Vadnagar Gujarat – a tiny town steeped in history

Vadnagar railway station that marks the roots of humble beginnings
Hatkeshwar temple that blesses your life's innings.
The Kirti torans that celebrate the Solankis architectural mastery
Ánd the Buddhist ruins that date back to 3rd century history.

Discover Vadnagar Gujarat - the home town of PM Modi with roots that go back to the Indus Valley Civilization. 

A trip to Vadnagar in Gujarat might not even be on your radar. Or even if you know it, you probably account for it as the hometown of the Prime minister of India – Narendra Modi Ji. Get ready to change your perspective when you discover the beautiful places to visit in Vadnagar Gujarat. From ancient Buddhist ruins to the 17th century Hatkeshwar temple Vadnagar & the ever-so-aesthetic Kirti torans, there are fascinating stories to be heard. Enough for you to merit a day trip from Ahmedabad to Vadnagar!

The Kirti Torans-  one of the many places to see in Vadnagar Gujarat
The Kirti Torans- one of the many places to see in Vadnagar Gujarat

My visit to Vadnagar Gujarat was a part of the larger trip to the two attractions of Mehsana – Rani ki Vav and the Sun temple of Modhera. While those few hours were enough to see a few of Vadnagar famous places, I did leave quite a few unexplored. I guess that just means I have to do a Cleartrip flight bookings to Ahmedabad and whisk myself for yet another trip to this quaint hometown of PM Modi.

For you though, I have covered the entire list of these places to visit in Vadnagar. Through this post, you will learn the history of Vadnagar and get tips on how to get there, the best time to visit & more. In short, you are in for a complete virtual tour of Vadnagar, Gujarat.

Ready! Set! And let’s go!

Where is Vadnagar Gujarat?

Vadnagar is to the north of Ahmedabad in Gujarat
Vadnagar is to the north of Ahmedabad in Gujarat

Located at a 2-hour distance from Ahmedabad, Vadnagar is a small town in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. It is just 35 km from Mehsana city. It is the hometown of PM Narendra Modi and came into the limelight after he was elected as the 14th prime minister of India.

Vadnagar history

Vadnagar with its pretty havelis and ancient history
Vadnagar with its pretty havelis and ancient history

While it might seem like Vadnagar owes its popularity to PM Modi, the fact is that the place is possibly one of the oldest cities in India. Mythologically, this town is mentioned as Anartapura in the Mahabharata. In some of the Puranic texts, it is also, referred to as Chamatkarapura (land of magic) as the leper King here was miraculously cured of his ailments. Though there are no archaeological finds, Vadnagar is believed to have been a part of the Indus Valley civilization – specifically Harappan.

The earliest evidence that has been found is the ruins of a Buddhist monastery dating back to the 3rd or 4th century. The famed 7th-century Chinese traveler – Hiuen Tsang recorded this town as Anandapura in his travel chronicles. He describes it as a town with lots of temples and priests. He even mentions the Buddhist monastery as the Little Vehicle of Sammatiya School.

One of the smaller shrines at the Vadnagar Hatkeshwar Mahadev Mandir
One of the smaller shrines at the Vadnagar Hatkeshwar Mahadev Mandir

During the golden period of Solanki rule, Vadnagar is said to have been fortified. There were six gates to a bustling trading hub – full of carved temples and opulent homes. There are recent excavations have uncovered the fortified walls of Anandapura that got lost in the Muslim invasion that followed the Solanki rule. The frequent attacks destroyed most of the elegant structures and left the town in disarray. After several years, it was the canopy of banyan trees that led to the rediscovery of this town. The trees led to its new name – Vadnagar. Vad means banyan and Nagar refers to town.

During the Vadnagar International conference in 2022, the Gujarat government outlined a plan to convert this town into a big heritage center. And with that, I am sure you are slowly adding Vadnagar Gujarat to your list of must-visit destinations.

Places to visit in Vadnagar

Today in Vadnagar Gujarat, you will find nuggets of its illustrious history in the form of scattered monuments. The tiny town is like a scavenger hunt where you travel from one period to another and relive its glory. The next part of this blog post will outline each of these famous places in Vadnagar. Let’s begin with my favorite – the Vadnagar Kirti torans

Vadnagar Kirti Toran – the best of the Vadnagar famous places

Vadnagar Kirti toran
Vadnagar Kirti toran

Intricately carved, toran gateways were usually built as grand entrances to temples and palaces. The majestic structures generally include two tall pillars that are joined on the top by a panel or an arch. The ones that belonged to the 12th-century Solanki era were inscribed with numerous figurines and scenes from the epics like Mahabharat and Ramayana. Vadnagar is home to not one but two such stunning toran gates.

