Sharad Baug Palace
Kutch Desert Festival
Vijay Vilas Palace, Mandvi
Welcome to Kachchh-Bhuj,
Kutch district is a district of Gujarat state in western India. It is the largest district in the state of Gujarat and the second largest district of India. Kachchh literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kachchh which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons.
Bhuj is a city and a municipality in Kachchh in the state of Gujarat, India. Bhuj is home to one of the first Swaminarayan Sampraday temples, built in 1822. The Kutch Utsav commencing on the last day of February is a window to this ancient land of heroism and romance. Places to visit are Kachchh Museum, Darbargarh Palace, Kutch Desert Festival, Kutch Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Great Rann of Kutch, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary etc.
Maharao Lakhpatji's old palace, built in traditional Kutchi style, is in a small fortified courtyard in the old part of the city. It's a beautifully presented museum and is one of the highlights of a visit to Bhuj. The entrance to the palace houses the tourist office, and this is also the site of the Maharao Madansinhji Museum, which has a varied collection of paintings, photos and embroideries. There's a 15m long scroll depicting the Royal Procession of Maharao Shri Pragmalji Bahadur (1838-75). Check out the expression on the last blue-turbaned figure in this epic painting he looks quite peeved at having to ignobly bring up the up the of the procession!
The real attraction here, though, is the Hall of Mirrors, created by the master artisan, Ram Singh Malam, under the patronage of his poet-ruler, Maharao Shri Lakhpatji around the middle of the 18th century. A blend of Indian and European artistry (Ram Singh acquired, his skills in Europe), the walls of the great hall are of white marble covered by mirrors separated by gilded ornaments, lighting being provided by elaborate candelabra, with shades of Venetian glass.
Another remarkable feature is the pleasure pool, in the middle of which rises a square platform where the maharao composed his poems and gave encouragement to the classical arts of dancing girls, bards and musicians.
Spend some time with what could be the world's first signboards. See if you can glean any meaning from the ancient letters, and be the first to decipher the code.
Banni Grasslands Reserve or Banni grasslands form a belt of arid grassland ecosystem on the outer southern edge of the desert of the marshy salt flats of Rann of Kutch in Kutch District, Gujarat State, India. They are known for rich wildlife and biodiversity and are spread across an area of 3,847 square kilometers. They are currently legally protected under the status as a Protected or Reserve Forest in India.
The word 'Banni' comes from Hindi and Sanskrit word 'banai', meaning made. The grasslands are home to mammals such as the Nilgai, Chinkara, Blackbuck, Wild boar, Golden Jackal, Indian Hare, Indian Wolf, Caracal, Asiatic Wildcat and Desert Fox etc. among others. This grassland reserve as one of the last remaining habitats of the Cheetah(Yiger) in India
It is a famous Jain pilgrimage centre. The architecture of the ancient Shiva temple is such that the presiding deity is visible from the ground floor as well as the first floor, with some beautiful sculpture chiselled on the outer walls. The tour will also cover stepwell, Sol Thambhi Mosque, Jagdu Shah Palace, Lal Shabhar Mosque, Chokunda Mahadev Temple - a visit that will expose you to many religious traditions of India, congregated in one region.
A Kutchi cultural center, located further south along College Road (which leads away from the lake past Alfred High School, the Ramkund stepwell and the Swaminarayan temple), the B.S.D. contains an excellent collection of Kutchi folk art and crafts, especially from the more remote regions of the district, collected by a forest service official as he traveled around doing government work. There are also exhibits of rural architecture, paintings, textile arts and archaeological specimens.
A small town just 8 km southeast of Bhuj, Bhujodi is a major textile center of Kutch, with the vast majority of the 1200 inhabitants involved in textile handicraft production. Here you can meet weavers, tie-dye artists and block printers, most of whom belong to the Vankar community. Many will let you watch them work; just ask around.
