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Gandhi’s Birth State in India; Gujarat

Written by  Rita Cook

India

The Indian state of Gujarat is located in the western part of the country, and offers a look at civilizations that date back as far as 4,000 years. Near the capital city of Ahmedabad, both Lothal and Dholavira are important archeological sites, displaying the ruins of ancient cultures. Gujarat is also known for its stepwells, or water buildings, which were once an important part of life in this region, providing water for drinking and bathing. There are over 120 stepwells in this state alone. In Gujarat, visitors should also be sure to see some of the Jain Temples in Palitana and learn about the Asiatic Lion, whose last home in the world is in the Gir Forest in Gujarat. Indeed, it is a colorful region, filled with much of the culture from bygone eras.

Sights to See
Gujarat is where Mahatma Gandhi hails from. When visiting, you will find that due to his beliefs about alcohol and its prohibition, the entire state is dry. Gandhi’s first Ashram (religious retreat) is still located near the city of Ahmedabad, the main city in this state.The Ashram is called Sabarmati Ashram and is located on Ashram Road, on the banks of the River Sabarmati.

India is primarily Hindu and Buddhist, so there are many Hindu temples to admire. One is the Modhera Sun Temple, which was dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God, Surya. The shrine in this temple was built in such a way that the first rays of sun are cast on the image of the God Surya inside the temple. Also within the complex is another temple which is home to hundreds of hanging bats the size of hummingbirds.

Other places that are high on the list of “must sees” in the state should include the Rann of Kutch (Rann means Salt Marsh) where you can stay overnight at a desert safari camp and take a safari ride, seeing jackal, donkeys, desert fox and also get a glimpse of the locals creating their wares. In the Rann of Kutch, the salt marshes played a significant role in Gandhi’s message of freedom for India, and even now, this part of the country remains traditional because of this reminder.

Other excursions that should be on your radar include the Calico Museum of Textiles, as well as the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Indology Museum, both in Ahmedabad. The latter is a museum of art and architecture, best known for its collection which includes palm-leaf manuscripts, artifacts and miniature paintings. Both museums are free to visitors.

For a real look into this area’s past, spend the night at the Darbargadh Poshina Palace (www.poshina.com), in the village of Poshina. The food here is delicious, and the palace has been in the family of the present day owner, a maharaja, for eight generations. There are several knife makers left in this village (of about three that still practice this craft in the state) and tourists are welcome to watch these craftsmen make the knives just as they have been doing for hundreds of years.

Shopping is big business in Gujarat and the folks there are pros. Finding the perfect local trinket to bring home becomes a fun game. Many of the items are made in the region, from local scarves for which the craftsman use block and screen printing, to the multi-colored hanging trinkets made with local cloth and embellished with small mirrors sewn into the cloth. Women in the local villages who make bright and colorful bracelets and necklaces always create the wares with an emphasis on using local materials.

Indeed, with so much to do in Gujarat. it will be hard to know where to begin, so visit www.gujaratindia.com for more information.

Travel Tips
Alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat, but foreign tourists can be exempted from this restriction by purchasing a temporary permit. Visitors can inquire about this permit at hotels, and other
designated places.

During the winter months, Gujarat’s weather is pleasant and dry with average daytime temperatures around 83 degrees fahrenheit, and nights around 53, with sunny days and clear nights. The summers are extremely hot, dry and sunny with daytime temperatures around 115 and at night, no lower than 90 degrees.

Getting There
The only international airport in the state of Gujarat is located in the city of Ahmedabad, with regular flights from London, New York, Chicago as well as a number of Asian and Middle Eastern cities. Domestically you can fly into Ahmedabad from Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and a few smaller cities around the country as well.
www.incredibleindia.com

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