The breeze sweeps through my face like a poet’s musing, like a shade on a sunny afternoon, and then there are the spiral turns of the road that take me to a familiar road, comforting almost and beautifully planned to say the least. This road leads to Gujarat, a destination bringing you closer to Indian roots.
A little over 240 Kms on road from Mumbai, I find myself 1000 metres above the sea level at Gujarat’s only but pristine hill station, Saputara. If you hit the road often, you’re going to be happy to experience the seamlessly drive leading to a destination as sky-high as Saputara. Located in the lap of the Western Ghats, the Queen of green lands’ crown sparkles even brighter at this time of the year as the clouds play peek-a-boo and rains embrace the motherland amplifying every beautiful detail of Saputara.
Marking the celebration of this picturesque time of the year and paying an ode to the landscape is Saputara Monsoon Festival. An annual month-long celebration, taking place from 4th August-10th September this year, it is a window to Gujarat through cultural performances, sound and light show, and a drive/walk down the town allows you to appreciate every detail of this place tucked amidst mountains, lush lands, and waterfalls.
If you too are prepped to experience this festival, here are a couple of to-do things I recommend (Because Good Smartian etc:P )
Experience The Festival And Explore The Local Vicinity On Foot
Begin your trip by witnessing the festival, tap your feet to the tunes to the melodious performances that take you through the rich and myriad culture of Gujarat in little time. Explore the local town on foot because the infrastructure allows you to walk on the wide roads (A novelty for most hill stations.) Enjoy a cup of tea, steamy Maggi, or pick from the local stalls offering raw mango, sweet corn, and all that good food against the view of the mountains, and misty clouds for company. Paddle your way into the Saputara lake and enjoy a boat ride with a lit view (Courtesy of the on-going light and sound show.)
Visit The Outskirts Of The Dhang District
In its truest endeavour to bring the real taste of tourism closer to its visitors, Gujarat tourism believes in bringing the community closer to the tourists. Walking a step closer to this real experience, I found myself on the outskirts of Gujarat at the Baj Village for an interaction with the Kukma Tribe who call bamboo-built humble houses their homes. An interesting reflection of the culture can be observed during the Dhang Darbar a festive procession that takes place during Holi when the Governor of Gujarat personally visits the district to honour 6 Dhangi Kings to pay them an annual royalty or Salyana, an enduring tradition identified during the colonial rule. Interestingly, the origin of the name Dhang is also associated with the Hindu mythology concerning Ramayana. It is said that during his 14-year-long exile Lord Rama visited Dandakaranya which went on to become the Dhang district.
Take A Road Trip To Popular Attractions
Drive by and visit some of the popular attractions that will let you witness Saputara up and close. Include a visit to Table Top Point, a ride on the cable car offers you a panoramic view of the mountainous town. Some quality time spent by the Saputara Dam and Gira Waterfalls will ensure that you have “The Monsoon” experience as the swift breeze graces you.
When in Gujarat, why miss a visit to the capital city, Vadodara? A former princely state, it is known for its rich history. But before that, I even recommend a trip to the historical city Champaner for an opportunity to witness architectural marvels.
Here’s a quick to-do when visiting Champaner
A part of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jama Masjid is said to have been constructed over 25 years. The architecture presents intricate details in its ceiling carvings and preserves Islamic ethos. Adjacent to the mosque are the tombs in the garden area. The pillars boost of design grandeurs much like the rest of this monument and a Holy place of worship. The dome and minars are likely to make you pause in awe for the fine framework it depicts.
Saat Kaman or Seven Arches are known to be built using local sandstone by the placement of trapezium shaped stones laid on each other with a wedge-shaped stone at the top. You’ll also spot little stone windows allowing you a view of the gorgeous mountains.
Kalika Mata Temple
A ropeway ride from Pavagadh takes you to Kalika Mata Temple located on the cliff, on your path to the Holy Temple, you’ll spot the Dudhiya Talav and the Jain Pavagadh Temple.
Capital City Vadodara
Formerly known to be a city of palaces, Vadodara reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Gujarat. Brimming with life through the days. The resident city of the Royal Maratha Family, Gaekwads, the grandeur reflects in every corner of the city. It is also home to the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the largest university in Gujarat.
So, what should your itinerary in Vadodara look like? Here are my recommendations…
Laxmi Vilas Palace
A visit to the Laxmi Vilas Palace tops the list, witness the larger than life home of the Royal Family and let your mind wander and applaud for its opulence. The architecture reflects a synergy of elements from the Hindu, Gothic, Mughal forms. Sprawling in 700 acres, the palace is said to be four times bigger than the Buckingham Palace. An audio tour of the palace takes you through each of its prominent sections, piquing your imagination to teleporting you to the 18th Century.
Tomb of Qutubuddin Muhammad Khan
The Mausoleum Known as Hazira contains the graves of Qutb-Ud-Din Muhammad Khan, who was an uncle to Mirza Aziz Koka, foster brother of Akbar. He was also the tutor to Salim, the son and successor of Akbar.
Built in the style of Mughal Tombs as seen in Delhi, the archaeological survey suggests that it was built around 1586. The real grave is in an underground chamber and the false grave in the tomb chamber. The Quranic texts in Arabic are carved, inside tomb chamber, on lintels, arches and also above Jali work on eastern side walls.
P.S: If travel is on your mind with a taste of the perfect monsoon festival, some architectural musings and a destination that will bring you closer to the Indian roots, pack your bags to en route Gujarat already. Until next time, #StayCurious 🙂