MODHERA SUN TEMPLE
The sun is the centre of our universe and all the ancients believed in sun worship. In India the Gayatri hymn to the sun is considered to be the greatest of all chants and has been scientifically proven to have tremendous vibrations. The sun is the controller and prime mover of the universe. The Gayatri mantra extols him as the basis of the spiritual energy of the Supreme. The five names given to him in the Rig Veda are Mitra, Surya, Savita, Poosan and Vishnu. These names indicate the different functions of the sun. There are three famous sun temples in India- Konarak in Orissa, Martanda in Kashmir and Modhera in Gujarat. Of course there are a number of other inscriptions and stone sculptures referring to sun worship which are found in many parts of India.
The first place on my list after arriving in Ahmedbad was Modhera. The entrance to the site was quite impressive and it was a joy to walk down the shaded avenue which gave us a gorgeous view of the temple as we walked towards it. Every time I see one of these exquisite poems in stone I’m struck with wonder and anxious to know the minds of the sculptors who must have chiselled away for years in order to produce these stone marvels.
The first thing that strikes the eye is what is known as the Surya Kund also known as the Rama Kund which is a series of steps leading far down to the pond where one is supposed to take a dip before entering the shrine of the sun god. There are a hundred and eight small temples around the kund and four fairly large temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Shitala Mataji, Nataraja and of Ganesha which is next to Shitala Mataji. Later on when I visited the famous step wells for which Ahmedabad is noted, I realised that they were masters in the art of making these parallel steps which went down to the very bowels of the earth leading to clear crystal water which never seemed to get scum on top. After bathing in the Kund you have to climb up the steps again and just before entering the courtyard of the temple there are two huge pillars which were apparently used to be decorated with garlands and flags showing respect for the deity.
From here we come to the court gallery filled with pillars which I later found was fifty-two. I noticed that the pillars had scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I could close my eyes and envisage the scenes which must have taken place in this place reserved for music and dance. I could almost hear the tinkling of bells and the swish of the skirts which the dancers wore. From there we entered the main temple with the central dome which was the most conspicuous one when we entered the first gate. Like Orissa most of the pillars had erotic carvings. Every corner had an idol of the sun. The sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha) was in pitch darkness and we had to climb up some steep steps with difficulty and peep through a heavily barred door. Nothing could be seen. Of course every single person there had a torch in their phones so the fact that I didn’t have one didn’t matter. In the flickering, eerie light all I could see was a deep hole or well or some such thing which really looked like a black hole of physics. Later I found out that the sanctum had contained a huge idol of the sun on his chariot pulled by seven horses all made of gold. There was a priceless diamond on the crown of the sun and at the beginning of the summer and winter solstice, Uttarayana in January and Dakshinayana in July, the rays of the sun penetrated through the walls or perhaps there was a hole somewhere placed strategically to catch the rays. The temple faces the east so that the rising sun at the equinoxes filters in a golden cascade through its openings, from door way to corridor, past columns and pillars to fall on the image in its innermost chamber. The rays bounced off the diamond and the whole room used to be lit up by the reflected rays of the diamond!
Around this was the corridor through which we could circumambulate the temple. Outside the temple there were many carvings main amongst which were the twelve figures of the sun god known as the twelve Adityas. These twelve names are commonly repeated while doing the yogasana known as “Surya Namaskara.” The recurring figure of Surya is that of him holding a lotus in each hand and sitting in the lotus posture (padmasana). In another form he has four hands and is seated in the chariot pulled by seven horses with his lame charioteer Aruna who only directs the chariot. Surya himself holds two lotuses in two hands and the reins in the other two hands. The seven horses stand for a week of seven days as well as the seven colours of a ray of sunshine. The two wheels of the chariot stand for the two lunar fortnights, bright and dark. There are female figures on either side of the chariot shooting arrows destroying the darkness.
The sun temple at Konarak has been constructed in the shape of a chariot while the one here is made to resemble the petals of a lotus flower.
Every time I go to these sun temples I am struck by the depth of the astronomical knowledge of the ancient rishis. The sculptors must have been in a state of ecstasy when they carved these exquisite figures for they must surely have been pulled down from another plane of existence. They allowed me to have a peep into that celestial realm from which they had been drawn.
