Inside Gujrat

Inside Gujrat

GUJARAT

The state of Gujarat which is on the west coast of India, has a long and varied history and a number of places of tourist interest. Legend has it that along the south coast are places where events in Lord Krishna's life took place and that the temple of Somnath existed even at that time. History has it that over four thousand years ago, Lethal, in Gujarat, was the site of the Harappan or Indus valley civilization. One of the rock edicts of the great Buddhist Emperor Ashoka stands even today at Junagadh.

Gujarat suffered invasions from Ghazni Mohammed and witnessed fierce battles between Moghuls and Marathas.

Daman and Diu on the coastline of Gujarat were Portuguese enclaves from about early sixteenth century till as recently as 1961 though India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic in 1950. Surat, which is on the coastline of Gujarat, was an early trading point for the Britishers. Gujarat, was the birth place of the Father of modem India, Mahatma Gandhi.

Gujarat is bordered on the north by Pakistan and Rajasthan on the east by Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra and on the west and south by the Arabian Sea.

Gujarat comprises an area of 195,984 square km. and the main language spoken is Gujarati. The capital is Gandhinagar.

About ten per cent of the total area of this state is covered by forests. The main crops grown are Jowar, Paddy, Bajra and Wheat. The others are cotton, tobacco, groundnut, etc. Gujarat stands first in the production of salt. Manufacture of infant milk food and milk powder is another important industry in the state.

The Jains, by sheer dint of their hard work, are an influential group. They have made Gujarat one of the wealthier states of India. It has a number of textile industries. It is a shopper's paradise for textiles. Patola silk saris are manufactured by master craftsmen in Patam. They are of fine quality and also very expensive.

Gujarat has a varied cuisine, which is distinct by the strict Jain vegetarianism. Gujarat has a number of hotels to suit all budgets. Good quality ice cream is available here. The well-known brand of Vadilal ice cream originated here. Many of the ice cream flavours here have chunks of fresh fruit in them without chemical additives. Apart from Gujarati food which costs about Rs. 20/- in a medium class hotel with dessert, even Punjabi, Western and Chinese food are available here. Popular dishes include kadhi, a savoury curry of yoghurt and  fried puffs, flavoured with spices and finely chopped vegetables. Un- dhyoo is a winter speciality of potatoes, sweet potatoes, broad beans and aubergines roasted in an earthenware pot which is buried upside down (undhyoo) under a fire. In Surat, the local variation of this is more spicy and the curry is hot. Other delicacies are Khaman Dhokla, a salty, steamed chickpea-flour cake. Doodhpak is a thick, sweetened, milk-based dessert with nuts. Srikhand is a dessert made from yoghurt, saffron, cardamom, nuts and candied fruit. Gharis are a rich sweet made of milk, clarified butter and dried fruits.

Festivals:

Makar Sankranthi is a big festival of Gujarat celebrated with kite-flying contests in January.

Muharram Tazias, large replicas of the tombs of two Muslim martyrs are paraded in the evening particularly in Surat, Junagadh and Ahmedabad during January / February. Navaratri is a nine-nights of music and dancing festivity around the idol of mother goddess Amba during September/October. Dussera, the tenth day of Navaratri culminates in the celebration of Rama's victory over Ravana.

Sharad Purnima - is singing and dancing at the end of the monsoon on the full moon night of the month of Sharad (Oct/Nov).

Tourist Information:

Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., Sector No. 16, Nigham Bhavan, Gandhinagar-382010. Ph: 22645, 22523, 22029.

Places to visit:-

Ahmedabad is the principal city of Gujarat and is one of the major industrial cities of India. Because of its many textile industries, it is also called the 'Manchester of the East'. It is also a noisy and polluted city. It was founded in the. early part of the fifteenth century by Ahmed Shah.

The city has a number of attractions for the traveller. It is one of the best places and a fine example of Islamic architecture and also a blend of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles.

