Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vibrant Gujarat

Vibrant Gujarat in 2017


Tour diary


30.6.17. Kolkata (8.15 pm) - Delhi (5.30 am) - Ahmedabad (6.30 am)



01.07.17.  Ahmedabad – Bajana  (Little Rann of Kutch) - Modhera - Patan - Surendranangar; night stay at ​ ​ Dhranga-dhara -  house of Naynaben, Dhranga-dhara maps

02.07.17. Dhrangadhra -  Anjar (Palan)- Bhujori (Vankar) - Bhuj  (night stay at Bhuj maps ) - house of Akshay Dabhi, Mundra Relocation site, Kutch, Bhuj

03.07.17. Bhuj–Sumrasar Sheikh-Jura-Nirona-Dhordo (Greater Rann of Kutch) - (cannot make it to Khavda for lack of time) - Bhuj

04.07.17.  Bhuj (8 am) – Jamnagar - Porbandar -Junagadh (Night stay at Junagadh- maps Hotel Somnath , Railway Station Road Junagadh, Mullawada, Junagadh )

05.07.17.  Junagadh City tour

06.07.17. Junagadh (7 am) – Devaliya Park - Sasan Gir – Veraval - Somnath - Diu ; ​(Night stay ​at Hotel Sao Tome Retiro - inside a ChurchFront side is Diu Museum ) map 

​​One can also stay at Heranca Goesa ​ map 50 seconds to 1 minute from Diu Museum

07.07.17  Diu


08.07.17 Diu – Tulsi Shyam (Part of Gir forest )- Palitana (Had to skip it because you have to climb 3300 steps) – Ahmedabad (Night stay at  map ​ - ​Kanchan Balani , New Vadaj, near 132 Ft Ring Road, Landmark: Maruti Orthopedic Hospital, Ahmedabad )



09.07.17 Ahmedabad – ​Champaner– Pavagadh – Ahmedabad

10.07.17 Ahmedabad (6.10 am) to Kolkata

My partner in crime : Sanjit Saha.

Mode of Transport - (Swift Dzire Or) Etios. We were given Etios
Rs.28000/-   [ 2500 kms block ]

If it crosses 2500 kms , then extra kms @ Rs.9.50/- per km.
Include : Driver Allowance,Toll/Parking,Night Halt,State tax and entry.

Note : Service Tax extra on total bill amount.

We travelled 2490 Km !!!

Mehul Solanki - Executive
Phone:- +91-98257 05769
Customer Care :- +91-88 66 00 66 22  ;+91-79-4040 3535 ;
2640 3435 ( 24 x 7)

Mail Id:- cab@rkvacations.com
 233-235/327, Akshar Arcade,Darpan six Road
Opp. Memnagar Fire Station,
Navrangpura, Ahmedabad - 380 014

Email:- inquiry@rkvacations.com

We left Kolkata by 8.15 pm Air India flight, after rushing from office to airport. We spent the night in Delhi Airport. Our flight tomorrow in Delhi is at 5.15 am.


We reached Ahmedabad early morning at 6.30 am. The reason for the flight at this odd hours is to utilize Saturday fully. There is no early morning flight on Saturday from Kolkata. This tour follows my classic tour schedule from Friday (30/6) - Monday(10/7).

At the airport we were received by Amarbhai. He is from UP and he told us that he has become Bhai after coming to Gujarat ! Normally you are referred to as Bhai in Gujarat. He is the best thing that has happened to us for the tour. 

Understand Gujarat

Gujarat is known for the White desert, Stepped Wells, Jain Temples, Asiatic Lion. Gujarat has 3 regions :

1. Kutch - The largest district in the state and the largest district of the country. The main city is Bhuj.

2. Saurashtra - It is in the West of Gujarat. It was never incorporated into British India. Instead it survived as more than 200 princely states until Independence. Saurashtra consists of the districts of Rajkot, Junagadh, Jamnagar and Porbandar. 

3. Gujarat (North Gujarat, Central Gujarat, South Gujarat)It contains the three biggest cities of Gujarat state - Ahmedabad, Surat and Baroda ( or Vadodra).

It has an area of 196,000 sq km , more than double of West Bengal and a population in excess of 6 Crore or 60 million. Its capital city is Gandhinagar (and not Ahmedabad). The state was one of the main centres of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, such as Lothal (near Ahmedabad), Dholavira (near Greater Rann of Kutch). There are many significant sites of Krishna’s life lie along the coast of Saurashtra, according to legend.  

Gujarat's coastal cities served as ports and trading centres in the Maurya and Gupta empires. In fact the trading is going on for last 5000 years. Their exposure to foreign trade is much before any other state of India. About 89% of the population of Gujarat are Hindu. Muslims account for 9% and Jains 1% of the population. Parts of modern Rajasthan and Gujarat have been known as Gurjara-bhumi (land of the Gurjars) for centuries before the Mughal period. 



Gujarati food is primarily vegetarian. The major regions of Gujarat all bring their own styles to Gujarati food. Many Gujarati dishes are distinctively sweet, salty and spicy at the same time. Generally in any restaurant you will find two types of food - Kathiawari (Saurashtra) and Gujarati. Both are somewhat similar.


