Gujarat

Gujarat is an ancient land abounding in mythology and legends and dotted with pilgrimage and historical sites. Since the advent of Bronze Age, every era has left its footprints in Gujarat. There are temples, mosques, tombs, forts, palaces and monasteries.
Religious sites are major part of tourism in Gujarat. Somnath is the first among twelve Jyotirlingas. The Palitana temples of Jainism on Mount Satrunjaya, the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque and Jama Masjid, the Sun Temple, Modhera, Dwarakadheesh Temple and Dakor are noteworthy pilgrimage sites.
This peninsular state in western India boasts of archaeological sites of the port city of Lothal and Dholavira from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Continuing the historical tale are the Rock Edicts of Emperor Asoka, Mahabat Maqbara, Lakhot Fort and Narsinh Mehta No Choro.
Kirti Mandir, Porbandar, Sabarmati Ashram, and Kaba Gandhi No Delo, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial( in Ahmedabad) proudly speak about our beloved Mahatma Gandhi who was born here and the Iron man of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the chief architect of modern India.
Nature too has gifted the state with many attractions such as Girnar Mountain, Gir Forest National Park, Vansda National Park, Blackbuck National Park, Marine National Park, and Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary.
With seventeen airports, Gujarat is very well connected by air, a good network of railways and intercity and interstate road transport. Gujarat experiences hot and dry summers, a good monsoon and moderate pleasant winters. Best time to visit here would be from October to April.

Road Journeys – Jamnagar to Bhuj: Tankara, Birthplace of the Ascetic “Swami Dayanand Saraswati”

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Maharshi Dayānand Saraswati was born on 12 February 1824 at Tankara, Gujrat. He was an important Hindu religious leader of his time. He is well known as the founder of the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement of the Vedic tradition. He was a profound scholar of the Vedic lore and Sanskrit language. He was the first to give the call for Swarajya as “India for Indians” in 1876, later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.

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Road Journeys – Dwarka to Jamnagar: Narara Marine National Park & Sanctuary

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Finally we reached at a point with a gate with board of No-Entry. The forest office on the left with a guard welcomed us. Mr. Thakkar’s references again worked and we were greeted with a cup of tea and snacks. The Delhi Plate car was a surprise to all and was more astonished to know that we were driving all the way from Delhi. He informed that the marine park is a restricted area and only allowed with a guide. Surprised! Please don’t, because there wasn’t any official guide, locals in company with the forest guards, engage in guiding the seldom visitors for Rs. 100/- only. They are generally students and natives of nearby villages. The forest guard asked us to pay Rs. 100/- each as entry fee the vehicle can be parked only just after entering the No Entry gate. We paid the same with official receipt, the guide may be paid in cash.

The entire area is a protected place and well guarded by CISF, posted on watch towers with sophisticated weapons because of its proximity to the international borders and the port. We were asked to wear shorts and slippers because of the mangrove and swamp ahead. After abiding by, we started our very exciting journey towards the sea. After traversing the bushes we reached the infinitive vastness of the shores with mangroves spotting here and there. During low tide the sea water recedes to as far as five km and gradually creeps back inundating the entire vast emptiness and the mangroves by noon.

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Road Journeys – Dwarka to Jamnagar: Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary

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Excitedly, without caring I entered through the bushes and soon found a wide spread wet land with thousands of birds hovering, nesting, feeding, fishing and swimming. A dusty path on the right leads towards the wet land with ample water for the water birds for their activities. A little further is a watch tower where the track ends at the banks. The tower was almost abandoned, but the view around was so enticing that I cynically could not stop myself from reaching atop despite my wife’s skepticism. My extra-zoom camera captured whatever within range and my nature crazy mind was carried away with inveigle of ensnarement.

It is pertinent to mention that once you happen to visit the park, don’t forget to carry good quality binoculars and extra zoom cameras. Most of the photos clicked by me are on digital zoom, despite of 50x compatibility. It is wise to carry a tri-pod to avoid blurred results due to trembling on digital zoom.

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Road journeys – Porbandar to mythological Dwarka:

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Contrarily once we reached near the shrine premise, we were glad to see that despite of innumerable devotees there was no chaos and seemed that excellent care has been taken to maintain the sanctity in a well managed way. Far from the entry, cloak rooms with numbered bags are kept in trolleys which can be used to keep off the shoes of the entire group together and deposit it in queue by any one person and obtain a token for free. The valuables like mobiles, cameras etc can also be deposited in another such cloak room adjacent to the shoe stand. It is better to keep the cameras, mobiles & other valuables back in your hotel to avoid delays at depositories.

A team of well mannered security staffs are always ready to guide you amicably for entering into the shrine. Different check points for ladies and gents are equipped with metal detectors and scanners in ‘working condition’ besides physical checking but without hassle. In no time we entered through the giant gate inside the premise and were soon lucky to catch the Shayan Arti at 8.30 pm. The divinity and magnificence of the deity left us in awe and nostalgic. The glittering glossy idol, laden with gold and gems and ornamented with a tilted crown touched the heart immensely and deep immersed the soul in an ocean of sanctum satisfaction with fulfillment. It is perhaps because Lord Krishna is worshiped here as the emperor of Dwarka. The Shayan Arti is performed for 5 minutes only but the rhythmic devotional vibrations lasted till long after. Similarly the divine darshan of the lord continued captured back on memory in persistence of vision.

