All posts filed under: India

Want To See Local Art Forms In Kutch? Try Nirona Village

Kutch has always been known for its wealth of culture, handicrafts and artforms. It produces some of the world’s most unusual textile products, as well as intricately crafted metal works. In the book, Kachchh: The Last Frontier, author Tejinder Singh sums it up pretty well: “The intricate embroidery stems from the Kutchi lifestyle… One can see the influences of the Cretan stitch of Greece, surface interlacing stitches from Armenia and the French tambourine techniques. It is a reflection of their lifestyle… of camels, peacocks, parrots, flowers, trees and women churning milk. Each pattern tells a story.” So when you’re on a holiday in Kutch, one thing that you really shouldn’t miss is exploring a few local art forms. And the best way to do that is by visiting a few villages. As you pass through various artisan villages of the indigenous tribes that inhabit the district of Kutch, you find a striking contradiction. But one needs days to explore them all, or perhaps even weeks. So those with only a limited time in hand, can take …

Lakhpat: The Ghost Town Of Gujarat

We all have heard of Ghost Towns – towns that have been deserted owing to natural calamities, some buried under the empty grounds and others, left behind with their undying tales of wonder. Lakhpat for me was one such story – a bustling town emptied owing to an incident, a town that still exists but does not, a town that speaks of a gloomy past as you walk through its emptied, abandoned streets. I was suggested a visit to Lakhpat, a godforsaken place, by someone whom I met in Bhuj. Liakatali, a local guide and a journalist with BhujMitr, a vernacular Kutchi newspaper, was born and brought up inside the boundaries of Lakhpat, before finally moving to Bhuj to pursue his higher studies. “It used to be the biggest and richest settlements in all of Gujarat” he provided, still sounding hopeful. “There were more than 15,000 people residing inside the walls of the fort, now only 566 have left. You must visit it now that you’re here. I’m sure you’ll like it” Hopelessly driven by …

How To Stay In Little Rann of Kutch For Free

When I had initially started planning my trip to Gujarat, particularly around the Rann of Kutch region, I felt hopeless. Every place in Ranno of Kutch charged at least a couple of thousand Rupees for a night. And this did not include food. Some generous tourist homes, however, offered a complimentary breakfast, yet their price tag was way over my budget. “I’d never be able to travel to this part of my country, if I couldn’t find sponsors,” I remember wondering. Now the only option was to stay in the nearby towns of Bhuj and Gandhidham (yet both the places had no place of interest for a tourist like me) and do the day trips to Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) and Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) from tere. But it didn’t sound feasible, at least not for someone who was backpacking and had to hitchhike because of poor public transport in Kutch. Read: Kutch Travel Guide In order to explore the White Desert in GRK and the barren crack-land in LRK, I wanted to stay …

Rann Utsav: NOT Worth The Effort, Distance And Money!

Organised annually by Gujarat Tourism, between November and February, the Rann Utsav of Kutch has been scaling popularity charts among Indian and foreign travellers alike, in the last few years. Though it’s surely an interesting effort allowing people to revisit the desert region of Kutch – which was left devastated by the 2001 earthquake – by creating a travel story linking to Kutch’s geographical and cultural distinctions, the value for money that it (the Rann Utsav) offers, however, is unfortunately pretty discouraging. To own a sleeping place (a Premium Tent, or a Rajwadi Bhunga, as named) that comes with complimentary meals and a one night/two days package, costs nearly 6 thousand Rupees per person (excluding 18% taxes). For every extra person, in the tent, you pay 4 thousand (and more taxes). This means a family of three can end up paying over 15 thousand Rupees for one night in Rann Utsav. [Please check their website for updated prices] You can moreover buy longer-duration packages, which takes you around a few places in the nearby town …

A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch

Kutch was never on my agenda, and little did I even know about it — except for the fact that savvy tourists often fly here in winter for spotting the rare migratory birds. But for a backpacker, Kutch had very little to offer. My fear (of Kutch not being a backpacking destination) moreover started haunting as soon as I neared Kutch. Local transport here suddenly became a rarity, and the distance(s) from one tourist attraction to the other — totally unbelievable. I was spending more time standing on roads while trying to hitchhike, than seeing places. To disappoint you, even more, remember that during peak tourist season, finding an accommodation may moreover become a challenge, have you not done an advance booking. But despite all challenges, Kutch is an amazing place to travel. And the deeper you explore the region, the better it turns out to be. Sharing some of my first impressions of backpacking in Kutch, to help you plan your holiday better. Great Roads But Disappointing Transport If there is one thing that impressed me …