In Saurashtra region, chass or Chachh (buttermilk) is believed to be a must-have in their daily food.

Tour

Our first destination is Modhera and Patan and we will stay in a homestay at Dhranga-dhara, near Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). The word Rann means desert and Kutch means tortoise because of the shape of the region. There are 2 or 3 entry points to the LRK  at Bajana , Zainabad. There are few Pvt Resorts which organize Safari in LRK- Bhavana Farm & Resort, Rann Riders, Royal Safari Camp etc. They are quite expensive - starting from Rs 5000 for 2 person. We went to Bhavna Farm. We were told the Safari is closed since June 15 (normal feature every  year in any reserve forest). We were also told in Kolkata, sometimes they organize this safari, even beyond June 15. So we tried our luck.Since it was raining, when we reached there - there was no chance for Safari. LRK is famous for wild Ass sanctuary and White desert (salt).


This 4953-sq-km sanctuary is the home of the only remaining population of the chestnut-coloured Indian wild ass (khur), as well as bluebulls, blackbuck and chinkara. There’s also a huge bird population from October to March (this is one of the few areas in India where flamingos breed in the wild). Guides will arrange your permits ; the cost of these is normally additional to safari prices
.

Then we left for Sun temple at Modhera. It is 1000 years old,dating back to the 11th century, and is one of the best examples of Solanki architecture. The Sun Temple, dedicated to the solar deity Surya, is located at Modhera village of Mehsana district, Gujarat, India. It is situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati. It was built in 1026-27 AD during the reign of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty.

The panel is decorated with  figures of Surya, Shiva and Vishnu in various forms, Brahma. There is a step-well just beside the temple. The whole complex at the backdrop of step-well looks quite stunning.






Then we left for Patan. Rani ki Vav the famous stepwell (1304 AD) in Patan  is part of UNESCO World Heritage site. It is believed that this grand structure was commissioned by the widowed queen Udaymati in the fond memory of her husband Bhimdev I (AD 1022 to 1063). I have never seen a step well, let alone a step well of this quality. Today, it is considered as among the finest step wells and one of the legacies of the ancient capital city of Patan. 






After spending some time we left for our night stay at Dhranga-dhara. This homestay is a part of SEWA. SEWA organizes self-employed women workers in the informal economy towards two major goals of full employment and self-reliance.The community learning centre at Dhranga-dhra is our home, a part of the larger SEWA family. It represents 50,000 salt-pan workers working in the Little Rann of Kutch. Here you can also witness salt-pan workers learning the use of technology, marketing and other vocational skills to help them sustain a good lifestyle. Unfortunately when we reached there, there was power failure and we shifted to Sobhna-ben's homestay and we had our dinner at Minaxi-ben's house. We had nice home cooked Gujarati food (Sev Tomato) for dinner and learnt the workings of SEWA. We stayed in place, which is far from madding crowd in a rural setting. We spent our night hearing the croaking sound of thousands of frog !






Today we had our breakfast at Sobhna-ben's house  and then with Nayna-ben went to see the workshop of a stone-carving worker and also to a stone quarry. Since it is July (onset of monsoon) the salt work has stopped and salt worker has gone to their village. 



We learnt that Stone carving and Salt are the two most important jobs of this village. Then we left for Bhuj.
  
On the way we saw flamingo, salt factory and also numerous wind mills.




We saw nomadic people from Rabari tribes with their signature dress going from one place to another with their camel. This is a constant feature during the journey to Bhuj.
Rabari

We also saw Maldhari people moving with buffalo/goat/sheep.


Malhari tribe


The roads to Bhuj is perfect. We decided not to Dholavira, since it is essentially a ruins and not much to see. In the process we saved lot of time and decided to go to handicraft villages. Kutch is the heart of handicrafts of Gujarat. However Dholavira contains ruins of an ancient Indus Valley Civilization/Harappan city. It has been discovered that there was a port city in Dholavira 5000 years back and the trading relation was found (beads were found) with Mesopotemia located largely in todays Iraq. 

In 1856, British colonial officials in India were busy monitoring the construction of a railway connecting the cities of Lahore and Karachi in modern-day Pakistan along the Indus River valley.Though they did not know it then, and though the first major excavations did not take place until the 1920s, these railway workers had happened upon the remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated, in what is now Punjab province of British India and now in Pakistan. It is near Lahore/Amrtisar. Initially, many archaeologists thought they had found ruins of the ancient Maurya Empire, a large empire which dominated ancient India between (of Ashoka fame) c. 322 and 185 BC. The discovery of Harappa, and soon afterwards, Mohenjo-Daro,beside Indus River (in Sindh area, near Karachi) was the culmination of work of the Archaeological Survey of India in the British Raj.

