An intriguing place, Bhuj is the capital of the Kutch region. In the year 2001, during the occurrence of the devastating earthquake, 150,000 people died. The deep cultural heritage of the city has been destructed. However, with time the façade of the city is improving and it is still a place of interest. An intriguing aura of beauty envelops the place due to the presence of the Aina Mahal and the Prag Mahal. The restoration of Bhuj is going in a much slow pace. The government is trying to help by activities such as giving the nearby salt plains on a low amount lease and also on 10 tax free incentives. Many of the companies that came to this place are salt or chemical based.
Bhuj has a rich history and it has links to a wide variety of human civilization over different time periods. The relics from the Indus Valley Civilisations, locations related to Mahabharata, palaces, ancient buildings from the time period of Naga chief’s reign and also from the time of the rule of the Jadeja rajputs, British Govenrment and the Gujarat Sultans are examples of the rich history.
There are many interesting and intriguing places to visit in and around the city of Bhuj. These locations are listed down below.
THINGS TO SEE
Aina Mahal: The Aina Mahal is also known as the “Hall of Mirrors”. In the mid 18th century, during the flourishing and gaudy reign of Lakhpatji, this structure was constructed. Ramsinh Mala, a top class craftsman, visited the royal court in Bhuj and asked to perform the work for the king. The fusion of the Indian and European style seen in the architecture was done by Malam. At Manvi, a glass industry was started by him. Also, in a factory located in Bhuj, he started making tiles made out of china clay. The fountains, the mirrors, the amazing glasswork – all of them have been done personally by him. He also created the pendulum clock matching the Hindu calendar, doors having engravings of gold and ivory. In the northeastern side of the Hamirsar Lake, the Aina Mahal is situated. One can walk easily from Bhuj.
Prag Mahal: The huge structure if Prag Mahal is located adjacent to the Aina Mahal; however it is situated in the same grounds. Initially, when one takes a look at this architecture, one feel that the structure would look better in the backdrop of France’s scenery. However, globalization is a completely new concept and is catching on fast. King Pragmalji commissioned this place in the 1860’s. The architecture of the building was planned and designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins. The design of the structure has the influence of the Italian Gothic style of architecture. A spectacular scene of the city can be obtained from the high bell tower, which can be reached after climbing steps of 45m. One can also roam the halls of the palace. One can also observe the breaks in the stone walls, which have been cause by the earthquakes.
Vegetable Market: Located near to the Aina Mahal’s and Prag Mahal’s gates, the vegetable market and the fruit market is a busy site. Fresh fruits, tea, juice and other tit bits are available.
Kutch Museum: Maharao Khengarji constructed this museum in the year 1877. This is considered to me the most ancient museum in the state of Gujarat. The museum houses the biggest assortment of Kshatrapa engravings. These inscriptions exist since the 1st century AD. Also present here, are the specimens of the Kutci script, which cannot be found anymore and an intriguing mixture of coins. The tribal traditions and customs are mirrored in the many old artifacts, folk arts and crafts, which are present in a portion of the museum. Specimens of embroidery, paintings, arms, musical instruments, statues and valuable metal items are also there in the museum.
Hamirsar Lake: The Hamirsar is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy. One can see people taking a dip in the lake, or just relax under the cool shade of a tree and also one can see women washing clothes. The eastern side of the lake contains the Aina Mahal, Praga Mahal, the Kutch Museum, the Ramkund Step-well, Ram Dhun Temple, the Swaminarayan Temple and the Alfred High School. The distance between the Aina Mahal and the Swaminarayan temple is such that it takes a person 30 minutes to move between these two places. The other bank of the lake contains the Sharad Baug Palace. Also it acts as the gateway for the royal chhatardis.
Ramkund Stepwell: The Ramkund Step-well is a step well which is square in shape. It is situated in a cross wise direction from the Kutch Museum and also in the backside of the Ram Dhun Temple. One side of the step well measure 56 feet. The side also contains statues which depict characters such as Lord Ram, Devi Sita, Lakshman and Lord Hanuman, as well as the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu from the epic, Ramayana. These sculptures are there on the wall. Another attraction of the place is the Ram Dhun Temple, which is located just in front of the well.
Swaminarayan Temple: A vibrant image is formed by the colorful wood carvings which surrounds the structure of the temple. This is common thing for all the Swaminarayan temples. The wood carvings generally show images of Lord Krishna and Radha. The location of the temple is considered to be the same spot where Swaminarayan sat when he to Bhuj. It is located close to the Ramkund Stepwell and the Alfred High School.
Sharad Baug Palace: This palace has been the dwelling place of the king till the year 1991. In the year 1991, the death of Madansingh took place. He was the last king of Kutch. At present, the palace has been converted into a museum. The palace grounds houses numerous migratory birds. Many beautiful plants blooming with flowers and also medicinal plants are there in the gardens.
