Land of Gods, Palaces, and birds
Lord Krishna ruled Gujarat’s culture and religious mindset just like in West Bengal, one finds Kaalimata. Krishna adopted this part of the country as his Karmbhoomi. He ruled the region and people with his flute and influence. Dwarka is one of the biggest pilgrimages in Western India. Though Gujarat doesn’t have forts like Rajasthan to flaunt, it has palaces hidden in some princely states. Gujarat also gave one more leader in modern India just like Lord Krishna. Mahatma Gandhi. For those who follow these both larger than life leaders, you can’t miss visiting this state. This part of the blog and our ride is dedicated to both. Also dedicated to its migratory bird’s habitats which we discovered on the way to Porbandar.
Day-9 (26th February) Narayan sarovar – Morbi – 326 kms
Our ride was now on the return leg. We were inching or miling towards home, but before that still, there were so many places to cover. Every day we were immersing in Vibrant Gujarat’s vivid and bright intense culture and reaching corners of Incredible India.
We started early from Narayan Sarovar because of the next destination, Morbi which was on the other side of the Gulf of Kutch.
While planning, we tried to dig out information from every possible source to find a ferry service to cross this Gulf because that could have saved more than 100 km of our ride which was almost half of the riding that day’s journey and also saved were so much of fuel. According to one source, there was hint of ferry available from either Mandvi port to Okha port which was very close to one of our major stop, Dwarka. Mandvi and Okha ports are functional ports, but none could give information, so we didn’t have any choice to change our plan and to add one more day and an extra 100 km in our plan. Later on while riding in this area, came to know about shallower depth due to silt brought in from Gulf of Rann at Mandvi port, the ferry service is stopped. The work of restoring depth was in process. Once that is done, the service will resume in the future.
We were told about Mandvi’s well-kept secret, private beach owned by Bhuj’s royal family and their summer palace – Vijay Vilas Palace.
Yes, you heard it right. A clean and pristine private beach owned by the Royal Jadeja family of Kutch.
This port town which has its historic deep roots in Indian trade to cities across globe had a trade relations right till Africa. When you stand at port, you could imagine standing with ship-owners checking their goods laden large wooden ships leaving the port and waiting for them to bring back goods from those far off places. At port, you can imagine sailors narrating stories of their travel, foreign ports and its cities, beauties and luxuries of those cities, fights with pirates, This transporting yourself is just like Dholavira to 1000s of years back.
Thanks to the good roads in Bhuj, you can cover this entire leg of Mandvi in just a half a day. From Bhuj, Mandvi is one and a half hours drive and is indeed lazy daybreak during your trip to Kutch. The silent sea and pristine, less visited beaches are perfect for long walks; a minor delight and a treasure trove all cuffed for you. Mandvi still boasts a 400-year-old shipbuilding yard, where even today ships are manufactured. Large wooden blocks still float on the silent waters, like a fairy-tale woven on frozen times.
Vijay Vilas Palace of Mandvi:
Bhuj has seen many earthquakes in the past. After the recent earthquake, when the Royal family decided to move to Mandvi which had a beautiful beach. A `920 construction is one of its own examples of many architectural cultures mixing and giving birth to the new styles. The style of dome shapes from Bengal, roof structure from Rajasthan’s Rajput style, and columns and arches connect to the Gothic style is a class beauty. To add natural value to the palace, they owned a 2 km private beach. A perfect royal beach holiday destination. Earlier Royal family treated this as their summer retreat and later a permanent residence. The riches in trading across the globe were seen in the past as first Mercedes Benz of India was parked under its roof.
Today was the last day in the Bhuj district. With a heavy heart and a promise to visit again to ride on Salt pans of The Great Rann of Kutch, we left Rann and entered another district, Rajkot to ride towards our next destination, Morbi.
We had to take today’s detour via Morbi to non-availability of ferry service till Okha. We didn’t have the intention to spend much time in Morbi.
Till now we were accustomed and adjusted with each other’s riding style, for us number of kilometers were just numbers. We knew where to stop for food. One common thing we had was, none of us were smokers, so there was no question of taking unnecessary breaks for smoke or tea. In one stretch, we could easily cover minimum 80/90 kms without breaking a sweat. With our consistent speed, we reached Morbi well before sunset. According to our plan, we reach at the night halt place and visit the main attraction or point of interest we had. All three of us were more interested in culture, nature and history and not religious places.