Before the excavation of these Harappan cities, scholars thought that Indian civilization had begun in the Ganges valley as Aryan immigrants from Persia(Iran) and central Asia (e.g. Georgia) populated the region around 1250 BC. The discovery of ancient Harappan cities unsettled that conception and moved the timeline back another 1500 years,situating the Indus Valley Civilization in an entirely different environmental context. Indus Valley civilization was larger than the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia combined. Scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have recently uncovered evidence that the Indus Valley civilization is at least 8,000 years old and not 5,500 years old as earlier believed. This discovery, published in the prestigious Nature journal on May 25, 2016, makes it not just older than the Egyptian (7000-3000 BC) and Mesopotamian civilisations  (6500-3100 BC) in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates. but also the oldest in the world! Their claim pushes back the mature phase of the Indus Valley Civilisation (with significant remains in Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in modern Pakistan and Dholavira in Gujarat) from its current dating of 2600-1700 BC to 8000-2000 BC and the pre-Harappan phase to 9000-8000 BC. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was one of three early civilizations of the Old World. The script of Indus valley is still undeciphered.

Several groups and communities live in Kutch. These comprise of various nomadic, semi-nomadic, and artisan groups and the majority of Kutch’s population is Gujarati Ahirs. Once considered to be economically backwards, the government’s efforts in the region have ensured their rising prosperity.

First we went to Anjar to buy famous Bandhni or Tie and dye work in the market. We bought some items from the market.


Then we went to Bhujodi and went to the house of famous Vankar Devji Premji . Vankar Devji Premji Bhai may sound like one person but the name actually denotes the father-son duo of Vankars Premji Bhai and Devji Bhai. They have worked tirelessly to keep Kutch weaving tradition. The family has won several accolades for their skills and contributions to the craft. Premji Bhai is a pioneer of the 1960s Bhujodi Weavers’ Co-operative and the recipient of the prestigious Sant Kabir Award. 
Devji Bhai, the older son, is an award-winning weaver as well as a bhajnik, or a community bhajan singer.
You can buy textiles from their shop attached to their home. 

Once upon a time, the nomadic, pastoral communities of Kutch roamed the salted marshes and the wetlands and traded with others for food and clothing.

The roaming Rabaris who were sheep and camel herders supplied the Vankars or the traditional weavers with wool to turn into fabric.
The Vankars and their entire families spent days, even weeks on the loom to make the cloth that would then be given to the Khatris who would dye it shades of blue, red or yellow and adorn it with beautiful prints.The Rabaris would then embroider these textiles in vibrant colors and mirrors to use as clothing or home textiles.

These symbiotic chains may have been replaced by a faster pace of life, but the Vankars of Kutch are still at work, spending solitary hours crouched at their wooden looms to keep their own and the region’s cultural identity alive. "


 (sourcehttps://blog.jaypore.com )

We met Devji Bhai and his mother. Her dress is a typical Kuchi attire - which is really impressive. They offered us a cup of tea. We learnt that Devji Bhai goes to Central Park, Salt Lake,Kolkata during winter for exhibition.


Devji Bhai

Shrujan, an NGO working with the local artisan is however closed, since today in Sunday. It is just beside Premji-bhai's house. Incidentally the origin of Azim Premji is Kutch.

Then we went to the house of Dr Ismail Mohammad Khatri's in Ajrakhpur, 6 km East of Bhujodi. It is a 10-generation-old block-printing business of real quality, using all-natural dyes in bold geometric designs. You can buy tablecloths, shawls, skirts, saris and other attractive products. But it is quite expensive. When we went there, Dr Khatri has already left for his evening Namaz. Interestingly we saw the logo of  fabIndia in their shelf. Shshsh...!!!


Finally after having dinner on the way, we left for our Airbnb homestay. We informed the host, that we will be late. We learnt that, we are their first guest. The facilities were quite good.


Today our plan is to go to Sumrasar Sheikh, Jura , Nirona, and Dhordo and Khavdha. All of them are famous for stunning handicraft.
We went to Sumrasar Shikh to see Kala Raksha. It is a non-profit trust working to preserve and promote Kuch arts. It works with about 1000 embroiderers and patchwork and appliqué artisans from six communities in some 26 villages. The trust has a small museum and shop and can help arrange visits to villages to meet artisans. 


From there we went to the nearby villages - where leather and textile artists has factory cum shop. We bought some handicrafts directly from the artists - leather bag, cotton bag etc. The bags are simply stunning to say the least.

From there we went to Jura or Zura to see famous copper bell wind chimes. There are only 25 families in Gujarat which makes copper bell. We bought some copper bells from them. They are all hand-made.
Our next destination is famous village of Nirona. First we went to see Rogan Art. Rogan Art, an ancient skill with its origins in Persia (Iran), came down to Kutch around 400 years ago. Though one source says "the Persian name Rogan might suggest that this art form has its origins in Iran, but there are no historical records to suggest that". This rare craft is practised by a lone Muslim family, Khatris, in India. 

The process is time consuming. First the rogan (which takes its name from the Persian word ‘oil-based’) has to be prepared by heating castor oil to boiling point over 3 days, cooling it and then as it thickens, mixing in appropriate amounts of colors. The pastes of yellow, red, white, green, black and orange are kept in earthen pots with water to keep them moist. A Thin iron rod, flat at both ends, is used to paint.

