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 his curiosity, I decided to give Lakhpat a visit.
Lakhpat’s Tourism Highlights
Though it requires a long journey to reach Lakhpat, even if you’re staying in the nearby town of Bhuj, no intrepid traveller returns home unsatisfied after visiting Lakhpat. The 7 km fort walls, erected in 1801 by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed, are still nearly intact and offer spectacular views over the expansive Great Rann.
Lakhpat also has a high religious significance for India’s thee biggest religions: Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism. It is here in Lakhpat that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, made his last stop before finally moving to Mecca. The site where he camped has now become a gurudwara, holding some of Guru Nanak’s original possessions.
Then Pir Ghaus Muhammad, a Sufi mystic, who practiced half as a Hindu and half as a Muslim, during his lifetime, is buried here in Lakhpat. His tomb is a stone construction with very complex carvings and a water tank that is said to have healing properties for skin problems. Sayyed Pir Shah’s nine-domed mausoleum can also be found here.
The Story Behind Lakhpat’s Road To Oblivion
Once a thriving summer settlement on the old trade route on the western end of Gujarat, Lakhpat was abandoned overnight, in the wake of 1819 Gujarat earthquake.
History suggests that before the earthquake, the Indus River used to flow right next to the town and connected it to the nearby sea. But as the earthquake hit, the river changed its course, triggering the town’s descent into oblivion.
From a major trading point when the river was around, Lakhpat slowly withered away, for it couldn’t develop any other source of livelihood for its people. Most of the families, living inside its forted walls moved to other cities, but those left behind, are now living a life of hardship, unemployment and adversity.
A Little More About Lakhpat’s Historic Saga
The fort walls of Lakhpat enclose the entire town, which, according to one of the locals, can be the very reason behind the town’s destruction at first place.
History claims that Lakhpat was once a town of millionaires. The word Lakhpat is moreover derived from Lakhpati, which literally means a millionaire.
With the town’s dwindling prosperity and a constant threat of being robbed, Fateh Muhammad, the recent administration of Lakhpat at that time (between 1786 and 1801) proposed to the then ruling Raja Rayadhan III about building a gated wall around the city. But when Raja Rayadhan rejected the idea, claiming that the council has insufficient funds for it, Fateh Muhammad schemed of looting the neighbouring town of Pir, reigned under the respected king Mosopir.
Though Fateh Muhammad and Raja Rayadhan successfully looted the town of Pir and built a wall around their city with the money, Mosopir couldn’t take the pain of getting robbed (who was on a pilgrimage to Hajj, during the time his empire was robbed) and die right soon after. The construction of the gated wall completed in 1801. 18 years later, the earthquake hit and took it all from the rulers of Lakhpat.
There’s even a local proverb about the entire incident, which goes something like “Moso Vayo Hajj, Ne Fateh Muhammad Ke Aayo Sajj.”
Where To Stay In Lakhpat
Though Lakhpat has a Gujarat Tourism guesthouse, I found it pretty much as deserted and abandoned like many other houses in the city. So staying there might not be a very good idea, particularly if the dark nights haunt you.
However, finding a place inside the gurudwara should be no problem. I was told by the gurudwara management that many travellers stay there from time to time. Just spare a little donation if you can, or even if not, those in charge would be happy to host you for a night or two.