The Vibrant State of Gujarat
Gujarat is one of the most vibrant states of India. It has made itself a prominent feature on the Indian map through its culture, wildlife, caves, handicrafts and much more. A vibrant and diversified way of lifestyle portrays the true grandeur of theIndian culture. Its vast heritage can be witnessed through its numerous forts, step-wells, mansions and more. It is mostly famous for being the birth spot of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi in 1869.
Some Fun Facts
- Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language that has been derived from Sanskrit. It is also the 26th most widely used language in the world.
- Gujarat shares its border with Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
- The Patola Silk, also known as the Queen of all silks is a major part of the traditional Gujarati attire.
- The famous Gujarati dance forms include the Dandiya Raas, Garba, Padhar, and Garbi.
- Gujarat is the largest producer of milk in India
- Palitana in Gujarat is the only place in the world with more than 900 temples.
- Gujarat is the largest producer of cotton in India.
PLACES TO VISIT IN GUJARAT
Lying next to the banks of the iconic Sabarmati River is Ahmedabad. It was earlier the capital of Gujarat for many centuries and was also declared as India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City in 2017. Known to be the seventh-largest city in the country, Ahmedabad is known to one and all as a prestigious commercial hub of the state of Gujarat. The city has provided an open ground to many known business tycoons of India that now pose in black suits and ties on the cover pages of top business magazines. Even today the city provides newcomers with an innovative and an investing ground to flourish. Apart from its dominance in the commercial field, the city is a cultural hub too. Ahmedabad is divided by the Sabarmati River into two halves, the old city and the new Ahmedabad. The Old City lies on the west side of the river that has many bazaars, stunningly carved temples, monuments and sub-terrain stepwells, making your time worthwhile. The famous places to visit in Old Ahmedabad include the Bhadra Fort, Jama Masjid, Ahmed Shah’s Mosque, Siddi Saiyad’s Mosque and the Tomb of Ahmed Shah.
The colonial period led to the expansion of the city into the west side of Sabarmati. The construction of Ellis Bridge in 1875 and later the relatively modern Nehru Bridge. The New Ahmedabad features the exquisite artworks of Le Corbusier and the American architect, Louis Kahn. All of it has been built in the span of the former 50 years. You will be able to spot many malls, wide roads, and several major universities in this part of the city.
How did Ahmedabad get its name?
It is believed that Ahemdabad was named by the grandson of the Sultan of Gujarat, Muzaffar Shah I, Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1411 AD. While strolling near the banks of the Sabarmati River he laid the foundation of a new walled city near Karnavati and named it Ahmedabad after the four saints in the area by the name Ahmed. However, it is believed that he named it after himself.
Which are the must-visit places of Ahmedabad?
Whether you are an admirer of Indian history or not, you should definitely pay a visit to the Sabarmati. Located on Sabarmati River’s west bank, the Ashram was a home of the great Mahatma Gandhi. It displays his personal belongings such as the iconic spinning wheel, spectacles and much more. It has acted as the common ground to many non-violent, civil disobedience and Swadeshi movements. Ahmedabad has many museums too. Some of the popular ones include the Kite Museum, Calico Museum of Textiles, Auto World Vintage Car Museum, Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum and Vechaar Utensils Museum. At the end of the day, you can choose to visit one of the biggest lakes of Gujarat, Kankaria Lake too.
The third-largest city in Gujarat, Vadodara or Baroda is located on the banks of the Vishwamitri River. The city comprises some of the most iconic historical monuments and gardens that can be witnessed in the olden part of Vadodara. The city is believed to be two thousand years old. It was formerly resided by a Hindu king till 1297. During the onset of the Christian era, the Gupta Empire conquered Vadodara and became its first ruler. Later, it was seized by the Solanki dynasty. After a massive period, it was conquered by the Mughals who were later overthrown by the Gaekwad ruler. To conclude, the city has experienced many battles being unfolded and authorities being shifted. One of the greatest rulers that Vadodara saw was Sayajirao Gaekwad III. He has largely been responsible for modernizing the city. Hence, in the present Vadodara, you will get to witness some stunning artwork and spots of Vadodara.
One of the most prestigious spots of the Vadodara is the Laxmi Vilas Palace that showcases an Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The palace has been constructed on a 500-acre land (four times the size of England’s Buckingham Palace), making it one of the largest private residences in India. A section of the palace has been open to the public and can be visited by paying 200 rupees.