The fact that the Khatris are the only ones practising this art might soon turn into a blessing for them because the tourism potential of Kutch is on the rise. Abdul Gafoor Khatri says, "We are looking forward to Kutch's fast expansion as a tourist destination. That will change our fortunes."

Floral motifs, animals and oriental architectural designs are the artist's favourite. A wall piece can take up to three months to finish. A Rogan art wall hanging can fetch anything between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000, even more in some cases. A famous work of the Khatris, "Tree of Life", was sold for Rs 18,000.Abdul Gafoor Khatri received a National Textile Art Award for a Rogan art sari from former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee.
http://gaatha.com
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, gifted a couple of exquisite handcrafted Rogan paintings to the US president, Barack Obama, during his visit to the US in 2014.

We were given a live demonstration , how the Rogan art is done. Since the minimum cost of the painting was Rs 2500 and they did not accept credit or debit card - we had to leave their house without buying anything. But the demonstration was really unique - something we have never seen.

From there we went to the more famous copper bell (wind chime) maker - Luhar Umer Hussain and Hussain Sidhik's house.  Their variety is more, but more expensive than the one we bought from Zura. They are related to each other. The Luhars in Nirona have been preserving the craft of making copper bells over 7 generations.We did not buy anything here.


Our next destination is see the Lacquer art by Bhachai Bhai and family. Lalji who was sitting by his tools working on a wooden belan or rolling pin lending it artistic vibrance. He showed us how raw lacquer in various colours is passed with great skill on the wooden object in beautiful waves. The work they do is mainly focused on household items like jewellery boxes and kitchen utensils and has known to last more than 30-35 years. 

If the lacquer work starts to lose its sheen, just apply some oil on it. The women too leave their mark on the art by providing the base of colour making and then helping to sell the items. Dressed in beautiful ethnic outfits, they showed us hundreds of wooden spatulas, knife handles and belans for us to pick from. They did not have a contact number to share but you get the direction from the luhar ki dukaan .

This Lacquer work is carried out by the Vadha community. This group use hand operated lathes to shape wood and decorate it with lacquer .



We bought some spatula. Then we went to the home of an Khetsinh Maru and Devji Nigar for embroidered leather fan with decorative mirror. Unfortunately the Lalji has not supplied him with handle of the fan with Lacquer art. So we could not buy it. Due to lack of time, we could not go to the place of an NGO - Khamir famous for handicrafts.



http://www.kutchtourguide.com
Our next destination is Dhordo - which is called white desert, due to the snow white salt found there. On the way we saw the unique Kharai camels of Kutch with one lump.Kharai is a unique breed of camels in Kutch that can survive in both coastal and dry ecosystems. It grazes on saline trees and shrubs and is tolerant to water with high salinity. Its physical features are different from local camels as it has rounded back, long and thin legs and smaller feet. The most astonishing part, however, is its swimming capability (one of its kind in the world). The camel can swim up to three kilometres into the sea in search of mangroves, their primary food.




They are bred by two distinct communities — the Fakirani Jats, who are the handlers, and the Rabaris, who own the animals. We have discussed about Rabari previously. The jats look more like Pakistanis with their colourful dress.
We saw many flamengos on the way to Dhordh. These Flamingos apparently come from Croatia.


Dhordo Village is set on the edge of Indo - Pak border, north of Bhuj and is renowned for its White desert, bird watching . Kutch Ranotsav (Dec - Jan) has made Dhordo a renowned destination. During the festival time, Dhordo becomes really crowded. One can stay at numerous Tents at Dhordo to stay closer to white desert. The price of tent multiplies many times during this period. During the period when we went there is hardly any tourist. The main reason being we did not get to see the famous white desert is, in Monsoon, the area is flooded with sea water. 

The transformation of landscape is truly overwhelming, when you take the road to Dhordo from Bhuj. We were approaching the Great Rann of Kutch and its first glimpse was awe-striking. The whole area was was once a shallow sea. We were in the middle of one the most hostile terrain of subcontinent.The terrain reminded me of terrain at Merzouga near Sahara desert in Morocco - where I went 3 months back. Just like Merzouga the vegetation is non existent and human habitation is missing. When we reached the end of road in Dhordo, there is only knee deep water throughout. We had a 360 degree view from a watch tower at the end of the road.

We learnt during the Rann Festival the whole area becomes magical due to white salt desert. During this time there is no desert.We did see some salt crystals on the way. 

We did not have time to go to Khavda or could not go to Kalo Dungar. It was becoming dark. It is already 8 pm ! While coming back we had some tea. Interestingly we saw the dress worn by people here and physique is very similar to the Pakistanis. In fact many of them are from Sind. In fact Rann of kutch borders Sind area of Pakistan. Karachi is within Sind area. Another major city which is very close to India is Lahore. It can be seen from Amritsar.

Today we had some non vegetarian food before reaching Bhuj. The food was good. We were told, inside Bhuj , there are not too many non vegetarian restaurant. I had a wrong notion that non vegetarian food is not available in Gujarat. We had Dabeli - which is somewhat similar to Pav Bhaji.


