Monday, February 23, 2015

Khushboo Gujarat Ki

The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Gujarat is alcohol, or rather the absence of it. That, along with the dominantly vegetarian diet, meant that it was never a preferred travel destination for a meat loving geologists like us. In a beach of Gujarat I once had the audacity to ask a local person where I can find sea-food. The gentleman stared at me and my wife in not so gentle way and responded ‘I am a Jain’, and went away. However, couple of weeks in Gujarat, and we fell in love with their vegetarian thali, especially the khichri they serve at dinner. The sweet taste of the food suits the Bong taste buds. It was rather the breakfast that we had problem with. Jalebi-Fafda was a combination we could not have every day. So we kept searching for varieties like Paranthas and dosas. Luckily we got a few restaurants that served those, and were quite tasty. Once we discovered a restaurant that was a specialist in pav-bhajji. We went in hoping to get reminded of our good old days in Mumbai, least prepared for the shock we were about to get. When our plate of pav-bhajji arrived we realized that the owner of this specialized pav-bhajji shop does not understand the meaning of pav. What we got instead were toasts, and paneer gravy. Unfortunately even the paneer was old, and the smell coming from the dish made us run away. In case you happen to be in Porbandar remember the name ‘Jai Chamunda’, a restaurant you do not want to enter. Food in the rest of the trip was pretty good, the best being the 7 Seas restaurant in Jamnagar.  It serves meat too.
Map of Gujarat showing places of interest

Gujarat, often called ‘jewel of the west’, has plenty of surprises for the first time visitors. Gujarat takes its name from the Gurjars tribes who came from west during Hun attacks and settled there in 7th and 8th century. Hinduism is the dominant religion in Gujarat, with Muslims being the dominant minority. Gujarat is an important religious center in India and is also the last home to the endangered Asiatic lions. Gir forest is the top most attraction of Gujarat where people hope to get a glimpse of the majestic king of the jungle. It is always a good idea to book the safari online 3 months ahead. The tourism industry of Gujarat recently received a boost after Amitabh Bachhan became its brand ambassador.  There is more to Gujarat than just temples and lions.
 
Asiatic Lions of Gir
Gujarat has survived the Bhuj earthquake and the riots to become a major contributor towards Indian economy. It is rich in history and mythology as people have been living here since time immemorial. Being bordered by the sea, it has served as a port since Indus Valley Civilization. Easy access to sea made Gujarat a trading hub. Not surprisingly most of India’s successful businessmen come from this region. It is said that in Bengal a person who fails in higher studies do business, while in Gujarat a person who fails in business go for higher studies.

Lothal is one of the ancient port cities that date back to 2500BC. The beads factory in Lothal was famous around the world as beads from here have been found its way to Mesopotamia and Egypt. Idols of mummies and other foreign items prove frequent contact with the west. The most amazing part is that the technology used to make these beads remained unchanged for 4000 years. The city has been repeatedly vacated due to floods and later re-settled. Though there is a cultural continuity, each new settlement brought new customs with them. Some of those customs have survived till this day. Broken pots have been excavated containing paintings of Panchatantra stories like “the hungry fox and the swan” and “the thirsty crow”. Dholavira on the other hand was a stronger fortified city that had it walls made of rocks rather than bricks. The planning of these cities, the sanitation systems and advance technologies used to build the canals still baffle visitors. It is the largest Indus Valley site in India. The most fascinating discovery from Dholavira is the large inscription, a rare glimpse of the un-deciphered Indus script. Dholavira is a lonely but peaceful village. on clear days it is ideal for stargazing. Dholavira is surrounded by the Rann of Kutch, a saline clay desert. The vast acres of white empty land shine on a full moon night. The whole desert can be seen from the top of Kala Dungar. Rann Utsav happens there every year between December- March and is one of the biggest cultural fairs of India.
 