Just a couple kilometres away from the Palace lies the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum that showcases a wide range of paintings by the famous artist Raja Ravi Verma. One of the other tourist spots includes the gardens known as Sayaji Baugh that houses a zoo, planetarium, and Vadodara Museum, that showcases a mix of Mughal miniatures, royal artefacts and European oil paintings. Other notable sights are Nazarbaug Palace, Makarpura Palace, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Kirti Mandir, Kirti Stambh, Nyay Mandir, Khanderao Market, Aurobindo Ashram, EME Temple (Dakshinamurthy Temple) and the Hazira Maqbara. Other sights that are worth visiting in Vadodara include the Nazarbaug Palace, Makarpura Palace, Kirti Stambh, Nyay Mandir, Khanderao Market, Aurobindo Ashram and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
3. STATUE OF UNITY
The enormous statue of Unity was built to honour the great Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who was popularly known as the ‘Unifier of India’ that tirelessly worked towards building a consolidated Indian republic. Hence, to mark his presence and noble efforts the Statue of Unity was constructed at the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Kevadiya Village Narmada, Gujarat. The statue has a height of 182 metres, making it the world’s tallest statue. This title was earlier held by China’s Spring Temple Buddha which is 153 metres tall. The statue was inaugurated on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary, the 31st of October 2018. The authorities had asked Indian farmers to donate their used farming equipment in order to garner iron needed for the statue of Sardar Patel. Around 5000 tonnes of iron was collected that was used in many construction aspects. The first zone comprises the museum that showcases the contributions of Sardar Patel. The second zone is a gallery that manages to show you the scenic views of the River Narmada, Satpura and Vindhyachal ranges. The remaining fourth and fifth zones are the highest levels and serve as the maintenance area. The statue has five zones, out of which three are open to the public to view.
The statue has been designed by Ram Vanji Suthar who has been awarded a Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri for his contribution in the field of arts. He has been known to create fifty iconic sculptures.
4. GIR NATIONAL PARK
If you wish to spot wild animals, especially lions in their natural habitat, then you should definitely visit the Gir National Park in Gujarat. The place provides shelter to many lions, leopards, hyenas, wild birds that are not easy to spot and crocodiles. The world’s only 4-horned antelope, Sambhar and Chausingha can also be spotted. The total number of lions residing in the Gir National Park is around 500 and 300 leopards. Apart from this, three kinds of jungle cats, the jungle cat, desert cat and the rusty-spotted cat can be spotted too. Other animals that you will be able to spot include the monkeys, striped hyena, pangolins, pale hedgehogs, Indian hares, grey musk shrews, honey badger, ruddy mongoose, soft-shelled turtle, star tortoise, Indian rock python, monitor lizard and more. The forest is shared by the local Maldhari Community that has lived here for generations. They have managed to sustain themselves by grazing their livestock and harvesting whatever they require from the forest. Whatever amount of herd they lose to the lions is considered as an exchange for allowing them to live in their homeland. Apart from this, the forest is surrounded by steep hills, valleys and grasslands. More than half of the park consists of teak, khair, dhavdo, timru, amla and more. The other half comprises samai, simal, khakhro and asundro jambu, umro, amli, vad and kalam.
The district of Kutch has been known for its spectacular colourful beauty to many that offer a picturesque view. A major chunk of this region is submerged in water during the rainy season. In the winter season, the region is entirely dry. Apart from its spectacular geography, you will also be able to spot some cultural and historical footprints that have been left by every ruler that ruled in between the Indus Valley Civilization up to the Rao Dynasty. People visiting here will be able to witness the footprints that have been left behind since the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. One of the largest Harappan sites in the Indian subcontinent, Dholavira is located in the Khadir Bet Island of the Kutch. It is believed that Kutch was first ruled by Enander I of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. He was then dethroned by the Indo-Scythians and then later by the Gupta Empire. In the thirteenth century, the area was seized by the Jadeja Dynasty. In the year 1819, Kutch was captured by the East India Company who won after defeating the Jadgea dynasty.
Kutch consists of many areas such as Bhuj, Mandvi, Dholavira, Gandhidham, and Anjar that are worth visiting. Dholavira consists of many archaeological sites that contain the ruins of the Harappan city. The capital of Bhuj consists of the stunning Aina Mahal and Parag Mahal. Apart from this, the port city of Mandvi is also worth visiting especially if you wish to spot some historical sites. But, one place that you should definitely feature on top of your ‘Places to Visit in Kutch’ list is the magnificent white deserts of the Great Rann of Kutch.