Ahmedabad is an interesting place for those with a wanderlust. The bazaar streets are narrow but colourful. They are also very crowded and one can easily get lost. The city sprawls across the Sabarmati river. Across the river are many modem buildings and the museum. Unlike in other large cities, there's little evidence of the British period in Ahmedabad. The Sabarmati Ashram which is a national monument, is on the western bank of the Sabarmati river and is about six km from the centre of the town. This Ashram was founded in 1918 and served as Mahatma Gandhi's head- quarters during the struggle for Indian Independence. Gandhiji's living quarters are preserved as a small museum with pictorial exhibits of major events in his life.

This city was built in 1411 by Ahmed Shah. In 1615, the British representative Sir Thomas compared this city to London.

The Ahmed Shah Masjid, Jami Masjid, Rani Roopmati Masjid, Sidi Sayyed Masjid, Rani Sipri Masjid, Sidi Basheer. Masjid, Hathee Singh Temple and a few museums are some of the notable places to be seen here.

The Jami Masjid built in 1424 by Ahmed Shah has 260 columns supporting the roof with its 15 cupolas. Just out- side the eastern gate of the Jami Masjid, stands the tomb of Ahmed Shah and just across the street is the tomb of his queens on a raised platform which now in reality is a market in very poor shape. Closeby is the Teen Darwaza which now houses some government offices, but earlier, the Sultans would watch processions from the Palace to the Jami Masjid, from here. Rani Rupmati's Masjid built between 1430-40 displays elements of Hindu and Islamic architecture. These were partially damaged during an earthquake in 1819.

The Sidi Basheer Masjid is famous for its shaking minarets. When one minaret is shaken, the others also rock "in sympathy". An Englishman once dismantled one of the minarets of the Raj Babi Masjid to find out how it worked. But he was unsuccessful.

To the north of the old city is the Hathee Singh temple, dedicated to the fifteenth Jain Tirthankar - Dharamanath. Built in 1848, this Jain temple is in white marble, as is so often typical of Jain temples.

Gujarat's step wells or "baolis" are strange and unique. The Dada Hari well built in 1499 is one of the best. Even during summer, the well water is cool. Behind the well is the tomb of Dada Hari. Matha Bhavani is another old well which is to the north of Dada Hari.

The artificial lake of Kankaria was constructed in 1451 and is to the south-east of the city. It has 34 sides each 60 metres long. This is a picnic spot. There is a zoo, children's park and an aquarium here. On the left bank are some Dutch and Armenian tombs. Its pillars and domes are a beautiful sight.

Ahmedabad may also be called a city of Masjids. It has Masjids of Malik Alam, Mian Khan Christi, Dastur Khan, Bibi Achut Kuki, Muhafiz Khan, Khan [ahan, etc. There are a few Hindu temples also here; notable among them is the Swami Narayan temple which is brightly painted. To the south of this temple are the nine tombs known as the Nau Gaz Pir or 'Nine Yard Saints'.

Ahmedabad has a number of museums. The Calico Museum of Textiles is located in the city's Shahi Bagh Gardens and has a number of antique and modern textiles, wall hangings, tapestries and costumes on display. An excellent exhibit of various schools of Indian miniature paintings is at the N. C. Mehta Museum of Miniatures at Sanskar Kendra, Paldi. The others are the National Institute of Design, The Tribal Research and Training Institute Museum and The Philately Museum.

Conducted tours:

Tour of Ahmedabad city is conducted by the municipal corporation from the local bus stand.

How to get there:

Air: Flights operate from Ahmedabad to USA, UK, Bombay, Delhi, Vadodara, Indore, Goa, Bangalore & Madras.

Bus: Buses operate to various places in Gujarat, Rajasthan, M.P. & Maharashtra (like Bhavnagar, Mt. Abu, Udaipur, Bombay, etc.)

Train: Trains connect Ahmedabad with Delhi, Bombay, Abu Road, Ajmer, Jaipur, Bhavnagar, Palitana, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhuj, Kutch, Gandhidham, etc.

Around Ahmedabad:-

Sarkhej is 8 km. away from Ahmedabad, At the entrance of Sarkhej is the Mausoleum of Mahmud Begara and next to the tank connecting his tomb is that of his queen, Rajabai. Around the tank is the palace with pavilions and a harem. Because of indigo grown abundantly here, the Dutch established a factory in Sarkhej in 1620.