Map of Lothal, A-Dockyard, B-Granary, C-Acropolis, D-Beads Factory, E-Lower Town, F- Crematory

Artist depiction of Lothal

A-Dockyard
Map of Dholavira, A-Water Reservoir, B-Castle, C- Bailey, D-Stadium, E-Middle Town, F- Lower Town

A-Water Reservoir
A hut
White Rann of Kutchh

Rann from Kala Dungar

Dwarka, said to be built by Lord Krishna himself, is another such ancient port city that latter got submerged under the sea.  ASI have uncovered some remains of the submerged city, but their impatience in getting the sample back to surface disturbed the sediments in a way that dating is now impossible. Though visitors in Dwarka will not be able to see the submerged city, a boat ride to Bet Dwarka and the Benaras like ghats behind Dwarka Temple are reasons enough to be there. During the cruse to Bet Dwarka you will see the birds flying with your boat in search of food all the way. They all will return with another boat. The importance of these ports remains till this day. Porbandar, the birthplace of Gandhi and Krishna’s friend Sudama, is still a very active port. ‘Bandar’ itself means port. Sudama’s temple and Kirti Mandir, Gandhi’s birthplace are a must visit once you are there. Once you are inside Kirti Mandir you will find the ‘exact’ place of Gandhi’s birth. Other ports to visit in Gujarat will be the Mandavi beach to see how ships are made, and Alang to see how ships are broken. Alang is the world’s largest ship-breaking yard.
 
Ships being made in Mandavi
Gujarat remained an important state even during Mayurian times. Uparkot Fort is believed to be built by Mayurian Empire Chandragupta in 319 BC. If you visit the fort do not forget to ask for Ashokian Rock Edict. Inside the fort there is a Buddhist rock cut monastic quarters that dates to 100 AD. It was built in Greeko-Scythian style. After continuous occupation for centuries it was finally abandoned in 7th century when forests took over the area. The fort was re discovered and repaired in 10th century. The palace built by sultan Mahmud Begada in 15th century, with the octagonal root-toped courtyard, is pretty amazing. But what is really going to take your breath away, especially if you are a geologist, is the Adi Kadi Vav built around the same time. The well takes its name from the myth that two slave girls were sacrificed to get water in the well. The cut walls of the well expose a breath-taking geological section. One can see the nature’s work of art in the Late Quaternary aeolian dunes made of carbonate bioclasts called miliolites. The well preserved large-scale dunes are geologist’s paradise. Another thing that will make a geologist happy is the Girnar Hills, just east of the fort, standing lonely surrounded by low lying flat land. The layered Girnar massif is a lapolith-like plutonic ring complex that has been emplaced within the Deccan basalts. It is composed of exotic varieties of rocks from nepheline syenite to gabbro to diorite, granophyres and lamphrophyres. Wonder why the Upar Kot fort was not built on this tall mountain.


Map of Uparkot Fort

Aeolian Dunes at Adi Kadi Vav
While the Uparkot fort has been besieged 16 times Somenath is said to have been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times. According to the legend Somenath was built by Soma, the Moon God, entirely of gold. It was re-built by Ravan in silver and Krishna in wood. Historically the temple was built by Seuna kings in 649 AD on the site of an older temple. Junayd, the Arab Governor of Sind destroyed it in 725. The temple was rebuilt by Nagabhata II in 815 out of sandstones. In 11th century the temple was destroyed and looted more than once by notorious Ghazni. Bhimdev 1 and King Bhoja build it again in 1026 and 1042 of wood. A century later it was re-build of stone only to be destroyed by Alauddin Khilji. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt a few more times until Aurangzeb destroyed it again. Marathas restored the temple. The final temple was built after independence in November 1947. The Ban Stambh (arrow pillar) built on the walls of Somnath Temple points to South Pole, and has no landmass from that point till Antarctica.


Modera Sun Temple

During the same time Bhimdev was building Somnath, he built another magnificent temple in Modera, a place where Rama performed yagna to purify himself after killing Brahman Ravana. The temple was dedicated to Sun God, and has beautifully decorated sculptures. The erotic sculptures in the walls show how sex was not a taboo even in 11th century India. Irony of modern India is that today even holding hands in public can be a taboo. Modera Dance festival is held every year in third week of January. Not far from the Sun temple is Rani ki vav, a step well with intricate sculptures, all of which have survived Ghazni. These must rank amongst the best sculptures of India.
 
