In the month of November this year, I got an opportunity to visit a less explored but unique and beautiful, culturally and historically rich region Kutch / Kachchh in the remote western part of Gujarat.
All fellow Ghumakkars know that I always prefer to visit with my family (Kavita, Sanskriti and Vedant); this would be my first travel tale on Ghumakkar where you’ll not see my wife and children with me as it was an official tour and I stolen some moments for Ghumakkari from my busy schedule. As I missed them lot during my entire stay there in Kutch, here also I am feeling very lonely in their absence in this post.
This was an official tour and I was deputed to Gandhidham (Don’t get confused with Gandhinagar), where one of my company’s sister concern is located. As per plan I had to stay at Gandhidham in company’s guest house for eight days. As I received the information of tour, my Ghumakkar mind started to look for some places to explore around Gandhidham during my visit and I decided to utilize my Sunday’s off in Ghumakkari.
I left Indore on 15th Nov. (Thursday) at 10:45 PM by Indore Gandhinagar (Shanti Express) and reached Ahmedabad at approx. 9:00 AM.
Actually I couldn’t find reservation in any train from Ahmedabad to Gandhidham so I had decided to do this journey by bus. Gandhidham is approx. 320 KM from Ahmedabad and it takes around 7 hours by bus.
From Ahmedabad railway station I took auto rickshaw and reached Paldi Station where I enquired for the buses and came to know that there is no bus before 1:30 PM, now after this shocking information I was bound to wait at Paldi bus stand for next 4 hour which seemed me a very boring job. But there was no any option except killing time anyway.
Meanwhile there came two foreigner tourists and they asked me about bus for Bhuj, The same bus in which I had to board was going up to Bhuj so I informed them about the bus. They also had a long time to wait for bus so in order to pass the time they started talking me regarding the India, its culture, tourist places etc. Though they had a very good hand book containing complete information on India tourism destination but still they were very enthusiastic about India. They were from USA and one of them was Kevin who later became my friend as we had to travel together for next 7-8 hours.
It was 11:00 O’ clock and I was feeling hungry, I saw a small shop having garmagaram Jalebi and Fafda, I along with Kevin went there to taste this delicious Gujarati breakfast. It was really tasty and Kevin also liked it, Jalebi was a miraculous dish for him.
Finally at 2:00 PM bus started from Ahmedabad towards Gandhidham. The bus was semi sleeper and Air Conditioned, so the journey was comfortable enough. The roads were in a very good condition. After continuous running for 2 hours bus stopped for 10 minutes at a road side hotel for refreshment etc. We tasted there Kutch’s famous Sing Wali Dabeli (A Hot dog kind of dish having roasted groundnuts).
On the way to Gandhidham our bus stopped at a town BHACHAU. As I read the name of town on a shop I discovered that this is the same place where a character “Jethalal” of SAB TV serial “Taarak Mehta ka Ultah Chashma” belongs to.
Finally approx. 8:30 PM I reached Gandhidham and by Auto rickshaw, moved to my guest house.
There is a famous saying in the Kutch region – कच्छ नहीं देखा तो कुछ नहीं देखा.
Kutch or Kachchh is a remote and sparsely populated district of Gujarat state. The interesting thing about the place is that it is the largest district of India. A large part of this region is known as Rann of Kutch (कच्छ की रण) which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann is famous for its salty land which becomes snow white after the water dries up each season before the rains.
Kachchh District is surrounded by the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea in south and west, while northern and eastern parts are surrounded by the Rann of Kachchh. The administrative headquarters of Kutch district is in Bhuj. Other main towns are Gandhidham, Nakhtrana, Anjar, Mandvi, and Mundra. Most of the villages of Indus Valley Civilization are there in Kutch District.
This is the region where a mighty earthquake occurred on January 26, 2001, India’s 52nd Republic Day; The quake killed around 20,000 people and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes. It was the most severe of the more than 90 earthquakes that hit Kutch in 185 years.
