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Gujarat

Gujarat

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Gujarat has been exposed to people from far off lands coming here to trade or settle, the Muslims, Zorastrians, Portugese etc. The cultural mix combined with over 4500 years of history has endowed Gujarat with some of the greatest historical and archaeological monuments. While Lothal offers an unparalleled insight of the Harappan civilization, Ahmedabad has specimens of Indo-Sarcenic architecture, Palitana has a profusion of temples in the Jain style, Junagadh displays Buddhist caves and Rajput architecture appears all over different parts of Gujarat.

Gujarat today offers a wide range of the most spectacular attractions - which includes breathtaking locations and scenic landscapes. Gujarat is also a melting pot of several civilizations resulting in a vibrant culture and a rich heritage. Gujarat is home to several architectural marvels, witnesses of its glorious history and pilgrim centres for many faiths. Finally, it is also the land of several mythological & historical figures like the legendary Krishna and Mahatma Gandhi the apostle of non-violence.

Fairs and Festivals

70 kites on a single line!

International Kite Festival
The International Kite Festival is always held at Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. It is a joyous day, with a bright sun, clear skies and breezes strong enough to lift innumerable kites aloft. It is in fact a celebration to mark the end of winter, when the heat of summer is still to come. Kites are flown all over Gujarat, and Ahmedabad and Baroda become cities of kite-flyers.The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! The temples are thronged with visitors and alms are distributed freely. The excitement does not end with nightfall, which is the time for illuminated box kites, often in a series strung on one line, to be launched into the sky. Called "tukkals", they add a touch of splendour to the dark sky. Today, an International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad, which draws visitors from all over the world. The visitor is naturally curious to learn more about kites, and his curiosity can be satisfied at the Museum, which presents briefly and colourfully, the history of kites. For instance, we learn that in 200 B.C. Huan Thang of China flew a kite at night to overawe the army of the Han dynasty. From 100 B.C. to A.D. 500, kites were used for sending signals and to measure the distance of enemy camps. By A.D. 930, the Japanese mention "Shiroshi", meaning paper bird, for the first time. Between A.D. 960 and 1126, kite-flying become a popular sport in China. The 9th day of the 9th month was a day when kites were flown to banish evil. In Indian literature, kites were mentioned for the first time in " Madhumati" by Manzan, and were called "patang", which is the word still used today.

Kutch Mahotsava
Like so many other regions of Gujarat, Kutch has its own distinctive character. It is, in fact, a peninsula, lying between the Sir river, the Sir Creek and the Great Rann of Kuteh on the north-west, and the Gulf of Kuteh on the east. The country is somewhat bare and wild, with some cultivated fields near the villages. It has a remarkably heterogenous population, who belong to 18 different tribes, each with its own language and culture. Yet Kutch, with its colourful people, historic towns, and remarkable handicrafts, has much of interest to offer visitors.

Navratri
Navratri, meaning 'nine nights', is an ancient and colourful festival. It honours the one Divine Shakti or Force which supports the entire universe, and is personified as the Mother Goddess. She protects her worshippers, destroys evil and grants boons to her children. The Mother Goddess has seven well - known forms, depending upon the special powers she manifests. Throughout Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with joy and religious fevour.

Another interesting feature of Navratri is the garba. a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a garbo , filled with water. A betel nut and a silver coin are placed within the pot, called a kumbh, on top of which a coconut has also been placed. As the dancers whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provide the musical accompaniment. The participants clap in a steady rhythm. Nowadays, loudspeakers are used to enhance the sound which grows to a crescendo. The dance usually starts slowly. It gets faster and faster as the music too gets more rapid, until the dance abruptly comes to a halt. 

Another dance which is also a feature of Navaratri is the dandia-ras or `stick` dance, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or dandias. As they whirl to the intoxicating rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandias together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. So popular are the garba and the dandia-ras that competitions are held to assess the quality of the dancing. Prizes are given to those judged to be the best. The costumes worn for the dances are traditional and alive with colour. The dances usually commence late in the night and continue until early morning, testifying to their great popularity.