Sculptures in Rani ki Vav
In the Middle Ages Gujarat was ruled by the Muslim Sultanates after Khilji conquered it defeating the Hindu rulers.  Champaner, built by Sultan Mahmud Begada, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Gujarat Sultanate fought a major battle with the Portuguese at Diu in 1509. Sultan got support of Mamluks and Arabs, but lost the war with Portuguese. Portuguese occupied Diu, and later built a fort in 1935. Diu fort was built of sandstones from nearby Naida creating beautifully sculpted caves. Naida Caves are lesser known place, but a must visit for people who likes geology, and a bit of adventure. Nagoa beach of Diu is a very popular, though crowded, beach near which the Diu Fort was made overlooking the Arabian Sea. Gujarat being dry state, Diu is a popular weekend destination for Gujarati people as you get cheap and legal booze. It is also a beach where you can safely ask for sea-food. For those who prefer clean and less crowded place Ghola beach is a perfect destination.
Naida Caves
 
Diu Fort Map
Diu Beach
The Sultanate continued independently until defeated by Akbar in 1576. The Marathas made inroads in the 17th century, quickly followed by the Britishers when it became part of Bombay Presidency. During India’s independence Sultan wanted Junagarh to be part of Pakistan. But after people revolted, and with efforts from Patel, it merged with India. It took further time and effort to free Diu. Indian Army made a full scale attack on Portuguese occupied Diu, code-named Operation Vijay, and liberated it in 1961. Gujarat today is the second most free-state in India in terms of economic freedom. Ship breaking, cotton, ground nuts, sugar cane, milk and milk products, along with oil refineries contribute towards Gujarat’s economy.  Currently Gujarat holds one of the largest refineries of the world in Jamnagar.
 
Junagarh Fort/Lake Palace
81 kms from Jamnagar is India’s first marine sanctuary. Only two of the 16 marine sanctuaries are open to public, and Narara Marine Sanctuary is one of them. We stayed in Hotel President in Jamnagar, and people there has good knowledge about Narara. It is important to know the timing of tides, each day it comes 45 minutes later than the previous day. Reach Narara office on time. Get a pass for INR200 once the office opens. Do not forget to take a guide who will charge 300INR. You won’t be able to see anything without a guide. He can tell you what to touch, and more importantly what not to touch. It is a couple of hours walk in shallow sea. Wear proper foot wear and clothes. Do carry water and some food with you as you will find nothing else once you are in Narara. It can get very windy, carry windcheaters in winter. I can guarantee that it will be an unforgettable walk, even if you do not manage to see an octopus.




Narara marine Sanctuary

Seeing full Gujarat can take upto 3 weeks. One can break it into Kutchh and Saurashtra, each being at least a week tour. The ‘*’ marked places are must see, and if one restricts oneself to that the trip can be shortened. Below is a full iternary with some important contacts. It can be customized as per one’s preference.




3 WEEKS GUJARAT ITERNARY [9 days Kutch+9 days Saurashtra]
Day 1:  Reach Ahmedabad (BDTS BHUJ EXP 19115). Night stay
                For car contact Devang ji at +91 9173789033 or +91 9979082590

Day 2: Local sight-seeing in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. There are many places, choose what you want to see.
·         Bhadra fort and teen darwaja.
·         Kankaria lake
·         Dada Harir Mosque
·         Gandhi Ashram
·         Akshardham
·         Indroda Zoological and Botanical Park. It also has a unique Dinosaur and Fossil park*. Life size dinosaur statues are present in the park with real dinosaur eggs and even a foot print
·         Night stay at Ahmedabad

Day 3: Modera Sun Temple* and Rani ki vav*. Night stay at Ahmedabad

Day 4: Lothal* (Friday closed) and Adalaj Wav step well. Night stay at Ahmedabad

Day 5: Train from Ahmedabad to Samakhiali of drive straight to Dholavira. You will catch a glimpse of the white desert on the way.
·         In case you take a train and use cab only in Kutch contact:
Kutch Tourism (Bhuj)
Mr.Dharmesh Khatri
9426136955
02832-224258
travelkutch@gmail.com

·         We stayed in Toran Tourist Complex
Person: Mr.Gaurang / Mr.S.K.Mina
Email: gujarattourismchennai@gmail.com
No: 04425366613
Alternate Nos: 09825026813
·         Visit the site and the Museum*.
·         Night stay in Dholavira

