Magical Roda – Where the foundation was laid for Gujarat’s classical architecture

Gujarat as we know is a land of rich architectural diversity. Among many of its architectural splendours, the temples of Solanki Period are noteworthy. Art historians classify them as temples of Maru Gurjara style, which had evolved in the 11th century and since then is being followed all over the state. But prior to this style there existed yet another style that closely resembled the temples of Rajasthan and Central India. Art historians refer to it as temples of Maha Gurjara style. The style appeared in the 8th century AD and lasted till 11th century AD. The temples of Maha Gurjara style have moulded basements (pitha) without any sculptural decoration and pyramidal roofs.

Today there are only a handful of Maha Gurjara temples that have survived and the temples of Roda are definitely amongst the best examples of the survived ones.

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Roda, about 18 km northeast of Himatnagar on Ahmedabad – Jaipur Highway, is an isolated valley surrounded by fields, streams and precincts of the Aravali Mountains. The site has seven temples, which constitute one of the earliest surviving Hindu temples of Gujarat built in the 8th-9th centuries AD. They represent Maha Gurjara style.

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In the group the most noteworthy are the twin temples, one Shiva and the other Vishnu in front of a kund, a stepped water structure. Both the temples consist of squared sanctuaries and porches. The sikharas of the sanctuaries are pyramidal, but the basements are plain except four niches containing images of Hindu divinities. Among these the best ones are the images of Trivikrama and Narasimha in the Vishnu Temple. The other attractions are beautifully carved doorways, ceilings and carved columns. There are depictions of vyalas, kirti-mukhas, apsaras and amorous couples on the doorframes. Among the geometric designs the floral motif of lotus and kalash are noteworthy.

Another interesting feature of Roda is the Ladushah Kund, which was built facing the twin temples in the 8th century AD. On each corner of the kund is a shrine (the northern part of the kund is gone, now a replaced wall by the ASI that protects it from further collapsing). Each shrine has a columned porch and a deity. The kund overall testifies the importance of mother goddess in Hindu belief. One shrine houses the Satamatrika, shiny with foil overlays put on by devotees.

About 500 m before at the entrance to the heritage complex there are two more temples, a Shiva temple and the other, the unique Pakshi (Bird) temple, which is the smallest (the sikhara is gone) at Roda. They are located on the side of the road that leads to the other temples. The Shiva temple is noteworthy for its beautiful ceiling showing lotus motifs and pillars.

Besides there are two more temples, both without idols and standing in isolation. One is called Navagraha temple due to its depiction of nine planets on its doorjamb. The temple also preserves beautiful apsaras and dwarf motifs on pillar in its porch.

The last but the least is the collapsed Shiva temple on an elevated land across the stream. This is the largest in the series.

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The temples of Roda are truly magical, thanks to the natural setting and away from the settlement; they offer visitors a journey of timeless experience.

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3 thoughts on “Magical Roda – Where the foundation was laid for Gujarat’s classical architecture

  1. This an extremely important post in which we people attach great significance. But did you check whether the early artists and sculptures had any connection with the South and Central India?

    1. Thank you Ranbir Ji. There is not much literature available on Roda monuments. It is still debatable if these were built by Pratiharas or Rastrakutas. I have not yet checked with their Central Indian connection. Will visit Dr Dhanky in coming days to discuss more about them.

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