The Tarnetar fair

Trinetreshwer Mahadev Fair, Tarnetar
There are many fairs in Gujarat where numerous tribal people-gather on special occasions to participate in the various activities that take place at the fair, whether these are religious or secular, and to enjoy themselves thoroughly. The Trinetreshwer Mahadev Fair at Tarnetar, near the industrial town of Thangadh, Saurashtra, is one such fair. It is believed that the fair has been held on this ancient site since antiquity. The fair is linked with the story of Draupadi`s swayamvar and it is said that it was at this place that the great archer Arjuna performed the difficult task that won him his bride. A pole was erected in the centre of the kund and a fish was kept rotating at the top of the pole, at top speed The contestant was supposed to climb up, balance himself with one foot on each of the two scales suspended there and looking at the reflection of the fish in the kund, pierce its eye with an arrow.

Matchmaking at Tarnetar today
Today`s tribal youths also visit Tarnetar, as it is usually called, to find a suitable match, although they do not have to emulate Arjuna`s remarkable feat. Elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoat and headcloth twisted at an angle on their heads, they hold large colourful embroidered umbrellas which indeed have become emblems of the fair. The umbrellas, embroidered by them for over a year, and their hair styles, reveal their bachelor status. It is not surprising that, before the fair is over, they usuually meet the lady of their choice! Tarnetar is one of the most important matchmaking melas. Its associations with the Mahabharat are underlined by the fact that the area is known as Panchal Pradesh the land of the Panchal clan, to which Draupadi belonged. The sand here is reddish in colour. This too is supposed to have been characteristic of Draupadi`s homeland.

The Shiva Temple at Tarnetar

As this is one of the most important fairs of Gujarat`s Saurashtra region, the Tarnetar fair, as it is usually called, is attended by at least 50,000 people. The participants are tribal people belonging to various groups, such as the Koli, Bharwad, Rabari, Khant, Kanbi, Kathi, Charan, and other castes. In recent years, visitors travel there from places as far afield as Ahmedabad. Even foreigners visit Tarnetar in growing numbers, due to its unique character.

Bhadra Purnima, Ambaji
The shrine of the Goddess Ambaji located in the village bearng her name, lies at the foothills of the Aravalli mountain range. It is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its origins are lost in the mists of time. The temple of Ambaji is recognised as one of the original Shakti pithas where, according the ancient scriptures written about the goddess, the heart of the Goddess Ambaji fell to earth, when her body was dismembered. It is said that the tonsorial ceremony of Shri Krishna was performed at Ambaji!

Bhadra Purnima Fair
On full moon days there is a virtual festival at Ambaji, but the full moon of Bhadrapad is one of the four most important festival days of the year, when agriculturists go to the temple in their thousands, along with members of the general public. There is a large fair on this occasion, while in the evening performances of Bhavai are held, and garba programmes are organised. The devout attend readings of the Saptashati, the seven hundred verses in praise of the goddess, and visit the temple for an auspicous view, darshan, of her.

Modhera Dance Festival

The Sun Temple, Modhera, and the Dance Festival

The ruins of the 11th century Sun Temple at Modhera in North Gujarat, are an impressive sight. It stands on a knoll in the village of Modhera, eighteen miles south of Anhilvad, the former Hindu capital of Gujarat. Modhera was evidently a site of great importance at one time.

Shamlaji Melo, Shamlaji (Kartik Purnima Fair)
Shamlaji, on the Ahmedabad-Delhi road, was once a town of great historical significance. It is 80 kms from Ahmedabad and 32 kms from Himatnagar. The Shamlaji Temple is a renowned Vaishnav shrine, and the deity housed therein is known by various names including Gadadhar - bearer of the mace - and Shaksi Gopal.

The Shamlaji Fair
This is also called the Kartik Pumima Fair and is held during the month of November, every year. It lasts for about two weeks . During this period, nearly 200,000 people of all communities and castes including the Garasias & Bhils, visit the fair from Rajasthan. Apart from a darshan of the deity in the temple, a bath in the river Meshwo is. Considered essential.

Tourism

Gujarat has a wealth of tourist spots. It has several temples,sunny beaches,the rann of kachchh,historic sites, beautiful cities,national parks and sanctuaries.

Temples and religious sites
Dwarkanath Temple is situated at Dwarka and is one of the important temples dedicated to lord Krishna.It is on the tip of the Arabian Sea and is famous for being the legendary home of Lord Krishna, the eighth Avatara of Vishnu, hero of the Mahabharata epic. Ancient ruins of a city and temple complex found underwater suggest a historical basis for the legend. The Rann of Kutchch covers a large portion of western Gujarat, and is world-famous for its rare ecosystem, fossils, wildlife and terrain.