Rann of Kutch
It is the world’s largest salt desert that spreads over a wide area of 7505 sq km. The area remains submerged in rainwater during the monsoons. The water evaporates during the winters leaving dry hard mud that shines like a bright diamond under the rays of the sun. The visual is far more magnificent at night. If you truly want to capture the view of the dessert from the best angle then you should climb the Kalo Dungar which is the highest point in Kutch. The hill offers great views of the Kutch region, Thar Desert and the Great Rann. One of the best times to visit the Rann of Kutch is during the Rann Utsav. With great views, you will also come across some beautiful folk dance forms, music and artworks. The Rann Utsav is celebrated up to three months.
6. RANI KI VAV
The Rani ki Vav or the Queen’s Stepwell was constructed in 1063 by Rani (Queen) Udayamati in 1063 for her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. Located on the banks of the River Saraswati, it is regarded as the most prestigious stepwell in Gujarat that acts as a distinctive storage system. In the former days, its water was lauded for possessing medicinal properties that helped in getting rid of many diseases. For a long period of time, the Rani ki Vav acted as an important spot to socialize and to take cover from the scorching heat. Rani-ki-Vav has been built in the Maru-Gurjara architectural style with complex techniques and great detailing. It has been designed as an inverted temple that has been divided into seven levels of stairs. It consists of more than five hundred principle sculptures and around a thousand minor religious, mythological and secular descriptions that refer to great literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank of a depth of 23 meters. The 900-year-old structure has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also displayed in the ₹ 100 currency note issued by the Reserve Bank of India. For a long period of time, the Vav was flooded by the Saraswati river and buried in silt. It was only in the 1980s when the Archeological Survey of India excavated it.
7. MODHERA SUN TEMPLE
One of the most primitive and stunning architectural creations in Gujarat is the Modhera Sun Temple. It was constructed under the rulership of King Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. The temple leaves many visitors awestruck for its sheer brilliance with which it was created. However, the current condition of the temple that you will see is that of ruins by Mahmud Ghazni.
The temple has been built on banks of the Pushpavati river, that today stands as an outdated temple where no worship is offered anymore. However, the temple continues to mesmerize one with its unique structure. The Modhera Sun Temple has been pillared on a lotus-shaped structure with intricate carvings. These carvings represent the aspects of both Ramayana and Mahabharata. The temple has been divided into three sections. The Surya Kund is a deep, stepped tank that was earlier used to store pure water. It is believed that the same place earlier was an underground spring too. The assembly halls or Sabha Mandapa acted as the place for religious gatherings and conferences. Though it was built for the pilgrims, the temple added slabs along the walls for them to sit and rest. After crossing the passage with pillars and arches you will reach the guda mandap or the sanctum sanctorum. Earlier this hall used to host the idol of the Sun God but was later raided by Mahmud Ghazni. However, you will still be able to spot the twelve different phases of the Sun God on its walls. According to many mythological stories, the entire path from the kund to the guda mandap through the temple is considered as an auspicious journey from death to moksha.
Currently, the temple is undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India for renovation and restoration. In 2014, the Modhera Sun Temple was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Dwarka in Gujarat is popularly known as the ‘City of Gold’. It was once known as the kingdom of Lord Krishna. He came to Dwarka from Mathura to build a new kingdom for himself where he wished to spend a major chunk of his life. Hence, Dwarka has huge importance among the Hindus. It is the only place that is considered as one of the prestigious Char Dhams and also as one of the Sapta Puris (seven ancient towns) to visit that has prominently been mentioned in the Hindu religion. Dwarka was also a part of the ancient kingdom of Krishna and Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. This is the reason why many devotees and history aficionados choose to visit Dwarka in Gujarat. According to mythological beliefs, after the demise of Lord Krishna, the Yadav dynasty also came to an end. This was followed by a flood that destroyed everything of Dwarka and submerged itself at the bottom of the ocean. The tourist spots that you can choose to visit in Dwarka consist of the 2500-year-old Dwarkadhish temple that has been dedicated to Lord Krishna. You can also visit the Rukmani Temple and the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga temple. Tourists visiting here also enjoy the beaches of Dwarka.