Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Gujarat Diaries -3

Overview: Started the day early with a visit to the Narara Marine Park near Jamnagar. We didn't have much info about this place, but still headed out hoping for some surprises. We reached the place at around 7:30am, but the ticket counter didn't open until 8:15am. We took the tickets and there were some guides also to be hired for Rs 300. We decided to explore the place on our own. We followed the path which other people were taking through some bushes and mangroves. Once the horizon expanded, we could see vast area of the Gulf of Kutch, with shallow waters and migratory birds flocking the waters. We walked for a km into the shallow waters, we could spot some corals, sea urchins and starfish. We turned back after spending an hour into the waters. This place is good to explore if we have plenty of time on hand.

Narara Marine Park

Narara Marine Park

Narara Marine Park
Narara Marine Park
From Narara we proceeded to Naganath Jyotirlinga temple, which is a part of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. The temple is a renovated structure and was not very crowded. After the darshan, we had Gujarati thali outside the temple.

Nagnath Jyotirling temple
From here, we went to Bet Dwarka, believed to be the main place of Lord Krishna's Dwarka. Several ancient remains have also been found on the seabed near Bet Dwarka. To reach here, one needs to park the vehicle at Okha, and take a ferry to reach Bet Dwarka. The ferry costs Rs 20 per head and starts only when it is completely loaded with people. We reached Bet Dwarka after 20 mins of cruise, but to our disappointment, the temple was closed and was supposed to open again at 4pm.

Bet Dwarka

Bet Dwarka

Bet Dwarka


As it was still 1:30pm, we decided to pray to Lord Krishna from the outside and head towards the Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka. We reached Dwarka at around 3:30pm and explored the newly built Sudama bridge and 5 tirthas while waiting for the temple to open. Mobile phones and Cameras are not allowed inside the main temple, so we left our stuff in the car and went inside the temple. The crowd was well managed and there was no chaos inside the temple. The Dwarkadhish temple is a majestic structure, which is almost built like a palace. In this temple, Lord Krishna is worshipped as the King of Dwarka. The current structure is built in an elaborate Chalukya style and dates back to the 15th century. This complex houses other shrines as well apart from the main Dwarkadhish. It normally takes around 1 hour to completely explore and admire the beauty of the temple. Outside the temple are the souveneir shops and restaurants. Dwarka town is believed to have submerged and rebuilt again several times in the last 5000 years.

Dwarkadhish temple and Sudama Bridge

After closing the day on a happy note, we checked into our hotel in Dwarka.

Day 3: Jamnagar - Narara Marine Park - Nagnath Jyotirling temple - Okha - Bet Dwarka - Dwarkadhish temple, Dwarka (228 km)

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Gujarat Diaries - 2

Overview: Anticipating a long day ahead, we started a bit early from Ahmedabad. It was pitch dark outside at 5:15am when we checked out of our hotel and headed north towards Kutch.
Our main point of interest was the Harappan metropolis of Dholavira, which was around 7 hours drive from Ahmedabad. We stopped somewhere on the highway for breakfast. We couldn't get anything immediately, so we bought some fruits to fill our stomach. We passed through some salt producing units at Surajbari. At Shikarpur, we stopped at hotel Ajanta for a brunch. We munched on some Aaloo Parathas and some tea to keep us going.

Salt Units
At around 11:30 am, we reached Rapar, the last major village on the way to Dholavira. After around 30 minutes of drive, we passed through Khadir Bet road, which bisects the Rann of Kutch. We stopped for a photo session, with vast desert of salt on the either side, and the other end could not be seen for miles. This geological wonder is a treat to the eyes, and not a soul could be seen for miles, giving an eerie feeling. At places, water from Rann of Kutch Lake formed small puddles which wore different colours like purple and green at a few places.

Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch
After a few minutes, we started from the place, and reached the Dholavira site at around 1:30pm. We hired a guide for a nominal fee of Rs 300 so that we get the detailed info on the place. We saw the citadel, the drainage systems, the 3rd century BCE marketplace, wells, some pillars probably for time calculating. At the entrance of the site was an Indus inscription, which is still not deciphered yet. Locals claim it marks the entrance to the city with a 'Welcome' board. A massive reservoir could be seen at the southern end of the site, used to collect rain water, or store the river water for drinking and irrigation purpose. After getting good info, we visited the Dholavira museum, which displays artifacts from the excavation of the site.