Kutch is known for its traditional salt production, other Traditional industries in the areas include manufacture of Shawls, handicrafts, and silver items. Kutch is a fascinating land and no visit to Gujarat is complete without a sojourn to this peninsular district. Its remoteness has kept it a place apart for centuries. The people are very sturdy, business minded and seafaring. Kandla a major seaport of the country happens to be the only free trade zone of India.
Kutch’s Bollywood Connection: J.P. Dutta’s film Refugee is shot on location in the Rann of Kutch and other locations in the Kutch district. Another Bollywood film Lagaan was also entirely shot in Kutch. One more film Hum dil de chuke sanam was shot in Mandvi in Kutch.
Kutch’s TV Connection: The popular TV serial “GULAL” which was being telecasted on Star Plus channel in recent days, was completely based on Kutch background, and also was shot around Bhuj in Kutch.
About Gandhidham: Gandhidham is a modern city in the Kutch district. The town was created in the early 1950s for the resettlement of the refugees from Sindh of Pakistan after the partition of India. In recent history Gandhidham is a fast developing city in Gujarat state.
Soon after the Separation in 1947, lots of refugees from Sindh of Pakistan migrated to India. For their rehabilitation Maharaja of Kutch provided 16,000 acres land for construction of a new town on a site few miles away from a proposed new port of Kandla on the Gulf of Kutch. At the Kandla Creek, the ashes of Gandhiji had been immersed. Since then the city was named Gandhidham. Kandla is major port; the only free trade zone of the country is very close by Gandhidham.
Gandhidham houses a big and very fast growing industrial area. Our company is also located near Gandhidham and all administrative operations are carried out from Gandhidham.
In Gandhidham I could see in a very strange vehicle running on road in a large number locally called Chhakda. It’s a unique combination of Bullet Motor bike and a loading rickshaw. You can see this in the picture below.
How to reach:
Air: Nearest Airport is Bhuj and Kandla. Various domestic flights connecting Mumbai.
Rail: Nearest railway station is Gandhidham and Bhuj.
Road: State transport buses and private luxury coaches connects various centers of Gujarat. Gandhidham is 60 kms From Bhuj.
As I had planned to visit some places of interest in Kutch on Sunday, My wait was over and Sunday came and I decided to first visit Bhuj the district headquarter of Kutch and then to Mandvi to explore Mandvi beach and Vijay Vilas Palace. On Sunday I left my guest house for Bhuj at 8:00 AM in the morning, caught a GSRTC bus and reached Bhuj at 10:00 AM.
The walled city of Bhuj is the headquarters of the Kutch district. Bhuj was the capital of the former princely State of Kutch till 1947 AD. The princely city of Bhuj is named after its Bhujia fortress, which overlooks the city from a hill nearby named Bhujiyo Dungar. The golden period of Bhuj came when the Jadeja Rajput rulers shifted their capital from Anjar to Bhuj in the mid 16th century.
Bhuj also serves as a base for visiting the Flamingo city for the adventurous travelers. Bhuj is most famous for the wide variety of handicrafts which includes Kutchi embroidery with mirror work, bandhini, hand printed textiles and saris etc.
Bhuj was founded in 1510 by one of the local ruler Maharao Hamir, but however Rao Khengarji I made Bhuj his capital in 1549.Till Bhuj became a part of India in 1947, Bhuj remained an independent princely state under the rule of the British. The Mughals extended a great support for the local rulers.
After reaching Bhuj I was looking for a good break fast, and I found a restaurant near bus stop. Here I chose to have a plate full of Khamann Dhokla, It was really delicious. After breakfast I haired an Auto Rickshaw for Rs. 200 to see the important sights of Bhuj including Aina Mahal, Prag Mahal, Kutch Museum, Himsar Lake and Swaminarayan Temple.
