Bhavnagar - A tete a tete with the city
Location : Western India, Gujarat
Founded in : 1743 AD by Bhavsinhji Gohil
Best time to visit : October and March
Local Transport : Cycles, bicycles, unmetered auto-rickshaws, private cars
Places to see : Gauri Shankar Lake, Gandhi Smriti Library
Souvenirs : Cotton wear, beadwork, appliqué design materials, traditional jewellery, pots, earthenwares
The Tale of the city
The story of Bhavnagar begins in the 12th and 13th century when the Gohil Rajputs moved to the Gujarat coast and settled at Gogha port. These Gohil Rajputs belonged to the Surya Vanshi clan. They were facing severe competition in Marwar. The Gogha port of those days is what the Bhavnagar of today is. Bhavsinghji Gohil, who were the rulers of Sihor in 1723 AD near the Gulf of Khambat, founded the city. This was the time the Marathas persistently raided the Saurashtrian states. The rulers of Bhavnagar then shifted to Motibag and Nilambag palace. It remained a port for two hundred years trading with Africa, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Singapore and the Persian Gulf. Then Takhsinhji ruled the city. He brought about the construction of a library and the hospital. The Gohil Rajput clan ruled Bhavnagar State till independence.
Bhavnagar - Down the Ages
The small village of Vadva was once the area where Bhavnagar, the Gohil city was an important port. It was once the capital of a royal state. It had many lakes and temples. This place was an important centre for trading of cotton goods that were manufactured in Gujarat. Found in the southeast corner of the Kathiawad portion of Gujarat, the Bhavnagar lock gate keeps ships afloat in the city’s port during low tide. Down the ages, has seen Bhavnagar being witness to maritime activities in the ports of Ghogha and Alang. These ports have Asia’s largest ship breaking facility.
Bhavnagar - A Rendezvous
Bhavnagar, the handloom city is prominent for its artistry and culture. All categories of literature are represented here. The culture and social influence of Bhavnagar people in the society is such that the city has been the reason of progress of many famous personalities. The people here are well versed with Gujarati, Hindi and English. Many poets, writers and painters are from Bhavnagar. The city also is famous for its merchandise of diamonds. All in all, the people from Bhavnagar are able to maintain their old beauty, are pure, and seem untouched by the vagaries of the outside world.
There is a kind of passion and ethos with which the people in Bhavnagar display their works of craft. Bhavnagar is a place very well known for its jewelry designing and traditional paintings. The city also produces materials made of cotton with a lot of embroidery work. Thus, the shopper who comes is completely enthralled by the travel kitty. Cotton wear, beadwork, appliqué design materials, traditional jewellery, pots earthenwares, are all-important items to collect in the travel kitty. Besides, the tourist would also be impressed by the block prints, dyes and many other handicraft items here.
Joie de vivre in the city
Thus laden with all the ingredients for a perfect tourist spot and armed with the vibrant nature of a nature-filled atmosphere, Bhavnagar, the beadwork city offers the visitor an ideal situation for a break. The historical background and the folk tales of this place set the perfect setting for a vision beyond comparison. Thus, the joie de vivre in this place lies in the implicit subtlety and overbearing warmth that this place identifies itself with. We can see the following places here:
Takhteshwar Temple : This was built in the year 1893 and is named after Takhtsinhji who is regarded as its patron. The Shiva temple here is a famous landmark that is found in the serene surroundings with a marble courtyard. A tourist coming here can have an entire view of the whole city and the surrounding landscape.
Palitana : This is found at the foot of the Shatrunjaya Hill. The Shatrunjaya River flows to the south. The hill has a peak of stupendously constructed temples. There are 863 temples in all. It soars high in bliss of marble till the top of the hill. All the temples are built over an astounding span of 900 years. Each generation of pilgrims has made its contribution to the shrines of this Shatrunjaya temple. There is an ascent of 600 meters. There are “dolis” or lift chairs that are available for the climb.
Gangajaha : The temple of Gangadevi is situated in the middle of a tank. It has a partition and has been designed by Sir John Griffiths. The temple was built after the Maharaja Takhtsinghji requested it to be built in the memory of Maharani Majirajba in 1893 AD.
Gadhada : This is famous for its Swaminarayan Temple. This is a very important town on the pilgrim trips of Gujarat. This has got good architectural design and was built in 1829 AD. With its high plinth, spacious square, an assembly hall and large sarais, it is a well-crafted temple.