Sun Temple at Konarak
Now for some facts about history of the temple. Modherapura as it was known was the original settlement of the Modha Brahmins. They have supposed to have received the village as a gift on the occasion of the marriage of Rama and Sita. The Skanda Purana says that Rama consulted Vasishta about a place of pilgrimage where he could purify himself of the sin of having killed a Brahman (Ravana whose father was a Brahmin). He was shown the village of Modherak and performed a yajna there and renamed the village as Sitapura. This later came to be known as Modhera. It had been a flourishing port at one time and is situated on the banks of the Pushpavati river. The temple was constructed during the reign of the Chalukya King Bhima (1022-1063 A.D) As with the rest of the beautiful temples of India this also suffered from the ravages of the Muslims who defaced many of the beautiful sculptures. They are supposed to have placed bags of gunpowder in the underground shrine and blew it up thus destroying the Shikar (tower). Much of it has been re-constructed but the defaced noses and arms and breasts of the apsaras bear witness to the brutality of the human being who could not see the beauty of these ethereal figures.
Hari Aum Tat Sat
PALITANA JAIN TEMPLES
In Hinduism many of the holiest temples especially to Muruga and those to various gods in the Himalayas are to be found perched on top of hillocks and mountains. We believe that the arduous climb itself is part of the pilgrimage and helps to create a particular state of mind which is receptive to the vibrations found in the mountains and the temples. The Jains are also of this opinion and you find that many of their famous temples are on mountain ranges. They have five locations for their holiest cluster of temples and this one on Shatrunjaya Hill, in Palitana is considered to be the most important. The other groups are in Girnar (Junagadh), Mt. Abu in Rajasthan, Bihar and Gwalior.
Such is the sanctity of this place that every true Jain aspires to climb to the top of the Shatrunjaya hill at least once in his lifetime. I had been warned by well-meaning friends that the climb was extremely arduous, 1,800 feet and about four thousand steps cut into the hill-side and that it would be better to take the sling-chairs or palanquins which were available in plenty to carry the sick and the old who could not walk. I certainly belonged to the second category and I had decided the previous night that I would take a sling chair. But that morning when I did the Guru puja as I normally do on Thursday (Guru’s day), I felt my guru urging me to attempt the climb. Why was I refusing to avail myself of this golden opportunity to get extra spiritual merit just because I thought my body couldn’t make it? “I will give you the strength,” he seemed to say. The decision was made for me and that was a great relief.
We started from Bhavanagar where we were staying and as soon as the car reached the precincts of the Palitana temples the sling-chair boys crowded round us vying to make us take their services. They were a bit disappointed when we said that we had come prepared to walk. As a concession I told them that we would avail of their services on the way down. There were strict rules to be observed on the trek. We were not allowed to take any food. Only water was allowed and this was provided in plenty at most of the stops. Of course no phones or cameras were allowed. Everyone had to leave the place before sunset since it was believed that the hill was the abode of the gods and the sages. Not even the priests were allowed to stay. Apparently all the Jain tirthankaras except Neminath had attained nirvana at this holy site.
The first temple on the route was a Saraswati temple. We had hardly gone up a thousand steps when we saw some distraught people running down shouting out that there were a swarm of bees just ahead and one of them had been stung. A number of people including sling-chair users decided to turn back. Of course I knew that this was only one of the tests which we had to face and didn’t even bother to stop and listen to the whole of their story. Needless to say we were not bothered by the bees at any time though we could hear them buzzing about.
In the far distance we could see the tops of the temples. However much we walked they seemed to keep the same distance. Another test no doubt I thought to myself. The chair boys were constantly keeping pace with us. Perhaps they hoped that I might fall and they could pick up the bones and carry me up and make some extra money. The fact is that once I decide to walk, I usually never stop but would keep trudging at a snail’s pace which eventually does reach the destination though very slowly. The boys had told me that they took about one and a half hours to reach the first temple of Adi Nath. I was surprised that I actually did it in two and a half hours. It was surely a miracle.