About a kilometer from Bhujodi is the Ashapura Crafts Park, set up by a corporate non-profit wing to help artisans display and sell their work and organizes dance and music events on weekends. Shrujan is a local non-profit set up 40 years ago to allow women to market their work better and earn a better living from it. The Shrujan campus is an interesting place to visit, with embroidery exhibits, a production center and excellent examples of local architecture with environmental awareness in mind.
The Chari-Dhand wetland conservation reserve is located on the edge of arid Banni grasslands and the marshy salt flats of the Rann of Kutch in Kutch District, Gujarat State in India. It is currently legally protected under the status as a Protected or Reserve Forest in India.
Chari means salt affected and Dhand means shallow wetland, Dhand is a Sindhi word for a shallow saucer shaped depression. This is a seasonal desert wetland and only gets swampy during a good monsoon, receiving water from the north flowing rivers as well as from the huge catchment areas of many surrounding big hills. It is spread over an area of 80 sq.km. It is home to nearly two lakh birds with migratory and endangered species of birds flocking into the area in thousands during monsoon and winters.
This historic palace complex, erected in various stages, is an intricate maze. It has three sections separated by open courtyards. The palace is built in typical medieval Rajput style with fabulous carved jharoka balconies, jail -screens and cupolas offering splendid views of the old fort, which now houses a government office and a school.
A major center of the ajrakh block-printing technique, Dhamadka is about 50 km east of Bhuj. Some artisans have now relocated to Ajrakhpur, closer to the city, since the earthquake of 2001.
Stand in the middle of the stadium, close your eyes, breathe in the dry air, imagine what events might have taken place there and who might have stood at exactly that spot 4000 years ago. Move to the edge of the stadium and imagine the excitement a spectator sitting in that very seat might have felt.
The Great Rann of Kutch also called Greater Rann of Kutch or just Rann of Kutch, is a seasonally marshy saline clay desert located in the Thar Desert biogeographic province in the Kutch District, state of Gujarat situated 8 km away from village Kharaghoda located in the Surendranagar District. The Rann of Kutch comprises some 30,000 square kilometres (10,000 sq mi) between the Gulf of Kutch.
An excellent place to cool off on a hot afternoon, Hamirsar Lake is where people go to swim, or sit under a tree and enjoy the water, as well as where many women do their laundry. Walking along the lake's edge is a great way to get from one place to another, with the Aina Mahal and Praga Mahal, the Kutch Museum, the Ramkund Stepwell and Ram Dhun Temple, the Swaminarayan Temple and the Alfred High School all located very close to the eastern side of the lake; a walk from the Aina Mahal to the Swaminarayan Temple (passing all the other sites mentioned) takes about half an hour. Further around the other side of the lake is the Sharad Baug palace, and the road to the royal chhatardis.
Kutchi handicrafts, renowned the world over, are in abundance in Bhuj, from elaborately embroidered clothing and luxurious quilts to block-printing, heavy silver jewelry and woodcarving. Or better yet, you can use Bhuj as a base for excursions to surrounding towns and villages to meet artisans and their families, see the work being done and buy crafts directly from the artisans themselves. This allows more of the income to go directly to the craftsmen and more importantly, creates a relationship between the maker of an item and its eventual owner, in which each one meets the other, learns something about the other's life and shares a bit of their own identity and background. You will quite likely find the personal interaction more valuable than the commercial one and the memory of the visit will stay with you even if you give away what you bought as gifts.
The Kutch Museum was originally known as the Fergusson Museum after its founder, Sir James Fergusson, a governor of Mumbai under the Raj. Built in 1877, it's the oldest museum in Gujarat and has an excellent collection. The well maintained exhibits (labelled in English and Gujarati) include a picture gallery, an anthropological section, archaeological finds, textiles, weapons, musical instruments, a shipping section and, of course, stuffed beasts.