We had division of responsibilities. Both of them used to lead and I tail. At the time of lunch, I searched for hotels to stay for night halt with safe parking for our bikes. Both of them were photographers also. My selfish motive was clear. To get as many as possible images shot by them to carry memories for future.
Though every place in Gujrat has its own history as present Gujarat state consisted of many princely state under British Raj. Every state had its own unique identity and culture. Rulers had their court full of artists as well as warriors. Gujarati community itself is a trader community, but from this community, several rulers emerged as warriors and ruled their princely states in a democratic way, looking after well being of their people.
After Mandvi, without any special place to cover, we reach Morbi well before sunset to park ourselves
es in the comfort of the Government’s Circuit House which we found luckily when we were entering Morbi city. This industrial town doesn’t offer much to tourists except Mani Mandir, Suspension bridge (Jhulto pul), an art gallery, but not much of history unlike the rest of Gujarat.
Day-10 (27th February) Morbi – Jamnagar – Dwarka – 235 km
As said earlier, Morbi was never in our original plan, so almost an extra day was wasted. But for long rides, you always keep a couple of days extra. You can’t plan a tight schedule. These extra days are always used for breakdowns, unplanned detours, freak accidents, and if one rider is tired or not keeping well. When you ride In a small group, you can’t leave any rider behind, in our case, it was impossible because we were already three. Also, there might be some unforeseen situations like the last moment information about a place that was either ignored or not considered. This happened with us on our Nort West Karnataka ride. We didn’t know about Historical Bijapur which was just 200/300 km detour. We came to know and altered our plan.
Today, we would be back to our original route once we reach Dwarka.
In India, not only every state has diversity in culture, food, clothes people wear, houses, but also dialect. It’s said that, every 50 km tonality of language changes. Gujarati of Kutch is different from than Rajkot district. Kutchi food which is subtle and homely changes to Gujarati Dhaba style when you are on the road either from Morbi or Bhuj to Dwarka. Ghathya Phaphada (gram flour based fried snacks) to Khaman dhokla (again gram flour-based, but steamed snacks) and Jalebi remains the same.
In our entire ride, we never had a plan to enter any city as it would have slowed down our plan, and city offers nothing but pollution plus we could have covered these city attractions as a normal tourist. Our aim of the ride was to discover the undiscovered or less discovered wonders hidden or tucked in one corner. On our way to Dwarka, we were planning to bye-pass another city of Gujarat which was Jamnagar. We were riding with the same objective. Due to the unforeseen situation, we had to enter outer perimeter of Jamnagar. We had to scout for the Bajaj dealership to sort some electrical problems in Hitu’s bike. Though which was done quickly. I had also decided to get me horns wiring checked because couldn’t honk when required. I am a completely non-honking rider, but at certain situations on highways or in near civilized areas, pedestrians had to be reminded of them not walking carelessly on the road. Looked like, I made a mistake of getting checked my aesthetically modified bike where everything except engine, wheels, and chassis, many small parts were changed. Never know, just a small wiring connection by a non-expert could create a problem in near future.
in this blog, will not write about the place which we didn’t visit, but must write about a specialty of Jamnagar which we noticed on the way.
Can’t recollect source of information, but we came to know that a sortie of fighter planes from Jamnagar air force base in the afternoon. Jamnagar is an important place for our defense services. It houses one of the strategically important Indian Air Force bases. From here Pakistan border and Karachi chi city is hardly a couple hundred km far. For any kind of warlike situation with our most untrusted neighbor, this airport will be used to strike.
A sortie is a practice for fighter plane pilots to keep in touch with flying experience. Though you cannot enter the airport to witness the exercise, there is a wall at the end of the runway from where these planes take off is a vantage point to experience the roar of the plane. jaguar fighter plane squadron was based at Jamnagar airbase.
When we reached the spot which is one discreet road like other roads and locals were used to of this daily practice, so hardly any vehicle was on the road.
