Kapadvanj – Where History Sparks in Layers

1000 years back, a Hindu King from Gujarat silently created an artistic revolution. The King had a stable government. He was a great warrior too. He brought in the whole of Gujarat and neighbouring Malwa under his political control. Patan was his capital.

The King was no other than Siddharaj Jayasinh (1094 – 1143). He was credited for gifting some of Gujarat’s finest architectural gems. For last 2/3 months I have been both knowingly and accidentally stepping into the priceless legacies of Siddharaj one after another. First it was Dabhoi, then the Rudra Mahla complex at Sidhapur and more recently the step wells of Kapadvanj.

The purpose for visiting Kapadvanj, a medium sized town in Gujarat’s Kheda District was not to appreciate Siddharaj’s creation, but to stroll in the more famed Vorhawad, for which the town has become a destination for off-beat travellers. However, the legacy of Siddharaj defied my purpose. He had built two exquisite vavs (step wells) at the centre of the old town and a torana. Both are now encroached upon, dilapidated and used as dump yards. It seemed the cloth is torn, but the fragrance has remained.

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The main structure called kundvav is a rectangular structure, similar to plan of Modhera step well. However, it is smaller and simpler than Modhera’s.

Kapadvanj (Karpat – Vanjiya or the land of textiles) was a major trading centre on the route inland from the port of Cambay and trade brought it wealth and importance in the time Siddharaj Jayasinh. It was located close to Mohar River, a perfect place for constructing step wells for water supply. A fortified settlement was established at Kapadvanj. According to local historians and elderly folks the town had five gates. We saw just one.

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The gate we saw and the remnants of fortification attached to it carry the legacy of Solanki architecture. But we found a surprising feature. The Hindu gate is hidden from two parallel Islamic arched gates.

The Kundvav is built adjacent to its market and it was later surrounded by wooden havelis. Originally part of a temple complex it has many worn deities in its shrines, but they are not unified around one theme as they are at Patan. The pilgrims at Kapadvanj stepped down from the pool’s rim onto moon steps set between two large shells. Moon steps, their form borrowed from temple shrines, are both ornamental and symbolic endings for the stairs. Above the pool is free standing torana arch, a striking feature of Solanki art and architecture. The torana at Kapadvanj is one among the 13 kirtistambhas in Gujarat; however it is amongst the best preserved, only after the Vadnagar torana. It has two pillars and a transverse architrave. The entire torana is covered with elaborate sculptures.

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Our next hop was at much talked Vohrawad (a Bohra neighbourhood marked by the special character of the elegantly hybrid architecture). But on our way a few wooden havelis drew our attention. They wore even sculptures of musicians, a usual feature of pol wooden houses in Ahmedabad and other historical towns of the region.

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The Bohras are an old Shia Muslim trading community, with distinctive social, economic and cultural traits. Kapdavanj along with Sidhpur is one of their main centres developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, as business demanded many of them moved out of these towns and settled in far-flung cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata and even abroad.

Vohrawad of Kapadvanj in contrast to its neighbouring Vania pols, is modern, yet has retained the earlier character of gated enclaves. Houses share common walls and have a narrow street side. Decorative wooden exteriors of the upper storey often project out from the building line. Even in the mid of the day, the streets were cool and shaded.

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There are two Vorhawads in the town, and entered through an arched twin gate, the left leading to the nani or smaller Vohrawad and the right to the moti or bigger Vohrawad. In-between the two lays the elegant Borha Moti Masjid and the attached clock tower.

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I left Kapadvanj both with a rich experience and disappointed heart (the pathetic condition of vavs, the priceless jewels of Siddharaj Jaysinh). Hopefully, one day there will be a realization about their importance and hence will be preserved for posterity.

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37 thoughts on “Kapadvanj – Where History Sparks in Layers

  1. This is an interesting post of my hometown kapadwanj
    Been there 15years. Btw i just returned from patan and
    Siddhpur this weekend. The Bohra colonies of Siddhpur
    are amazing and so is a variety of houses u get to see in Patan

  2. An Interesting history of my home town spent my younger years and then visiting during school vacation from Bombay. Lived in our house known as Bhagat Manzil opposite the Mosque in Voharwad,.I still miss Kapadvanj even though it is not the same as it used to be.!

  3. Well another vav is “32 kotha ni vav” located just 25 metres away from kind vav. This vav has a tunnel route with another end opening at Mehmadabad. It was a escape route in emergencies.

  4. I frequently visited Kapadwanj for summer vacation and always will remain my beautiful hometown which I am proud of and I described and showed the same to my sons who loved it too.

