Bhuj - A tete a tete with the city
Location : Western India, Gujarat
Founded by : Rao Khengarji in 1548 AD
Best Time to Visit : Winters
Main Attractions : Aina Mahal, Prag Mahal
Local Transport : Shared taxis, hired cars, auto-rickshaws, scooters, bicycles.
Souvenirs : Silk embroidery textiles, batik fabric, tie and dye fabric, silver and gold jewellery
The Tale of the city
Founded in 1510 by Maharao Hamir, the city of Bhuj became more conspicuous as a city when the Jadeja Rajput rulers came in. In 1549, Rao Khengarji ruled Bhuj, the Bhujia fortress city became the capital. Bhuj got its name from the Bhujia fortress that is situated near the city. The city has come back each time with vigor and determination.History has it that Bhuj, the former capital of Kutch was once a city with a 35 ft high and 4 ft thick wall, with towers armed with 51 guns. This city was the main place where the fort was provided to sight enemies and to alert the defense forces. The historical background of Bhuj has been a testimony to various social events, which has been there from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. Spiritually and religiously, Bhuj has been there from the time of the Pandavas were exiled to the invasion of Alexander the Great. The monuments and the “havelis” that is present in the city today show a lot of elegance of the dynasties that ruled the city of Bhuj. The city has been a sad victim of two earthquakes in 1819 and 2001.
Bhuj - A Rendezvous
Located in the western end of Gujarat State, Bhuj has a hot climate as it is near the Great Rann of Kutch with an expanse of sandy dry salt flats. Bhuj, the headquarters of the Bhuj district had 3 large tanks – Hamirsar, Desalsar, and Pragsar. Today, the Indian Air Force supervises the 3 lakes. Hamirsar supplied water to Bhuj in earlier days, Desalsar today is not at all maintained well, as it is filled with buffalo’s wallow and a lot of drain water, and Pragsar Lake has lost any trace of existence. The city of Bhuj is identifiable with its well-decorated temples, magnificent palaces and exquisitely carved wooden pavilions. Handicraft lovers would love this place. The houses are extremely well decorated here from the inside and the outside with mirrors and linear reliefs. Bhuj thus is a tourists’ paradise.
Bhuj- Down the Ages
Bhuj, the westernmost city of India, is a hub of heritage and culture. There are many towns, which have not been affected by the tourist’s visits. Bhuj is one of them. The hospitality offered by Bhuj is unparalleled. The small, winding lanes, palaces, mansions, temples and the constructions of elegant architecture all make Bhuj a passionately historical place. The oldest museum in the state of Gujarat is in Bhuj. With its penchant for embroidery and handicrafts, Bhuj down the ages, today is a progressive city after being made a part of India after 1947.
Bhuj - Travel kitty
When a person enters Bhuj, he would know that this is a shopper’s paradise. Right from the tie and dye or bandhni materials, to the batik textiles, from the exquisite silk embroidery on leather to the lacquer work and seashell toys, from the metal bells to the gold and silver jewellery, from the mirror work to the work of arts everywhere, Bhuj offers a treat to the tourist. A shopper here would never ever feel that he could drop after shopping, as the list is endless. The travel kitty here thus is definitely one that would overflow with things to be done.
Bhuj - Joie de vivre in the city
Bhuj is the most important town in Kachchh and is a proof of the labor love for the craftspersons. The different castes and communities form a part of Bhuj culture and the region is well known for its handicrafts. The vibrant colors, the gaiety and the warmth constitute the joie de vivre in these regions. A person can see the following things here:
Aina Mahal : This was built in the 18th century. It was built as the palace of Maharao Lakhpatji. This is a hall of mirrors with walls made of marble and covered with mirrors and ornaments, which are gilded. The floor has tiles with a platform on top. A string of fountains surrounds it. The room has a chandelier that is made up of Venetian glass. This is found in the old city in a small courtyard.
