Gujarat

Glimpse of Gujarat

During the last winter vacation, we planned to visit our home state Gujarat. Generally, we do this every year but this time it was special for our kids. We want to show them the cultural and historical heritage sites around the city and in our state. Most of the places we have seen before and this trip was solely for the kids to get them acquainted with the region of India, their home.

When we told about our plans to our kids then they show their happiness and excited to visit new places. There are lots of question in their minds what kind of place they are going? What things are special there? Moreover, they are very much excited for the long train journey which they have never done before in India.

With all the planning and bookings for outstation trips done, we landed up in Vadodara (Gujarat) our hometown. Vadodara, Gujarat’s third largest city, is considered the state’s cultural capital. Vadodara is situated on the banks of the Vishwamitri river. The city was once called Chandravati, after its ruler Raja Chandan, then Viravati, the abode of the brave, and then Vadpatra because of the abundance of banyan trees on the banks of the Vishwamitri. From Vadpatra it derived its present name Baroda or Vadodara.

Vadodara’s history can be tracked to more than 2000 years. Initial settlement in Vadodara was found near the present day Akota area. Recent history of Vadodara starts with the end of Mughal rule over the city in 1732. From 1734 till the time of independence Vadodara was continuously ruled by the Maratha’s Gaekwad dynasty.

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Image ©: Tanay Bhatt, Creative commons

The greatest period in the Maratha rule of Vadodara started with the accession of Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1875. It was an era of great progress and constructive achievements in all fields. Maharaja Sayajirao was a great administrator and reformer of his times. During his time, he opened many industries and help private entrepreneurs to establish modern industries in Vadodara. He also introduced compulsory primary education and augment adult education scheme through a library movement which was first of its kind in India. He also established Baroda collage, now called “Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda”, for higher education. He also established one of the largest gardens in the western India on the banks of vishwamitri river “The Sayajibaug”. With a beautiful landscape it also houses a museum, an observatory, a toy train and a zoo.

He was a great king and the visionary leader. Due to his efforts the modern Vadodara is now and an Industrial and educational hub. The city is often nicknamed as “Sayaji Nagari” meaning “The Town of Sayaji”.

Sayajirao Gaekwad
Sayajirao Gaekwad III, Image ©: Vijay Barot, Creative commons

Vadodara has witnessed the rise and fall of many kingdoms, still it has retained the beauty of its rich and varied past. You can find most of the ancient structures littered across the city but the most prominent and one of the greatest example is outside the city near Halol where you will witness the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Champaner –  Pavagadh.

Vadodara, also known as the Sanskari Nagari (cultural city) with rich cultural traditions. It is also India’s most cosmopolitan city. It has a right blend of art, culture, history and nature. Vadodara is developing with a fast Pace and many new attractions are coming around. One of the most visited place around Vadodara is the “Statue of Unity” which is the highest statue in the world.

Vadodara is one of the top 10 cleanest cities in India with good infrastructure and beautiful and balanced green cover inside the city. Crime rates are very low and it’s a safe city even for Solo female travelers. Vadodara city is not really a hotspot on the tourist map but, this safe and peaceful city has its own charm. The city has much to offer with its warm and welcoming peoples.

During vacation our kids get an opportunity to visit most parts of the UNESCO world heritage site of Champaner-Pavagadh, which was generally limited to the Pavagadh temple before, Laxmi Vilas Palace, Museum and gardens in the city along with “Statue of Unity” which was first visit for all of us.

For more details about our visit to Champaner – Pavagadh, read my post;

Pavagadh – A Shakti Peeth Temple surrounded by the ruins of the last Hindu Kingdom

Champaner – Lost Capital of Gujarat Sultanate

Our visit to Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara and trip to Statue of unity outside Vadodara city, read my post;

Royal residence of Vadodara- Lakshmi Vilas Palace

My day trip to the world tallest statue – Statue of Unity

Our next destination was Bhuj city in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. 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

Old steam engine at Bhuj Railway station
Old steam engine at Bhuj Railway station

Kutch is home to diverse cultural traditions. The region’s heritage and culture can be seen through the various existing architectural structures, including palaces and buildings like Aina Mahal, Prag Mahal and ruins of Chhatedi. For more about these places, read my post;

Prag Mahal & Aina Mahal – The royal landmarks of Bhuj

Chhatedi – Beautiful ruins of Royal cenotaphs

Bhunga - Traditional houses in Kutch
Bhunga – Traditional houses in Kutch

Kachchh was also known as the “land of entrepreneurs”. For long time people of Katch were mostly trading with middle east ports of Salalah, Muscat, African port Zanzibar and other countries in the Indian Ocean region. The people of Kutch are reputed as sailors and businessmen and they built excellent ships which traveled across the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf. The old process of wooden ship building industry is still surviving in Mandvi. For more about Mandvi and the places around, read my post;

Royal attraction in Mandvi – Vijay Vilas Palace

The western side of Kutch is having many places with huge religious significance. It is more of a pilgrim’s trail with Mata no Madh, Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar Mahadev temple dotted on the western coast, visited by millions of devotees every year. For more about these places, read my post;

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

After our Kutch tour we stayed in Ahmedabad for few days with our relatives and decided to visit Sun temple and Rani ki Vav as a day trip from Ahmedabad which is easily doable. For this trip we hired a car from Ahmedabad for full day. First half of the day we visited the Sun temple at Modhera, dedicated to the Sun god. The temple was made by King Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty in the early 11th century to commemorate the victory of king Bhima over Mahmud of Ghazni whose advancing soldiers were stopped at Modhera. Sun temple at Modhera is the most intricately carved temple from inside and outside in the western India. The fractal geometric pattern of the temple pond and the small detailing on the temple wall makes it par excellence. This 11th century temple is a visual delight. To know more about the temple read my post;

An Architectural Masterpiece – Modhera Sun Temple

Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple

Next half of the day we spend at Rani ki Vav which is in Patan, less than an hour drive from Modhera. Rani ki Vav or The Queen’s Stepwell in Patan is the biggest and the most beautiful stepwell in India and is also the only step well in India to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rani ki Vav on the banks of Sarasvati river was built by Rani Udayamati as a memorial to the king in 11th century. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage system in the Indian subcontinent. The stepwell is build in an inverted temple style with more than 1500 small and big intricately carved sculptures whose craftsmanship and detailing makes this stepwell unique and the most beautiful. To know more about this stepwell read my post;

Most Beautiful Stepwell in India – Rani Ki Vav

Rani Ki Vav
Rani Ki Vav
Wall panels inside the Rani Ki Vav
Wall panels inside the Rani Ki Vav

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