Palitana Temples are a complex of Jain temples situated 51 km south west of Bhavnagar. There are 863 temples from base to the peak of the Shatrunjaya hill, where the Palitana temples are located.

Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India is one of the twelve Jyotirlings (golden lingas)or symbols of the God Shiva. It is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Somnath means "The Protector of Moon God". The Somnath Temple is known as 'the Shrine Eternal', as the temple has been destroyed six times, but was rebuilt on each occasion. Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar is the most famous one.

Modhera Sun Temple is famous for its rare position as specifically and uniquely designed for the worship of the Sun, Lord Surya. While the main temple is beautifully and intricately designed with complex architecture, painting and sculptures, there is a central pond and surrounding it stand 108 small temples for each of the Sun God's 108 names.

Shankheshwar Jain Temples are dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankar, Lord Parshvanath. It is believed that this idol bas revealed by Lord Krishna himself, by the teachings of Arisht Nemi the 22nd Tirthanakra. It is near Ahmedabad.

Patan houses 84 magnificant Jain Temples built by Samrat Kumarpal, who was a staunch disciple of Hemchandracharya, a jain monk. Girnar is an epitome of communal harmony & amicable relations among jains & hindus.

National parks and sanctuaries
Gujarat has 4 National parks and 21 sanctuaries which include: Nal Sarovar, Anjal, Balaram-Ambaji, Barda, Jambughoda, Jessore, Kachchh Desert, Khavda, Narayan Sarovar, Paniya, Purna, Rampura, Ratanmahal, and Surpaneshwar.

Gujarat is the only home of Asiatic Lions. Outside Africa, Gujarat is the only natural habitat of lions. Gir National Park in south-west part of the state covers only the part of lion's habitat. Besides lions, the other big cat can be found in the state are Panthers. Panthers are spread across large plains of Saurashtra and mountains of South Gujarat.

Historic sites
Lothal is the site of the ancient ruins of the first Indian port, dating from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

Dholavira, the ancient city, locally known as Kotada Timba, is one of the largest and most prominent archaeological sites in India, belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is located on the Khadir island in the Kutch district of Gujarat - the island is surrounded by water in the monsoon season. The site was occupied from about 2900 BC for about a millennium, declining slowly after about 2100, briefly abandoned and then reoccupied, finally by villagers among its ruins, until about 1450. 

While the city of Ahmedabad is a large and fast-growing modern metropolis, it was also the home of the Indian Independence Movement, with the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi a standing legacy. Other major tourist sites include Palitana, Diu, Kutch, Jamnagar, Junagadh, and Rajkot in the region of Saurashtra; and Champaner and Pavagarh in the Panchmahal district.

Beaches

A 1600km. long coastline, the longest in India, binds the state of Gujarat from the west. It is dotted with some really fine beaches like those of Ahmedpur-Mandvi, Kutch-Mandvi, Chorwad and Gopnath. The coast was also a historical centre with interesting Portugese forts, shore temples, princely port cities and beach palaces.

 

Gopnath Beach
A beautiful hamlet on the coast of the Gulf of Khambhat and at a distance of 10 Kms from Talaja, the taluka headquarter of Bhavnagar district is Gopnath. Vying for eminence on the tourist circuit with development of a heritage hotel- Gopnath Bungalow, it was a pleasant sea-shore retreat of Gohil rulers of Bhavnagar. The bungalow built in a European colonial style with cottages and mansions surrounding the courtyard faces the sea and offers a beautiful view of the gulf . It attracts marine life and birdwatching enthusiasts to the rocky shores on the coast. It is also renowed for the temple of Gopnath Mahadev, where Narsinh Mehta is believed to have performed penance.

Rozi and Bedi Ports
These are attractive seaside picnic spots and offer good fishing facilities. Rozi and Bedi Ports are two important ports on the shore of the mighty Arabian Sea. The two seaports offer wonderful sites for picnic. The seashore also provides for excellent opportunities for angling which is a popular pastime at Jamnagar.