Kachchh Museum : This is the oldest museum in Gujarat, which was established in 1877. It was earlier known as the Fergusson Museum. Sir James Fergusson who was a governor of Mumbai under the British rule founded it. One can find gold and silver ornaments, Kshtrapa inscriptions, textiles, weapons, archaeological discoveries, stuffed animals and musical instruments here. There is also a picture gallery and a section for anthropology and shipping.
Prag Mahal : This is the new palace. This was constructed in 1979. It is a magnificent building, which is made of ornate Italian marble and sandstone. The museum is famous for its Corinthian pillars and Jali work which depict the European flora and fauna.
Tombs And Cenotaphs :
Swaminarayan Temple : This very colorful and richly vibrant temple is situated next to the Aina Mahal. It is exquisitely carved and elegantly beautiful. It gives the impression of a serene and calm monument.
Cenotaphs Complex : These red stoned tombs are the largest ones in Gujarat and the finest of them all is the Rao Lakha tomb that was built in 1770. This is a polygonal shaped area and has balconies with a roof that is full of exquisite carvings. The Rao Rayadhan, the Rao Desai, and the Rao Pragmal cenotaphs are very common.
Anjar : The tomb of Jesal Toral tomb is famous here. This is where the bungalow of James Mcmurdo is found. This is a veritable museum of Kachchhi art. The Ajaypal Temple, the Holy shrine of Pinjora Pir is famous here. This place is famous for its block printing work, nutcracker, scissors and penknives.
Puraneshwar : This 10th century temple is found around 35 kms from Bhuj. This is raised on a high plinth and has some elegant sculptures. The Vadimedi is a place, which goes back to the Solanki era. This is found near Puraneshwar.
Kera : This is a Shiva temple, which is very famous. The temple was erstwhile very beautiful and today is in ruins. The 1819 earthquake destroyed the temple. A Muslim shrine of Gulam Ali Shah is also found here. The annual Urs is held here. This is the time when we see pilgrims walking on burning coals.
Koteshwar : This is an ancient pilgrim spot. The temple here is situated on a high plinth that overlooks the sea. This is a sunset point, which is enthralling.
Chinkara : This is the sanctuary of the Indian Gazelle found around 210 kms from Bhuj. It lies a few kilometers away from the Narayan Sarovar. Gujarat has a huge collection of brackish water lakes thus becoming the home to a lot of wild animals. Narayan Sarovar Chinkara sanctuary is one of the unique type of sanctuaries for wild life, which has the highest collection of chinkara and Blue Bull, which is a large Indian antelope. The other animals found in this sanctuary are blue bull, spotted deer, wild boar, and a variety of many other smaller wildlife.
Wild Ass Sanctuary : This sanctuary is famous for its large wild ass herds. The lions are also famous here. The sanctuary was created to protect the wild asses. It is an area of around 5000vsq km. Around 2,100 wild asses are found here.
Mandvi : This is situated around 75 kms from Bhuj. This was founded in 1581 AD. It is an ancient seaport. The place is very well known for its handicraft items particularly its relief, filigree and enamel work and its amazingly sea beaches. The longest stone bridge Rukmavati was built in 1883. The Vijay Vilas palace is also a major tourist spot.
Bhuj thus gives the best cultural fiesta to the tourist. There are many other places like the Bhujjodi, which is a famous weaving place, Padhar and Dhaneti that are famous for the traditional Ahir embroidery, Dhamanka for block printing, Lilpur for embroidery. All these make the city of Bhuj a place worth visiting, enjoying and keeping many souvenirs as mementos.
Bhuj - The Entertainment Factor
Bhuj apart from its exquisite embroidery work and works of craft is also a place of fairs and festivals. The Rann Utsav is held annually in the months of February or March. This is also known as the Desert Festival. It coincides with the Shivrathri festival. There are a lot of traditional handicrafts showcased here along with cultural events and many tours all around the city.
With so much in tow, and with a lot more to offer, the city of Bhuj comes across as a historical witness to a lot of events and a continuing part of today’s events.
As we leave the city, we think, “This rolling city does not certainly gather the moss of repeating events.”