A Quick Guide To Ahmedabad’s Top Travel Secrets

I headed to Ahmedabad, not because it was a logical destination for backpackers. The French haveli I was going to stay was in fact the fascination. I mean the idea of staying in a 150-year-old (though now artistically restored) tradition Gujarati haveli, would interest anyone, and I was no different.  Then later I found that French Haveli was located in a 400-year-old walled community of Dhal ni Pol, which only added to the charm of staying in the old city of Ahmedabad. It brought me back to the age when Ahmedabad was known as the Manchester of India. As I got off the auto-rikshaw at Raipur Darwaza and slowly walked inside the gated community of Dhal ni Pol, the Kites, a few dozens of them, suddenly reappeared like memories. It turned out that I happen to be in Ahmedabad a few days before the kite festival season Uttarayan, a holiday also known as Makar Sakranti. Evidently, more colourful street scene and the many lively conversations were only waiting for me in the days to come. …

Adalaj Ni Vav: A Stepwell In Gujarat Like No Other

Located about 12 kms outside the north end of Ahmedabad, Adalaj ni Vav acts as one of the prominent historic establishments and many tourists’ first choice to see a stepwell, around Ahmedabad. Other than its impressive ancient structures, what sets it apart from the other stepwells in Gujarat is its spectacular mix of Indo-Islamic architecture and design. And that’s not it. Its completion speaks of a story that goes in the usual Bollywood style of the bygone days – containing the bits of love, war and hatred! The Story Behind Its Existence The legend has it that Adalaj ni Vav was originally commissioned by King Veersinh, sometime during the early 15th century, who was ruling the town of Adalaj at that time. But before its completion, King Veersinh got into a fight with a neighbouring King Mehmud Begada, and lost his life. As a result, the construction work for Adalaj ni Vav stopped. When King Veersinh’s wife Rani Roopba got the news, she vowed to complete her husband’s work and schemed to trap King Mehmud …

Stepwells Of Ahmedabad: Taking You Back In Time

From Baroda, in South; to Patan, in North – Stepwells (or vavs, as locally known) can be found almost all across Gujarat. For hundreds of years, their efficiency in storing water, in response to the semi-acrid climate and seasonal fluctuations, helped the local population strive and survive. Today vavs represent rich history and act as prominent historical sites for architecture students and tourists alike. It is believed that some of the vavs must have been built at Mohanjodaro during the Indus-Valley civilisation. Ahmedabad, too, has two prominent vavs, both of them an extraordinary heritage site to visit. I ended up visiting them after an undeniable request from an auto rickshaw driver in Ahmedabad, according to whom, Mata Bhavani and Dada Hari vavs are an important cultural heritage, gifted to his city. Hopelessly driven by his encouraging gamut, I decided to give them a visit. My first stop was Dada Hari ni Vav, a carefully designed 500-year-old, which was originally built under the reign of one of the most prominent sultans of Gujarat named Mahmud Begada. A …

Bodhgaya — What To Expect From The Birthplace Of Buddhism

The birthplace of Buddhism. The crucible of a new philosophy. The epitome of knowledge and compassion. That’s what Bodhgaya is! Located in the Gaya district, in the Indian state of Bihar, Bodhgaya is a tiny little town where prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a Pipal tree, some 2500 years ago. In terms of blessedness, consider this tiny temple town for Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims, or Varanasi to Hindus. Unsurprisingly, the town attracts thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, who come for prayer, study and meditation – with some in their flaming red robes, and other, in Turmeric and Saffron ones. Though of course the most hallowed spot in Bodhgaya is the Bodhi tree which flourishes inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, the many Buddhist monasteries and temples that mark its bucolic landscape, built in their national style by foreign Buddhist communities, no less add to the city’s charm. Every country in the world, which has a Buddhist population, including Japan, Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal, among others, have erected their own respective monasteries and temples in Bodhgaya. …

Where To Travel In India: My 9 Personal Faves From 2016

2016 turned out to be a promising year for my travelling stint. If the entire year put together, I think I spent more than 300 days on the road. I covered a part of Southeast Asia, a bit of Nepal and much of India (now only left with 6 Indian states, including Gujarat and Rajasthan, and they are next in my list). Where most of the places I visited were great, some were exceptionally better. Better in a way that they carried the essence of Indian culture, its diverse landscapes, and represented India as a rich travel package. So if I were to recommend any places from those I visited in India, in 2016, they would be… Alappuzha Backwaters, Kerala Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, is home to a vast network of waterways and a few thousand houseboats. And the experience of sailing downs its interconnected lagoons and smaller canals, while overlooking the paddy fields of succulent green, curvaceous rice barges and village life along the banks, is totally magical. You can also call it romantic. …