The 12 Most Enchanting Places To Visit In Gujarat
Gujarat – a land where Krishna once lived, the state that boasts India’s largest coastline, the home to India’s richest businessmen and a land alive with colorful festivities – you just cannot NOT visit Gujarat! Read on to find out about the best places to visit in Gujarat.
Words By: Jovita Elveera Mendonca
A well-developed state that it is, Gujarat also nurtures history, religion, culture and wildlife to an extent that it is swamped by thousands of tourists all-year-round. It is the world’s only refuge for the Asiatic Lion and the Indian Wild Ass. Lined with stunning beaches and housing few of the oldest-most-beautiful architectural marvels and handicrafts, Gujarat also offers lip-smacking “Gujju” food that is served by the land’s warm and welcoming locals.
Our Top 12 Places To Visit In Gujarat:
1. Gir National Park – Only Place In The World To You Hear The Asiatic Lions Roar
Yes, you heard that right. The last pride of Asiatic lions in the world live in the woods of the Gir National Park, Gujarat. Once globetrotters, these proud creatures were pushed to the verge of extinction. But, thanks to the efforts of the Gujarat government, their numbers have been fairly increasing over the years. Visit Gir and embark on a wildlife safari to spot these lions freely roaming in the wilderness, just how they once used to. You will also spot over a hundred other species of wildlife on your grand quest to sight these magnificent beasts.
Watch this video of The Deccan Odyssey’s best places to visit in Gujarat and take a look at the majestic beasts of The Sasan Gir National Park:
2. Dwarka, Lord Krishna’s Abode
Dwarka was the ancient capital of Gujarat and also the glorious kingdom of Lord Krishna. Today, it is one of the four sacred Char Dham Hindu pilgrimage sites and is ranked as one of the seven most oldest religious destinations of India. It is believed that Krishna founded the city of Dvārakā(old name of Dwarka) with the blessings of Samudradev – the Lord of the Sea – who granted him 12 yojanas of land. He lived in Dvārakā for the rest of his life. It is said that after his death, the city submerged under a massive flood, thus returning it to the ocean.
Sounds interesting? Well then you must visit the Dwarkadheesh Temple during ‘Janmashtami‘ – a festival that celebrates Lord Krishna’s birth. It is celebrated with great ardour and the temple hosts a big fair that is lined with camels, local handicrafts and food stalls. You can savor authentic Gujarati dishes and shop for classic souvenirs here.
Another gripping fact about Dwarka is the discovery of underwater ruins of ancient Dvārakā (that was known to have submerged underwater) by archaeologists in the island of Bet Dwarka (30 km north of Dwarka). They’ve found a piece of wood, pottery fragments, withered stones(old hand tools), fossils and a tooth. After extensive research, the findings are noted to be 9,500 years old which is evidence enough for the existence of the city of Dvārakā. So, what can I say? Dwarka just isn’t all tales? Well, Maybe!
3. The Sun Temple, Modhera
The beautifuly carved Sun Temple, Modhera was built in 1026 CE by Bhimdev – a Solanki king of the Suryavanshi dynasty. Solankis were believed to be descendants of the sun and hence a temple dedicated to Surya, the Sun God. The Sun Temple has three main sections – the Surya Kund (Stepped Tank), the Sabha Mandap (Assembly Hall) and the Guda Mandap (Main Temple).
The Guda Mandap is so designed that on days of equinoxes, the first rays of sun fall directly over the idol of the sun God in the Garbhagriha (Main Shrine). On a summer solstice, the sun shines directly above the temple at noon, casting no shadow. The Surya Kund has 108 shrines carved into the steps that lead down to a water body that boasts a spectacular reflection of the temple. Although no worship takes place in the temple now, it is lit up during every third week of January for the Modhera dance festival that takes place in the premises every year.
Watch this video of The Deccan Odyssey’s best places to visit in Gujarat which gives you a glimpse into the eccentricities of the Sun Temple at Modhera:
4. Have You Tasted Gujarati Food?
When in Gujarat, eat like a ‘Gujju’!
Gujarati cuisine is loaded with a variety that will make you forget the world, and crave for more – this, even after a hearty meal! Here are a few must-try Gujarati food items that will leave your hunger-pangs perpetually satisfied.
A must-try is the famous Dhokla and its many versions served with tamarind chutney or green chutney. Also, the Handva – a savoury cake made of rice, dal and bottle gourd, Thepla served with pickles and various types of Indian curries, Undhiyu – a Gujarati dish made of different vegetables stuffed with spices and layered with dry fruits – wait! The list goes on. Simply enter any Gujarati restaurant and you’re sure to find these dishes on the menu. So let open the ‘food-gate’ to heaven!