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Road journeys – Diu to Porbandar, Land of the Father of Nation

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“Mangrol is an important harbour as far as the fish industry is considered. There are many fisheries located here and exports to many European nations. The fishermen of Mangrol are infamous for being caught many-a-times by the Pakistan Coast Guard for entering their naval territories in search of fish”.

We were looking forward to see the much heard and boasted coastal highway running parallel to the Arabian Sea. Though almost the entire highway runs along the coast but the sea or its shores is visible only for a stretch of one kilometer. After long wait we finally reached a concrete fly-over kind of bridge at Madhavpur. The sight of infinitive majestic blue of Arabian Sea on our left at a hand shaking distance and rows of palms and greenery comprising tall pillars with massive blades of the wind mills standing erect with pride & humility on the right was like reaching a dream land. The SUZLON wind-mills claim providing 24 hour power to the state. According to official data, wind power generations capacity in the state has increased a staggering ten times in just six years. As per C-WET data, the total installed capacity in Gujarat stood at 3093 MW.

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Home of Asiatic Lions..Gir forest – A tryst with the King

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Suddenly we saw jeeps carrying lot of excited tourists coming from the opposite direction and some of them showed us the victory sign.They said they have spotted few lioness and cubs enroute..For us the excitement started building for the second time and we moved ahead with bated breath.We had moved another kilometer or so and what we saw next, melted our hearts!!A lion cub was sitting few inches away from our jeep,it seemed as if he wanted to pose for us..he was joined by another cub and soon the two of them started playing together.In distance their mothers, two lionesses,sat watching.The guide went on..”Spotting of cubs is an extremely rare affair as their mothers are fiercely protective and don’t allow them to venture outside of deep forest area,so you people are really lucky”.We tried to soak in the happy moment and thanked our luck again and again for the wonderful lion sightings we had that day,which made our visit to the sanctuary worth it.

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Some Days in Gujarat…. Adalaj Ni Vav and GandhiNagar sojourn

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Legend says that Mahmud Begara was mesmerised by the beauty of the Queen Roopoba, the wife of the chieftain and had promised to complete the structure if the queen marry the ruler as the Vaghela ruler had died till then. Structure was completed by Mahmud but the queen instead of marrying him, committed suicide by jumping from the uppermost story of this step well.

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Road Journeys – Somnath to Diu – Sea and Sand

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On the way, we deliberately stopped at one point sighting a very unusual Palm-Tree with multiple branches. Later we found jungles of such trees in entire Diu and its adjoining areas. Browsing, it revealed, those were the Hokka-Trees, African specie of Palm brought by the Portuguese which in due course adapted Diu’s atmosphere and grow in plenty throughout. Locals call it Hokka, not found any where else in the country and also bore edible fruits that have medicinal properties.

Unlike Daman it was pleasing to notice a decent surrounding without the chaos of liquor shops and drunken-brawls instead, the hard drinks were available in much civilized and socialised manner. The places worth a visit in Diu are the Ghoghla Beach, Diu Fort, St. Paul’s Church, Nagoa Beach, Gangeshwar Mahadev Temple, Shell Museum, Naida Caves and Fortim-do-mar (Panikota).

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Road Journeys – Towards Somnath, In search of enlightenment

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Soon, we reached at my fourth Jyotirling, Somnath. Parking the car a few meters away in a very large space with unorganized parking facility though I hurriedly jogged to have the glance of the magnificent temple about which I have read so much in our history books during school and also in visual media. Soon a right turn left me in awe with eyes wide open to see the magnitude and glamour of the historical and mythological grand shrine at the shores of Arabian Sea, an architectural marvel standing erect in pride.

A large boundary around the shrine, with many visible vigil eyes, armed guards, innumerable CCTV cameras and steel barricading with metal detectors, scanners besides checking physically to every entrant beyond the permissible limit, reminds the history of destructions of the shrine in the past and its prone to vulnerability in the future.

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Road Journeys – Towards Sinh Saheb’s Abode at GIR

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How many of you have sighted a big cat in wild? Will all of you agree that sighting it for the first time is a nerve-breaking, shaky, crazy, ecstatic, intoxicating, heavenly, euphoric, blissful and rapturous…….., short of words to explain, state of mind and body! All eyes still, hoping another sight of the shy animal petrified motionlessly for another few seconds. No chance, assured by the whispers of the guide. Everyone on board was busy browsing their cameras, for the best clip out of multiple shots taken in few seconds. Triumphantly, only my camera crowned the honor with one better close-up with a promise to share it with everyone later.

Soon, we sighted one more leopard crossing the road much closer, but that one was in haste and soon out of sight before, anyone could shoot it. The guide and driver were unanimous view of our better luck to spot two, too shy animals so easily in our first few minutes. I feel, they were right because back home, surprisingly we were informed that none have sighted any big cat that morning.

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Some days in Gujarat : Kankaria lakefront (Part 2)

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Exit gate of the glass cabin led us into the park in real with various species of flowers thrown in great abundance and small placards indicating to us that a particular flower catered to which particular species of Butterfly. As the weather was quite hot, we could not find the butterflies in a significant number though.

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