Think culture, colour, food, festivity, businessmen, friendly people and you have a wholesome state of Gujarat in front of you! Sculpted from the erstwhile Bombay State and with the longest coastline that was an impetus to trade and commerce, Gujarat tempted the curiosity of travelers from the Far East and Europe to explore its dimensions. No history enthusiast can afford to skip Gujarat as every city and community literally extols of warriors, rulers, and courtesans.
The state offers a variety of sights for the avid tourist by way of wild life, monuments, and shrines; pulsating melas and vibrant festivals like dandiya ras are a visual feast. Gujaratis, renowned for their business acumen have riveted venture capitalists from around the globe and established their number one position in the matter of industrial development with the proclivity to bring in investments. A forerunner in on-shore oil and natural gas extraction, the oil fields at Ankleshwar, Kalol and Kadi have since a long period warranted progressive and developmental programs for the nation.
The only place to spot the mighty Asiatic lions is in Gir Forest on the periphery of Saurashtra. A drive from Ahmedabad will take you on a spin – the Modhera Sun Temple with its aesthetic step well in the fore court; Rani ki Vav another architectural splendor on the banks of River Saraswati; Junagadh Fort, Gondal Palace (now a heritage hotel) with its vintage car collection, the Somnath Temple, ship-breaking yard at Alang – each promise to satisfy a seeker’s senses. Approach Saurashtra to soak in the marvelous Jain temples atop Shatrunjaya Hill in Palitana. Gandhi Ashram is a quiet refuge on the banks of River Sabarmati where the Mahatma resided. The beautiful Sidi Saiyed Mosque with its finely carved and highly decorative stone jhalli in Ahmedabad is sure to enrapture you. The temple by the sea at Somnath dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a monument of diligence and meticulousness.
Gujjus, as they are fondly called, are a sociable lot who get high on food. Gujaratis are pure vegetarians and the Jain community avoids even onion and garlic besides vegetables grown under the earth during certain months of the year. Gujarati meals are elaborate with farsans (snacks), 2-3 types of breads like rotlas/phulkas/biscuit bhakris, dry and gravy side-dishes of potato/cabbage/tendli/sprouts and khichdi which is a rice and green mung-based preparation consumed with loads of ghee (clarified butter). Their fondness for sweets is palpable in their cuisine, for instance, be it dal, kadhi or vegetable dishes, all have a hint of sweetness in them.
Don’t miss the Rann of Kutch that is the natural habitat of a unique beast, the wild ass. Close by is the Marine Sanctuary and National Park where you can see several nimble blackbucks spring in unison like agile gymnasts at Velavadar Blackbuck National Park; While Nal Sarovar is a vast natural lake witness to the most migration of birds each winter, the Lothal Harappan excavation is for historians. Dholavira, in Kutch, is one of the largest Indus Valley excavations in the subcontinent. Gujarat also houses the finest havelis with wooden doors and jharokas carved by master craftsmen. Just saunter through these havelis and pols to get immersed in the magnificence of a vanishing system.
Jamnagar is renowned for the ancient art of tie-and-dye fabric known as Bandhani though it is prevalent even today in Kutch and Surendranagar. The state is also renowned for its numerous festivals – 9 days of Dandiya dancing with religious fervor during Navratri, a 3-day celebration to wedlock for Tarnetar Fair, Kartick Purnima Fair at Shamlaji, Dangs Darbar by the tribal population and the International Kite Festival that is a big draw for contestants globally. Sidhis, an African race of people brought as slaves to the Gujarat coast by the Nawabs of Junagadh speak the local language and have adopted local customs.
A few kilometers short of Sasan, a dirt track turns right and it leads to the Lion Safari Camp, at Gir National Park which also has the highest population of leopards, a luxury wildlife camp owned and managed by Camps of India. Kamleshwar dam in the middle of the sanctuary is a delight for crocodile voyeurs. 300 different varieties of birds, hyenas, jackals, wild boars, nilgai and chital (spotted deer) can be spotted here.
Gandhinagar (capital of Gujarat), Vadodara (Lakshmi Vilas Palace with its European and Indian architectural style is the residence of the Maratha Royal family of the Gaekwads), Surat (beside the Tapi River is famous for silk weaving and diamond-cutting), Rajkot, Bhuj (the striking range of handicrafts), Kutch (known for its stretch of salt pans and marshland), Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Anand (world’s largest producer of milk) besides places where pilgrims realize their souls’ journey or forests and beaches that bait the incorrigible holidaymakers, Gujarat provides a touristy nirvana.
Voilà – a place like none other, matchless in all that has been presented for the eager visitor from sandy beaches to blazing desert, from exotic fauna to tantalizing cuisine, from Krishna to Mahatma, like a large, richly garnished-with-nuts dessert in a sweetmeat shop, Gujarat BECKONS you to slice and savour its diverse offerings!
Picture courtesy: Pixabay and Gujarat Tourism