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

On the fifteenth day of our road journey, we were still excited and enthusiastic to drive another long way to reach Kutch. In my previous series I explained how, plans do not work as per your wish. This is rather the beauty of journey with own conveyance and subsequently convenience. Humbly submitting, I had no knowledge of the Marine Sanctuary or the so exotic Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Jamnagar and thus not planned to stay back. You happen to discover such unexpected and less explored destinations only when you are free to amend your travel plans with ease.

After the very unique experience at Narara Marine Sanctuary, we moved forward towards Jamnagar to take the right turn on Rajkot bye pass on SH-6 and planned to reach Morbi as soon as possible. The road upto Gandhidham is NH-8A from Rajkot via Morbi and we were in love with the NH-8 by rolling on it so far, thus expected our expectations to retain even further.

Narara-Tankara-Wankaner-Bhuj

Narara-Tankara-Wankaner-Bhuj

The road map was guiding us to reach Morbi via Dhrol and Tankara thus we followed the GPS instructions. There are multiple turns on this route with either no signboards or written in Gujrati hence we preferred to follow the GPS instructions. Soon we reached Dhrol, a small rural town where I couldn’t find my brand of Fag but assured to get one at Tankara, the next town on route. The coercion of the addiction forced me to reach Tankara much earlier. It was a junction converging into two roads, left towards Bhuj via Morbi and right towards Rajkot.

Gate of the School Trust

Gate of the School Trust

I stepped out and easily got one pack after searching a little. Suddenly after a deep puff, I noticed a welcome gate mentioning something very unique and unexpected to me. It was Dayanand Saraswati Gate, out of curiosity I enquired the relevance of the gate there and to my surprise I was told that Tankara is the birth place of the great founder of Arya Samaj, the revered personality, none other than Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Amazingly, there was no mention about the birth place of Swami Dayanand Saraswati in the tourism campaigns and never did we hear about it anywhere in Gujrat in 15 days. The apathetic attitude was more relevant when we enquired the locales about the exact location of the ancestral house. None were actually known about it however, people believed we were interested in reaching the boarding school of Arya Samaj, which was inside the village on the left through a narrow lane with shops on both its ends.

Entry to Dayanand Saraswati Trust School

Entry to Dayanand Saraswati Trust School

We made our way through the narrow lane and reached near the school inside the village, which was definitely a large building complex quite well maintained by the school authorities. We entered into the complex and enquired about the exact location of the birth place. One of the teachers handed over the keys to a resident student and we followed him on the same lane through which we entered inside the village.

The Revered House

The Revered House

A small house between shops adjacent to it with a small door, which was locked and a board over it mentioning about the facts and events of his life, was the abode of the great personality. On stepping inside, it was pathetic to see layers of dust over the verandah. Inside, there was a hall with paintings and artifacts in glass frames which, I suppose is out of meticulous efforts of the school authorities. Multiple thoughts were creeping inside our boiling mind while pondering the lessons we were taught in our school texts about the heroic deeds for social cause of the forgotten great saint. The student accompanying us innocently informed that aspirants from all over the country do often come to get admission in the school, but no visitors as such turns to pay obeisance or visit the house ever.

Birth Place of the Ascetic

Birth Place of the Ascetic

Displaying Facts about Maharishi

Displaying Facts about Maharishi

“Swami Dayananda Saraswati is certainly one of the most powerful personalities who has shaped modern India and is responsible for its moral regeneration and religious revival.” – Subhas Chandra Bose.

About Swami Dayanand Saraswati: Compiled from Wikipedia

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. Denouncing the idolatry and ritualistic worship prevalent in Hinduism at the time, he worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies. Subsequently the philosopher and President of India Shri S. Radhakrishnan called him one of the “Makers of Modern India,” as did Sri Aurobindo.

Those who were influenced by and followed Dayananda included Madam Cama, Pandit Guru Dutt Vidyarthi, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Hardayal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Ram Prasad Bismil, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Swami Shraddhanand, Mahatma Hansraj, Lala Lajpat Rai and others. One of his most influential works is the book Satyarth Prakash, which contributed to the Indian independence movement. He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from boyhood, and a scholar, who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.