From the very first turning in the path we could see the top of the highest temple. There were about 863 temples on top and many others along the route. The boys warned me not to try to see all the temples. It would take more than a month to see them all, they told me gleefully! Palitana has the distinction of having the largest cluster of Jain temples. I was told that the money for the construction of these temples was the combined offering of many wealthy business men. Jains always choose business as their profession since that is the only occupation in which they don’t have to even accidentally kill any creatures including insects. The current temples were re-built in the 16th century after the 11th and 12th century temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders. The chair cars boys told me that on a clear day the Gulf of Cambay could be seen from the top of the hill. The most important temple according to the boys was that of Adi Natha who was the first theerthankara or guru of the Jains. Somehow as soon as they told me this, the name of Rishabha Deva, who was an avatara of Vishnu, who belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty to which Sri Rama belonged, kept flashing across my mind. I started praying to Vishnu in the form of Rishabha Deva and begged him to allow me to complete the climb for it was fast becoming apparent that unless there was some divine intervention I would not be able to finish the climb however much my mind was urging me to go on. The previous day had been a fast day and I had had a bout of purging and vomiting which had weakened me further. So I was certainly not in a fit condition to attempt this marathon climb. The strange fact was that as soon as I started praying to him I started to climb effortlessly almost without my volition as if some force was pushing me on.
At last after two hours of continuous walking we came to some plain ground which eased the effort considerably but again the final peak with the dome of the temple still seemed very high though the boys told me it was just round the corner. At last at the end of a little over two and a half hours we came to the first temple which was that of Adinatha. It was much later that I learnt that Adi Natha or the first teerthankara of the Jains was indeed Rishabha Deva who was a king who gave up everything and took to the life of an avadhutha with absolutely no attachment to the body, who lived like an animal without thought of the future, who wandered about naked with absolute trust that God would protect him at all times. Such people never begged or cooked food. They would eat if someone offered them food and they would eat whatever was offered without even looking at the contents. If someone gave them rotten food since they thought them to be mad, they would still eat it and bless the person who gave it to them. Rishabha Deva eventually gave up his body in a forest fire on this very hill.
Even though I was very tired, my tiredness seemed to melt at the sight of the exquisitely carved poems in stone which met my eyes everywhere I turned. It was as if the craftsmen were vying with each other to produce such exquisite sculptures which would need weeks and months to inspect and enjoy. But the overall effect was breathtaking. We entered the big hall of the temple of Adinatha. There was no crowding or jostling anywhere. And I had noticed that there were no beggars anywhere on the steps as we came up as was common in Hindu temples.
The sanctum sanctorum was filled with the enormous statue of Adinatha. To me of course he was Rishabha Deva or Adi Narayana and as I mentioned before this was clarified later and proved to be true. The eyes were huge and brilliant and boring into me, compelling me to go closer. I looked around and found that there was a small ladies’ queue which seemed to be going right inside. I ran to join this queue. I was the last of the ladies and the men’s queue started right behind me. They courteously allowed me to go before them and join the ladies queue. It was very slow moving and suddenly the woman in front turned round and asked me if I had taken a bath in the teerth which was attached to the temple. I shook my head and she said that only those who had bathed in the holy water would be allowed to enter the room of Adinatha. I didn’t know what to do but the man behind me who had overheard the conversation asked me if I had had a bath that morning. I said I had one in the hotel room in the morning before coming, but not in the teerth since no one had told me about it. He took up my case and told the woman that he would be responsible for me and he would do the puja for me and that I could enter provided I promised not to touch the idol. I nodded vehemently despite the tears which were pouring down my cheeks. I covered my head and my nose as I noticed everyone else doing it. All Jain monks did this to prevent them from breathing any small insects through their nostrils.
As we reached the door to the garbha griha, (sanctum sanctorum) the man behind me relented even further and thrust his plate with flowers and sandal paste into my hands and told me that I could do puja if I wished! What could I say? I was speechless with wonder and joy at the way that my Vanamali supported me. I stumbled in since it was dark and my eyes were filled with tears. The other ladies were standing on stools and applying sandal paste all over Adinatha’s body. I felt that I was too unworthy to do this but since the man had allowed me I applied sandal paste on his lotus feet and felt tremors of delight pass through me at the touch. I fell down and kissed his feet and prostrated again and again and slowly went backwards into the entrance hall followed by his brilliant gaze which had been boring into me from the time I entered the hall. After sitting for a long time in the hall in front of him and gazing into his compassionate eyes, I felt myself returning to a normal frame of consciousness. The rest of the place hardly meant much to me. I passed through other temples all exquisitely carved in marble and stone with a wealth of detail which left one breathless.
It was getting very late and I certainly did not have the strength or inclination to keep climbing to the highest temple which was another five hundred steps away. My cup of happiness was brimming over. What more did I want? I had been blessed beyond all expectations. The return journey was also an adventure. We sat in the swinging chairs carried on poles by a couple of boys who jumped down the steps like mountain goats. I noticed that they always asked us to get down on the level spaces. Perhaps that was more difficult for them.
