Bhuj is the gateway to Great Rann of Kutch. Most people head directly to Rann of Kutch with a short lunch stop over in Bhuj. We came in from Dholavira, 5000 year old Indus Valley Civilization site some time in the afternoon and had half a day for Bhuj Sightseeing. Bhuj was nearly flattened after the earthquake in 2001. Over the years, it is slowly recovering from the massive devastation. We stayed at the Devpur Homestay which is nearly 30 kms away from Bhuj and did day trips to Mandvi, Koteshwar, Narayan Sarovar.
Visit to Prag Mahal and Aaina Mahal
These Mahals give a peek into the erstwile life style of the Jadeja Kings who ruled Kutch. These structures are still recovering from the damage inflicted during the earthquake but are still worthy of a visit. They are closed in the afternoons and can be done in about 2 hours.
The 250 year old Palace of Mirrors or Aaina Mahal located in the corner of Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj is nearly in shambles after the devastating earthquake of 2001. A small part of it has been restored and opened to public.
Prag Mahal was built in the 19th century in Bhuj. The construction of this Italian Gothic style palace was commissioned in 1865 by Rao Pragmalji II the ruler of Jadeja Kutch clan at that time. It was finally completed during the tenure of his son, Rao Khengarji III.
The lake can be seen from the top of Prag Mahal. It is in a very sad state with muddy waters and dried up from the corners. The migratory birds love the lake and I shot some of the best pictures of birds here. Go down to the lake only if you want to photograph birds or see them from a close distance else give it a miss
Kutch Museum located next to Hamirsar Lake is the oldest museum in Gujarat. The museum has an interesting collection of stones, slabs, seals, musical instruments, embroidered textiles, weapons and several objects from the tribal culture of the state. The main attraction is the 7 tusked snow white elephant or Airavat. Can be done in an hour if you are not a museum buff.
The original Swaminarayan Temple where Swaminarayan had installed the idols himself built around 1822 was destroyed during the Bhuj Earthquake in 2001. The sparkling new temple made from marble has been constructed near by with sponsorships from devotees. It was closed by the time we reached and hence no pictures from my side.
Located a little ahead of the Kutch Museum and Hamirsar Lake, most people tend to miss this spot. The entrance is not clearly marked and it is in between residential houses in an open field. One of the best finds in Bhuj and the entire Kutch area
It was a hot sunny afternoon in Bhuj and after the visit to Aaina Mahal and Prag Mahal Palaces we were cooling off next to Hamirsar Lake munching on street food. The migratory birds were having a good time in the muddy waters of the Hamirsar Lake and as we went closer they flew off to the other side.
Bhuj has some interesting shopping options. Shroff Bazar is the place to visit to pick up local block printing stuff and also other knick knacks. Bhujodi Handicrafts village at the outskirts of Bhuj has several stalls set up by local artisans with block prints, embroidery and patch worlk material. Also visit Shrujan, Kala Raksha or the outlet of one of the several NGO’s who are working towards enabling local artisans
Day Trips from Bhuj
Bhuj is central to all the sights in Kutch and some places can be visited in a day while the others may require an overnight stay
The Great Rann (desert in Hindi) of Kutch extending across India and Pakistan is a near infinitum (7500 sq kms) stretch of white salt desert across Western Gujarat. During monsoon, this entire salty clay area of 7500 sq kms is filled with water which largely dries out leaving behind a layer of white salt on clay.
Mandvi is a port city in the Western Part of India in the Kutch, Gujarat region. It is famous for its beaches and centuries old ship building yard. Once upon a time walled city, the ruins of the walls can be seen while driving around.
During our road trip in Gujarat we drove until Land’s End the western tip of India that merges into Arabian Sea. We visited Koteshwar, Narayan Sarovar, Lakhpat Fort and Mata No Madh traveling about 350 kms during the day.
Stories of Indus Valley Civilization would often transport me beyond the classroom during my student days. I would conjure up imaginary stories of love and life while my teacher’s voice would apply intermittent brakes on my flight of fancy.
Bhuj is connected by rail and air from Mumbai and Ahmedabad. It is more of a transit location and most people end up staying in Great Rann of Kutch, Mandvi or Homestays and Resorts in the outskirts.