Gujarat’s Lesser Known Treasures

White desert in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.
Image courtesy: Kunjal Karaniya

The city of Ahmedabad, unique in its blend of history and modernity, is well known for being a treasure trove of history, cuisine, and Gandhi-themed experiences. However, the state of Gujarat has many more experiences to offer the tourist – some already well-known and some practically unheard of.

Great & Little Rann of Kachchh (Kutch)

Home to marshy salt flats and desert scrub, the Greater and Little Ranns of the Kutch region, skirted by the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea, are decidedly India’s Wild West. The flat, tortoise-shaped region (kachbo is tortoise in Gujarati) is a seasonal island. The Ranns are vast expanses of hard, dried mud; flooded by seawater and then fresh river water in the monsoon. The salt in the soil makes the low-lying marsh area almost completely barren. The Little Rann is home to India’s largest wildlife sanctuary dedicated to wild asses. The villages across Kutch are home to tribal groups who produce India’s finest handicrafts and textiles, which glitter with exquisite embroidery and mirror work. Bhuj, the capital of Kutch is a city resurrected from the 2001 earthquake. Its beguiling bazaars sell amazing Kutchi handicrafts, and historic monuments like Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal possess an eerie beauty.

Modhera

The beautiful Sun Temple, built in 1026 and 1027 AD by King Bhimdev I, is one of the greatest monuments of the Solanki dynasty, whose rulers were believed to be descended from the sun. The Modhera temple was designed so that at dawn, the sun’s rays shone on the image of Surya, the sun god, during the equinox. The temple is fronted by the Surya Kund, an extraordinary rectangular step-well that contains over 100 shrines, resembling a sunken art gallery.

Patan

Patan was Gujarat’s capital for six centuries before Ahmedabad was founded in 1411. The only real sign of its former glory is the Rani ki Vav, a beautifully grand step-well. Built in 1063 by Rani Udayamati to commemorate her husband, Bhimdev I, the step-well is the oldest and finest in Gujarat and is remarkably well-preserved. Patan also has more than 100 Jain temples, the largest of which is Panchasara Parshvanath, and is famed for its beautiful patola silk weaves produced by the laborious double-ikat method.

Read More: Dholavira: A slice of Harappa in Gujarat

Somnath

Somnath’s famous, phoenix-like temple stands in neat gardens above the beach, 6km southeast of Veraval. The sea below gives it a wistful charm. Somnath celebrates Kartik Purnima (Nov/Dec), marking Shiva’s killing of the demon Tripurasura, with a large colourful fair.

Champaner & Pavgadh

This Unesco World Heritage Site combines a sacred, 762m volcanic hill (Pavagadh), with a ruined Gujarati capital (Champaner). Pavagadh became the capital of the Chauhan Rajputs around 1300 AD and was taken in 1484 by the Gujarat sultan Mahmud Begada, after a 20-month siege. The heart of Champaner is the citadel, surrounded by high stone walls and now partly occupied by a village. Champaner features monumental mosques with a beautiful blend of Islamic and Hindu decoration.

Lothal

Lothal, an important archaeological site discovered in 1954, was one of the most important cities of the Indus Valley civilisation. The site has a set of scattered, low structures. Excavations have revealed a tidal dockyard (the world’s oldest known artificial dock) that was connected to an old course of the Sabarmati River and thus, to the Gulf of Cambay. Seals discovered here suggest that trade may have been conducted with the civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia.

Mandvi

Mandvi, located an hour from Bhuj features an amazing shipbuilding yard. There are also some sweeping beaches, including the glorious, long, clean private beach near Vijay Vilas Palace, and Kashi Vishvanath Beach, 2km from the centre just east of the Rukmavati River.

Dwarka

Dwarka, at the western tip of the Kathiawar Peninsula, is one of the four holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites in India – Krishna is said to have set up his capital here after fleeing from Mathura. Its Dwarkadhish Temple was founded over 2500 years ago and has a carved 78-m high spire.

Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

The last refuge of the Asiatic lion is this forested, hilly, 1412sq km sanctuary about halfway between Veraval and Junagadh. Declared a national park in 1975, the sanctuary’s 37 other mammal species include the dainty chital (spotted deer), sambar (large deer), nilgai or bluebull (large antelope), chousingha (four-horned antelope), chinkara (gazelle), crocodiles and rarely seen leopards. Sasan Gir is great destination for birders too, home to over 300 species, most of them resident.