One sequence from the Amir Khan starrer Hollywood movie, not pictured at this spot but gives cold shivers just to watch that sequence. We kept our fingers crossed to get that experience. We waited with breath-holding to experience an intense moment. When that moment came and jaguars took off, it was a deafening sound with vibrations to the body, a goosebump moment. Also a patriotic and proud moment as an Indian. Unfortunately, we couldn’t click any pics because we didn’t want to miss that moment and wanted to witness it with our eyes.
Riding with those emotions, we didn’t take much time to reach Dwarka. After crossing the boundary, we were guided to the main temple for visit and stay facility around. One can find all types of hotels from budget and Dharamshalas to luxurious ones. Today, our roles were changed. Vivek and Hitu took charge of searching hotel and I was waiting for two at central point.
I had still some doubts about wiring which was repaired in Jamnagar. I was bang on my doubt. Suddenly wiring caught short circuit and my bike was engulfed in smoke from under my petrol tank. It was a disaster and a sign of endangering the next day’s plan. If any important part is damaged, the entire wiring set had to be changed which was difficult to get in this small town as my wiring was modified. The availability of expert mechanics in this area was another remote possibility.
Completely lost in thought and ran out of all options, remembered our savior – Pallav Dave from Inddiethumpers Bullet club who helped us earlier in Ahmedabad. He has contacts and information about almost all over the state. He was ready to help anytime. He made few calls from Ahmedabad and I was on a con-call of 4 people – Pallav, one 2 wheeler-dealers from Jamnagar, and local Enfield mechanic. I explained my situation to the mechanic and he assured me not to worry. As an Angel, he was with me in 20 minutes of the con-call. He towed my bike with his friend’s help to his garage which was about a km away, almost at the boundary of Dwarka temples.
Meanwhile, my two partners had found a suitable hotel nearby for us to rest. We decided to visit the garage after freshening up to check out the progress on repairs.
Vivek’s Ninja was a centre of attraction throughout our ride. Dwarka wasn’t an exception to it.
While chatting with mechanic, we were taken a back with his roots. An ancestral roots all the way from Afghanistan and settled in Dwarka was not a regular road side mechanic, but knew his job well in repairing bikes even though it was an electrical wiring repair.
He saw Vivek’s Ninja and jumped in his seat. He asked Vivek for permission to call his close friend who was a bike crazy. Without wasting time, his Gujarati friend was at a garage in no time. Bharat, a local trader, trading in exporting Iron Ore to other ports was an interesting character. Local MLA’s nephew was from the category of traders, who are loaded with money, but you can not make out due to their simple lifestyle maintained knowingly or unknowingly not to attract anyone’s attention. He mentioned his plight to buy Ninja bike which like a dream machine for those who cannot afford bikes more than Rs. 10 lacs and out of reach for people like me with a mere budget of not more than 1.5 lacs. When we came to know his reason of failure in non-quittance of this bike, were zapped. When the bike was launched in India a couple of years back, he tried to buy couple of times by visiting a Bajaj dealership who had a license to sell Kawasaki bikes but without luck. Every time, he carried bagful of hard cash and denied possession of the bike by the dealer just because of one mandatory requirement made compulsory by the Government of India of producing Income Tax returns forms and PAN card which are proofs of regular taxpayer. He is in the business of trading community hardly had these norms filled. Ultimately couldn’t own the bike.
While chatting, I was pulling his legs of non-availability of non-veg and dry state. He was so friendlier with us in an hour, asked his driver to open his car’s boot space, and gifted us a bottle of whiskey and immediately arranged a non-veg meal next day at circuit house.
As Dwarka is one of the biggest pilgrimage centers in India for Lord Krishna devotees, Dwarka is connected well by, Air: Jamnagar airport connected to all major cities of India is at 45 km from Dwarka. Further to travel to Dwarka, bus and taxi services are available. Road: Dwarka is a major railway station in Gujarat and many Express trains halt here. To stay at Dwarka, from Dharamshalas to luxury hotels are available as per everyone’s budget.
Day 11 (28th February) – Bet Dwarka and Dwarka to Porbandar –104 km
Today was a leisure day and it had been also a mid-break of our Gujarat ride. Brisingr was with the mechanic and that we all felt about avoiding a ride to Bet Dwarka which was hardly any distance from Dwarka, so decided to rent a car for sight-seeing.