Adalaj Vav is about 19 km. to the north of Ahmedabad. This is one of the best of the famed Gujarati step wells built by Queen Rudabai in 1499. It used to be a cool and secluded retreat during the summer. Today it is a picnic spot.

Cambay is an old sea port to the south-west of Ahmedabad, at the northern end of the Gulf of Cambay. The entire region was known as Cambay at the height of Muslim rule in Gujarat. Before the Britishers arrived here, the Dutch and the Portuguese had established factories in the port. When its port silted up, the city's decline was inevitable.

Lothal: It is about 80 km from Ahmedabad, towards Bhavnagar. It is of great interest to archaeologists as it was a site related to the Indus Valley cities of Mohenjadaro and Harappa, over four thousand years ago. Now both Mohenjadaro and Harappa are in Pakistan. Lothal has the same neatly laid out street pattern, assembled brickwork and a scientific drainage system. Lothal in Gujarati means 'mound of the dead'. At that time, it was one of the important ports on the sub-continent and trade was carried on with the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia.

How to get there:

Lothal can be reached directly from Ahmedabad by bus.

Modhera: Modhera is about 100 km. to the north-west of Ahmedabad and has a Sun temple built by King Bhimdev I in 1026-1027. It bears some resemblance to the famed Sun temple of Konark in Orissa. It is designed in such a way that Sun's rays fall on the image of Surya (Sun God) at dawn during equinoxes. The exterior of this temple is intricately carved.

How to get there:

Direct buses to Modhera are available from Ahmedabad.

Gandhinagar: This is about 30 km. north-east of Ahmedabad and is situated on the west bank of Sabarmati river. It is the capital of Gujarat and is named after Mahatma Gandhi. It is India's second well- planned city after Chandigarh.

How to get there:

Buses ply frequently between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad.

Baroda: Baroda is 112 km. south of Ahmedabad. Between Baroda and Ahmedabad is the small town of Anand noted for its dairy production. Baroda is a medium sized city.

Before Indian Independence, Baroda was the capital of the princely state of Gaekwads. Baroda is also called "Vadodara". Some of the important places of visit here are the Sayaji Bagh & Baroda Museum, Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, and Lakshmi Vilas Palace which has a large collection of armour and sculptures.

At the Sayaji Bagh & Baroda Museum is an extensive park encircled by a mini-railway. Within the park is a planetarium.

How to get there:

Air: Flights operate to Bombay, Delhi and Ahmedabad from Vadodara (Baroda).

Bus: Buses operate to important centres in Gujarat, Western Madhya Pradesh and Northern Maharashtra from Vadodara.

Train: Trains       connect Vadodara with Bombay, Ahmedabad, Anand, etc.

Around Barodas-

Champaner is about 50 km. to the north-east of Baroda along the broad gauge railway line to Delhi. The Jami Masjid here is similar in style to the one in Ahmedabad. The Pavgadh hill with its ruined fort, rises beside Champaner, in three stages. Parts of the massive fort walls still survive. The name "Pavgadh" means 'quarter of a hill' and is said to indicate that the hill is actually a chunk of the Himalayan mountainside which Lord Hanuman carried to Sri Lanka in an episode of the Ramayana. The Dabhoi Fort is 30 km south-east of Baroda and was built in the 13th century. It is a fine example of Hindu military architecture and noted for the design of its gateways.

Surat: Surat was once one of the major ports and trading towns of western India and stands on the banks of River Tapti. Pars is had settled here earlier. In 1573 the city fell to Akbar and became an important Moghul trading port. In 1612, the British established a factory here followed by the Dutch in 1616 and the French in 1664. In the same year, the Maratha leader Shivaji, attacked this city. In 1759, when Moghul power was long past its prime time, the British virtually took full control over the ruler and by 1800, the city was in British hands.

Today, Surat is no longer of any importance as a port, but is an important industrial town with a major textile manufacturing unit.

Surat has a number of mosques and Jain, Hindu and Parsi temples. Cotton, silk and bangles are important industries of Surat.

How to get there:

Surat is on the Bombay-Ahmedabad railway line and apart from Bombay and Ahmedabad it is connected with other major centres of Gujarat.