Khodiyar Mata : This is situated around 4kms from Sihor. The deity here is held in great respect. The shrine has 36 pillars and a huge mandap. The view from here is enthralling and extremely beautiful.
Gauri Shankar lake : This is a beautiful spot and with the beauty of the lake, it is the ideal place for a picnic. This well laid out lake spreads over an area of 381 hectares and is locally known as the Bor Talav. This was built in 1872, as there was the need for a reservoir for drinking water. There is a garden adjoining it. It has musical fountains, a planetarium, boathouse and entertainment features for the entire family.
A special feature of the lake is a small forest with a lot of flora and fauna. It has more than a lakh trees that provide a magnificent scenic beauty, which is hard to miss. There are two nurseries in this mini forest that are used to cultivate various kinds of plants for the gardens and the forests.
Bhavnagar Lock Gate : This is a popular tourist spot in the Bhavnagar city. This is a gate that enables the ships to remain steady when there is a low tide. Most of the tourists visit this place and it is even more frequented, as it is the only kind in the entire city and is the first one to be built in Gujarat. It is situated in an old dry, operational dock that was built 100 years ago. The principle of the lock gate works such that that the seawater is collected and impounded to enable the ships to float when there is a low tide. The tourist can see the lock gate after taking special permission.
Velavadar Black Buck Sanctuary : The Indian black buck is found here and the exclusive grassland ecosystem has attracted a lot of popularity for the fortunate protection of the black buck. This sanctuary has a unique credit of having the maximum number of black bucks. The black buck is supposed to be fastest Indian animal, than the wolf and such animals. It is a very graceful animal and is very beautiful. With its ringed horns with a spiral twist with two or three turns the upperparts of this animal is black and the under parts and an area near the eyes are white. The female buck is usually light brown in color. The females usually do not have horns. Credit entirely goes to the kathi community who similar to the Bishnoi community have saved the black buck with a lot of vigor and enthusiasm.
Institutes and Colleges :
Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute : This is a place where the people interested in science and its functioning would love to go. It is an institute to spread the knowledge and discoveries that are needed for the proper use of coastal wasteland, seawater, marine algae, solar power and silicates. The Institute also helps in engineering processes, environmental monitoring, separation science etc. It is a place of interest and intrigues the visitor.
Samaldas College : This is one of Bhavnagar’s main attractions. It is more than 100 years old. Mahatma Gandhi is one of its students. The Barton Library is a place that has not still not lost its value.
Shihor : This palace of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar and has a lot of gardens, paintings on the walls and magnificent woodcarvings. This is used as a base to visit the Alang Ship Breaking Yard, the Velavadar National Park and the Jain temples of Talaja.
Gopnath : This is a beautiful hamlet, which is on the coast of the Gulf of Khambat. Situated at a distance of 10 kms from Talaja, it was a seashore resort of Gohil rulers of Bhavnagar. The bungalow is built on the lines of the European colonial style. It has a lot of cottages and mansions. It has a courtyard facing the sea and has a stupendous view of the gulf. The marine life and bird watching lovers come here to pursue their past time. The temple of Gopnath Mahadev is also here. This is where Narsinh Mehta did her penance.
Alang : This is a ship-breaking yard and is a magnificent sight to behold. This place is situated between Talaja and Bhavnagar. There are large ships that come from Europe, Asia and America that come here. They are brought to be scrapped. This site was selected because of the nature of the tide, the nearness to the industrial areas and the advantage of having maritime activities here. The industrial areas use the metal and other scrap. This is India’s largest ship breaking site. Container ships, Supertankers, warships and many other vessels are minimized to scrap. There are 20,000 workers working hard day and night.
Horse Riding Club : This is run by the Bhavnagar District Police. This takes care of the training of National Level Horse Riding Techniques.
Mahuva : This is famous for its handicraft work in wood and ivory. The wooden furniture has lacquer work. The “jamadar” mangoes here are very similar to the alphonso mango. We find an old mosque, Laxminarayan temple and a Jain Dehrasar.
Besides this, there are also the Thapnath Mahadev Jagdish Temple, Bhid Bhanjan Mahadev, Dhareshwar Temple, Parsi Fire Temple, Jain Derasars, Nagina Masjid Mosque, Jumma Masjid Mosque and the Selarsha Dargah to visit.
Thus with all its historical background and folk lores, majestic temples, and extravagant architecture, exquisite carvings, the city of Bhavnagar offers to the tourist the best way to unwind on a short tour to the state of Gujarat. The past incidents and the present development indicate that the city has the vibrant nature to move on.
As the saying goes, “Still waters run deep.”