Today we left early at around 8.00 am for Junagadh after having breakfast at our airbnb homestay. Our first destination is Junagadh. On the way we got down at Jamnagar for lunch. We saw some Jain temples.

It is home to Reliance. It is part of Saurahtra. Jamnagar is called the the Jewel of Kathiawar.The founder of the princely state of Jamnagar was the Great Jam Rawal, who descended on the northern coast of Kathiawar in 1535 A.D. 

But there is a very interesting story of Maharaja Dig-vijay-sinhji Ranjit-sinh-ji Jadeja of Nawa-nagar, nephew of famous Indian cricketer Ranjit-sinh-ji Vibhaji of the Jadeja clan, a princely state in the Kathiawar Peninsula.
The ravages of the Second World War left Poland a shadow of the country it once was. The nation was torn apart by destructive forces, its people held captive in concentration camps and countless of its children left orphans. Overcoming grave obstacles and challenges, hundreds of Polish children (and women) managed to escape the dire circumstances in their country. Contradictory reports exist on how the kids planned their escape. However, it is known that they were turned away from every country they approached for help.

When their ship docked in Mumbai, the British governor too refused them entry. Maharaja Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar, who had heard of the plight of the refugees, sought to help them and pressurized the British government to allow the refugees to disembark. Frustrated by the lack of empathy and the unwillingness of the government to act, the Maharaja ordered the ship to dock at Rosi port in his province. Thus began the story of Little Poland in India.

On disembarking, the Maharaja warmly welcomed the Polish women and children, saying “Do not consider yourself orphans. You are now Nawnagaris and I am Bapu, father of all the people of Nawanagar, so also yours.”

The children were set up in tented accommodations, while the Maharaja set about building the Balachadi camp, located near his summer palace and 25 km away from the capital city of Jamnagar. Facing severe objections from the British government for taking in foreign refugees, the Maharaja proudly claimed they were part of his family, even going so far as to provide the government with adoption certificates for them! 

The Maharaja took many personal risks to ensure that more than 640 women and children found a safe haven in Balachadi. He didn’t just provide the Polish citizens with the bare necessities either, but went to great lengths to ensure that Balachadi became a home away from home for these people.

Mr Wieslaw Stypula, a Polish survivor, remembers the Maharaja’s concern for their eating habits, “When we arrived at the camp, the Maharaja gave a party but he did not know what we children liked to eat… Despite being hungry, we didn’t like to eat at all. Bapu saw this and said ‘Don’t worry, I will fix this.’ He brought seven young cooks for us from Goa!”

Their fond memories of the camp and the Maharaja are evidence that the four years they spent under his care were life-changing and memorable.

His act of generosity is clearly still remembered in Poland, where he was posthumously award the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the President. Poland has also named the Maharaja the Honorary Patron of the popular Warsaw Bednarska High School. In 2013, the Government of Poland inaugurated the ‘Good Maharaja Square’ in Warsaw.

The Maharaja’s actions are more noteworthy still given that while the world was at war, India was fighting an important battle of its own – one of self determination, against the backdrop of severe famine and drought.




After roaming around the streets for some time, we took our lunch in Jamnagar and left for Porbanadar - the place where Mahatma Gandhi was born and spent first 6 years of his life.It is situated beside Arabian sea. Porbandar was a historic port of the Jetwa Rajputs, a dynasty that ruled vast areas of the Kathiawad peninsula for approximately 2000 years. After facing defeat at the hands of the Jadeja Rajputs in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the Jetwas came back to power in the 1630s. We went to Kirti Mandir (Birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi). It was purchased by his great grand father probably in the year 1777. The building itself is very nice. 



The gates near Kirti Mandir is quite stunning and unique.


Some of the houses in the town of Porbandar seemed to be very old and quite interesting.


The Huzoor Palace is quite stunning. However we did not go there. 

Our next destination is Junagarh via Mangrol. The road we took is along the Arabian sea. But it is only around 2 Km for which we can see the sea from the road. So the route is less picturesque than what I imagined. On the way we saw many wind mills.



We got down near Mangrol beach and after spending some time left for Junagarh/Junagadh. When we reached Junagadh after having dinner on the way, it is already late, around 10 pm. For the first time we are staying in a place which is not an airbnb. The name of the hotel is Hotel Somnath. I would say it is good value for money. It is not very far from Rail station.



Junagadh is a historical city in Gujarat. The region of Junagadh became a district of Gujarat state in 1960. Junagadh was formerly the state capital and a princely state in the Kathiawar peninsula. 

Muhammad Sher khan Babi, was the founder of the Babi Dynasty of Junagadh State. His descendants, the Babi Nawabs of Junagadh, conquered large territories in southern Saurashtra and ruled over the state for the next two centuries. The city is the 7th largest in Gujarat, located at the foot of the Girnar hills. After a brief struggle between India and Pakistan, Junagadh joined India on 9 November 1947. Initially they had planned to join Pakistan. But since it is land locked and it will be a threat to India's security. Therefore Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Home Minister of India scuttled their plan and annexed it to India.

