Kutch, Gujarat : Zainabad to Patan | Horn please, OK?

Kutch, Gujarat : Zainabad to Patan

Day 2 : Zainabad -> Patan
When : February 2014 | How far : 90 kms | How long : 1 hr 40 mins

When in Patan, buy a Patola

It was to be a day of step wells, sun temples and vast arid landscapes.

Did the queen wear Patolas?

Patan, once the capital of Gujarat, is famous for the exquisite silk Patola saree. Its also home to one of the largest and most ornate stepwells in India.

Our insatiable need to discover and occasionally acquire beautiful things sent us on an anticlimactic adventure.

It started with a visit to the Rani ki vav.
The 'Rani' in question here went by the name of Udaymati and belonged to the Solanki dynasty which ruled in 10 AD. The 'Vav' is a stepwell, commonly found in Gujarat,  used to tap into and store ground water. Apart from its utilitarian purpose stepwells also doubled up as a place for leisure and a cool retreat on a hot summer's day.
The Rani-ki-vav is the largest and most elaborate stepwell found in Gujarat and goes back a thousand years.

The eastern end of the stepwell hasn't been excavated entirely and descends only a few levels. Large sections of the sculpted walls were ironically destroyed by water when a nearby river flooded the area

The western side of the Vaav is in a better state, resplendent with intricate and well preserved carvings. Mostly of Lord Vishnu featuring in his many forms.

A figure among the carvings that has distinctly oriental features.

And two that could be from Central Asia

And the inspiration for Daddy-long-legs

Gujarat may have been more cosmopolitan a 1000 years ago than it is today.

Will the real Patola of Patan please stand up?

While navigating Patan's dusty roads and bovine traffic, trying to locate the Rani-ki-vav, we'd spotted a couple of signs. Most pointed to thin air and all claimed to be 'The Real Patola of Patan House'

Some led us into real houses but no Patolas. On our last and seemingly hopeless attempt we got flagged down by a gentlemen who invited us into his house. His name was Mr Salvi. Mr Salvi and his brother belong to one of 3 families in the world who make Patola sarees.

The Patola  is a handwoven silk fabric with geometric patterns resembling the Ikkat designs of Orissa. The silk threads are dyed according to a pre-decided pattern, aligned and finally woven into an exquisite piece of art.

The Salvis took us through the process and showed us the loom they use to weave a Patola, a process that usually takes over 6 months.

Where's the anticlimax you ask?

After having feasted our eyes on the beautiful, half woven Patola sarees we asked the Salvis if they had some fabric we could purchase. They said they did and took us to the sitting room.

Out came  a single saree, one handkerchief and a lone stole.
They score low on variety, we thought.
"How much would that cost?", we asked
"For the handkerchief, only ₹50,000", said Mr Salvi
Everybody held their breath for a while
"And the saree would be?"
"₹7,00,000. Only", he said

Travel tip: If you're planning to buy a Patola, build up a healthy bank balance before your trip. And carry a cheque book

The only thing we left the "Real Patola of Patan House" with, were directions to our next destination and maybe a smidgen of regret.

Stories from the entire trip
Day 1 -> Mumbai to Zainabad
Day 2 -> You just read it 
Day 2 -> Patan to Modhera
Day 2 -> Little Rann of Kutch
Day 3 -> Dholavira & the Great Rann
Day 4 -> Bhuj to Lakhpat
Days 5-7 -> Bhuj to Vigakot

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