5. Somnath temple: Of The Moon God & Lord Shiva
The famous Somnath Temple has many legends linked to it. A much talked-about legend is that the initial structure of the temple was first laid by The Moon God, Chandra who had built a temple made of gold. He devoted it to Lord Shiva to lift-off the curse put upon him by Daksha.
The curse deprived The Moon God of all his light and he sought out for Lord Shiva, known as the pillar of light, for help. Shiva blessed him and the moon shone again. It is said that even today, on a moonless night, The Moon God lands on Earth for a dip into the sea and then shines again. This is how Lord Shiva got the name, Sommeshwar.
Following this, The Sun God followed by Lord Krishna continued the making of the temple with silver and sandalwood, respectively. Also, are you aware of the arrow placed at the top of the temple? It is believed that it indicates the direction to the south pole. What’s more is that it’s said there is no land between the temple and the South Pole in the direction pointed out by the arrow!
To better know the legends and tales, visit Gujarat and we’re sure the temple will amaze you at every step and turn forward.
6. Have A Salty Affair At The Little Rann Of Kutch, Gujarat
In the name, “Rann”means “salty desert”, and “Little” is an understatement; considering that it sprawls out on a land of over 5,000 sq. km making it the largest salt desert in the world, alongside the Greater Rann Of Kutch.
India’s largest wildlife sanctuary – the Wild Ass Sanctuary – is the last refuge to the Indian Wild Ass among other animals like the blue sheep, blackbuck, desert fox, blue-bull, hedgehog, hyenas, jackals and wolves. Explore the cold, arid desert of Little Rann on a Jeep Safari and you’re sure to be beguiled by its beautiful desolation. You can also spot a variety of birds such as flamingos, demoiselle cranes, Siberian cranes, short-eared owls, hoopoe larks and orange-winged dragonflies, at the Bajana creek.
The Little Rann of Kutch is by far, one of the best places to visit in Gujarat. You can time your visit during the famous Rann Utsav (sometimes called Ranotsav). It is a three-month long celebration in the Rann of Kutch that continues annually from December to March. Local musicians put on a grand show as they offer a live performance of Kutch’s traditional folk music. The desert is lined with luxury tents that offer guests a night’s stay, alongside rows of food and handicraft stalls.
The land was once a part of the Arabian Sea that was parted by geological forces, leaving what is now a seasonal salt marsh. It is located partly in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindh province of Pakistan.
The salt pans in the reigon will give you a sense of the locals’ main source of livelihood. The mineral-rich soil of The Rann of Kutch produces salt of the highest purity (upto 96%). The salt farmers of Kutch, also called Agariyas, are known to be residents of this harsh, isolated desert for centuries. They are solely responsible for the harvest of 75% of India’s total salt produce. See the salt crystals sparkle and shine on a full moon’s night, just like little snowflakes sprinkled all over a large, undisturbed and infinite space.
7. Rani Ka Vav, Patan
Everyone knows about The Taj Mahal, an epitome of love, built by King Shah Jahan in the loving memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz. But very few know about the Rani Ka Vav, which was built by Queen Udayamati in the memory of her late husband, King Bhimdev. The Rani Ka Vav is known to be one of the finest step-wells in India and is also recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
A visit to this massive, Maru-Gurjara architecture is much-obliged as it boasts a show of true artistic mastery that has aged just as beautifully as fine wine.
Watch this video of The Deccan Odyssey’s best places to visit in Gujarat and you’ll know just why you must visit Gujarat’s gem , The Patan’s Rani Ka Vav:
8. Palitana – The Vatican Of The Jains
Dotted with over 900 Jain temples dedicated to the 24 Tirthankaras (see meaning below), Palitana stands atop a 2000 feet tall Shatrunjaya hill, where the first Jain Tirthankaras meditated. It is now a major pilgrimage centre for Jains and one of the best places to visit in Gujarat. With so many temples clustered on a hill-top, it is the world’s largest Temple Complex and the only city in the world that is 100% vegetarian. It is even illegal to buy or sell meat, eggs or any poultry products in Palitana.
Tirthankara, (Sanskrit: “Ford-maker”) also called Jina (“Victor”), in Jainism, a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow. Mahavira (6th Century BC) was the last Tirthankara to appear.