I really don’t remember much of the return journey. My mind was filled with the brilliant eyes of Rishabha Deva and I knew that he had truly blessed me or else I would never have made it. I was expecting my calves to be paining badly the next morning as they usually do when I do extra climbing but this was another miracle that I didn’t feel even a twinge of pain.
hari aum tat sat
One of the main reasons for my going to Gujarat was to visit the famous Shakti Peeth called Ambaji. We took a train from Ahmadabad to Abu Road and then a taxi to Ambaji. It was past 10 pm when we reached so much as I wanted to, we were unable to see the divine mother that night since the temple closes at 9 pm. We had already booked a hotel quite close to the temple and next morning set off to join the queue for the morning arati. We could see the golden turret of the goddess from the huge gate but we were not allowed to go through that gate. Everybody had to form queues and go through the corridors so that there was never any clutter of people in the main courtyard. There were separate queues for men and women and a passage left in the middle for emergencies. The arrangements were really good and all along I could see resting rooms, baby changing rooms, and play rooms. I’ve never seen anything like this in any of the temples I have visited. Reached the main sanctorum after about an hour’s wait in the queue. The idol itself could not be seen distinctly. However I had seen her photos in many places and all of them depicted her as “simha vahini” or seated on the lion holding aloft her sword and with her feet on the demon of ignorance. As usual we were hardly allowed to stand for more than a few minutes directly in front. In other temples in India, the guards would shout and physically shove you but here they only encouraged us to keep moving since naturally everyone wanted a few minutes of bliss in front of her. Another wonderful thing was that unlike other N. Indian temples there were no avaricious priests waiting to pounce on the head of the hapless pilgrim, determined to squeeze out some money from him. In fact in all our travels in Gujarat I don’t think I ever saw a priest at all. There was a boy standing here whose job was to give each pilgrim a knock on his head with the silver slippers of the Goddess. In Tamil Nadu the priest keeps a silver or gold crown on our heads for a second. Despite the rush I deemed it a privilege to get a smart knock on my head before being pushed by the people behind me. Hopefully the thump had knocked the entire ego out of me!
I must admit that I was feeling rather sad that I had not been able to see her true form. So I was really happy when I found out that she had no true form! Apparently there is a cave in the wall at the back in which the gold plated Shakti Visa Sri Yantra has been installed. It is curved like the back of a tortoise and contains the fifty one bijaksharas or letters which are really mantras of the fifty one names of the goddess. This is the same as the yantras found in Shakti Peethas of Nepal and Ujjain. Needless to say no one is allowed to see this yantra. Even the priest who does the puja has to blindfold his eyes and do the puja.
There are fifty one Shakti Peethas or seats of the great mother goddess to be found, scattered in different parts of India. These are all great centres of cosmic power. They are actually the places where the parts of the body of Sati, the wife of Shiva are supposed to have fallen. The twelve main Shakti Peethas are Mahakali- Maha Shakti at Ujjain, Kamakshi at Kanchipuram, Bramaramba at Sri Sailam, Kumari at Kanya Kumari, Ambaji at Gabbar teerth, Mahalakshmi at Kholapuri, Lalita at Prayag, Allahabad, Vindhya Vasini at Vindhyachala, Vishalakshi at Varanasi, Mangalavati at Gaya, Bhavani in Bengal and Guhya Kesari in Khatmandu, Nepal.
Next morning we decided to visit the holy place called Gabbar Theerth since this was the place that Sati’s heart is said to have fallen. It is an ancient site which has existed long before temple of Ambaji was built. It is on a hilltop near the temple. A trip to this hill top especially on a full moon day is said to be most auspicious. I was very happy since even though we could not make it on full moon we were there for ekadasi or eleventh day moon which is considered most fortunate. It was only later that the yantra was transferred to the present day temple of Ambaji. According to the scriptures Gabbar Tirth was situated on the spot which was the origin of the great river Saraswati, in the hills of Araasur in the forest known as Ambika. The Mahabharata says that Rukmini had worshipped her family goddess, Ambika at this very spot in order to get her beloved Krishna as her husband.
The hill was only 3 kms from the township of Ambaji so we took an auto-rickshaw there and then took the cable car which was plying up and down relaying thousands of pilgrims to the top of the hill to the small shrine and then back again. We reached the top after a long wait in the queue. It was a tiny shrine with no particular idol but a yantra was displayed beneath the shrine with which we had to be content.