 

Bet Dwarka
A ferry ride from Dwarka to the Island of Bet, near Okha, makes for a good picnic. About 30 km. from Dwarka is the famous pilgrim-centre of Vaishnavas. Here we have Rancchodrai Temple, Devki Temple and Temples of Chief Queens of Krishna, Mahaprabhuji Bethak, Bala Hanuman and Shankh Talav are other attractions. Situated about 35 kms. from Dwarka and 150 kms. from Jamnagar.

Ahmedpur Mandvi 
Ahmedpur Mandvi is one of the finest beaches on the Gujarat shoreline. The sea water is white and very perfect for swimming. Various water sports are offered like water scooters, skiing, surfing, para sailing, speed boat trips. Cottage Resort Magico Do Mar is one of the highlight of this beach offering airconditioned rooms, pleasant lawns, palm groves. The resort bungalow facing garden towards sea offers wonderful sights which should not be missed.

Diu island is a real pleasant surprise across the bridge from Ahmedpur Mandvi. Lying on the offshore of Gujarat mainland, minutes offshore from the mainland of Gujarat, yet has the feel of being like on a mediterranean island. Nothing can quite prepare you for the treasure-trove of Diu. Diu reflects the Portugese colonial period architecture like the churches, public buildings, bungalows with pastel shaded walls, truss roofs, terraces, galleries, clean wide road, neat clean beaches etc. Nagoa Beach is one of the most beautiful, white sanded, crescent shaped of quiet blue water and is perfect for swimming, wading, relaxing, water sports like jetskiing, knee board surfing, pony and camel riding. Other beaches here include Jalandhar a pleasant and quiet beach, Chakratirth Beach with sunset point, a Shiv Temple and a summer bungalow, Goghla Beach on the Diu union territory section, Simmer Beach promoting water sports, fishing, sailing etc., Gahirmata beach being made a resort soon.

Chorwad 
Built in 1928 by the erstwhile Nawab of Junagadh, Chorwad was a summer Palace retreat. It is 66 kms. from Junagadh and 23 kms. from the fishing centre of Veraval. It is a holiday resort with an isolated beach and is away from bazaars, crowds etc.

The sea here is not always calm but the pleasant climate invites a host of tourists every year. Chorwad is perfect for long beach walks and a quiet holiday.

Diu
Across Ahmedpur Mandvi lies the island of Diu, a sensuous blend of sun, sand and deep blue sea. Diu is situated 125 kms. from Junagadh.

It is one of the country's finest beaches, and tourists who keep falling in love with it have spread its name all over the world.

The island is also dotted by three Portuguese churches one which has been converted into a museum housing some rare Portuguese artifacts. Another cynosure at Diu is the Fort of Diu, an imposing statement of power.

Diu is a quiet secluded island measuring less than 40 sq.km. Off the west coast of India, it is connected to the mainland of Gujarat by a causeway. The total length of the coastline of Diu does not exceed 21 km.

This beautiful island in the Arabian Sea has the river Chasi running along its northern frontier. It's neat golden beaches run along merrily providing blissful solitude in blue waters beneath blu skies.

A former Portuguese enclave, Diu is perhaps the most exotic destination on the West Coast of India. Gently rocked by the winds and waves of the Arabian Sea, Diu is an ideal retreat. It offers the most desirable blend of sun, sand and sea. The climate is pleasant throughout the year. Nobody and nothing is in a hurry. Here you will find undisturbed peace and a unique holiday.

WHAT TO SEE

Nagoa Beach, Fortress of Panikot, St. Paul's Church, Jallandhar Shrine, Gangeshwar Temple, Navlakha Parshvanath Temple, Jama Masjid, Diu Museum 

Mandvi 
Mandvi, founded in 1581 A.D. is an ancient seaport. Mandvi is situated about 75 kms. from Bhuj. It is well known for its production of handicraft items particularly its relief, filigree and enamel work and its virtually unspoilt sea beaches. The Rukmavati bridge is the longest stone bridge, built in 1883 A.D. and the Vijay Vilas palace are the major tourist spots in this destination.

 

Hazira and Tithal
The industrial capital of South Gujarat, Hajira is situated 28 kms. from Surat. The pleasant Hajira beach is fringed by feathery casurina trees and has a comfortable holiday home for the visitors. This place is home to the biggest industrial powerhouses in the nation. Tithal is situated 108 kms. from Surat and 5 kms. from Valsad. It is a beautiful sandy beach with palm-sheltered cottages. Ubharat is another fine sandy beach situated 42 kms from Surat.