Swaminarayan Temple Bhuj

Exploring Kutch beyond the white desert

When people talk about Kutch, the first thing that comes to mind is the Rann of Kutch & Rann Utsav. Rann of Kutch is one of the world’s largest seasonal saline wetlands. When this wetland dries, it leaves behind a layer of salt on the surface of land in a big area known as white desert, which is the biggest attraction in Kutch. Gujarat tourism organize a fair every year in the area to promote white desert along with the local art and craft known as Rann Utsav. For more about visiting White rann and Rann Utsav read my post;

A complete guide to plan and enjoy Rann Utsav

White rann
White rann

But other than the Rann of Kutch, people overlook the culture, tradition and a royal history of Kutch region. Kutch region is a famous destination within India for the textile crafts of bandhani (tie-dye), embroidery, and leatherwork. Within the region also you can find each community and village is having its own distinctive style of embroidery. Other than art and craft, Kutch too has a share of pilgrim places and places with huge religious significance.

Lakshminarayan Temple, Narayan sarovar
Lakshminarayan Temple, Narayan sarovar

As per historical evidence Bhuj city was established by Rao Hamirji in 1510 and was made the capital of the State of Kutch by Rao Khengarji in 1549. Kutch was ruled by the Jadeja dynasty for more four hundred and fifty years. Their long rule in the region, marked by stability and wealth generated for agriculture and trade, translated into building activities. Some of the prominent structures patronised by royalty in and around Bhuj include the Sharad Baug Palace, Aina Mahal, Prag Mahal, Hamirsar lake and Vijay Vilas palace.

Prag Mahal & Aina Mahal

Prag Mahal is known for its European style architecture and a beautifully decorated interiors, mostly in European style. It was built by King Prag Mahalji in 1860. Darbar Hall is the main attraction of this palace. It houses 38 doors, a large chandeliers and statues on the wall with European architecture. The other attraction of this palace is the bell tower. You have to climb the winding stairs to reach the Bell Tower. Once there you will get a stunning view of Bhuj City.

Aina Mahal

Beside the Prag Mahal, there is Aina Mahal which is magnificent from inside. As its name suggests ‘Aina Mahal’ means ‘Mirror Palace’. It was constructed with marbles walls studded with mirrors. It was built by Rao Lakhpatji in 1761. For more about Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal read my post;

Prag Mahal & Aina Mahal – The royal landmarks of Bhuj

Kutch Museum

Established in the year 1887 Kutch Museum is the oldest museum of Gujarat Located on the banks of Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj. The museum houses 11 sections which depicts different aspects of Kutch history, lifestyle, art, craft and heritage of tribal peoples.

The Ground floor of the museum houses the archaeological section dedicated to Indus valley civilization. Different kinds of stone tablets, arms and ornaments are available. There is also a collection of sculptures from different period of time. On the same floor there is a whole section depicting the kutchi lifestyle with many mannequins and models inside glass housing.

On the 1st floor of museum, a major part is dedicated to the famous kutchhi textiles and crafts which is made in different parts of Kutch. Many different type of textiles with their unique designs are on display behind the glass panels with the art and area description. Next to this there is a collection of paintings, embroidery, arms, musical instruments and fine work on precious metal.

Opening Time : 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM & 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM. Closed on Wednesday, Public Holidays.

Entry fees : ₹ 5 only with additional charge of ₹ 50 for Photography.

Folk Art Museum

Better known as the Bhartiya Sanskruti Darshan Museum, this is where you can find artifacts related to the tradition and culture of Kutch. Located close to the collector’s office in the city, this museum is easily accessible.

Chhatedi

Chhatedi is one of the best historical heritage places in Bhuj, known for it’s architectural excellence. The structures here are more than 400 years old and due to its historical importance, the place is maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. This place was mostly damaged in 2001 earthquake, but its still worth visiting if you’re interested in photography or historical architecture. For more about Chhatedi read my post;

Chhatedi – Beautiful ruins of Royal cenotaphs

Chhatedi, Bhuj
Chhatedi, Bhuj

Swaminarayan Temple

The earthquake on 26 January 2001 which destroyed most of the Bhuj city also damaged the Swaminarayan temple. Even after so much of damage the idols inside the temple miraculously remained as they were before, without any damage. Witnessing the divine miracle, devotees resolved to construct a new temple and installed the same idols there. It take 7 years to build this magnificent temples. This temple is dedicated to Nar Narayan Dev.