The Saurashtra State was originally named the United State of Kathiawar. It was formed out of approximately 200 large and small Princely States . It was largely due to efforts and statesmanship of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the influence of Mahatma Gandhi that most of the States of Kathiawar had agreed to join Union of India and sign the Instrument of Accession.

At the time of Indian Independence there were about 565 Princely states or Provinces, Majority of which were ruled By Rajputs, about 70% of these 565+ states, remaining provinces were ruled by Marathas and some by Muslims and few were Jat ruled.

In 1947, princely states numbering 565 covered 48 per cent of the area of pre-Independent India and constituted 28 per cent of its population. Legally, the princely states were not a part of British India and the people of these states were not treated as British subjects.

These Princely States had their own autonomy, they had their own Judicial Systems, Railways, Universities and other infrastructure, their own Coins and Flag and Court of Arms and so on. They were in alliance with British but had autonomy in their own ruled state. Things moved quickly after the partition of British India in 1947. By the end of 1949, all of the states except Sikkim had chosen to accede to one of the newly independent states of India or Pakistan or else had been conquered and annexed.

First we went to see the Mahabat Maqbara. It is insanely beautiful.This unique and stunning mausoleum of Nawab Mahabat Khan II of Junagadh (1851–82) has Euro-Indo-Islamic architecture, with French windows and Gothic columns.

Our next destination is Uperkot Fort. This ancient fort is believed to have been built in 319 BC by the Mauryan emperor Chandragupta, though it has been extended many times. In places the ramparts reach 20 m high. It’s been besieged 16 times, and legend has it that the fort once withstood a 12-year siege. The views over the city from here are superb, and within its walls there is Jama Masjid, a set of millenia-old Buddhist caves and 2 fine step-wells. We took our car inside and covered the whole area with our car, though one can walk.


Jama Masjid, the disused mosque inside the fort, was converted from a palace in the 15th century by Gujarat Sultan Mahmud Begada. 
Close to the mosque, the Buddhist caves are not actually caves, rather monastic quarters carved out of rock, 2nd century AD. Descend into the eerie three-storey carved complex to see the main hall and its pillars with weathered carvings. 



The fort has 2 fine step-wells both cut from solid rock. The circular, 41 m deep Adi Kadi Vav was cut in the 15th century and named after two slave girls who used to fetch water from it. 



Navghan Kuvo, 52 m deep and designed to help withstand sieges, is almost 1000 years old and its magnificent staircase spirals around the well shaft. 

After we are done with the fort complex , we went to the Girnar hils. It takes at least 5-6 hours to reach the top of the hill. Its a rocky and steep; so it is difficult task for people who do not trek much. There are approximately 10 thousand steps to go to the top.For obvious reason we did not go to the top ! 

Today being Wednesday, both Darbar Hall / Junagadh Museum and the Zoo remained closed. Interestingly the lion in Gujarat did not get extinct because of the king of Junagadh's patronage and the zoo played an important role. Therefore we are done with the tour of Junagadh. After taking our lunch we had a quick afternoon nap after a long time. Then we left for Girnar Hills to spend some time there. With the sound of bells and conch shells near the Hills the atmosphere was indeed heavenly. Then we left for our dinner. 

Inspite of our great effort we could not find Undhiyu in any restaurant - a famous dish of Kathiawar made in mud pot. We were told it is made only on Sunday and Monday. My partner was already tired of very spicy and oily Gujarati food and was looking for something light. But alas it is few and far between !

06/07/2017

Today we left for Sasan Gir. Since the forest is closed from 15th June onwards all over India, we had to settle for Devaliya National park. They will take you through the forest with a canter @ Rs 150/- .The area is around 13 sq km, if I am not mistaken. Devaliya National Park is an area carved out of Gir National Park to allow tourists with the exclusive privilege of viewing lions and other wild animals in an enclosed area. It falls within Gujarat’s Junagadh district and in vicinity to Sasan Gir village which is only about 12 kms away from Devaliya National Park. Sasan Gir village comes after Devaliya , if you are coming from Junagadh. There is a nice souvenir shop inside the park. The souvenirs are not only good - it is one of the cheapest I have ever come across and I bought one jacket from the souvenir shop. It is in fact cheaper than the one I have found in Kolkata. We had to wait for only 30 minutes for the bus to be full. By that time we bought the souvenirs. The sightings inside the park was really good.










http://www.gujaratexpert.com
Then we left for Sasan Gir. Though the safari is closed, we went to see a nice museum inside the office area fo Sasan Gir. I have been planning to see the Siddis living in Guijarat for last 25 years. We were really lucky to meet the Siddis who stay near the forest. In fact we went to the Siddi village with Imran. Imran is a guide in the Gir Forest. They perform African dance for the tourists. I learnt from Imran that although the forest is closed it is possible to see the forest from the buffer zone. You can either hire their car or take your car, taking him as guide. We did not know this. Since the forest was closed - we had no plan to stay in the vicinity of forest. One can also stay inside the forest area, in a place run by Deputy Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Division, Sasan Gir. One can book it online.
African by origin, Indian by nationality with Gujarati as their lingua franca – the Siddi tribe lives in a village called Jambur in the heart of Gujarat. Located approximately hundred kilometres from Junagadh, the Jambur is surrounded by the forest of Gir, which is home to the last of the remaining Asiatic lions.