The Devi Bhagavatam gives the story of the ferocious asura (demon) called Mahishasura who used to take on the form of a buffalo and who drove out the entire clan of the gods from heaven and usurped their wealth. The gods were unable to kill him and had to invoke the cosmic power known as Adi Shakti, the cosmic mother goddess. Seated on her lion vehicle and wielding her sword she is supposed to have killed the buffalo demon and hence she got her famous appellation, “Mahishasura Mardini.”
The next morning we went for another darshana at Ambaji before catching the train in the night. It was Sunday and there was a big queue. I was determined to go in, even though it probably meant having a two hour wait in the corridors. Mohan decided not to wait in the queue and said he would go and stand in the courtyard and try and get a glimpse from the outer courtyard. As I was just going to join the ladies queue, I was thrust by a policeman into the middle aisle which was always left empty in case of an emergency. I couldn’t believe it and flew down the empty aisle flanked by ladies on one side and gentlemen on the other. SHE must have known of my aversion for crowds and getting into a flap since I was always claustrophobic in the middle of crowds. After passing miles of waiting pilgrims on either side I found myself bang on the aisle leading to the sanctum. This Q was moving rather slowly and I was really pleased since this meant that I could have a wonderful view of the vague form of the goddess for a continuous period of time while approaching the idol. Even though the form was still vague I could make out that she was seated on a lion which had a lolling tongue and both her feet came round the neck of the lion and rested on the demon below. I reached there and got the usual knock on the head. I was truly in a state of ecstasy since SHE had reduced my self- imposed punishment of standing in the Q for a good three hours to less than half an hour! What grace! My eyes streaming with tears I turned towards the exit and was shocked to see Mohan standing there. He had reached the spot at the precise moment that I had reached. Both of us were shocked. When we went out he explained that he had been waiting in the outer courtyard with no intention of coming in when he saw a huge bhajan party coming in. Apparently the huge door on the side was opened whenever such a big party appeared. Mohan jumped at the chance and followed the party into the inner courtyard and then squirmed his way right up to the place where I was standing so that we reached the front simultaneously. This was such a miracle that my eyes welled with tears and I just couldn’t speak. It was HER joke which she played on both of us!! I could almost hear her tinkling laughter echoing down the corridor carried by the breeze which suddenly started up.
It was a perfect ending to our wonderful Gujarat trip. Such tremendous grace! That day was Guruvayoor ekadasi day and Bhagavat Gita Jayanti. We were on a fruit fast so I felt all our perceptions were sharpened and it was as if we could really feel her sweetness and love in the flowing river, in the soft breeze, in the stars and the moon which floated serenely in the night sky as we drove to Abu Road.
Jai Mataji! Jai Ma Amba
NISHKALANG MAHADEVA TEMPLE
NISHKALANG MAHADEVA TEMPLE
We stayed a few days in Bhavanagar in order to go to Palitana and one of the temples we visited which I can only describe as unique was the Nishkalang Mahadeva temple. It is in a small village called Koliyak on the Arabian sea. In fact the temple is inside the sea and is accessible only during low tide. On the day we went we were told that low tide was at 9.30 am so we went a bit early at 8.30 am but unfortunately the tide had already come in and all that we could see was the temple top and the flag fluttering merrily in the breeze. It was quite a sight and I took a few photos despite the fierce sun shining right into my eyes and despaired of getting anything visible. But I was delighted to see that when the photo was enlarged both the temple top and flag could be seen.