Swaminarayan Temple, Bhuj
Swaminarayan Temple, Bhuj

The Swaminarayan temple of Bhuj is an architectural masterpiece built with marble and is a sight to behold. This beautiful temple has 7 shikharas with a main dome, 25 smaller domes and 258 carved pillars made of pure marble. The temple doors, dome and the throne of Swaminarayan idol is made of gold which is intricately carved. Apart from the main temple, there are other attractions too. A separate temple exclusively for women, meditation hall, saint’s residence, garden and a large dining hall which allows more than 2000 persons to have food at a time.

The marble panels outside the temple walls and the peripheries are carved with the stories of Dashavtar, Ramayan, Mahabharat etc. Inside and outside of the Temple every square inch is intricately carved. You need to spare at least two hours for visiting the temple for prayer and admiring its architectural beauty.

Bhujio Hill

Bhujio Hill Fort, also known as Bhujio Fort is built for strengthening the defense of the city on a hill overlooking the town of Bhuj. The fort gets its name from the Bhujang (snake) temple outside the fort wall. Bhujio Fort was built between in 1718 and stood against many battles fought in the first 100 years of its construction before its handed over to the british in 1819.

Bhujio Fort
Bhujio Fort, Image © : Sumra Fayaz [https://creativecommons.org]

Bhujio Fort can be reached form any part of the Bhuj city in leass then 30 minutes. It offers a panoramic view of the Bhuj city and the best time to visit is at early morning or late evening. It’s a best place for watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

Hamirsar Lake

Located in the heart of the city, Hamirsar Lake is a manmade water body which is named after the founder and rulers of Bhuj Rao Hamir, who constructed this lake some 450 years before. The primary purpose of the lake was to fulfill the water requirements of Bhuj city in those days. In olden days Hamirsar Lake was filled with water channels and tunnels from the nearby rivers. All these channels were damaged in the 2001 earthquake and now it’s filled only with the rain water. In the center of the lake there is a beautiful garden. During winter months it attracts a lot of bird making it a nice place for bird watching and relaxing.

Hamirsar Lake
Hamirsar Lake, Image © : Aryavrata [https://creativecommons.org]

Katchi Handicraft Tour

There are a number of villages around Bhuj, which are known for their unique handicraft and finest hand embroidery with each community having its own distinctive style of embroidery. Most important and accessible village around Bhuj is Bhujjodi, which is famous for weaving. Other villages like Padhar and Dhaneti are famous for traditional Ahir embroidery while Anjar is famous for block printing and dye items. If you cannot visit all these villages, then visit the Bhuj Haat, which is situated near the Jubilee Ground, where artists from nearby villages bring their exquisite artwork for sale. Other place to collectively find all the items is Rann Utsav shops.

Handicraft from Kutch
Handicraft from Kutch

Religious Places in Kutch

There are many sacred Hindu and Jain temples in Kutch region. Ashapura Mata temple in Mata No Madh village is the most important religious and a major pilgrimage place in Kutch district. Ashapura mata is the household deity of former Jadeja rulers of Kutch State, and is also considered patron deity of Kutch. Apart from the Ashapura mata temple there is also Narayan sarovar which is one of the holiest lakes in Hinduism. For more about these places, read my post;

A trip to westernmost point of India – Narayan Sarovar & Koteshwar

Ashapura Mata Temple
Ashapura Mata Temple
Koteshwar Mahadev Temple
Koteshwar Mahadev Temple

Beach town of Mandvi

Once a major port of the region and an important trade center, Mandvi is now popular for its sunny beaches, a royal palace, its historic shipbuilding industry and many religious places around the town. For more about Mandvi read my post;

Mandvi – A town with sunny beaches and a royal palace

Deserted town of Lakhpat

Lakhpat is the most isolated place in Gujarat and at the end of two state highways SH-6 and SH-42. In ancient times, the river Indus and its subsidiary streams fell into the sea after passing through this region. Lakhpat was a rich rice growing area and was also a popular port connecting inland areas to all the Indian ocean region.  The town was very prosperous till 1819 when the Indus river changed its course due to earthquake. All trading and agriculture activities halted after that and now the town has a deserted look. For more about Lakhpat read my post;

Lakhpat Fort- End of the road to the deserted town

Lakhpat Fort wall
Lakhpat Fort wall

Dholavira site of the Indus Valley Civilization

Dholavira
Dholavira

Located on Khadir bet island in the in the Great Rann of Kutch, the village of Dholavira is an ancient site contains ruins of Indus Valley Civilization. It is one of the five largest Harappan sites and also considered as having been the grandest of citiesof its time. It is the most prominent archaeological sites in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization.

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