Situated in the western coast of India, Gujarat is a state with the longest coastline in the country and known for its rich cultural heritage, traditional handicrafts and natural diversity. Propelled by the brilliant campaign conducted by the Gujarat Tourism Board featuring its brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, Gujarat has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The state has something to offer to every kind of traveller – be it someone looking for adventure, places of historical significance, spirituality, tranquillity or being close to nature. Here is a glimpse of the places to visit in the vibrant state of Gujarat – a land that will leave you mesmerised by its beauty and richness.
Gir National Park
The last refuge of the majestic Asiatic lions, Sasan Gir or the Gir Forest provides a secure habitat to the lions that were once on the brink of extinction. The forest is a stable ecosystem with rich biodiversity – it has close to 40 species of mammals, 300 species of birds and over 600 plant species. As a tourist, one can take a safari through the sanctuary in three different time slots, starting as early as six in the morning. If you are lucky, you can spot one of the 400-odd lions that call this forest their home.
Situated close to the Gir forest is the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra that is located close to the beach. In fact, one of the Sanskrit inscriptions on the temple pillar states that the temple was built such that there is no piece of land in between if you drew a line between the Somnath temple shore and Antarctica. The temple holds an important place in the history of the country since it has been destroyed and rebuilt over six times by different rulers and invaders.
Whether you are spiritual or not, put the temple on your list for its sheer architectural marvel, the peace of mind that it offers and to witness how faith keeps people in the country going. If you plan to visit the temple, we’d suggest you do so to catch the aarti with hymns, drums and bells that leaves the atmosphere supercharged. The temple also holds a sound and light show in the night that lets you experience the ethereal beauty of the temple with the waves of the ocean in the backdrop
Another temple in Gujarat that is extremely popular is the Dwarkadeesh temple that is supposedly about 2000 years old and built by Lord Krishna’s great grandson in the city that was the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom. The temple is situated along the Arabian Sea and its architectural beauty is such that this five storied temple appears to rise from the ocean. Go and pay a visit to view its rich splendour, exquisite carvings on limestone and sandstone and to experience the various sights, and sounds that the congregation of humanity at the temple has to offer.
Laxmi Vilas Palace
This impressive and imposing Laxmi Vilas Palace is one of the major attractions of Baroda. The palace boasts of luxe interiors, elaborate mosaic work, expansive grounds and rich chandeliers and artwork that can leave you spellbound. A portion of the palace has been thrown open to the public and can be explored through a one-hour audio tour.
When in Ahmedabad, you can eat, shop and explore the vast diversity of the city to your heart’s content, but the one thing you should not miss is the Sabarmati Ashram. Located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, this leafy oasis was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi for over twelve years. The ashram houses a museum that consists of letters written by Gandhiji, photographs that vividly capture the major events in his life and various relics that give us a glimpse of the freedom struggle. When at the ashram, one can also visit the Gandhi’s cottage, called Hriday Kunj located in the ashram. The best way to explore the ashram is through the 90-minute guided walking tour that ends at the library. You can then take in the glorious view of the Sabarmati river from the ashram and soak in the beauty amidst a hundred chirping birds nesting on the trees in the ashram.
The district of Kutch in Gujarat is famous all over the world for its prolific textile art and its rustic beauty. The area stretches in the form of an endless desert all the way till the horizon. The vast expanse of white desert is a sight to behold on full moon nights, especially in the months of December – February when the weather is at its coolest best. This is also the time when the state plays hosts to enthusiastic tourists with the Rann Utsav that offers a sample of the local culture- spectacular sights of the glistening desert under the moon coupled with great food, music, outdoor activities and not to forget a glimpse of the Kutch handicrafts.
Kutch is perhaps the region that produces India’s finest handicrafts. The tribals who dot the different villages of this area work magic with thread and mirrors to create a jigsaw of designs that are unrivalled in their beauty. If you are a handicraft lover, then a stopover at Kutch must feature in your itinerary and be sure to shop by the truckloads while you are there!
Gujarat is a land replete with rich heritage and unparalleled vibrancy. The ‘Jewel of West India’ as it is known is a thriving business hub and a great place to sample Visit the state to get a glimpse of a seamless mix of the traditional and modern India that is an experience like no other.
Image credit: Girnationalpark, Wikipedia, onlinemirrors, holidayiq,facenfacts