Deserts : Bhuj

 
Bhuj, 48 kms from Gandhidham in the state of Gujarat, has been associated with three pre-historic legacies (the Indus Valley civilization, the Mahabharata, Alexander's conquest of India), Naga chieftains, the Chavda dynasty and the Solanki Rajput kings. However, it came into prominence during the reign of the Jadeja Rajputs - a clan that claimed descent from Lord Krishna and the moon god. The Jadejas went on to become one of the major Rajput powers of the region, commanding respect even from the Mughal emperors for their naval expertise - all ports other than those along the Gulf of Kutch fell to European maritime invaders.

A walled town, pictorially placed between two streams, Bhuj, like Jaisalmer and Bikaner, is a classic example of a desert township. Its' sandstone monuments give it a medieval aura and the 10.5-metre high city wall, forming an irregular polygon with five gates and towers, is an architectural marvel. The Bhujia Fort, from which Bhuj derives its name, overlooks the town from a 160-metre high hillock.

 

The Kutch Utsav commencing on the last day of February is a window to this ancient land of heroism and romance. It is a journey through a panorama of unending and enchanting images amidst diverse landscapes. Staged on the occasion of Mahashivratri, the festival provides a kaleidoscopic glimpse of the simple and hardy life of the myriad tribes, steeped in artistic tradition and suspended in time.

What to See

Darbargarh Palace
- This historic palace complex, erected in various stages, is an intricate maze. It has three sections separated by open courtyards. The palace is built in typical medieval Rajput style with fabulous carved jharoka balconies, jail-screens and cupolas offering splendid views of the old fort, which now houses a government office and a school.

Sharad Bagh Palace
- A retreat of the Maharaos of Kutch, this museum displays a collection of silver caskets, stuffed tigers, elephant tusks and even Maharao Madan Sinhji's tennis trophies! The folk museum has a re-created Kutchi village in the forecourt and an outstanding collection of beadwork, embroidery, leather articles, woodcarvings, pottery, and historic relics.

 
The Kutch Museum - Founded in 1877, this has a shipping display, Buddhist relics and a memorable collection of musical instruments.

Rao Pragmalji's Palace - Built in the 1860's and 70s in a Venetian-Gothic style, Pragmalji's Palace has pointed Gothic arches, classical colonnades and European truss timber roofs. The massive staircases and deep passages are floored with colourful Minton tiles and lined with handrails on classical balusters. The highlight is the Durbar Hall, which has Corinthian pillars, molded ceilings, huge Venetian chandeliers, Greco-Roman statutory, classical balustrade galleries and ceiling murals of Shakespearean characters. The furnishing is in the Victorian-Edwardian and art deco style. The Hall, which has a collection of hunting trophies, has now been converted into a museum.

The Maharao's chattris - The royalty of this desert kingdom made spectacular burial grounds, Chattardis, to match their larger-than-life images. All the funeral rites of the kings of the Rajor dynasty were done at these Chattardis. The grandest among them is the Chattardi of Raja Lakhpat who died in 1796. His 15 queens committed sati after his death and the main hall of his Chattardi has their idols along with his. Located adjacent to Lakhparo lake in the heart of the town, the cluster of cenotaphs have a rich array of beautiful and intricate carvings on sandstone. Additionally, there are the palias or funeral stones in memory of warriors, bardic poets and queens who committed sati.
 

Rudra Mata Mandir - 14 kms from Bhuj, on the road to Khavada, this temple, located at a scenic spot on the banks of the river Khari, is the presiding deity of the Maharajas of Kutch - the Jadeja family. According to mythology, it is 400 years old. A stone's throw away from the temple is the Garha Safari Lodge, a theme hotel that has a panoramic view of the river and offers an experience of staying in bhoongas, the traditional dwellings of the villagers but with all the modern comforts.