that where they stand today might not be their original place. There is no explanation as to why are they erected side by side in such an irregular way. Also, there aren’t any other ruins around them. Are they transplanted here from some other site? Much land area between Toranas and Naagdhara from where water flows into Lake Sharmishtha is made of irregular mounds. There were many ruins in this area. A large quantity of carved stone slabs as well as statues were lying scattered all over the place till the late 1960s. Most of these seem to have disappeared today. But, if excavated properly, the entire area may still have a lot more to reveal to us.
The entire old city had a protective fort with six gates built by the Solanki king Kumarpal in 1152 A.D. Arjunbari Darwajo (Gate), situated right on the shore of Lake Sharmishtha and facing east, bears a carved stone plaque providing evidence to this effect. Today most of the fort wall is destroyed, but five of the six imposing gates exist more or less intact. Each of the existing five gates is of a different design. These are excellent specimen of high quality workmanship.
This was the time when the Solankis were rising in power. They established Patan as their capital and began expanding their kingdom. Malva rulers were pushed back from Vadnagar region. Valuing the importance of the city, the Solanki ruler Kumarpal rebuilt the fort around it in 1152 A.D. Almost till the end of the 13th century the city remained well protected under the Solankis and its trade and industry prospered.
VADNAGAR has always been a city of temples. There are small and large temples devoted to many different gods and goddesses. Some of these are very old and some recent ones.

Two large temple complexes are that of Amther Mata and Hatkeshvar. Both are built with red and yellow sandstone. They present exquisite carvings and themes in stone. Amther Mata is unique as it contains a Sun temple, though it is much smallaer than that of Modhera.


The Hatkeshvara temple has been built in the classical style. The temple faces east, but has entrances from north and south as well. All the three entrances take one to a very spacious and airy central hall with a large dome. To the west of the central hall is the real temple or Garbha Gruha. Its floor level is several steps lower than that of the central hall. And it is here that the famous Shivalinga is situated. High above it stands the shikhara or pinnacle of the temple. The entire temple is full of exquisite carvings and sculptures. On the inside walls and ceilings as well as the outside walls there are carvings depicting scenes from Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other scriptures. One doesn’t find any plain surface anywhere. It is this ornate carving that distinguishes Hatkeshvara from many other temples.

After about four centuries of peace, calamity struck Vadnagar. Attracted by the wealth of Gujarat the powerful Delhi Sultanate ordered its army to march towards Gujarat. On its way to Patan, the capital of the Solankis, the Sultanate army first reached Vadnagar. Vadnagar was attacked, looted, burned and its elite massacred by the army of the Sultan. The strong fort was of no use because the city had no army to defend itself. In 1304 Gujarat was completely captured by the Delhi Sultanate. Patan remained the capital city of its Suba (represeantative) till 1411, when sultan Ahmed Shah moved his capital to Ahmedabad. In the changed political geography of Gujarat, Vadnagar lost all of its political significance. But peace prevailed during the Muslim rule of Gujarat and Vadnagar bounced back with renewed economic activity. It resumed its trade and commerce. Its industry boomed. It became quite prosperous and nourished arts and culture.
Tana-Riri Memorial
Tana and Riri legend is associated with Tansen, the famous singer in the court of the Mughal emperor Akabar, who ruled India from 1526 A.D. to 1605 A.D. The two sisters, Tana and Riri, knew how to sing raga Malhar in its true form. When thus sung, Malhar had capacity to bring down rain. Tansen, who sang raga Deepak at the command of Akbar, felt intense burning within his body as a result of its effect. He came to Vadnagar to get his burning cooled by the singing of raga Malhar in its true form. And a very dramatic episode took place in the medieval history of Vadnagar. Click HERE to read the full story.