Dholavira

Dholavira

Dholavira

Dholavira

From here, we went to the Fossil Park, around 10kms from here. The road is a little less explored towards this park, and as we approach the site through a small hillock, we could see a vast expanse of salt desert, which extends all the way to Pakistan, which is just around 50kms from this place. We saw the wood fossils from the Jurassic age, around 180 million years old. Such wood and plant fossils are very rarely found in India.

Wood Fossil Park

Wood Fossil Park
After spending around 30 minutes here, we decided to head back as it was another long drive to Jamnagar where we had booked our accomodation. We took a tea break at Chitrod at around 6pm. We finally reached Jamnagar at around 9:10pm having driven close to 700kms in a day.
Day 2: Ahmedabad - Rapar - Dholavira Harappan metropolis - Wood Fossil Park - Chitrod - Jamnagar (644 km)

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Gujarat Diaries - 1

Overview: I decided to end the year of travels 2018 on a trip to Gujarat. Since we don't often visit these states, we decided to make the most of it and visit as many places as possible. Keeping budget constraints in mind, we booked SL class train tickets to and from Bangalore.
On 21st December, we started from Bangalore by Garib Nawaz express, reaching Ahmedabad on the 23rd, making way through the villages and towns of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. We reached Ahmedabad on 23rd morning at around 7am. We got the Zoomcar delivered at the railway station and we drove to our hotel where we checked in. We booked Zoomcar for 7 days and it cost us around Rs 30000 (fuel included).
Day 1 (Ahmedabad and around): After getting freshened up, we started towards Sabarmati Ashram, hoping for a restaurant to have breakfast. Unfortunately, all the restaurants we came across were either closed or were just opening. We realised later that Ahmedabad stays awake late at night and wakes up a bit late in the day.
We reached Sabarmati Ashram at around 9am and took a stroll around it. The Ashram displayed artifacts from Mahatma Gandhi's life and the history of India's freedom struggle. At the other side of the property, there was a pretty sight of Sabarmati river, where the riverfront has been developed and the landscaping has been done beautifully, with benches to relax and cycling and jogging pathways.
After spending some time at the ashram, we proceeded towards the Adalaj Stepwell. As per an inscription on the 1st floor, this ornamental stepwell was built in 1498 CE by wife of Vaghela chief Virasimha. The stepwell has 3 levels, each level displays an array of rectangular maze, a treat for the eyes. Though the visitors are not allowed lower than the 3rd level, one can still see a glimpse of some water at the bottom. Adalaj stepwell is one of the well visited places around Ahmedabad, and I would recommend this place as a must visit.
Sabarmati Riverfront

Sabarmati Ashram

Adalaj Stepwell

From Adalaj, we went to visit the Sun Temple at Modhera. Built in the mid 11th century by the Solanki king Bimadeva-I, this temple provides a magnificent sight, ranking next only to the Sun temple in Konark. The temple is located next to a detailed multilevel Stepwell, with idols of Gods carved on all sides of the stepwell.
The stepwell leads to the main temple through a Kirti Toran, a pillared doorway, again, beautifully carved. The main temple is also attractively carved with the details from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The main sanctum is supposed to have the image of Sun God, which was missing and could not be seen even after flashing light inside the sanctum sanctorum, which was locked. The deities of the Trinity- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva could be seen around the interiors of the temple. After taking a series of pictures, we decided to make our way out.

Sun Temple, Modhera


Sun Temple, Modhera

From here, we headed to Patan, to see the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rani ki Vav. Living upto its expectation, the stepwell was very intricately decorated with several levels below the surface. This stepwell was unknown until the 1960s, when the stepwell was visible only on the surface. It was excavated and the details were revealed to display the carvings of Gods and the scenes from the Hindu history. The stepwell was built by the queen of Bhimadeva-I in the last quarter of 11th century CE. Rani ki Vav is well connected by road and has an elaborate parking lot, making it convenient for the visitors.

Rani ki Vav

Rani ki Vav
Post this, we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel in Ahmedabad, as we had a long drive ahead on the following day.

Day 1: Ahmedabad - Sabarmati Ashram - Modhera Sun Temple - Rani ki Vav - Ahmedabad (263km)