34 kms northeast of Mehsana, Vadnagar is one of the most ancient towns of Gujarat with its first reference in Skanda Puran. An important reference is found in the Vadnagar Prasasti. The inscription on Arjun Bari Gate of 46 lines commemorating confirms King Kumarapla built the fortification of the city in 1152 AD. It traces the history of Solanki dynasty and refers to the special position of Nagar Brahmins inhabiting this town.
Family deity of Nagar Brahmins is located at Hatkeshwar Mahadev, a profusely carved temple who's shivling is believed to have self-emerged. Hatkeshwar Mahadev, located is located just outside the town. It is, is a Shiva temple about 500 years old, having a high shikhara and beautiful carvings, representing various Hindus themes, like Dasha Avatara, Pandavas. The Hatkeshwar temple in Vadnagar is a major pilgrimage for believers in Lord Shiva. The Hatkeshwar temple, whose Shivlinga is the presiding deity of the Vadnagara Brahmins, is a perfect example of the treasures the city has to offer. There are exquisitely carved tales from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana on the walls, besides a host of other Hindu religious texts. One of the carvings depicts an apsara so immersed in dancing that she is oblivious to a scorpion climbing up her leg. The images of Dhata and Vidhata-the gods who draw up the life-course of new-borns-holding writing material in their hands, are the other attractions.The temple's shikhar is adorned by a series of garlands, the hallmark of Solanki era architecture. The images of musicians playing instruments are eyecatching
The town sits on the high bank of Sharmistha Talav, with a overlooking promenade, in a crescent and a series of steps leading to the tank. The fortification and undulating skyline mirrored in the water of Sharmistha Talav, lend a picturesque quality to the whole composition. Several temples, step wells, old havelis, fort gates and inscriptions bear testimony to the glorious past.
Of the older remains of Vadnagar are two magnificent Kirti-Stambh (triumphal arches) that should have formed a part of the gateway to some great temple whose remains are not traceable. Built of red and yellow sandstone without mortar or other cementing material, the structure derives its stability from dimensions. Considered as one of the best specimens of Indian sculpture, the arch (torana) springs from the bracket capitals of the pillars. Kirti Toran, a 40-ft-high arch possibly meant for a temple, never fails to entrance visitors. Built by a Solanki ruler, perhaps to commemorate victory in a battle, the toran in red and yellow sandstone has carvings of battle and hunting scenes. Many images of gods and goddesses on the arch now stand disfigured. They were, according to historians, vandalised by the armies of Allauddin Khilji, the first Muslim invader to raid north Gujarat during the Sultanate period. Interestingly, dismantled parts of a similar but much bigger arch lie in the vicinity. These two arches may have been part of a big temple complex.
An important centre of education in the past, the town is credited with for authoring Kalpasutra by Jain muni named Bhadrabahu. Legendary Chinese traveller Hieuen Tsang had described his visit to this ancient town in his travelogue on India.
Apart from the Solanki era monuments, Vadnagar is also the town of origin of the Vadnagara Brahmins, an influential caste over the centuries.
On Vadnagar's outskirts stands the dilapidated Pancham Mehta ni Vav, a
beautiful seven-storey step-well. It was built by a local leader, Pancham Mehta,
in the 16th century for providing drinking water to travellers. Though
step-wells were common in Gujarat and Rajasthan during the medieval period, this
Vav is unique. It has two wells and is linked to a water channel with carved
outlets from which to drink water. This arrangement was for those who wanted to
drink water but didn't want to climb seven storeys down.
The most famous place in Vadnagar is the spot with the samadhis of two
legendary classical singers Tana and Riri, sisters who saved the life of Tansen,
Akbar's great court musician. Legend has it that Tansen's body started burning
after Akbar forced him to sing the Deepak raag, which was meant to invoke fire.
Tana and Riri sang the raag Megh Malhar and saved Tansen by invoking rain. In
gratitude, he composed the famous Tarana raag, named after Tana and Riri. The
samadhis are now part of a big complex, complete with a garden and a cultural
spot where the annual Tana-Riri music festival is held. The the
Sharmishtha lake, around which Vadnagar is located, is being renovated in a more
The entrance gates to Vadnagar, too, present a very interesting spectacle.
The Arjunbari gate has an A.D. 1151 inscription by Shripal, the court poet of
Kumarpala, one of the most dynamic Solanki rulers. All the gates have the image
of Lord Ganesh on one side and Kalbhairav on the other.
Several excavations have been carried out in this area, which have yielded copper plates of Maitraka and Solanki rulers, rare coins and hidden structures and images from various periods. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. A lot more lies buried in this town, which cries for recognition.
Vadnagar, a repository of exquisite specimens of Indian architecture and antiquity, is waiting to be discovered
The Forgotten City by Uday Mahurkar India Today March 27, 2006