Before that it had been a time to go to the Dwarkadhish. One says all roads lead to god. In Dwarka, whichever road you’re taking, ultimately it reaches one of the gates of the main temple. Hitu had explored a bit the previous evening once I was expecting the mechanic to return and rescue me. the primary sight of any Hindu pilgrimage puts me off and fails to impress me. Shops selling religious stuff, beggars, priests running after you for puja. It’s just like the gods are going to be impressed as long as you perform a much bigger puja and provide blessings. Though Gujarat Government is doing its bit to push the tourism industry, the common devotees in India are very undisciplined. The case was so clear in Dwarka for that matter in Bet Dwarka also. People are pushed from one place to a different. Just to spend 5 secs slot with the gold you would like to spend such a lot of time and energy fighting with people within the queue. And it isn’t the case only with one particular pilgrimage but across everywhere India. the inside view within the temple wasn’t that different from the view of the surface city. The temple didn’t impress me either the Gujarat Tourism department at Dwarka. That’s the sole reason they haven’t shot the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ TVC inside this temple but instead, they shot inside Somnath temple to portray the religious side of Gujarat. Somnath temple is far better planned and clean, too.
As per legend, Dwarka’s main temple, Jagat Mandir was first built at the bank of Gomti creek by Lord Krishna’s grandson, Vjranabh dated back to over 2500 years. A 43 meters high temple gives a feel of temple rising from the Arabian Sea and a large flag fluttering on the winds from the Arabian Sea keeping Lord Krishna’s devotion alive in devotee’s minds. Built with locally found soft limestone helped artisans to carve minutely and every inch a fragile design. you’ll enter through a gate within the temple which is known as, Swarg Dwar, to love its an entrance of the heaven and exit through Moksha Dwar to liberate devotees from earthly bindings for god to take care of it. Dwarkadhish temple (another name to main temple) was renovated within the 16th century after Muslim invaders tried to destroy it partly and further expanded in 19th century with more additions and making it more elaborate. While it’s said to be, Krishna ruled his ‘Yaduvanshi’ kingdom from Dwarka and his family resided at Bet Dwarka, an island where you’ve got to require a ship ride. Once you enter the temple, you transformed into a typical atmosphere of all temples. A bathe in incense fragrance, a buzz of devotees and priests from all sides, and busy movements. When the temples were built a couple of thousand or hundreds years back were foreseeing subsequent few hundred years and creators never knew the increase and devotees belief in god will multiply manifolds. Today all temples are most of the days overcrowded. After Lord Krishna’s migration from Mathura, his birthplace to Dwarka and his stay during this city got recognition as a spiritual place. As per mythological mention in Purana, to make this city, Krishna reclaimed about 50 sq. miles of land from the ocean. While returning to history and its records, Dwarka was mentioned because the first capital of Gujarat and its name indicates ‘Dwar’ of the region. it had been true in its sense thanks to this coastal belt’s flourished trading with most of the world before the British’s invasion. In Hindus, this is often one among the holiest places out of 4 places, referred to as Peeths. thanks to this status, all across Dwarka, you may find many temples devoted after many gods. As if many gods have come down from heaven to accompany Lord Krishna who is an incarnation or Avtaar of Lord Vishnu, one among the three Apex gods as per Hinduism.
Around Dwarka and other coastal sites. Archeologists have found an ample number of antiquities, mainly potsherds, suggesting maritime trade and commerce with the Mediterranean countries around the Christian era. This flourishing harbor and nonsecular capital are believed to possess submerged under the ocean after god Krishna left Dwarka for Vaikuntha.
Offshore explorations near present Bet Dwarka delivered to a light variety of stone anchors of various types that include triangular, grapnel, and ring stones. they’re made out of locally available rocks and historical. A recent exploration bought the place’s Roman connection was found through antiquities including remnants of amphorae and an ingot and anchors made out of lead were found. there’s also a sign of a shipwreck of Roman period under Bet Dwarka waters. (This is an advantage while writing this part of the blog when I have become a scuba diver and is very much interested in exploring the ancient world through modern perspective)
The archaeological explorations within the Arabian Sea around Island have delivered to light an outsized number of proofs on India’s external overseas trade and commerce with western countries. Recent excursions at the Bet Dwarka have shown India’s trade connection with Rome. India had a lively marine trade with Rome right from the fourth century BCE to 4th century CE. Thus the presence of Roman amphora shows that Roman ships reached Bet Dwarka waters before has been previously noted. Same archaeological findings alongside anchors have indicated the existence of several ports, jetties, and anchoring points along the West Coast of India. Though there are not any remains of an ancient jetty at Bet Dwarka, the presence of stone anchors indicates that the high water was effectively used for anchoring the boats. the situation of Bet Dwarka was favorable for safe anchorage within the past since it had been shielded from high waves and storms.