Just 22 kms south of Bhuj on the road to Mandra, Kera houses the ruins of a Shiva Temple that dates to the era of the Solanki rulers. Only part of the temple remains, as much was destroyed in the 1819 earthquake, but the inner sanctum is still there, as well as half of the main spire. The Fort of Kapilkot, also in a rather rundown state, is next to the temple.
The town has excellent potters and leather craftsmen (indicating a heavy Muslim presence, as Hindus do not use leather), and ajrakh blockprinting at khatrivas. The KMVS office in Khavda sells embroidered handmade dolls and other textile products and is run by local women. Khavda is also the departure point to visit the world's largest flamingo colony, at a lake in the desert out past Jamkundaliya, where a half million flamingos stop over on their migrations every year. The flamingo colony can only be reached by camel and is best visited in the winter.
After traveling over the expanse of desert in western Kutch, you find the Koteshwar Temple, at a place where the immensity of dry land meets the incomprehensible vastness of the sea. The only point that breaks the skyline from the flat brown horizon to the east and the wide blue horizon to the west is the point of the Koteshwar Temple, the last outpost of human construction at the westernmost limit of India. Not overrun by tourists like the temple at Dwarka, Koteshwar is conducive to contemplating emptiness, pondering the place of humanity on earth.
A visit to Kutch Desert Festival, offers access to the interior and beautiful recesses of the region of Kutch, situated in Gujarat, India. A visit to Kutch Desert Festival, offers an insight into the region which comprises of expansive wastelands and eerie landscapes to the excitement of a large number of tourists who come to visit Gujarat, situated in India. Kutch is a large inundated section of land bearing similarities with the American Wild West. Kutch, situated in Gujarat, India, can also be equated with a Desert in some terrains.
The Kutch Festival, is celebrated in Kutch, near the days when Shivratri is celebrated in Gujarat, India. During the celebration of Kutch Desert Festival, colorfully attired dancers, music concerts, Sindhi Bhajan performances, Langa Desert Music and shops selling embroideries and jewelry are too, the hallmarks of the Kutch Desert Festival, being celebrated in Gujarat, India.
Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Great Rann of Kutch, Kutch district, Gujarat, India, it was declared a sanctuary in February 1986. It is one of the largest seasonal saline wetlands having an average water depth between 0.5 to 1.5 metres. By October-November each year, rain water dries up and the entire area turns into saline desert. The sanctuary supports wide variety of water birds and mammalian wildlife.
The northern boundary of this sanctuary forms the international border between India and Pakistan and is heavily patrolled by the Border Security Force in India with much of this sanctuary being closed to civilians after the India Bridge at Kala dungar (Black hill), Khavda. Tourists and researchers can only enter here with special permission from the BSF.
Rainy season to the end of winters is the best time to enjoy this wondrous sanctuary. The most ideal way to enjoy this retreat is, taking a walk around the natures cradle while befriending various species of the Bustard family. Look around for the Black and Gray Francolin, the Spotted and Indian Sangrouse, Quails, Larks, Shrikes, Coursers and Plovers. And if you are lucky, you might catch fluttering glimpses of rare species of Stolicska's Bushchat and White-naped Tit. If you keep walking northwards towards the coastal area of Jakhau during winters, you might get greeted by large flocks of flamingos, Herons, Egrets, Sandpipers and other birds dwelling in the salt-reservoirs and the creek.
Lakhpat has religious significance for three of India's most populous religions: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, reportedly camped here on his journey to Mecca. The site later became a gurudwara, which holds some of Nanak's possessions; Pir Ghaus Muhammed, a Sufi mystic who from the age of twelve devoted himself to spiritual practice and reportedly practiced half as a Hindu and half as a Muslim, is buried here in Lakhpat. His tomb is a stone construction with very complex carvings and a water tank that is said to have healing properties for skin problems; Sayyed Pir Shah's nine-domed mausoleum has intricate carvings, doors, windows and jaalis.