Navsari, which is 29 km. south of Surat, is the head- quarters for the Parsi community since the earliest days of their settlement in India. The Tatas hailed from this place. Udvada, 10 km north from the station for Daman, has the oldest Parsi sacred fire in India. It is said that the fire was brought from Persia to Diu in 700 A.D. Sanjan which is in the extreme south of the state, is the small port where they first landed and a pillar marks the spot.

Bhavnagar: Situated about 250 km away from Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar is an important trading centre for cotton goods manufactured in Gujarat. Gandhi Smriti Library, a museum, a gallery and a memorial to the Father of the Nation are there. Gaurishankar Lake and Takhteshwar temple       are popular picnic spots lending an enchanting view from the hilltop.

How to get there:

Air: Flights connect Bhavnagar with Bombay.

Bus: Buses connect Bhavnagar with Ahmedabad, Una, Diu, Palitana, etc.

Train: Trains ply to Ahmedabad, Palitana, etc. from Bhavnagar.

Palitana: Fifty six km away from Bhavnagar is Palitana. Two km away is a 600 metre high hill top where there are 863 temples. These were constructed over a period of 900 years. The hill top is dedicated entirely to the gods as even the priests leave at dusk after which the area is deserted. This is one of the holiest pilgrimage places for the Jains. Some of the earlier temples built in the 11th century were destroyed by Muslim invaders and the ones that now exist are there from the 15th century on- wards. The most notable of the temples is for Shri Adishwara, the first Jain Tirthankar. Adjacent to this temple is the Muslim shrine of Angar Pir, where women desirous of begetting children, make offerings of miniature candles.

Valabhipur is to the north of Palitana. This ancient city was once the capital of this part of the country. Ruins have been located and the finds are exhibited in a museum.

 How to get there:

Bus: Buses connect Palitana with Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, Una, etc.

Train: From Palitana, trains ply to Bhavnagar and Sihor.

Junagadh: This town is also known as Girnar or Devagiri and is a pilgrimage centre for Jains. The name Junagadh is taken from the fort which sur- rounds the old city. Ashokan edicts dating from 250 BC are found here. The city is situated at the base of the temple-studded Girnar Hill and is about 380 km from Ahmedabad.

How to get there:

Bus: Buses operate from Junagadh to Rajkot, Sasan Gir, Una, Bhuj, Palitana, Veraval, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Porbander, Jamnagar, etc.

Train: Junagadh is connected by train with Ahmedabad, Veraval, Rajkot, Sasan Gir and Delwada.

To visit Gir forest, the last home of the Asian lion, one has to come to Junagadh. To the east of Junagadh is the old fort Uparkot. It is very ancient and has been rebuilt and extended many times in its history. It is said, the fort was once besieged, unsuccessfully for a full 12 years and in all it was besieged 16 times. Inside the fort is Jami Masjid, Nuri Shah's tomb and two beautiful wells known as the Adi Chadi and the Naughan. Cut into the hillside close to the mosque are some very old Buddhist caves believed to be more than 1500 years old. There are other caves in Junagadh, some of which are said to date back to the time of Ashoka. Also, there is a massive five-metre- long cannon called Nilam which was cast in Egypt in 1531 and left behind by a Turkish admiral who assisted the Sultan of Gujarat against the Portuguese at Diu in 1538.

After ascending 10,000 stone steps, one reaches the 1118 metre high summit of Girnar Hill. On way to Girnar Hill temple, is a huge boulder on which Emperor Ashoka in- scribed 14 edicts around 250 BC.

Like Palitana, the Girnar Hill is of great significance to Jains. The sacred tank of Damodar Kund marks the beginning of the climb to the temples. Prominent among the temples here are the 12th century temple of Neminath, the 22nd Jain Tirthankar. On the peak is the temple of Amba Mata, where newly-weds worship the Goddess in order to ensure a happy married life.

Veraval: This coastal town is about 450 km from Ahmedabad. Earlier, this was a major port for pilgrims to Mecca. It is still important as one of India's major fishing ports: over 1000 boats venture out from here and some even go to Bombay.

Chorvad is 20 km from Veraval and is a popular beach resort. This was the site of the summer palace of Junagadh Nawabs.

How to get there:

Bus: Buses connect Veraval with Kodinar, Porbunder, Junagadh, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Sasan Gir, Diu.