underwater excavations also discovered steps, pillars, and statue busts that supports the records of submerging of ancient Dwarka’s residential part due to land erosion and rebuilding of the city.
Dwarka not only faced nature’s invasion but also fought and suffered damages from Muslim invaders in the 14th century and at late as in the 19th century by British forces to conquer it from local rulers. It is noted in Hindu Purana that ‘Dwarka will take birth again and again till the end of the world.’
After Dwarkadhish temple and surround visit, we started our leisure drive in a car towards Bet Dwarka. For Bet Dwarka visit, a boat ride in the open sea was a change in our means of travel which was 2 wheelers. Before reaching Okha, we were taken to a Shiva temple built by Gulshan Kumar. Here resides a huge Shiva statue. I wonder, we were completely odd men out and our cab driver thought we were interested in visiting temples. A quick visit to the temple and we were on our way to Okha from where we boarded the boat to Bet Dwarka.
Devotees had thronged to visit the Bet. And I was told, this is not a peak season of the year. One could imagine the crowd during peak season. All around us, there were school picnics, devotees and tourists like us. Also not to miss were Seagulls who accompanied us both sides of the boat ride. Plenty of them, surviving on the food, people were feeding them. They have changed their food habits from seaweed or small fish to biscuits, bread, and whatnot. That was a saddening change of habit. Human is a culprit of changing other species habitats to zoos or cages, food, and living habits.
Bet Dwarka is a big village nourished on the devotion towards Krishna. It was a perfect example of how a religion can create so many employment opportunities. Food stalls, soft drinks, juices, and I was taken aback finding Enfield rickshaws to ferry passengers from the ferry wharf to temple and return.
On reaching the temple, the scenario in the temple was similar to the main Dwarka temple. People were pushed from one temple to another.
After coming back to Dwarka, called Bharatbhai, our self appointed host in this area. Last night after chiding him for not getting non-veg food in the state, he had arranged a special lunch to be served at the Circuit house. But I realized late yesterday night about the next day a Tuesday which was my only day in a week for purification from non-veg food. Tried reasoning with him about not having food but in due course not to offend him, we joined lunch party with some government officials from police and customs. Before boarding to Dwarka, Bharatbhai displayed a fine example of Gurjar hospitality. I was handed over small ice packed thermal cold storage box. On enquiring with Bharabhai, I was told that I couldn’t be fed with non-veg food, so he has packed some fishes in the box with ice and was asked to carry it on my ride. I was supposed to open it the next day wherever I take a halt for lunch or dinner and get it cooked. I didn’t know how the hell I was supposed to find someone who can cook fish in this purely vegetarian part of the world, but still, we carried.
Reaching Dwarka back, found Brisingr done up in perfect condition by Firoz, the mechanic. Some wiring had to be replaced which was burnt the previous day.
Little late, we started our ride towards Porbandar. The halt at Porbandar was an afterthought. In our original plan, we were supposed to pass Porbandar and halt at Junagarh, but the lesser number of attractions in Dwarka saved the second half of the day plus a lesser number of km to ride gave us a luxury of staying at Porbandar. Though the ride was hardly anything, memorable.
We spotted Flamingos which were hiding in Rann, on the way near a creek bridge. But the real surprise lay ahead. About 10 km from Porbandar saw flocks of Flamingos on mudflats. Not having enough time to spend as had to reach Porbandar and find the night stay arrangement, we decided to come back the next day morning.
While riding, we found the Gujarat government’s efforts to harness one of the natural elements to generate power. Suddenly on our way windmills were on both sides of the road like giants Terminators from Hollywood movie. In India, we have a huge potential of generating power through nontraditional energy sources that are available in abundant in India like wind and solar.
