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GUJARAT

Gujarat today offers a wide range of the most spectacular attractions, which includes breathtaking locations and scenic landscapes. Gujarat is also a vibrant land with ancient historical and cultural traditions. It is also home to various archeological sites and historical monuments. Nature has bestowed on Gujarat some of the most breathtaking locations and scenic landscapes. A sea coast, 1650 km long, the longest in India encloses Gujarat from three sides like a girdle. The state is dotted with some really fine beaches like those of Ahmedpur-Mandvi, Kutch-Mandvi, Chorwad and Gopnath. The coast was also a historical centre with interesting Portugese forts, shore temples, princely port cities and beach palaces. The fascinating handicrafts, mouth-watering cuisine and colourful lifestyle of the people of Gujarat, are renowned all over the country.

The recently excavated ancient port of Lothal, near Ahmedabad, bears testimony to Gujarat's 4,500 years of history. An important trade centre of the pre-Aryan Harappan civilization, Lothal had trade links with the ancient civilizations of Sumer, Babylon and Egypt.

With the Arabian Sea lapping its western frontier, Gujarat has been exposed to a succession of alien races. In the process, it has imbibed elements of a variety of cultures, and yet retained its cultural individuality. Gujarat is the stronghold of Jainism and is also known for the home of Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of tolerance and non-violence.

AHMEDABAD

Ahmedabad was founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah on the banks of river Sabarmati in 1411 A.D. He decided to build the capital at Ahmedabad because he saw a rabbit attacking one of his hunter dogs. It occurred to him that if the rabbits of the region were so brave, the people must be even braver. Sultan Ahmed Shah graced his kingdom with splendid monuments, mosques, pavilions and mausoleums, marking the beginning of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Modern day Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat state is the largest city and a leading industrial centre in the country. Ahmedabad has a lot more to offer visitors. Popularly known as the Manchester of the East, Ahmedabad boasts of the largest denim production in the world. It is also home to several interesting museums. Many of Ahmedabad's buildings bear the signatures of world-renowned architects like Le Corbusier, Louis Khan, Doshi and Correa. It is from the austere habitat of Sabarmati at Ahmedabad, that the 'Father of the Nation' - Mahatma Gandhi took on the mighty British Empire, and gave human race one of its most enduring ideologies.

Jumma Masjid: Described by some as the most beautiful mosque in India, the congregational mosque was built by the city's founder, Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1423. Built in yellow sandstone, it combines the best of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. It stands on 260 pillars supporting 15 domes at varying elevations. The mosque is located in the centre of the old city.

Shaking Minarets: The shaking minarets are two minarets located at the Siddhi Bashir mosque. They are uniquely designed in a way that when one minaret is shaken the other one shakes too.

Siddi Sayed Mosque: One part of the wall in the old citadel of the mosque built by Ahmed Shah's slave, Sidi Sayed, is celebrated all over the world for its exquisite stone window tracery - a superb example of delicate carving that transforms stone into filigree.

Sabarmati Ashram: On a quiet stretch of the river Sabarmati, 7 kms north of the city, Mahatma Gandhi set up a simple retreat in 1915. This was his first Satyagraha Ashram and for many it was the nerve centre of India's freedom movement. Hridaya Kunj, the cottage where he lived is preserved as it was in the Mahatma's lifetime. The Gandhi Ashram has a memorial centre, library and a sound and light spectacle to offer its visitors.

The Pols: The Pols, integral parts of old Ahmedabad are residential units dating back to 1714 with intricately carved facades, which line the streets. It nurtures within its folds, pages of history, a breath of harmony and a showcase of exquisite architecture. Notable in the present day Pols are Mhurat Pol, Mandvi-ni-Pol, and Lakha Patel-ni-Pol.

Sarkhej Roza: About 8 kms. from the city, Sarkhej comprises one of the most elegant architectural complexes of Ahmedabad. Grouped around a great stepped tank is the tomb to the saint, Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh (1445), the mosque, the tombs of Mehmud Shah Begada and his queen, and the palace and pavilions. The buildings are remarkable for the complete absence of arches and the use of pierced stone trellises throughout.

Teen Darwaja:
The triple-arched gateway was built by Sultan Ahmed Shah to serve as the royal entrance to the Maidan Shahi or the Royal Square. It is an imposing monument of perfect proportions and highly ornate buttresses.

Shah Alam Roza: The tomb and mosque of saint Shah Alam are said to have been built by the brother of the Empress Noorjehan. The brass doors are set in carved marble frames and the floor tiled in black and white marble.

Kankaria Lake: A polygonal lake almost a mile in circumference, it was constructed in 1451 by Sultan Qutb-ud-Din. In the centre of the lake is an island-garden with a summer palace known as Nagina Wadi. The lake is now a popular recreational centre and is surrounded by parks, 'Bal Vatika', children's gardens, a boat club, natural history museum and a zoo.

Hatheesing Jain Temple: Built outside Delhi Gate in 1850 by a rich Jain merchant, the Hatheesing Temple is the best known of Ahmedabad's many ornate Jain temples. Built of pure white marble and profusely decorated with rich carvings, the Hatheesing Temple is dedicated to Dharamnath, the 15th Jain apostle. Within the city there are many other Jain temples with remarkable carvings in stone and wood.

Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary: Just 65 kms. Southwest of Ahmedabad, is the delightful bird sanctuary of Nalsarovar nestling around the Nal Lake, extending over 11,500 hectares. Established in 1969 A.D., it is known to harbour over 250 species of wetland birds. Nalsarovar sees winter migrants from the north that includes Rosy Pelicans, Flamingoes, White Storks, Brahminy Ducks and Herons.

Rani Roopmati Mosque: The Queen's mosque in Mirzapur, built between 1430 and 1440 is more representative of the pattern of mosque building in the 15th century Ahmedabad. Three domes stand on twelve pillars each with the central part raised to let in natural light without direct sunlight. The interior is richly ornamented with carvings and finely perforated stone screens.

VADODARA
Vadodara is a graceful city of palaces, parks, temples and museums and considered by many as the de-facto cultural capital of Gujarat. Once the capital of the Gaekwads, the former rulers of Vadodara, it is also known as Baroda and rises from the banks of River Vishwarmurti. It is also the industrial capital of Gujarat. Archaeological findings indicate that human habitations existed here since prehistoric times. Vadodara passed through the hands of, the Guptas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakubas, Solankis, the Sultans of Delhi and the Mughals before passing on to the Marathas. It owes its present day grandeur to Maharaja Sayajirao, a great patron of art, architecture and music.

BHAVNAGAR
Once the capital of Gujarat, Bhavnagar was founded in 1743 by Bhavsinhji Gohil is now a flourishing port on the Gulf of Khambhat. It is a convenient base for visits to Jain temples at Palitana on the sacred hill of Shatrunjaya hills and the Velvadar Sanctuary, home of the famous Indian Black buck. Bhavnagar is also home to several lakes and temples. Today, however the only activities related to the sea near Bhavnagar take place at the port of Ghogha and at Alang, which is also, Asia's largest ship breaking facility.

SURAT
Surat, the capital of South Gujarat, was India's most prosperous port and ancient trading centres in the 17th and 18th centuries. Located on the southern bank of Tapti, Surat is renowned for its fine silk and exquisite brocades like the Tanchoi, Gajee and Kinkhab styles sometimes woven with gold and silver threads. It is also famous for spices and its diamond market as well as ivory and wood artwork of rare beauty. Surat has the distinction of being the first European settlement in India besides being host to the Dutch and the Portuguese, a fact reflected in its little streets, which are charmingly European. The East India Company established its initial warehousing facility here in 1612 A.D. Sir Thomas Roe landed at the port of Surat before proceeding to the court of Emperor Jahangir to present his credentials as the Ambassador of England. Surat is popularly believed to have been founded by Gopi, a Nagar Brahmin, who rose to be the Prime Minister in the Sultanate of Gujarat under Mahmud I and Muzaffar II. On account of this belief, Gopi is generally called the patron of Gujarat. In ancient days, Surat was the main port for Muslim pilgrims travelling to Mecca for Haj. Vir Narmad one of the great literary and social reformers hailed from Surat. Historically Surat is intimately connected to the freedom struggle.

JAMNAGAR
Founded in 1540 A.D. Jamnagar, also known as the 'Jewel of Kathiawad', is a coastal town about 300 kms west of Ahmedabad and 92 kms. from Rajkot. Present day Jamnagar is a charming blend of the old and the new with its ancient monuments and broad streets, imposing facades, and squares which make it one of the most beautiful cities in the Saurashtra peninsula. Built by Jam Raval, a Jadeja Rajput leader who migrated from Kutch, Jamnagar was the capital for four centuries of the prosperous princely state of Nawanagar. Jamnagar is the hometown of the world famous cricketers Ranjit Sinh and Duleep Sinh after whom the Ranji and Duleep Trophies are named in domestic Indian cricket tournaments. Jamnagar is renowned for its silk, gold embroidery, silver ware, bandhani (tie-and-dye) fabrics that are renowned the world over. Nutcrackers (especially the ones made for betel nuts) made in Jamnagar are in great demand all over India.

DWARKA
The sacred town of Dwarka situated 145 kms from Jamnagar, sits on the western most tip of the Gujarat peninsula, a sentinel overlooking the Arabian Sea. The inner sanctum of the main Dwarkadhish Temple known as the Nij Mandir - dates back 2,500 years. Legend has it, Lord Krishna left Mathura and settled in the Western part of India with his Yadava clan and built a golden city and named it Dwarka and made this a capital of his kingdom. Dwarka is one of the four most important pilgrim places. Dwarkanath, the main temple here, is dedicated to lord Krishna. Architecture of the old Dwarka temple of Shri Krishna is majestic.

JUNAGADH
An ancient fortified city rich in myth and legend, Junagadh lies at the foot of the temple-studded Girnar hill. It derives its name from the 'old fort', which circles the medieval town. The Girnar hills that landscape Junagadh are a holy sanctuary to the Jains. The history of Mount Girnar dates back to the awesome empire of Ashoka, one of India's greatest emperors. Ashoka inscribed 14 edicts on a huge boulder en-route to Mt. Girnar peak. Junagadh's main feature is the Uperkot fort (upper fort), a somber and inaccessible fortress.

KUTCH
The state's biggest district and its most sparsely populated one is a sandy, barren area over half of which is desert and marshland. Like so many other regions of Gujarat, Kutch has its own distinctive character. It has a remarkably heterogeneous population belonging to 18 different tribes, each with its own language and culture. The Bandhani (tie and dye) hand printed sarees, embroidery and exquisite gold and silver ornaments are some of the traditional crafts of this region. The language dialects of Kutch and the manners of people are highly pleasing and musical to the ear.      

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