Royal Chhatardis: If one takes a walk for about 20 minutes towards the south east direction of the Hamirsar Lake, one can see the royal memorials. Due to the occurrence of earthquakes, many of the cenotaphs have been destroyed. Still standing in a good state are the memorials of Lakhpatji, Raydhanji II and Desarji. The location is very calm and serene. It is located in the heart of the field. During the daytime this place remains calm and quiet, however during the noon the sun’s heat gets very uncomforting.
Handicrafts: The handicraft that is so famous in Bhuj is the Kutchi handicrafts. The product ranges from apparels with fine embroidery work, gorgeous quilts, block printing works, gorgeous jewelry made of silver and woodcarvings. On their trip to Bhuj, one can go to the nearby villages to see how the craftsmen work and meet them personally; also they can buy their work directly from them.
Bhujodi: The tiny town of Bhujodi is located at a distance of 8 Kms from Bhuj, in its southeast direction. It is a very important location for textile industry in the Kutch region. 1200 of the total population, work in the textile handicraft manufacturing industry. Most of the artisans hail from the Vankar community. The Ashapura Crafts Park has been constructed by a non-profit organization backed by a corporate organization in a location, which is situated at a distance of 1 Km from Bhujodi. It has been built in order to showcase the work done by the artisans and also to sell their products. The place hosts dance and music shows during the Saturdays and the Sundays. Around 40 years ago a local non-profit organization was set up. Its name is Shrujan. This was done for the reason so that females can have a better chance in earning and showcase their work.
Dhamadka: At a distance of 50 Kms from Bhuj, in its east direction, Dhamadka is located. It is an important hub for a particular block printing technique called ajrakh. Since the earthquake took place in the year 2001, some of the workers have gone to Ajrakhpur.
Kera: The relics of the Shiva Temple are present in Kera. Kera is located at a distance of 22 Kms in the south direction from Bhuj, towards Mandra. The temple came into existence during the Solanki Dynasty era. Just a portion of the temple still exists. A major part of the temple was destructed during the ruinous earthquake in the year 1819. The inner sacred chamber still exists along with the main spire.
Khavda: Khavda is situated at a distance of 66 Kms from the north direction of Bhuj. It is one of the important stops, when one can get mineral water and dry foods when travelling in the northwards from Bhuj. Kutchi kind of food is available in the main part of the town.
The town is a host to the presence of many a number of skilled potters and leather craftsmen. Also present is the ajrakh block-printing at the Khatrivas. The female residents of the town run small businesses like handmade dolls having embroidery and other products of textiles. A mixed and interesting culture is generated by the population, which is a mixture of Hindu and Muslims. One will find that, generally wood works are done by the Hindus and leatherwork is done by the Muslims. This place is the gateway to the biggest flamingo colony in the world. It is situated in the desert, near a lake. Here, at Jamkundaliya, as many as half a million flamingoes come during their migratory course. The only methods of transportation to this flamingo colony are camels.
The Black Hills (Kalo Dungar): This place is located at a distance of 25 Kms from the north of Khavda. The Black Hills is considered to be the place having the highest elevation in Kutch. It stands at a mighty 462 meters of height. A spectacular view of the Great Rann, the desert and the beautiful sky is obtained. Standing at the top of the hill, one can comprehend the huge amount of work that had to be done in order to travel across the Great Rann. At the hill summit, there is an Army Post and only people belonging to military force can only come here, since this is one of the few places where a normal citizen can come nearest to the surrounding Pakistan border. An ancient temple is present on the hill. The temple dates back 400 years ago. The temple is dedicated to Dattatreya, who was the personification of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva in the same physical form.
Transport facilities are not that good. For reaching the hill summit, only one bus runs from Khavda, that also during the Saturdays and the Sundays. One can also hire a private car. It is suggested that one goes to this place during the early morning time or maybe late afternoon. A dharmasala, located close to the temple, provides lodging facilities for those, who want to remain here for the night.
Chhari Dhand: Close to the Fulay Village in Nakhtranan Taluka, the Chhari Dhandh is located. It is situated at a distance of 80 Kms in the northwest direction of Bhuj. The distance between this place and Nakhatran is 30 Kms. The meaning of the word Chhari is salt affected, while the word Dhandh counts for the meaning not deep wet lands. For the person who loves birds, this place is a paradise. As many as 370 species of birds are present here.
HOW TO REACH
By road: State transport buses as well as luxurious private coaches offer services from Ahmedabad to this place.
By rail: The Bhuj Express and the Kutch Express are the two trains that run from Bhuj to Ahmedabad. The same trains go till Mumbai also. Ahmedabad is 8 hrs away, while Mumbai is 16 hrs away.
By air: Fights from Mumbai are there in a daily basis.