The Forgotten gem of Gujarat
Bhuj, broken in spirit by the massive earthquake in 2001, has revived over the years. There are numerous places of interest in and around Bhuj, apart from the famous Rann of Kutch. You can easily hire auto from station or bus stand for a day trip in Mandvi and local sightseeing in Bhuj.
How to Reach:
- By Air: Bhuj city has it’s domestic airport but Ahmedabad (300 KM from Bhuj) is the nearest Airport with frequent flights from other parts of the country.
- By Train: Bhuj has no direct trains, you can reach via Ahmedabad. An overnight journey in train from Ahmedabad is needed to reach Bhuj.
- By Road: You can hire self driven cars from major cities in Gujarat or opt for numerous private and government Volvo buses for an overnight trip to Bhuj.
Places to visit:
- Vijay Vilas Palace – One should visit the Vijay Vilas palace. An hour drive away from Bhuj main city, the palace is famed for its magnificient artistic jaali works on pillars and detailed work on jharokas. The terrace opens to a baeutiful voew of the garden. The palace was named after Yuvraj Shri Vijayaraji and built by his father Maharao Shri Khengarji III. The Royal family resides permanently here since Ranjit Vilas palace suffered huge damages during the Bhuj Earthquake. Popular Bollywood movies like Hum Dil De chuke Sanam and Lagaan have been shot here. The beautiful song “Chand Chupa Badal mein” was shot on the terrace of the palace.
- Mandvi beach and ship-building yard – With calm waves and cool breeze, Mandvi beach is one of the cleanest beach in India. Elaborate handcrafted ship can be witnessed on the shores of the Mandvi beach, which also houses the Ship building yard. Timber for the ship is sourced from the local Mandvi farms. You either go for camel ride or visit the Ship-building yard where the ships are built for import-export business from the port.
- Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal and Hamirsar Lake – Named after Rao Pragmalji II, the Italian Gothic styled Prag Mahal palace faced huge damage along with the adjacent Aina Palace during the Bhuj Earthquake. Prag Mahal boasts of a beautiful 45 foot high tower with a clock. The palace has been filmed extensively in Lagaan movie. Aina Mahal, on the other hand, is decorated with stone carvings. Just outside the palace compound, one can visit the famed Hamirsar lake. Dating back to 450-years, it has been named after Jadeja ruler Rao Hamir, founder of Bhuj. The lake has since dried and there is scarce water in the lake even in winter. Please note that there are entry fees and timings for both the palaces. It is better to visit early morning to avoid crowd. The lake is open for all and has free entry.
- Kutch Museum – The oldest museum of Gujarat, Kutch Museum houses relics from Indus valley civilization. One should not miss the Airavaat, a beautiful handcrafted sculpture, the fabled elephant with seven tusks. It was also first museum of India to become online virtual museum in 2010.
Also check out the Rann Utsav in Kutch White Desert
- Kranti Tirth – A memorial for Shyamji Krishna Varma, the freedom fighter. There is a small museum dedicated to his contribution to the Indian Freedom Movement. He founded the India house. His ashes were brought from Geneva by then Chief Minister of Gujarat State Narendra Modi in 2003.
- Mata Na Madh – Situated in the Lakhpat district, almost 100 kms from Bhuj city, people from all over the state visits Mata Na Madh temple to offer humble prayers. Mobile phones are not allowed inside premises so no photography is allowed.
- Bauter Jinalay (72 Jinalaya) Jain temple – Jain temple boosts of 72 shrines of lord Jain tirthankars. Carved from Marble, the place oozes serenity and peace. The main shrine is huge and beautiful architecture to boast of. The construction for the temples started around 19th century. The architecture is famed for its intricate marble carvings, specially in the central temple, which has the idol of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara.
- Kotilingeshwar Temple – According to mythology, Ravaan was blessed with Shiva Ling which he had dropped on the gorund in haste. Angered by his recklessness, the Ling turned into thousand more. Ravaan, unable to determine the correct one, departed with one leaving the original one. The temple was consturcted in honour of the Swaymbhu Shiva ling. Outside the temple, the creek point provides excellent point for sunset.
- Narayan Sarovar – Sadly, the Sarovar or the lake has dried up completely. According to mythology, one of the holy rivers Saraswati river had an outlet in the lake. It is on the way to Koteswar temple, otherwise it can given a miss. It is almost 150 km drive from Bhuj city. On some fortunate days, flamigoes flock in the lake.
Have you ever been to the beautiful city of Bhuj? Let me know in the comments section.