Attractions of Bhuj:
Aina Mahal & Prag Mahal
After their decline the rulers of Bhuj felt very insecure and so their built a fortress around the city which was soon overtaken by the British in 1819.After that, Rao Pragmalji, another ruler, constructed three royal palaces in the city, Prag Mahal and Ranjit Vilas Palace at Bhuj and Vijay Vilas Palace at Mandvi. Rao Lakhpatji was a great patron of art and literature and in the year 1750 AD he built the famous Aaina Mahal.
The two most interesting palaces at Bhuj, Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal are both located in the same campus. Aina Mahal was constructed by Rao Lakhpatji in 1750 AD, who was a great patron of art, architecture, music and literature. Aina Mahal is a unique example of an Indian palace built in the mid-eighteenth century with European influence. Its design and decorations were the outcome of a royal dream translated into reality by a master craftsman, Ramsingh Malam. Ramsingh stayed in Holland for 17 years and was trained in the crafts of clock making, cannon fabrication, enameling, tile making and architecture. On his return to undertake the mirror work, tile work and fountains at Aina Mahal. Aina Mahal is a part of a large palace complex- it is a two storied building with Darbar Hall, hall of mirrors, and suites for royal family.
Rao Pragmalji II undertook the construction of Prag Mahal. He appointed a famous architect- Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins to design Prag Mahal, who had designed Deccan College, Sasoon Hospital, Ohel David Synagogue, St. Paul’s church at Pune, Frere Hall at Karachi and secretariat at Bombay. Prag Mahal took 10 years to build at the cost of 20 lakh rupees. It is built in the Italian Gothic style, having a large Darbar hall, big rooms, wide verandahs and a 45-meter high lofty bell tower. The palace was built using the various type of Indian craftsmanship combined with European architectural design.
The Kutch Museum
The Kutch Museum, formerly known as the Fergusson museum, was founded by Maharao Khengarji III in 1877 AD. It is the oldest museum in Gujarat. Constructed in the Italian style, the museum is located in picturesque surroundings on the bank of Hamisar Lake. The museum has been a center of attraction for scholars due to its large collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, various archeological objects, and fine collection of arms and specimens of various crafts of the Kutch region.
In museum one incident happened with me, Actually out side museum and even inside one notice was displayed “Photography and Videography is strictly prohibited inside the museum” I read this notice, but when I entered the museum I couldn’t stop myself from capturing photographs I saw cunningly all sides and found that nobody is watching me and started clicking, After clicking 2-3 images I kept the camera in my pocket and moved ahead, a few minutes later a person came to me and asked me whether I captured any picture, I pretending of being innocent told him No I haven’t. He took me to the manager and manager told me that Boss you have captured the pictures I again started denying, He then got furious on me and shown me that CCTV camera has caught you capturing photos inside museum which is not allowed, oh my….. I shocked and started to tell them sorry, He told me that now you have to submit the penalty of Rs. 100 you’ll be then issued a receipt and then you can capture unlimited photos from any part of this museum. I paid Rs. 100 and received the receipt, since I was also bit annoyed and asked the manager that you have given me the permission to capture each corner of the museum, now I will capture your photo also, He laughed and told me yes you can have hundreds of photos of mine. And the result id before you in the picture below:
Other places of interest at Bhuj are Cenotaphs of Kutch rulers, Snake Temple at Bhujiyo Hill Fort, Vegetable Market, Hatkeshwar Temple and Alfred High School which I could not visited because I had very limited time.
I think it is enough for this part, in next part I’ll take to you to Mandvi a beautiful place having a gorgeous beach and a beautiful Palace. Till then Bye…………..
(Important Note: The historical information’s provided in this travelogue are taken from the boards displayed by ASI in front of the monuments and a book named “History of Kutch” kept for the reference of tourists at the Kutch Museum Bhuj.
I extend my sincere thanks to Archeological Survey of India and the management of Kutch Museum Bhuj- Gujarat)