Close-up of the lintel of the Kirti Torans in Vadnagar
Close-up of the lintel of the Kirti Torans in Vadnagar

The Vadnagar Kirti Torans are the only standing structures left of what might have been a stunning temple. Located near Sharmishta lake, the two pairs represent the Solanki era. Each of the pillars is 40 feet high and the two are connected via an ornate lintel. Lord Shiva sits right in the center of the lintel which is further supported by a decorative arch. The pillars are inscribed with hunting and battle scenes. You will also see carvings of Lord Ganesha and a few other deities amidst those scenes.

The pair of Kirti torans in Vadnagar
The pair of Kirti torans in Vadnagar

It is believed that these torans commemorate a victory in a war (Kirti refers to victory). Made with red and yellow sandstone, they showcase the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture that you can see in popular attractions like Modhera Sun Temple and Rani ki Vav. In fact, when you visit the Modhera temple, you should look out for the partially destroyed Kirti torans. You will find them near the Sabha Mandapa, facing the Surya Kund. The Vadnagar Kirti torans are also, said to be similar to the surviving torans at the Rudra Mahalaya temple in Sidhpur.

As I stared at those surviving Kirti torans, I could not help but wonder – “If the gateway to the temple was so awestriking, how brilliant would those temples have been?”. Don’t you agree?

Hatkeshwar temple Vadnagar

Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple - one of the many Vadnagar famous places
Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple – one of the many Vadnagar famous places

Very close to the Vadnagar railway station is a Shiva temple that houses the chief deity of the native Nagar Brahmins. The Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple is renowned for its swayambhu linga (self-emerged linga) and draws devotees from all across the country. It is believed that this lingam goes all the way to the core of the earth and worshipping it is as important as visiting the char dhams of Lord Shiva.

Close up of the carvings at the Hatkeshwar temple Vadnagar
Close up of the carvings at the Hatkeshwar temple Vadnagar
The classical Indian architecture style of Hatkeshwar temple
The classical Indian architecture style of Hatkeshwar temple

Whether you are religious or not, you got to visit the temple for its splendid architecture. The 17th-century Vadnagar Hatkeshwar mandir has some splendid stories etched on its facade. The outer walls are filled with scenes from the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharat. Pretty apsara carvings are interspersed with delicate floral motifs. You will also, find elaborate carvings of the nine planets or the Navagraha along its walls.

The inner sanctum of the Vadnagar Hatkeshwar temple
The inner sanctum of the Vadnagar Hatkeshwar temple

The Hatkeshwar temple, Vadnagar is a living temple and you will find it buzzing with chants and prayers. When you enter the Garba Griha (inner sanctum), you will see the Swayambhu Shiva Linga. Right outside, there are not one but two white Nandis facing their Lord.

Within the Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple complex, there are three other Vadnagar temples – two of them are Jain temples and one is the Swaminarayan temple. While the current sandstone temple dates back to the 17th century, it is believed that prior to this structure, there was another smaller temple built by Naga King Hariraj Naik. This early structure was said to have been constructed in 1402.

Vadnagar Railway Station – the place of humble beginnings

The remains of the tea stall owned by PM Modi's family at the Vadnagar Railway station
The remains of the tea stall owned by PM Modi’s family at the Vadnagar Railway station

One might wonder what a railway station doing in the list of places to visit in Vadnagar. Well, this place marks the humble beginnings of PM Narendra Modi. It is on one of this station’s platforms that his family owned a tiny tea stall. Narendra Modi ji used to help his father serve tea at this stall.

The Vadnagar railway station
The Vadnagar railway station

When you visit the Vadnagar railway station, you can see the shell of what was Mr. Modi’s tea stall. Naturally, after his rise to fame, this has been left intact. The station by itself is quite small, simple and clean. If you visit it, it is almost mandatory and natural to click at least one picture by its name board. After all, it has given India its 14th prime minister of India.

The ancient Buddhist monastery

This was one of the Vadnagar attractions that I really wanted to visit. The excavated ruins of the Buddhist monastery mark Vadnagar’s history back to the 3rd century CE. I believe they have found two stupas and the whole layout has nine cells in the shape of the Swastika symbol. Currently, these ruins are not open to visitors. However, you can always give it a shot and catch a glimpse from the outside.

Tana Riri garden and shrine

The Tana Riri garden and memorial in Vadnagar
The Tana Riri garden and memorial in Vadnagar Image credits: Wikimedia commons

The Tana Riri memorial in Vadnagar Gujarat takes you to the time of the Mughals – specifically that of Emperor Akbar. Most of you might know the famous Navratan and court musician Tansen. It is said that when he sang Raag Deepak, unlit lamps would burst with flames. However, as an aftermath of it, he suffered from a burning fever. It was only when he heard Raag Malhar sung by the twin sisters Tana and Riri that he found himself cured.

When Akbar heard of the sisters and their singing prowess, he asked them to come and be a part of his court. However, the Nagar Brahmin sisters found this culturally unacceptable and refused. To avoid further dissonance with the Mughals, the two decided to end their lives and jumped into the well.