They have completed 300 years in Gujarat . This settlement did not happen out of choice but by force. According to the tribals, there is a long history to their presence in India. The Nawab of Junagadh had once visited Africa where he fell in love with an African woman. They got married and she moved to India with him. She came to India with a hundred slaves and since then we have been based in Gujarat only. According to Imaran they are from Kenya or Uganda mostly. 








After spending some time in their village we left for Somnath. Before reaching Somnath comes Veraval. It is a fishing village where you will find hundreds of trawlers/fishing boats anchored and also fishing boats are repaired. Veraval also has a large boat making industry. After taking pictures of the boats we left for Somnath temple.




Here one thing I must add the roads in Gujarat is not same everywhere. Although roads on the main highways are good, since we went to many off beat places, we found many potholed roads and dirty places.So the stories of a very rich state is unfounded in our extensive tour.

Before reaching the temple area we had our lunch and then left for Somnath temple. We did not go inside since camera is not allowed inside. However we saw the temple from outside. 

It is one of the most important pilgrimage and tourist spots of Gujarat. Destroyed and reconstructed several times in the past; the present temple was reconstructed in Chalukya style of Hindu temple architecture and finally completed in May 1951. The Somnath temple is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva.

According to popular tradition documented by J. Gordon Melton, the first Shiva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple is said to have been built at the same site by the "Yadava kings" of Vallabhi around 649 CE. 

In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sind is said to have destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

In 1024, during the reign of Bhima I, the prominent Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its jyotirlinga.

In 1546, the Portuguese, based in Goa, attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath and destroyed several temples and mosques.The temple was ordered to be destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb In 1702.



After spending some time in Somnath we left for Diu. It is around 1 hour from Somnath. It is connected by a strip of land with Diu. Diu was a Portuguese colony from 1539 to 1961, in 1961 the Indian government used military action to retake all the Portuguese enclaves. Apart from Diu, also Daman, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli were "captured" in this conflict. This area used to be a part of a larger union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu before Goa became a state by itself. Union territory of Daman and Diu is still administrated from Delhi. 

Diu was governed by the Mauryans during 322-320 BC and was the major trade center on the Saurashtra Coast. 

Diu does not have spectacular beaches. It has a very relaxed atmosphere compared to most of India. Diu has one of the best roads in India and some part of it does not look like India. Here people speak Gujrati.

We stayed in a hotel owned by a Portuguese descendant. It is on the backside of a church now converted into Diu museum. The location of the hotel is unique.




Since it was dark we left for dinner and had a nice dinner at Apana Foodland one of the best places to have dinner in Diu as per Tripadvisor. Finally I had Undhiyon. But it is so spicy I could not finish it ! Otherwise food here is quite good - especially soup and Fried rice. They serve amazing fresh lime soda for Rs 15 !

Today we went for Diu tour. Our first destination was Diu fort. The fort was built by the Portuguese during their colonial rule of the Diu island. The fort was built in 1535 subsequent to a defense alliance forged by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese when Humayun, the Mughal Emperor waged war to annex this territory. The fort was strengthened over the years, till 1546. Portuguese ruled over this territory from 1537 (from the year they took control of the fort and also the Diu town fully) till 1961 (for 424 years, apparently the longest period by any colonial rule in the world). From the fort there is a magnificent view of the sea. It skirts the sea on three sides. The outer wall of the fort was built along the coast line. A moat around the fort provided security to the fort. The location of the fort is unique and have not come across anything like this anywhere in India. Once inside, you are overwhelmed by the majesty of the ancient stone work which transports you to a bygone era where time stands still. 





Our next destination is Diu museum. The old St. Thomas Church has been converted into a museum which houses antique statues, various stone inscriptions of the earlier rulers, wooden carvings and idols. A huge edifice in gothic architecture was built in 1598. A part of it has been converted into a museum - an archaeological treasure house. It has typical baroque architecture, you normally associate with the Portuguese. 
The we went to see the famous St. Paul's Church church. All of the above are almost walking distance from my hotel. The church adorned with shell - like motifs and the magnificent wood carving is considered to be the most elaborate of all the Portugese churches in India. St. Paul Church, was built in 1691 . In architectural style it resembles Bom Jesus Church at Goa. The wood - panelling of the church is rated one of the best in church craftsmanship. 


Since we were hugry we left for Nagoa beach (West of Diu) to have our lunch, just beside the sea beach. We saw a fishing village nearby. Then on the way back around 500 metre from the beach there is a shell museum.This museum is a labour of love. Captain Devjibhai Vira Fulbaria, a merchant navy captain, collected thousands of shells from literally all over the world in 50 years of sailing. He has displayed and labelled them in English with great care, so you can learn the difference between cowrie shells and poisonous cone shells.




We also saw the unique Hokka tree which is found only in Diu. 

Then we went to Fudam Bird sancturay and went to the watch tower. We saw some flamingos there.


