Hear about travel to Gujarat, India as the Amateur Traveler talks again to James Schomburgk about festivals, temples and Asiatic lions.
James says, “Gujarat is in the far western central of northern India. Pakistan is its western border. And the southern border is the Arabian Sea. It’s actually close to some of the big hitting states in terms of tourism, but it’s a very different geographically. It’s very different feel to the rest of India. If you’re looking for something that’s remote. If you’re looking for something that is you’ll be, you’ll be certainly be treated like royalty, because everybody will be looking at you bizarrely because they rarely see any tourists. The beauty of it is I think, for me, the wildlife, the wildlife is was quite mind blowing. And I know I’ve spoken to so many people in India, a lot of people associate India with tigers, but what they have in Gujarat is lions, leopards, hyena, and wolf, animals that people would be a bit surprised that are in India. It was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi so it’s also got a lot of history.”
James starts us in the city of Bhavnagar. He stayed in the Nilambag Palace with the current Maharaja. Half the palace has been turned into a hotel.
He takes us then to one of the most holy sites in Jainism at Shatrunjaya. You can climb the 3,300 steps past a number of temples to a set of ornate temples at the top that are 900 years old. The view from the top of the mountain is also spectacular. If you don’t have the fitness to climb the steps you can get carried up on a litter.
From there James directs us to Sasan Gir National Park where you can see the last remaining Asiatic Lions in India. The Asiatic Lion is a close cousin of the African Lion. In addition to lions, they saw the nilgai which are the largest Asian antelope and the dangerous mugger crocodile. Gir National Park is closed from 16 June to 15 October every year.
The nest stop is Junagadh which is known for its old fort (the name literally translates to “Old Fort”). There are also some spectacular mausoleums in Junagadh which were built in the late 1800s in an Indo-Islamic style. They have elaborate carving and minarets with exterior spiral staircases. But the most memorable part of James’ visit to Junagadh was the festival of Bhavnath Mela where throngs of people would climb the nearby holy hill of Girnar wearing their best sari… or in the case of some Naga (holy men) wearing nothing at all.
Somnath temple is a sacred Hindu site that has been built and rebuilt over the centuries after it fell victim to invading Muslim armies from the west.
Gujarat cuisine is vegetarian and you won’t find alcohol either for religious regions so James and his traveling companion enjoyed a visit to the tiny state of Diu which used to be a Portuguese possession. Here you could see the blending of the Indian and Portuguese cultures… and get a cheap beer. They enjoyed a visit to a fishing village and a pick-up game of cricket with locals.
The last stop on our itinerary is Blackbuck National Park for more wildlife viewing including the eponymous Blackbuck antelope, striped hyena and Indian wolf. James highly recommends a stay in the luxurious Blackbuck Safari Lodge.
After you have seen the well-known sites of India, explore some of its hidden gems like Gujarat.
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Little Rann of Kutch
India and the Enduro India Motorcycle Rally – Episode 34
Gir National Park
Asiatic Lion Lodge
Mahabat Maqbara complex
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
St. Paul’s Church, Diu
Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar
Blackbuck Safari Lodge
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