Mandvi has one of the most beautiful beaches in Gujarat. The beach; attraction in Mandvi is main attraction. As every day hundred of travelers and follower of God swaminarayan take bath and take rest there. This beach is really holy as God swaminarayan and His great saints had taken bath there before 175 years ago. Since many followers go there daily to enjoy both bodily and eternally.
Another port town on the south coast of Kutch, Mundra was well-known for salt and spice trading in the past and now more for tie-dye and block-print textiles. The harbor is virtually unusable today, and only small local fishing craft navigate its silted waterways up the river.
The Mahadev temple has memorials to famous Mundra sailors, including some who advised the Sultan of Zanzibar and guided Vasco da Gama to India. Darya Pir, the patron saint of Kutchi fisherpeople, arrived here from Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan) in 1660. He was well-loved by the locals, introduced them to Islam, and they built the shrine that bears his name here when he died; this site still receives visitors of many religious backgrounds seeking blessings. The Mughal Emperor built a gate in his honor, which still stands and is known today as the Mughal Gate. Interestingly, the walls of the old city fortifications have a religious origin, as they were dragged from the ruins of the Jain city of Bhadreshwar.
Narayan Sarovar Lake is one of the 5 holy lakes of Hinduism, along with Mansarovar in Tibet, Pampa in Karnataka, Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and Pushkar in Rajasthan. The lake is associated with a time of drought in the Puranic area, when Narayan (a form of Lord Vishnu) appeared in response to the fervent prayers of sages and touched the land with his toe, creating the lake, now revered as holy to bathe in (though this is not recommended).
There are temples to Shri Trikamraiji, Laxminarayan, Govardhannathji, Dwarkanath, Adinarayan, Ranchodraiji and Laxmiji, built by the wife of Maharao Desalji. These are of more interest to those on religious pilgrimage here; other visitors are likely to find Koteshwar a more interesting option.
Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary also popularly known as Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary or Narayan Sarovar Chinkara Sanctuary. Narayan Sarovar is home to a wide array of wildlife, including many species (15 of which are considered threatened) of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The principle species here is the chinkara, an Indian gazelle. In this harsh landscape, only animals well-adapted to the desert climate can thrive, with extreme heat, high winds, and frequent storms. For this reason, many species can be seen here that are not easy to find elsewhere.
Most of Narayan Sarovar is desert thorn forest and scrub forest, with some seasonal wetlands and dry savannah-type vegetation as well. Gorad and babul are the prevailing plant species; gorad in the east and babul in the west. Also found among the 252 species of flowering plants in the sanctuary are hermo, ber, pilu, thor, gugal, salai, ingorio, kerdo, carissa, and the invasive ?gando baawal" (prosopsis juliflora), though less so than in other nearby areas.
This healing centre, based on naturopathic remedies and M.K. Gandhi's ideas of ?nature cure", offers treatment for a wide variety of conditions, using everything from ayurvedic and herbal remedies to panchakarma, acupuncture, meditation, prayer, and yoga asanas.. On the Bhuj-Mandvi road near Punadi Patiya village, the centre also maintains 40 hectares of organic farmland on which they grow fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants.
Built in the 1860's and 70s in a Venetian-Gothic style, Pragmalji's Palace has pointed Gothic arches, classical colonnades and European truss timber roofs. The massive staircases and deep passages are floored with colorful Minton tiles and lined with handrails on classical balusters. The highlight is the Darbar Hall, which has Corinthian pillars, molded ceilings, huge Venetian chandeliers, Greco-Roman statutory, classical balustrade galleries and ceiling murals of Shakespearean characters. The furnishing is in the Victorian-Edwardian and art deco style. The Hall, which has a collection of hunting trophies, has now been converted into a museum.
It is about 35 Kms from Bhuj. It is a 9th/10th century A.D. temple raised on a high plinth and has some fine sculpture on display.
