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Gujarat - Destinations

The place where Mahatma Gandhi was born, Porbandar, is in Gujarat. Some of the holiest places and temples of the Hindus are also located in the State. Gujarat is the only place one can sight the Asiatic lion. It is also rich in natural beauty from Rann of Kutch to the Satapura hills. Gandhinagar is the new Capital city, while the earlier Capital Ahmedabad is the largest. To Gujarat's west is Arabian sea and Pakistan province of Sindh.

Somnath: One of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva. This ancient temple is believed to have been built in four phases: first in gold by Lord Soma, in silver by Ravi, in wood by Lord Krishna and in stone by king Bhimdeva.

Ambaji temple: The legendary Ambaji temple is situated on the Gabbar Hill, near the mythological Saraswathi river in the Arasur forest. A holy lamp is continuously burning in the temple.

Palitana: This abode for the Gods is situated on the Shatrunjaya hills. There are 3,800 steps to reach the temple. It is supposed to be the most sacred pilgrim centre of the Jains. There on top is a cluster of 1,300 Jain temples and over 27,000 idols of Jain gods. The main temple, carved in marble, is dedicated to the first Tirthankar, Lord Adinath.

Pavagadh: Pavagadh is a major tourist attraction and pilgrim centre in the State. It is a forest area 55 km from Vadodara. Maa Mahakalika temple, Machi haveli, Kali temple and Sadanshah Pir Dargah are some of the sites people visit.

Dwaraka: Dwaraka is said to be one of the seven holiest places of the Hindus. The Dwarakadhish temple has two 'dwars' or doors. One is called 'Swarga Dwar' or door to heaven and the other is 'Moksha Dwar' or door to salvation. Through the first the pilgrims enter and through the other they exit. The temple is situated at the 'sangam' or confluence of Gomati river and the Arabian sea. It had been submerged by sea six times and resurrected from the ruins each time. Rukmani temple is also nearby.

Champaner: A world heritage site, Champaner is situated at th foothills of Pavagadh.The main attraction here is an ancient fort surrounded by hillocks and escarpments formed by volcanic eruptions and thier lava. Other sites around are Shehar ki Masjid, Jami Masjid, Kewada and Nagina Masjid. Champaner was founded by king Vanraj Chavda in the eighth century. Pavagadh and Champaner were captured by Chauhan Rajputs in the early 14th century and later became the capital of Gujarat for some time but to be captured by the Mughals in the 16th century.

Laxmi Vilas Palace (Maharaja Palace): Built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890, this palace is four times the size of the Buckingham Palace of London. Old armory, bronze sculptures and terracota by Fellici can be seen here.

Gir: The forest abounds in rich flora and fauna. Lions are a speciality.

Tarnetar or Trineteshwar Shiva temple: The hand-embroidered parasols carried by tribal bachelors in the three-day festival held here is an attraction. The fair commemorates Arjun's arrival in Panchal to win the hands of Draupadi.

Kutch: The silver sand desert here is mesmerising. One can go for bird-watching here. Also shop for traditional items like Kutchi embroideries, jewellery, Bendhani fabrics, enameled silverware and other handicrafts at Rann of Kutch.

Saputara (400 km from Ahmedabad): Called the Abode of Serpants, this hill station is located on the plateau of the Dang forest along Sahyadri mountain range. During the monsoon rainy months, the rich greens are more beautiful with blooms. Good time for walks, ropeway trips, shopping, trekking and water sports. There is also a week-long paragliding festival. Excursions: Vansda national park, Purna sanctuary, Boating, Sunrise Point, Ropeway, Gir falls, Girma Falls, Shabari temple, Vaghai botanical gardens, Vaghbari botanical garden, Mahal forest, Mayadevi falls.

Dholka: Situated 40 km from Ahmedabad, Dholka has great historical importnace. It is said, the Pandavas, alongwith Draupadi, stayed here, at that time a forest town called Virat. It's here Bhim killed Kichak. The remains of their palace and the kitchen used by Bhim are some of the surviving monuments here. There is an ancient math of Adi Shankaracharya in Dholka town. The animal fair held here in the month of Chaitra is attended by thousands of people. Dholka's gauva, red inside and without seeds, is famous.

Vautha: Ten km away from Dholka, Vautha is where seven rivers meet and therefore is called Mahatirth by the Hindus.

Nal Sarovcar Bird Sanctuary: 65 km from Ahmedabad, it has a huge lake and marshy lands visited by birds in winter and spring - between November and February. 250 species of wetland birds can be seen. It is one of the largest wetland bird sanctuary in India - in 123 sq km. Rosy Pelicans, Flamingoes, White Storks, Brahminy Ducks and Herons can be sighted here. One can also see endangered mammalians like wild ass and black buck.

Dasada: Dasada is on the edge of the Little Rann of Kutch, an extension of the Rann of Kutch. A bird-watching destination (October-March), it is 90 km away from Ahmedabad. Wild ass can be sighted here. Languages: Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, English

AHMEDABAD

Founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah, Ahmedabad is situated on the banks of Sabarmati river. It is also known as the 'Manchester of the East' because of the textile industry. The old city's bylanes are called pols and the wooden mansions are called havelis. The city is a big commercial centre today.

Kantharia lake: The place is a recreational spot. The lake was constructed by Sultan Qutb-ud-Din

Teen Darwaja: This was the royal entrance to the Royal Square.

Hatheesing Jain temple: Dedicated to the 15th Jain apostle Dharamnath. Sarkhej Roza: It is an architectural complex without the arches.

Jumma Masjid: Built in 1423, one of the best mosques in western India.

Shaking Minarets: The two minarets of Sidi Bashir's mosque are built in such a way that if one shakes, the other also trembles.

Sidi Saiyad mosque: Is the most famous of several mosques in Ahmedabad. It was built in 1571.

Dada Hari Vav: This is one of the step-wells that can be seen in Gujarat. They provide travellers cold water. It has a unique type of architecture.

Gandhi ashram: On the banks of the Sabarmati river, this was the centre from where Mahatma Gandhi organised the freedom movement.

EXCURSIONS from Ahmedabad:

Akshar Dham temple: In Gandhinagar, the new Capital city, the temple, in pink sandstone, was built in memory of Lord Swaminarayan. It is more of a cultural complex.

Adalaj Vav: Built in 1499, it is an underground well, five stories down.

Lothal (80 km from Ahmedabad): A township dating back to the Indus valley civilization.

Patan: Also famous for its architecture of the Solanki dynasty, Patan is a weaving centre for geometrically patterned Patola sarees.

Modhera sun temple: Modhera sun temple is dedicated to the Hindu Gor, Surya. The temple has such architecture that during the equinoxes the sun's rays illuminate the sanctum sanctorum at dawn. The sculptures are similar to those of Khajuraho and Konarak temples.

FESTIVALS

Like elesewhere in north India, Navratri is celebrated in Gujarat also. Dandia, Garba and Raas are forms of dances associated with the festival here; Makar Sankranti; Rathyatra (July) - A procession is taken out from Jagannath temple with idols of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in in a chariot; Kite festival is especially an attraction of Ahmedabad when winter comes to a close. It is known as Uttrayan.

CUISINES

Vegetarian; There is a delicate balance of sweet, sour, bitter, salt and spice; Some dishes are Undhyoo, Paunk, Khichdi, Kadhi, Khaman Dhokla, Doodh Pak, Shrikhand Poori

LANGUAGES

Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, English

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