Gujarat is India’s westernmost state. Gujarat has a vibrant culture that’s fascinating to observe. Situated next to the Arabian Sea, Gujarat is blessed with beautiful landscapes. You might not find as much greenery here as you would in the Southern states yet Gujarat as a state takes a lot of effort to keep their land green.
It is a non-alcoholic state because this was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation. As such, consumption, manufacturing or selling of alcohol within the state is prohibited. The people of Gujarat are a friendly lot. They usually live in joint families and festivals are celebrated with a lot of grandeur here.
Given all of that, there are some incredible places to visit in Gujarat. I’ve compiled the top 5 that you cannot miss.
1. Gir Forest National Park
With so many wildlife sanctuaries protecting Tigers in India, you must be wondering, well, what about the lions? So here it is. The Gir National Park is the only park in India to protect the lions, or specifically, the Asiatic Lion. In fact, it is one of the most protected national parks in Asia. The forest is dry deciduous. Although there are a lot of water bodies in this place, most of them dry up during summer.
The establishment of this park created problems for the tribal population living in the area because their domestic cattle were often eaten up by the Lions. But since the government had named this place as a national park, the locals learnt its importance and decided to coexist. You can still find the people collecting water from the river in the forest.
The Lions don’t come out often, but when they do, it’s a lucky chance because Asiatic Lions are endangered with only a relatively small population left, and they are found only here.
2. Sabarmati Ashram
If you look at the Indian independence struggle, no one has had more influence in it than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He led India to become independent and to free it from the clutches of the British rule. He is rightfully called “The Father of our Nation”. His picture is on the Indian currency.
Sabarmati Ashram, also known as the Satyagraha Ashram (Satyagraha meaning non-violent movement) was the first residence of Gandhi after returning from South Africa. This was also his favourite residence. He led the infamous Salt Satyagraha from here. He lived here for 12 years with his wife, Kasturba Gandhi.
Situated close to the Sabarmati River, this small and quaint ashram was declared a national monument by the Indian Government because of the events that took place here. The surroundings of the Ashram are just beautiful. There is lush greenery everywhere, and there is a calmness in the air. Inside the Ashram, a museum is set up showing the various events in Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
Various cottages are set up around the Ashram where tourists are accommodated. Do pay a visit to this great place.
3. Dwarkadish Temple
Lord Krishna is the most famous incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Going back into the Dwapar Yug, approximately 1500 BC, Krishna built a city entirely made of pure gold. Scriptures say that Dwarka was unlike anything humans have ever seen. There were prosperity, wealth and happiness in the kingdom always. But just like all good things come to an end, the end of Dwarka was predestined. At the end of Dwapar Yug, a massive flood came that engulfed the entire city and it got submerged under the sea.
Now this story, like all other stories, was believed to be a myth. It was a myth until a group of marine geologists found the remains of this city under the sea near Gujarat. And the most shocking fact is that the dating confirms the city to be as old as 1500 BC, the time when Dwarka was submerged. Well, apparently it’s not just a myth.
The Dwarkadish Temple in the present day Dwarka is one of the holy abodes in the Char Dham Yatra. To know more about it, read An Overview of the Char Dham Pilgrimage. People believe that their sins will surely be forgiven in this “Devabhoomi” (land of God). The original temple that was here was supposedly built by Krishna’s grandson. This temple, the city and the stories; everything is enchanting.
4. The Great Rann of Kutch
The Great Rann of Kutch can be described in one word: unbelievable. But that is not because it has lots of vegetation or high buildings or beautiful rivers. In fact, you cannot see anything like that at all here.
The Great Rann of Kutch is the largest salt desert in the world. The salt marshes spread across miles and miles are just splendid. Tropic of Cancer also passes a few miles from this place. It also forms a border between India and Pakistan.
There are a few villages nearby. The locals usually have lots of stories to tell about the place. Because of the tourism in the area, a festival called the Rann Utsav is set up. It is an exceptional experience because, during the festival, you can see all the sights here, taste some delicious local cuisines and get to know about the culture and history of the place from the locals itself.
Visit this salty marsh and just admire nature’s wonders!
5. Akshardham Temple
Situated in Gandhinagar, Swaminarayan Akshardham is a large 23-acre complex. In the centre of it all lies, the magnificent Akshardham Temple.
Everything in the complex is massive. The Akshardham Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in India. This temple was built with 6000 metric tonnes of pink sandstone specially brought in from Rajasthan. The temple is built using the Vedic principles of architecture, and therefore, steel and iron are not used in its construction. Instead, it is solely made of stones.
The temple itself is enormous with 97 carved pillars in it. There are also 264 sculpted figures within, but the major attraction lies in the central chamber of the temple. This chamber houses a seven foot tall, gold-leafed statue of Swaminarayan who is believed to be the God Almighty here.
Besides this, there are five large exhibition halls and a water show in the temple. It’s a must-visit place.