Prosperity of Vadnagar was short-lived because it attracted more invaders. This time Marathas sacked it. In 1726 the Maratha commander Kandaji Kadam Bande attacked it. The city was not only invaded and looted; it was practically burned down to ashes. Many of its citizens fled the city. Many of those who stayed back were mercilessly killed. Again in 1735 Kandaji Holker looted whatever was left. And yet again in 1737 Damaji Gaekwad’s brother Prataprao looted it. These successive attacks within a short period of 11 years finished Vadnagar. It was left in ruins and, more importantly, it was left without its elite citizenry. The city could never recover fully from the devastation. Today’s Vadnagar is a hurriedly rebuilt city on the ruins left by the Maratha armies.
VADNAGAR was a seat of learning from ancient times. After the end of the Solanki rule in Gujarat most of the ancient centres of learning were destroyed or forced to close. However, small schools of individual scholars continued to exist. These were known as Sanskrit Pathshalas. But they could not attract many students. Education in general declined till Vadnagar came under the domination of the Marathas. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of the erstwhile Baroda State put into action a well conceived plan of education and health.
Vadnagar benefited a lot from this plan. Two separate modern schools were set up in the city for boys and girls imparting education upto Vernacular Final (standard seven in the present system).

In 1888 a spacious building, which still exists, was built for the boys school and later on an another one for the girls school.

A few years later, in 1893, a mixed school for boys and girls was started near the railway station. This school, named A. V. School (Anglo Vernacular School), followed the modern curricula with emphasis on the English language. All these schools produced a generation, which was to regenerate the place with trade and industry.

In the same vain a hospital, complete with quarters for the staff, was built at a total cost of Rs. 10,897 as early as 1885 A.D. It had a maternity section too.
In 1941 Sheth Natvarlal Motilal Vyas gave generous donation for building a separate maternity home in memory of his mother Smt. Kilibai. In the early twentieth century Vadnagar was one of the few selected cities in Gujarat to have a well built and well run maternity home providing free services. Soon Vadnagar had a very low child death rate. It would be interesting to know that the Chief Medical Officer in the general hospital was assigned to maintain a daily record of temperature and rainfall too along with his medical duties.

The first library building was built by Mehta Bhogilal Chakulal as long back as 1911 A.D.
Sayajirao believed in consolidating progress. Along with the schools he also provided budgetary help for a well-maintained library, so that the literacy does not go waste. The first library building was built by Mehta Bhogilal Chakulal in memory of his father in 1911 A.D.

A second and more spacious library building was built near the first one in 1935. The generous donation for this modern building came from Shri Purushottamdas Narbheram Patel. A large tower clock put atop the buliding could be heard throughout the city and is still in working condition.
The library provided an opportunity to learn more through the tool of literacy that was acquired in the schools. The new library had special sections for women and youngsters. Also, it acted as a centre where educated people could meet, discuss and work out plans for development.

Smt. Kusumben Mayabhai Mehta being felicitated for her social work-----------------Young Mrs. Mehta
This new building was euipped with a large reading room and a big hall demarcated for women. It was here that Smt. Kusumben Mayabhai Mehta started sewing classes in the early forties when such enlightened activities were rare to find in the country.

Railway arrived at Vadnagar by 1907 as per the records maintained by Sh. Jethabhai Marfatia. It connected the small city with the rest of India and thereby opened up business opportunities.

City businessmen at the railway station, 1933--------------------------Railway goods siding and godown
Produce of Vadnagar and the surrounding region could be exported to faraway places. Similarly, goods from other production centres in the country could be easily brought to the city. Soon the trade thrived and the city became an important market for various agricultural and industrial commodities.

Foundation laying ceremony of Power House, October 27, 1937
Vadnagar was fortunate to get electricity as early as the late 1930s when the only other city to have it was Patan in the whole of North Gujarat. Electrification is considered as an essential condition of development. It is a forerunner of modernity. The man who dared to bring electricity to Vadnagar, when others were skeptical and even hostile, was Sheth Mayabhai Mehta

He was a visionary leader and led the municipality as its president for several years. Vadnagar saw rapid development during this period. Unfortunately, untimely death of this able and true son of the soil curtailed the city’s growth.
1930s and 1940s were the decades when the movement for independence from the British domination of the nation gathered full momentum.

In 1942 a school was set up near Arjunbari Darwaja on the banks of Sharmishtha Lake with the objective of providing modern nationalistic education on the Gandhian lines. Navin Sarva Vidyalaya, which in the latter half of the century was to flourish as the only full-fledged higher secondary school with science stream in the region, was the creation of Shree Manchandadas Kuberdas Patel.

In the early fifties A. V. School was handed over to a local trust. It raised considerable funds from the gentry, constructed a modern building, and converted it into a full-fledged higher secondary school with emphasis on general education.
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