Day 6: To Kutch Village
·         Drive to Bhuj and get permission for entry into Kutch. This is obtainable from the Gujarat Police DSP office in Bhuj near Jubilee Ground (it's closed Sundays, and every second and fourth Saturday).
·         The Rann is best approached from best approached from Dhordo village, approximately 86 kilometers from Bhuj, which is being developed by the Gujarat government as the Gateway to the Rann of Kutch.
·         On the way visit the fossil park. But contact Mr Mohansinh M. Sodha (09427434688, vikymamu@yahoo.com) before visit.
·         Night stay at Dhordo
Hardik Sangaliya
(General Manager)
Kutch Rann Resort: Gateway To Rann Resort
Email:kutchrannresort@yahoo.com

Day 7: Rann sight seeing
·         Hodka Artists Village
·         White Rann (Rann of Kutch)*
·         Karo Dungar
·         One might want to stay an extra couple of days and visit:
Purneshwar (35 km), Old 9th century temple
Mandvi Beach (75 km)
     H&V beach hotel in Wind Farm beach.
     Ph +91 2834 222239, +91 98 79984444
     Email: beach.hotel1@gmail.com
Wild Ass Sanctuary (200 km):
Kera (40 km), famous for the 10th century Shiva Temple
Flamingo City (100 km), needs clearance of Border Security Forces from Bhuj
Narayan Sarovar Chinkara Sanctuary (100 km)
·         Night stay at Dhordo

Day 8: Bhuj
·         Shree Swaminayan Temple, Near Hamirsar lake
·         Chhatardi [Cenotaphs], Near Hamirsar Lake
·         Pragmahal Palace built in Gothic Style
·         Aaina Mahal, in compound of Pragmahal Palace
·         From Bhujiyo Hill you can get a nice panoramic view of whole city from here
·         Night stay at Bhuj

Day 9: Return to Ahmedabad (ALA HAZRAT EXP 14312). Night stay

Day 10: Drive to Varoda and Champaner and back to Ahmedabad. Night stay

Day 11: Drive to Junagarh. Night stay

Day 12: Junagarh Site-seeing and drive to Gir
·         Uparkat Fort*
·         Ashoka Inscription
·         Don’t forget to walk down Adi Kadi Vav*
·         Night Stay Sasan Gir

Day 13: Sasan Gir
·         Early Morning Safari* (book 6:30 am, report 1 hour before).
http://girlion.in/ for online booking
·         Devalia Safari Park
·         After lunch leave for Diu via Somenath.
·         Night stay at Diu
·         Sugati resort in Ghola beach

Day 14: Diu
·         Sight-seeing in Diu including Diu Fort* and Naida caves*
·         Water sports activity in Diu
·         Night stay at Diu

Day 15: Diu to Dwarka
·         Start from Diu at 9 AM
·         Stop at Porbandar, see Kirti Mandir* (Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace) and Sudama temple
·         Have lunch on highway. Go to Dwarka. Check in hotel.
·         See DwarkaTemple Aarti*. Visit the ghats.
·         Night stay at Dwarka
·         Hotel Krishna Inn has nice neat rooms at low price. No restaurant, but restaurants are not far away.

Day 16: Junagarh
·         Morning boat ride to Panchanada Tirtha or 5 Pandava Wells. The well, surrounded by sea, has sweet water and it is said that the taste of water in each well is different.
·         Drive to bet Dwarka parking.
·         Cruse to bet Dwarka*. Visit the temples. Temple is nearby and auto is not required.
·         Drive to Junagarh.
·         Visit Junagarh Museum. It closes at 5:30pm.
·         Stroll around the city. Dinner at 7seas
·         Night stay Junagarh in
Hotel President
Send text to +91 9824227786

Day 17: Narara
·         Moring visit to Narara Marine Sanctuary*. Check timings beforehand.
Contact Guide Abdul at +91 9898657499 for details
·         Drive back to Ahmedabad
·         Night stay at Ahmedabad


Day 18 Return


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4 comments:

  1. Wow! Where do you get such a wealth of knowledge? Do you do all this research before going to any place, or you learn all this from the guides there?
    Thanks for sharing the itinerary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for liking the post...
      A bit of both actually....i do my research before planning a trip...and then the guides ...they are very important :)

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