  5. Very nice article on my hometown. It is a very lovely place. My childhood was spent there. Thanks for refresh my memories.

  6. Kapadwanj is my home town and we have our home in the middle of the moti voharwad. There is a small well in the courtyard. I have spent many holidays in Kapadwanj and have fond memories. Unfortunately in recent years many Bohra families are demolishing their old homes, selling off the wood and making concrete houses without any character instead. I hope after reading such articles good sense prevails.

  7. What a wonderful town it was . The vohrwad was full of life when we were staying.Now people like us has deserted for better life. Miss kapadwanj.

    1. I agree with you and I could feel the same when I was there. Yes, for better opportunities people move out of their places of belonging. It is sad but heard reality.

  8. This is my native town
    When ever i visit here i have eternal satisfaction within me
    I can have a sound sleep in this town seems like sleeping on moms lap
    Thanks fr sending this informative li nk

  9. My husband and myself are regular visitors and we are very fond of our hometown.Staying in Kapadvanj for a week is a stress buster for us.

  10. I was born in kapadwanj . Got to know the history of my birth place . I don’t have a house in my home town but I am eager to have one​ so I can visit my home town frequently. Thanks for the info of my home town.

  11. I make it a point to go at least 2 times in a year. I have a ancestral home about 90 years old with all the wooden engravings and I have been maintaiing the house as it is. I have fondness and I like it the way it is. We have settled in Pune and that’s it Akil Allanabanda

  12. Kapadvanj is my birthplace.As a schoolboy,I spent many summer vacations here.Enjoyed juicy mangoes and read few Gujarati books from Saifi Library. Thanks for refreshing my memory

  13. Kapadvanj is my birthplace.As a schoolboy,I spent many summer vacations here.Enjoyed juicy mangoes and read few Gujarati books from Saifi Library. Thanks for refreshing my memory

  14. Kapadwanj evokes memories of time spent with our extended family in our beautiful ancestral home which is now demolished. The ties still exist as many family members have settled here. A lovely article.

  15. Wow what an article on my home town I really adore as around ten years of my childhood has been spent in this beautiful place. I really miss my house. Even my children love to visit kapadwanj hope to visit on urus of khoj bin malak , Inshallah

  16. I am a native of Kapadvanj, and spent my life’s first 23 years there before settling in Chicago. I still have a home in Nani Vahorwad, and my childhood memories of time spent in Kapadwanj are still fresh as if yesterday. Thanks for an informative article and beautiful pictures of my hometown.

  17. Thanks for a wonderful article on my home town Kapadvanj. Have some old memories of the beautiful town.

  18. Thanks Jitu ji for rekindling our love for Kapadvanj
    Though my hometown I have not visited it for many years but I agree that the architecture is amazing of the voharvad
    I must make it a point to visit the vavs
    The khaman dhokla here is out of the world

  19. Indeed a very nice article.. thnk u dear.. my dad’s favourite place to live in.. but since years have settled in bombay.. we do have our house at the vohrvad… My inlaws too are from Kapadvanj.. mother in law always has fond memories of her childhood in kapdvanj…

  20. Very good article on my native place. I was there till I was 6 years old. Still remember my 1st standard days at Madrasa e Mohammedia.

  21. Thank you very much for giving details of my home town KAPADVANJ where I born and brought up and studied from Barakhadi to B.Sc.and now developed my Nana Yusufali Pishri’s v.old (1861) house into RUBY APARTMENTS.
    Once again I on behalf of my family (Daughters Meena,Shama,daughter in law-Sumi grand daughter Asmi,S on Akbar,and Son Arsh&Arya,Son in Law Kaushik Duttagupta) and on our (Sudha and Abbas Igatpuriwala)THANK YOU FOR SUCH A NICE COMPREHENSIVE DETAILS OF KAPADVANJ.

  22. Thanks Rituji for elaborate information on our Native place Kapadwanj, where I spent my childhood. Settled down in Pune. Having a gorgeous house in Motion Vohorwad, Mohammed Sheri but now in dilapidated condition after last earthquake. I still relish juicy mangoes, khaman Dhokla & Baraf Golas.

  23. Thank you for a wonderful journey through my ancestral home. Our house is in the beginning of the mohalla’s opposite the library where I spent countless hours. It is a wonderful, magical, historical little town and it would be tragic if the owners, descendants and residents let it further deteriorate and lose the historical aspects. If some young people who are passionate about this, want to start a forum and look for institutional and private funding to preserve this great history I am sure there will be much success and good karma.

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