Maharshi Dayananda advocated the doctrine of Karma (Karma Siddhanta in Hinduism) and Reincarnation (Punarjanma in Hinduism). He emphasized the Vedic ideals of brahmacharya (celibacy) and devotion to God. The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj were united from 1878 to 1882, becoming the Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj. Among Maharshi Dayananda’s contributions are his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures and his intuitive commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as Hindi so that the common man might be able to read them. Dayanand was the first to give the slogan of Swadeshi long before Mahatma Gandhi.”

After paying obeisance to the ascetic reformer, we headed towards Morbi from where we were expecting a super HW upto Bhuj on NH-8A. At Tankara we were however, told by someone to visit the worth Wankaner Palace, situated on a hillock and get on the NH-8A from there by travelling only a few extra miles. A single road turns right towards Wankaner from Lajai Railway Station, only a few km from Tankara thus escaping Morbi. Not a bad deal, another destination by travelling only 30-40 extra km was acceptable hence, we followed the path by turning right on the single, narrow, dusty, bumpy and serpentine track.

After one hour or so, we could see the magnificent palace on a hillock far in the middle of nowhere. On moving closer, we could see a bustling town with dense population similar to any urban settlements in the country. We hurriedly drove on the well maintained road on the hillock upto the palace. The magnificence of the palace was awe-inspiring. A large metal gate with royal emblems and lush lawns with trimmed hedges were significantly boasting the affluence of the rulers of the princely state. The very well designed structure with decorative doors and windows, the large domes and pillars were illustrious of the golden eras of the state. A huge broken clock, tilted on one of the domes was the sign of devastation caused by the dreadful earthquake in the regions. We met a court-man and the elderly man was pleased enough to praise the former rulers with due respect and courtesy for the masters.

Wankaner Palace

Wankaner Palace

Pride of the Princely State

Pride of the Princely State

Signs of Devastation

Signs of Devastation

The palace was built by Maharaja Amarsinghji in 20th century and still houses lots of antique items of historical importance. It was informed that the last prince of the dynasty is still living in the palace premise and is also the Member of Parliament. General public is therefore, not allowed to enter the private property. A few bolly-wood movies were shot there and some famous personalities from politics to silver screen often visit the place on formal invitation. Overall it was worth visiting the place and seeing the royal palace.

Wankaner Palace before Devastation Compiled from Wikipedia

Wankaner Palace before Devastation Compiled from Wikipedia

It feels bad when you compare the present day’s socio-economic condition of the nation with something as royal as the Wankaner Palace. But at the same time makes us proud of our affluence and influence in the past until only few decades earlier. Wish our country regains the glory with some honest governance.

In a few minutes of driving through the over-crowded town, we touched the awaited NH-8A, a four lane smooth road towards Bhuj. Rajkot was on the other direction, around 60 km on NH-8A and 50 km via SH-113. We were 200 km away from Bhuj and it was around 4 pm, the only relief was the HW. The car roared back on top gear and soon we reached Morbi, with hundreds of ceramic stores on both sides of the road.

Morbi is the newly formed district in Gujrat and known for producing more than 80% of the country’s gross ceramic production and variety of excellent quality tiles and sanitary wares, earning annually over Rs. 4000 Cr. It is also the largest producer of CFL (compact fluorescent lamp). Another major economy of the place is clock manufacturing, companies like Ajanta Clocks, Samay Clocks, Sonera Industries and Sonam Quartz are few of the world’s largest clock manufacturers situated here. The majority of these companies’ workforce is females from neighbouring villages thus contributing substantially in the growth of socio-economic condition of the state.

The super HW continues upto Bhachau, a few km further, a road slightly left leads towards Gandhidham on NH-8A and a right onto Bhuj on SH-42 popularly called Bhuj-Bhachau HW both around 80 km. My suggestion, keep on your left onto Gandhidham, avoiding the Kandla Port road, keep on your right towards Ajnar on the NH-8A. A right turn from Ajnar will lead to Bhuj, around 45 km on SH-46 and a left towards Gandhidham, the industrial hub.