Across from the Kutch Museum and behind the Ram Dhun Temple, the Ramkund well is a square stepwell, 56 feet on a side, with sculptures portraying characters from the Ramayana, such as Lord Ram, Devi Sita, Lakshman and Lord Hanuman, as well as the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu along the walls. On your walk down to the water you experience a sudden calm and coolness not to be found on the road above and in the quiet, you can pause for a while to reflect on your experiences. The Ram Dhun Temple, just in front of the well, is also worth a quick visit.
About a 20-minute walk southwest of Hamirsar lake, through open areas that no longer seem like you're in the city, are the royal cenotaphs (memorials to those not actually buried there and, in this case, not buried at all but cremated). Many of the monuments are in ruins due to earthquakes, but those of Lakhpatji, Raydhanji II and Desarji are still quite intact. The site is very quiet, out in the middle of a field, not surrounded by buildings, and is very peaceful in morning or evening, though in the middle of the day it can be quite hot under bright sun.
14 kms from Bhuj, on the road to Khavada, this temple, located at a scenic spot on the banks of the river Khari, is the presiding deity of the Maharajas of Kutch - the Jadeja family. According to mythology, it is 400 years old. A stone's throw away from the temple is the Garha Safari Lodge, a theme hotel that has a panoramic view of the river and offers an experience of staying in bhoongas , the traditional dwellings of the villagers but with all the modern comforts.
The last maharao died in the UK in 1991 and his palace to the east of the lake has been turned into a small museum. A retreat of the Maharaos of Kutch, this museum displays a collection of silver caskets, stuffed tigers, elephant tusks and even Maharao Madan Sinhji's tennis trophies! The folk museum has a re-created Kutchi village in the forecourt and an outstanding collection of beadwork, embroidery, leather articles, woodcarvings, pottery, and historic relics.
Dated around the first century AD, Siyot Caves have an east facing sanctum and an ambulatory. Siyot must have been on of the 80 monastic sites that the 7th century Chinese travellers reported at the mouth of Indus River.
Like most Swaminarayan temples, this one has the typical brightly colored woodcarvings around the building, mostly depicting Lord Krishna and Radha. Located just down the road from the Ramkund Stepwell and the Alfred High school, the temple marks the spot where Swaminarayan sat with local holy men when he came through Bhuj.
25 kms north of Khavda, the top of the Black Hills is the highest point in Kutch, at 462 m. From here, the entire northern horizon vanishes into the Great Rann, the desert and sky often becoming indistinguishable. Looking out from the Black Hills, you can understand the tremendous effort that those who undertake the crossing of the Great Rann have to make. Since this is one of the places where a civilian can get closest to the Pakistan border, there is an Army post at the top; beyond here, only military personnel are allowed. The hill is also the site of a 400-year-old temple to Dattatreya, the three-headed incarnation of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva in the same body.
Built in 1929 by Rao Vijayrajji, this palace is very well-maintained, and often the scene of filming for Bollywood productions. It was built of red sandstone in the Rajput style, with a main central dome, Bengal domes at the sides, bastions at the corner, and colored glass windows. The balcony at the top affords a superb view of the surrounding area, and the king's tomb can also be seen.
It is situated in the Little Rann Of Kachchh. It is well known for its Wild Ass sanctuary. This Wild Ass is known as Khar Gaddha. It is a sturdy creature, which can gallop at the speed of 50 Kms. per hour.
The Little Rann of Kutch is located close by and is famous for the Indian Wild Ass sanctuary, where the worlds last population of Indian Wild Ass still exists along with the Indian Wolf, Desert Fox, Golden Jackal, Chinkara, Nilgai, and Blackbuck.
- Snake Temple at Bhujiyo Hill Fort, Vegetable Market, Shipbuilding Yard at Mandvi, Alfred High School, Hatkeshwar Temple, Koday Jain Temple, Pingleshwar Beach, Kasi Vishvanath Beach, Topansar Lake, Rukmavati bridge, Gandhidhaam etc.