On the way back we went to see Nagar Sheth Haveli. The roads there are very narrow. Then we left for Jalandhar beach near our hotel. On the way we saw Church of St. Francis of Assisi Diu. It was built in 1593. The Church is still in use and the cloister has been converted into a hospital.There was almost no tourist except us !
We sat with some local people in an elevatd place called sunset point near the Jalandhar beach and even had some wine with them ! The view of sunset from that place is quite stunning.


I heard that Gujarat being a dry state, people come to Diu to make merry and become wild. It was completely unfounded. However in Gujarat the number of tourists were really low probably because it is a dry state.



Today again we had dinner from Apana Foodland. We heard one can go to Ghogla area in the mainland to have fish fry.

08/07/2017

Today we had some nice pancake from our hotel and left for Palitana - which is on the way to Ahmedabad. Palitana is a town in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, India. It is located 50 km southwest of Bhavnagar city and is a major pilgrimage centre for Jains. Ādināth, the first of the Jain tirthankaras, is said to have meditated on the Shatrunjaya hill, where the Palitana temples were later constructed. The Palitana State was a princely state, founded in 1194. It was one of the major states in Saurashtra. The only way to reach the top is reached by climbing (or by being carried up) 3,572 steps—a stiff 2-hour ascent. The view from the top is quite stunning.

We skipped that and took a different route through Tulsi Shyam. It is part of Gir forest. We werer late told though it is not main safari route - you get to see lions in the evening on the street. We saw many birds.You need a permit to go inside. 






We had our lunch (non veg) quite late before reaching Ahmedabad. When we reached Ahmedabad it is around 9 pm. Our airbnb hostess waited for us to pick us from the main chowk. The house was a revelation for us. I predict that in 5 years time Airbnb along with Visa on arrival for foreign tourists, will disrupt the tourism business in India. The tourism Industry in India is generally a big scam. Airbnb is going to change everything. We were provided the whole apartment and we paid less than Rs 1000. He brought wonderful Gujrati Thali for us for the dinner.


In the morning our host brought some lovely Gujarati breakfast for us. We had Jalebi, Khandvi,Dhokla. But my plan to have Sri Khand (famous sweet of Gujarat) remained unfulfilled.


We had tea (with the tea bag provided by our host). They have provided us with Maggi, Canned Fruit juice, oil, salt, sugar in the kitchen. There is a nice room where you watch TV ! Today we left for Chamapner and Pavagadh. It is around 2.5-3 hours from Ahmadabad. Champaner is a UNESCO heritage site. 

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in Panch-mahal district in Gujarat, India. It is located around the historical city of Champaner, a city which was built by Sultan Mahmud Begada of Gujarat. The heritage site is studded with forts starting from the hills of Pavagadh. 

The name Champaner is derived from Champa, who was either a Vania or a Kanbi. He established this city during the rule of Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwad Patan (from 746 to 806 AD). In the eleventh century, Ram Gaur Tuar ruled, and Champaner was under the Anhilwad until 1297 or so when they were defeated by Alauddin Khilji, who made it their stronghold. During this period, the Chauhan Gurjars had also settled in Champaner. The Pavagadh Hill was where the Solanki kings and Khichi Chauhans built fortresses and ruled from. However, they lost their authority in Champaner in 1484. 
The city of Champaner had been very well planned with streets and whitewashed stone houses. In 1526, young Sikander Shah died and Bahadur Shah became the next ruler of Champaner. In 1535, the Mughal Emperor Humayun invaded Champaner and looted the coffers. Upon Bahadur's death in 1536, the capital and the court shifted back to Ahmadabad. The city fell into rapid decline, was largely abandoned and for several centuries was neglected and almost deserted. We went to see the Jama Masjid and Kevada Masjid.







In the meantime while parking our car had accident near the bus stand. There was a huge commotion and wastage of time. Ultimately the victim (in bike without helmet) was paid Rs 2000. In the process our car got damaged.
Otherwise our tour went so well , law of average is bound to catch up. Everything was too perfect. Although it was rainy season, we did not get any rain, when we were visiting any site. It happened all the time either when we were inside the car or it has started raining just after we have finished the site. 
We took our lunch over there and left for Pavagadh hill. Champaner is at the foot of Pavagadh hill. There is a Kalika Mata Mandir at the top of the Pavagadh hill looming over the region. The view from the top is really stunning - especially the Jama masjid which reminded me of blue mosque. Today there is a huge crowd because of a special day. There is absolutely no place to park the car and after some time there is a huge traffic jam. So we decided to turn back our car and left for Ahmedabad. Before reaching Ahmedabad we had our dinner little early, since we have to do the packing. Interestingly in Ahmedabad we saw the famous BRTS. It is exactly the same thing, I have seen in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 

Our flight is at 6.00 am. Our driver picked us up at 4 am. The airport is not very far from our house . So in no time we reached the airport. We reached Kolkata at around 8.30 am and after keeping my luggage in my home, I left for office.

source:
2. As above
3. wikipedia etc
4. https://www.khanacademy.org

2 comments:

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