The Journey continues…………

10 Comments

  • Anupam Chakraborty says:

    Dear Ajay,

    It is really saddening to learn about the apathetic attitude of Govt. as well as the local organizations towards Swami Dayanand Saraswatis place. The royal Wankaner Palace, then and now, as I could see from the photos, requires lot more attention of the local Govt. On other day I was reading the story of Professor Rakesh Bawa Some Days in Gujarat..Adalaj Ni Vav and Gandhi Nagar Sojourn

    While replying to our author Nirdesh Singh, Professor, commented, Gujarat may have developed a lot but I feel that in the preservation of historical structures, the state can learn from Rajasthan.

    It seems to be very true. What is your view on it, Ajay?

    It is a thought provoking post. Good one!

    • AJAY SHARMA says:

      Dear Anupam,
      Thanks a lot for perusing the post so intensely. I agree with your feelings and repercussions. As far as Wankaner Palace is concerned, its a private property but the concerned government departments do require to take immediate steps for up-keeping and conserve our heritage. This wont cost much, rather earn more in return in long run by inviting more tourist. Also, our concern and bonds for the true heroes will grow stronger.

      Keep travelling
      Ajay

  • Nandan Jha says:

    And after reading this, I am kicking myself more. Since the whole series was not published before we went for our Gujrat trip (end of December 2013), I had no idea of these place. I did benefited a lot from Ajay’s invaluable suggestions but I guess a lot is still left to do.

    I think Gujrat Tourism needs to promote all these places and more so since they are kind of ‘on the circuit’. Logs like these are one clear attempt towards spreading the word so kudos unstoppable Ajay.

    • AJAY SHARMA says:

      Dear Nandan,
      Like all others, even I planned my road trip to Gujrat with high expectations in terms of Tourism but in vain. Except the commercial hoardings and boastful campaigning, Gujrat Tourism Department offers nothing for tourists, not even a board in English, if not in Hindi for searching destinations with ease. Moreover, the tourist circuits are least exposed and much concern focussed on money makings through commercialisation. My blind search for Narara is one example. Khijadiya, despite of so rich in diversity and housing substantial numbers of Birds is one of the least visited Bird Sanctuary I suppose, just because of apathy of the concerned authorities. There is no tourism hype about Lakhpat or the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary. Why people reach there by hook or crook is because of our religious bend of mind. This is the same in many other sites and after roaming 4000 km in Gujrat, I firmly believe, it is more of religious tourist in Gujrat and a few very enthusiast travellers than holidaymakers.
      Therefore, it is essential for every traveller in Gujrat to get acquainted of the non-exposed or less explored destinations from different sources, to avoid any regret.

      Thanks a lot Nandan for all your support and appreciations.

      Regards
      Ajay

  • Ashok Sharma says:

    nice post. good pics. I agree with Nandan. Gujrat Tourism should promote its its beautiful must visit places with full vigour and let the people have a chance to see these precious gems and admire.

    • AJAY SHARMA says:

      Dear Ashok ji,
      Thanks a lot for your supportive words. I too agree with your views, reflected in my logs and replies.

      Keep travelling
      Ajay

  • silentsoul says:

    Bahut badia post Sharma ji

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Ajay,

    What a surprise to see the lovely Wankaner Palace. It is not everyday you see clock towers in palaces. I cant think up of other palaces that have clock towers except Prag Mahal in Bhuj. Tragically that clock tower was also damaged in the earthquake though the tower is largely intact. I have nice memories of Wankaner Palace!

    Keep surprising us!

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Dear Nirdesh,
    It feels very nice to see a comment from readers, it makes sense writing or sharing with zeal. Yes, its not common finding clock towers at palaces, unfortunately not well kept or renovated after the disasters. With time, these photographs will only remain in the history. Yes, surprising for me too as these places are no where hyped in the tourism campaigns.

    Keep travelling
    Ajay

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