Train: Trains operate from Veraval to Ahmedabad, Sasan Gir, Delwada, Rajkot, etc.

Somnath: Somnath is about 5 km from Veraval and had a chequered history. It is believed that the Somnath temple here was originally built by Somraj, the Moon God himself, out of gold, then rebuilt by Ravana in silver and then by Krishna in wood, then by Bhimdev in stone. Ghazni Mohammed descended on Somnath in 1024 when the temple was so prosperous that it had 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers to shave the heads of visiting pilgrims. There is a description to this effect by Al Biruni, an Arab traveller.

After a two-day battle, Ghazni Mohammed carted off its fabulous wealth and also destroyed the temple, thus setting a precedent of Muslims destroying the temple and Hindus rebuilding it, for it was razed again in 1297, 1394 and finally in 1706 by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor who was notorious for such acts. The temple which stands today was built in the traditional pattern on the original site by the sea, thanks to the efforts of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Sasan Gir forest is 54 km from Junagadh. The sanctuary covers 1400 sq km. Apart from lions, there are also bears, hyenas, foxes, deer and antelope.

How to get there:

Bus: Buses connect Sasan Gir with Jumagadh, Veraval, etc.

Train: Trains operate from Sasan Gir, to Veraval, Delwada and Junagadh.

Dwaraka: Dwaraka is one of the four holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites and is closely related to the Krishna legend. Legend has it that it was here that Lord Krishna set up his capital after his flight from Mathura. The Dwarkanath temple is a tall five-storey spire supported by 60 columns. Archaeological excavations have revealed that there were five earlier cities at the site. Dwaraka is the site of an important festival on Janmashtami which falls in August/ September.

Another old temple here is the Nageshwarlinga temple, one of 12 of the Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.

How to get there:

Train: Trains       connect Dwaraka with Jamnagar, Rajkot, Ahmedabad and Bombay.

Bus: From Dwaraka, buses ply to Ahmedabad and major centres of Saurashtra.

Porbandar: This town is famous as it was the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. In ancient times, this city was known as Sudharnapuri after Sudharna, a compatriot of Lord Krishna. It has several large cement and chemical factories and a textile mill. Fishing is an important activity here.

There is an exhibit of Gandhiji's photographs, memorabilia in Kirti Mandir, his birth-place. A swastika on the floor in a small room marks the actual spot. There is also a book shop here. Other places nearby are the Planetarium, Bharat Mandir where a huge relief map of India lies on the floor, the pillars of the buildings have brilliantly painted bas-reliefs of over 100 legendary characters from Hindu epics and religious figures.

How to get there:

Bus: From Porbandar, buses ply to Dwaraka. Jarnnagar, Veraval, Rajkot, Ahmedabad.

Train: Trains connect Porbandar with Bombay, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, etc.

Rajkot: This pleasant town is 246 km from Ahmedabad. This was once the capital of the princely state' of Saurashtra and was the headquarters of the British Government. Gandhiji spent the early part of his life here when his father was the Diwan with the Raja of Saurashtra. Even today, their family home here houses a permanent exhibition of Gandhiji's personal belongings.

How to get there:

Air: Rajkot is linked with Bombay.

Bus: From Rajkot, buses ply to Jarnnagar, Junagadh, Porbandar, Veraval, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Bhavnagar, Una, Mt. Abu, Udaipur and Bombay.

Train: Trains operate from Rajkot to Ahmedabad, Jam- nagar, Porbandar, Veraval, etc.

Wankaner is about 50 km from Rajkot and the Royal Palace of Wankaner here is a museum and a game sanctuary and the Maharana's collection of vintage cars. On the route to Rajkot from Ahmedabad, at Surendranagar is a very old temple of Ranik Devi. In the Jubilee Gardens here, the Watson Museum & Library commemorates Col John Watson, British representative in 1886. Among its exhibits are copies of artifacts from Mohenjadaro, 13th century carvings, silver- ware, and a huge marble statue of Queen Victoria.

How to get there:

Bus: Wankaner is connected with Rajkot by bus.

Train: Wankaner junction is connected with Ahmedabad.

 

 



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