It was only later that I found out the story connected with this amazing temple. As is common with so many temples in India this also has a story associated with the Pandavas and Lord Krishna. The five Pandavas were grief stricken at having killed their cousins. In order to assuage their grief they approached their friend and God, Lord Krishna and begged him to do something for them. Krishna gave them a black flag and a black cow and asked them to hold the flag and follow the cow. When both the flag and the cow turned white it was to be taken as a sign that their sins had been pardoned and they were supposed to meditate on Lord Shiva at spot. The Pandavas wandered all over the country and when they reached Koliyak beach both the flag and the cow became white. The brothers were delighted and sat down to meditate on their tutelary deity- Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared to each of them in the form of a lingam and each of them worshipped the lingam which had appeared before him. The idol of a Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull) also appeared before each lingam. This is the temple known as Nishkalanga Mahadeva. Nishkalang means pure and guiltless. The Pandavas were totally cleansed and became guiltless after worshipping Shiva in this fashion. Of course this happened over five thousand years ago and the sea slowly encroached and covered the temple. Today it can only be seen during low tide. Shiva is supposed to have manifested himself to the Pandavas on the new moon (amavasya) day in the month of Shravana (August/September). A fair is normally held here on the amavasya day of that month and crowds come on that day. There is a pond called the Pandavas pond and people have to wash their hands and feet in this before going to the five lingams which are of different sizes and spread across a square platform. The flag is hoisted at the start of the festival by the Raja of Bhavanagar and is changed only the next year. Apparently this flag never gets washed away by the tide nor is it ever totally submerged during high tide. It was never shaken even during the great earthquake of 2001. I was truly happy that we were given a glimpse of this flag at least.
Step wells or stepped ponds are a common feature in many cities of western India especially in Gujarat. They were used to collect water during the monsoons. In ancient times, the villagers used to come to take water daily and of course during periods of drought and even caravans going from place to place used to stop and replenish their water. They were made of different types of materials like mortar, stucco, rubble and granite stones. The cylindrical shape was the basic form used to deepen the wells. While the Brahmins were the architects, the builders were artisans of Sompara sect of low–caste Hindus. A wide gulf of religious distinction existed between the two groups, with the former getting all the credit. However today we can infer that these step wells have survived for such a long time due to the builders’ knowledge of the soil conditions as well as their ability to take into consideration the earthquake proneness of the region. Some type of step well was discovered in the Mohanjadaro sites also showing how the Hindu tradition has been passed on and kept alive over the centuries.
The step well at the village of Adalaj near Ahmadabad is the best preserved and most popular. From the outside it is nothing much to look at but when we went inside and as we started going down the steps leading to the water, I was struck by the breathtaking beauty of the carved panels on either side ending in water which was a pellucid blue and absolutely without any scum. I’m sure it was much better than any bottled water we could get in the market. The water was perfectly still and mirrored the carvings on the walls on all sides. Two doves sat on the opposite ledge cooing to each other and I was lucky to have got a distant shot of them. I sat there for some time drinking in the beauty of this amazing creation which had such utilitarian value as well. This was one thing that you noticed in all ancient Indian architecture. Beauty was part of utility. There never was anything which was made only for utility. Everything had some carving or some attempt to beautify it. A chair or a knife or a well or a book or mirror, everything had to have some beauty in it. Beauty was itself a utility since it produced such a profound sense of peace and well being in the beholder as well as the user. Of course we took numerous photos which hardly show the beauty of this amazing creation. One has to see it to be able to absorb the beauty.
This well was built in 1498. There is an inscription in Sanskrit on a marble slab in a recess on the first floor which gives all details about the construction. It was started by Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty. However he was killed in a war with the Muslim king Mahmud Begada of the neighbouring state. Rana Veer Singh’s widow was a beautiful lady called Rani Rudabai who was totally bereft at the death of her husband. She was anxious to finish the work he had started which would be of immense benefit to so many people. So she agreed to a proposal of marriage by Mahmud Begada on condition that he would complete the building of the step well. Begada was totally overcome by the queen’s beauty and agreed. He took over the work and did the remaining bits in Indo-Islamic style. After completing the work he reminded the queen of her promise to marry him. However the queen was totally dedicated to her husband and having accomplished her purpose she went round the well three times saying prayers and jumped into the well and ended her life. All these scenes are depicted on the walls of the well. To his credit, Begada allowed the well to remain without defacing the architecture.
The Swaminarayana sect says that before she died Rani Rudabai requested many saints to take a bath in this step well so that the water would get purified by the touch of the saints and thus deliver her from the sin of having contaminated the water.
Apparently Begada asked the six masons who built the well if they could build a similar well. When they replied in the affirmative Begada sentenced them to death because he did not want any other well like this one. The tombs of these six masons are to be seen in the grounds next to the step well.
The temperature inside the well is about five degrees lower than outside. No doubt this encouraged villagers to come and loiter there while collecting water. Amongst all the different types of sculptures the two most interesting which are cut out of single blocks of stones is the Ami Khumbor or the pot of life and the Kalpa Vriksha, the desire fulfilling tree. There is also a fresco of the nine planets (navagrahas) which is supposed to scare off the evil spirits.
Hari Aum Tat Sat.