Every Jain wishes to visit the Shatrunjaya hill atleast once in his/her lifetime with a hope to seek the divine blessing and attain nirvana. Jain temples have a unique architecture and most of them are made up of marble. These temples are known to have taken over 900 years in the making and are adorned with exquisite carvings and sculptures. Pay your respects at the Adishwar temple, known to be the holiest among all. This beautiful city will bring you peace almost instantly – and Palitana is one that is not to be missed.
9. Witness ‘The World’s Longest Dance Festival’ – The Navratri, In Gujarat!
Dedicated to the nine forms of Goddess Durga, the festival of Navaratri in Gujarat is an experience that will linger within, even after it has come to an end. Navaratri means “Nine Nights” – Okay, so what about it? This festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and there’s an interesting legend behind this.
Here goes: There was once a man named Mahishasur who was granted a boon of immortality by the God Of Fire, Agni. Mahishasur became so powerful that no weapon in the world could kill him. The demon came to cause great terror and destruction in the world. This is when Lord Shiva, along with other deities created Goddess Adhya Shakti. She was offered ornaments, weapons and a lion for a ride, to fight the demon Mahishasur. She fought tirelessly for 9 days and 9 nights, and finally beheaded Mahishasur on the 10th day.
The nine nights came to be known as Navratri while the tenth day was called Vijaya Dashami, a day when good won over evil. The nine-day long festival is celebrated with vigorous fasting everyday, followed by a Puja. Each day the people worship one of the nine forms of the Goddess. People come together to dance the Garba and Dandiya – spiritual dance forms performed around a centrally lit lamp or an idol of Goddess Shakti. Ahmedadbad is one of the best places to visit in Gujarat during Navaratri. The sight of a thousand people dancing in sync to one tune while they wear costumes shimmered with gold and silk , is a sight you will never forget.
10. Laxmi Vilas Palace – A Palace 4x Larger Than The Buckingham Palace!
Standing tall and shinning brighter than the sun is the Laxmi Vilas Palace, situated in the heart of Vadodara. The palace was named after Rani Laxmibai, the beloved wife of Maharaja Sayaji Rao III. With 170 rooms made only for the only royal couple, this is the largest private dwelling ever made in history!
The Laxmi Vilas palace makes a fine example for a British eclecticism of Indo-Saracenic architectural style made with an amalgamation of Indian, Muslim, Mughal, Gujarati, Jain, Rajput, Maratha as well as Gothic and Venetian designs.
This palace is a poet’s dream that was created by a great architect’s vision, but made purely out of the love of a King – How can you not visit this palace?
11. International Kite Festival in Gujarat: Uttarayan At Ahmedabad!
The International Kite Festival in Gujarat is celebrated with an unmatched zest where people across the globe gather to fly kites in unison. It is celebrated every January during the festival of Uttarayan, also known as Makar Sakranti – a day when the sun starts to travel northwards marking the end of winter.
Take a stroll along the Patang Bazaar where you’ll find kites of all shapes, sizes and designs being bought and sold. The Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad is best place to visit in Gujarat to enjoy this festive fever. Experts from over 35 countries gather to participate in this pulse racing kite competition, and nothing stops the the enthusiasm of the people – even when the sun goes down! Thousands of lanterns light up the skies of Gujarat, a magical moment when these glowing lanterns float and dance in the night sky. I bet a sight like this is sure to leave you teary-eyed.
12. Buy A Gujarati Saree & You’re Good To Go!
The handicrafts made in Gujarat like Rogan art, leather work, Tangaliya work, hand block printing, Kutch embroidered cushions, clay and terracotta work and bead work are famous around the world. Leaving Gujarat without shopping for Gujarati handicrafts, is a crime you would’nt want to commit! Gujarati embroidered sarees are seen in every Indian woman’s wardrobe, regardless of whether or not they are residents of Gujarat.
Also, a majority of tourists flock into Gujarat to shop for sarees. The 6th century-old Bandhej (or Bandhani) are tie-dyed sarees used by every Gujarati women on auspicious occasions like weddings and during the birth of a newborn. Bandhej is made of natural dyes extracted from plant roots, vegetables, flowers and leaves.
Also, Patola sarees are Gujarat’s pride considering that they were only draped by women of the royal families. These handloomed sarees are woven by master weavers on a special type of silk called the ‘Patola Silk’. It takes upto 6 months to weave a patola saree! These sarees are expensive but are made of superior quality. The best places to visit in Gujarat where you can take home Gujarati sarees are Jamnagar, Mandvi, Bhuj and Patan.
Watch this video of The Deccan Odyssey’s best places to visit in Gujarat to know a tad bit more about Patola sarees:
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