It seems everyone from out of the city decided to drop in Porbandar that day either for marriage or business. Not finding any accommodation in GTDC, which we targeted, we headed towards the city heart. But our main criterion for keeping bikes safe was the biggest hurdle. Every hotel claimed the bikes are safe on the footpaths next to the hotel. We decided not to fall for their claim, kept searching for a hotel, and found one hotel on the outskirts of the city fulfilling all our criteria. The hotel was really good or rather I must say one of the best in our ride. The bike parking was in the basement and safe from any onlookers who could damage Vivek’s Ninja.
We also parked ourselves in the comforts of the room and planned for the next day’s ride.
Day 12(29th February) – Porbandar to Junagadh – 105 km
The day started with the first major bird watching experience for which we craved for. We returned towards the marshy lands just 10 km before Porbandar where we saw lots of Flamingos last evening. On reaching the sight, the excitement was doubled before us. The Flamingos were feeding themselves were quite far off, but in front of us were Pelicans. My first sighting of Pelicans. We had seen Flamingos in Mumbai, so I was happy for the alternates. Pelicans are also magnificent like Flamingos sans the pink color. We could reach quite near to them for our photographers to capture them clearly. Also, there were other varieties of migratory birds.
All Birds clicks by Vivek Mallya and Hitendra Patel.
We came to know later on that this is one of the best bird-watching sites in this area. Even the government has built a 3 storey tower for the bird watchers.
We returned for Porbandar sightseeing which is a late Harappan settlement dating back to the 16th – 14th century BC. Exploration in Porbandar creek found ancient jetties which connect the importance of Porbandar as an ancient center of trade. Another connection of Porbandar in history with Dwarka as per historians this is the birthplace of Krishna’s close friend Sudhaama, also known as Sudhaamapuri or Sudhamapuri.
In recent history, it’s known for the birthplace of one of the world’s known and famous leader, Mahatma Gandhi. The other attraction of the place is its beach which considered being one of the best in Gujarat.
We started the city tour by visiting its port, which is famous for fishing. Though a normal Gujarati is a vegetarian the community involved in the fishing are fishermen. Fish caught from here is either exported or sent to Mumbai. On the port road, I met a guy whose interests seems to be biking and was impressed to find the bikers all the way from Mumbai. He introduced to us to one more fine variety of the Gurjar hospitality, Keyur Bhat, who is a photographer by profession. He was waiting for us at the Mahatma’s birthplace, Kirti Mandir. He self-appointed himself as our host and guide for the city. Gujarat government has tried its best to preserve the place and they almost have succeeded in. The place is neat and clean with the museum having a collection of umpteen numbers of his photographs.
The next stop was obviously for the food. I was craving to find out some hotel which can help me to cook the fish, I was carrying all the way from Dwarka. Keyur was a big help. He was a sweet talker and pursued a hotelier that serves non-veg to cook fish for me. After opening the box, I was zapped to find 6 big pomfrets costing anywhere around 3 to 4k in the Mumbai market. A supreme example of the Gurjar hospitality and hats of to the guy whom we knew only for a couple of hours in Dwarka. I relished the taste of 2 big pomfrets as my partners were pure veg and packed the balance with the ice for my next destination with the hope to find another helpful guy who can cook the balance for me. Keyur didn’t stop in his hospitality and accompanied to the mechanic where we could get our bikes checked. This mechanic indeed was an expert and quickly got rid of our bike problems and here we were ready to ride out of Porbandar to Junagadh, hardly about 100 km. Reached Junagadh in quite a peak time of evening traffic. Finding a place to stay which we found was difficult in Junagadh except for very few lodges without parking facilities. But after going through the previous evening’s example, had already found a GTDC hotel which was at the other corner of the city. The hotel bore a deserted look akin to the Ramsey Brother’s horror film. The old staff complimented the hotel very well. We were given rooms at one corner of the world and looked like the only way out was through the balcony. We were expecting a power shut down in the middle of the night and one candle floating at our doorstep. The hotel manager informing us the rules, once you check-in, you cannot check out. Ha ha ha ha ha… But that happens only in horror films.
Though we had finished 75% of our 3500 km ride and if you haven’t experienced the first two sections, you can visit:
Thanks for showing patience to read these two parts through our perspective.