It is in honor of them that a samadhi and memorial were created in Vadnagar. This is now known as the Tana Riri garden. It is now a center of music and every year, a Tana Riri music festival is organized at this place. The festival takes place in November and is attended by some of the best singing talents in India. In 2016, 640 harmonium artists played the national anthem together and set off a new Guinness World record. In 2021, yet another record was set during this festival when 110 artists played a traditional instrument called Bhungal continuously for five whole minutes. Clearly, the Tana Riri festival is one of the best times to visit Vadnagar Gujarat.

Sharmishta Lake

Sharmishta Lake is said to have been by the Solankis by channelizing the Kapila river as it flowed through the Aravalis. Currently, the lake has been developed at some points to include a jogging track and an entertainment zone with a few water activities.

Saptarshi no aro and its ruins

This is a small pond that is located close to Sharmishta lake in Vadnagar. I am told that this was where the ancient ashram of the sage  Yagyavalkya was located. You can find carved ruins of some mini shrines that include etchings of seven saints and various Gods like Lord Ganesha.

Paschim Mehta ni Vav in Vadnagar, Gujarat

If you have been reading my posts on Adalaj ni vav or the Rani ki Vav, you will be familiar with the concept of stepwells in Gujarat. There is one such stepwell near the Saptarishi no aro. As I understand, the Paschim Mehta ni Vav is not very well maintained but is still worth a peek. It has six levels and was built in the 16th century.

Vadnagar Jain temples

Hathi vadu Derasar in Vadnagar
Hathi vadu Derasar in Vadnagar Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

There are two renowned Jain temples that you must add to your list of Vadnagar’s famous places. The first is Hathi vadu derasar (The Temple with an elephant) and the 2nd is Chautha Adinath Jain temple. Both the temples are architecturally very pleasing and worth a quick visit when you visit Vadnagar Gujarat.

Upcoming Vadnagar museum

Though this is not yet constructed, I just had to add it for the future. As mentioned earlier, during the Vadnagar international conference, it was announced that this town would become a major heritage center for Gujarat. Plans to build a large museum on the lines of the Acropolis in Athens are underway. As per the various news articles, this Vadnagar museum will have glass panels to see the excavated sites. In addition to this, the museum will also, display the various finds and the rich history of the town.

Now that is definitely something that is going to draw me back to this tiny town steeped in history. I am sure with this list, you too, cannot disregard Vadnagar. And if you like old havelis and mansions, there are quite a few that you will spot as you do your scavenger hunt in Vadnagar. In fact, some of them are very close to the Vadnagar Kirti Torans. So all the more reason now to plan a visit to Modi’s hometown.

FAQs on Vadnagar Gujarat

What is the best way to reach Vadnagar in Gujarat?

The closest airport to Vadnagar is Ahmedabad. You will find many airlines like Spicejet flying here – from both international as well as domestic destinations. From here, you can use any of the following means to get to Vadnagar.

Ahmedabad to Vadnagar by road
Ahmedabad is just 90 km by road from Vadnagar. You can cover this distance in 2 hours. There are plenty of public and tourist buses that depart from Ahmedabad, straight to Vadnagar. Alternatively, you can either hire a cab or a self-drive car to get to Vadnagar. The road conditions are pretty good and the drive is smooth.

Ahmedabad to Vadnagar by rail
Though Vadnagar has its own railway station, there are not many direct trains from Ahmedabad to this station. There are a few that you can book or get to Sidhpur (43 km away). From Sidhpur, you can hire a local cab or get into one of the public buses to Vadnagar.

Which is the best time to visit Vadnagar, Gujarat?

In terms of the weather, it is best to visit Vadnagar in winter – between October to February. Summers are extremely harsh here and you might find the heat bothersome as you explore the town. Plan a visit during the Tana Riri music festival so that you get to experience the best of the singing talent in India.

If you are planning a day trip to Vadnagar, it is best to reach the town by 8 am and explore it.

Where can you stay in Vadnagar?

Vadnagar has very limited options for a stay. It is better to base yourself out of Ahmedabad or Mehsana and make a day trip to Vadnagar.

How many days should I plan to spend in Vadnagar?

You can explore Vadnagar in just half a day. The town is quite small and the attractions are not crowded.

What are the other places to visit near Vadnagar?

You can combine your trip to Vadnagar with a visit to these places.

Modhera Sun Temple – The town is around 30 km from Patan and is another engineering marvel belonging to the Solanki era.

– Patan – The town is around 30 km from Modhera and has another UNESCO World heritage site – Rani ki Vav. In addition to that, you can also, stop by the famous Patan Patola heritage museum to see one of the most expensive heritage fabrics being woven and hear the story behind it.

– Siddhpur – Around 30 km from Patan, here you can visit the extravagant Havelis of Dawoodi Bohras. It is also, famous for Bindu Sarovar (a lake mentioned in Rig Vedas) and the ruins of Rudra Mahalaya temple. There are a few more interesting attractions in this town.

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