My Holiday: Exploring Gujarat’s Tourist Destinations
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Introduction: My Holiday Begins
My train from Surat to Dwaraka reached on time. A few minutes later, I collect my bag and stride out, stopping for a while at the Gujarat Tourism counter to collect brochures on the state’s tourist destinations. Ahmedabad, Kutch, Dwarka, Somnath, Junagadh, Porbandar, Surat, Vadodar.
Discovering Dwaraka: Char-Dham Circuit and Bet Dwaraka
Dwaraka is one of the four temples that form the famous char-dham circuit. Eighteen kilometers on land plus half an hour on water from the main Dwaraka temple is Bet Dwaraka, an island where Krishna is said to have had his royal residence.
After roaming around Dwaraka (Bet and Regular), we started our long drive to Junagadh. Halfway to our destination is Porbandar, where a century and a half ago was born one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His home is now converted into a museum, and although there is absolutely nothing of note there, we just had to take the half-hour detour into the town to pay our homage to the man instrumental in freeing one-fifth of humanity.
The Uperkot fort, with its 2nd-century Buddhist caves and its 15th-century Jama Masjid, the most famous of Ashokan edicts, and the drop-dead stunning Mahabat Maqbara were the prominent sights of the day. Surprisingly, it is not the historical sites that attract most of the tourists – it is the nearby Girnar Hill, where a mere 10,000 steps take you to some of Jainism’s holiest temples. Leaving Nishidh with my parents at the hotel, Hensi and I attempted the daunting climb. Starting at 4:30 am and gritting through the disgrace of being overtaken by everyone from kindergarten school groups to octogenarians, we made it to the first plateau by 7:30 am. This plateau, a 4000-step slugfest from the start, has some millennia-old highly carved Jain temples. A thousand steps or an hour more brought us to a Hindu temple, from where one can get some breathtaking views of the Jain complex and the surrounding hills.
The next morning, an hour in the car brought us to Somnath, a temple so famous that its fame alone brought the first of many waves of Islamic invaders to India. Attacked and looted seventeen times. Somnath also happens to be one of the twelve jyotirlingas in the nation. After two wonderful days in the Gir forest, we spent six hours of the next on the road to cover a mere 200 km to Bhavnagar, the roads being rough enough to make Pranav have his customary car-sick day of the trip – so much for the Gujarat Model of development. An hour from Bhavnagar is Palitana, another masochistic Jain pilgrimage hike; this time, a mere 3300 steps take you to a sea of sumptuous hilltop temples. We spent the last night of our holiday inside the comfort of the first AC cabin of the Indian Railway, and we arrived at Surat on 25 March.
In conclusion, my holiday in Gujarat was a remarkable journey filled with spiritual discoveries, historical wonders, and breathtaking landscapes. From exploring the famous char-dham circuit and Bet Dwaraka to embarking on a pilgrimage hike to Palitana, every moment was an enriching experience that left lasting memories of cultural heritage and natural beauty.