Gujarat: The best of all worlds
Gujarat is the sixth largest state in India and the ninth largest by population. Its people are indigenous to the region and in fact, Gujarat derives its name from the original settlers, the Gurjaras, who ruled the land in the 8th and 9th centuries. It has the highest population of Jains in the nation and the places of worship draw people from across the country for a holy experience.
Gujarat is renowned for its beaches, temples and historical towns. It also offers the eager traveller wildlife sanctuaries and hill resorts that help showcase the best of the state to its visitors.
The state's economy rests on its arts and crafts, as well as technology. Some of the country’s biggest businessmen come from Gujarat. Whether in art or in business, Gujarat has made a name for itself, and it is this fame that precedes it in the world of travel and tourism.
|Gujarat: A Quick View of the state|
|Official Language||Gujarati, Hindi|
|Population||Over 60 million (as of 2018)|
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
|Time Zone||UTC+05:30 (IST)|
|Area||1,96,024 square km|
Highlights of Gujarat: Things to see and Do
Gujarat offers myriad experiences to the hungry traveller. From delightful customs and culture, to delicious cuisine, to gorgeous vistas, thrilling wildlife, and a rich civilization that traces its roots to 4000 years back.
You can choose from heritage holidays that focus on the forts and mansions, or an eco-holiday that will take you to thundering waterfalls, deserts and forests. Or you can pick and choose to plan your own vacation.
Places to visit
Gujarat is an eclectic mix of geographies, cultures, and history. And you must traverse the length and breadth of the state to truly understand it. A few of the places that you must visit include:
Gujarat has several ancient religious sites that call the spiritual minded to its land. The temples are beautiful structures that speak of design sensibilities and architectural styles from centuries gone by. Besides lending a holy aura to the place, these sites also contribute significantly to tourism in Gujarat.
The jungles of Gujarat are home to several species of wildlife, making it an absolute treat for all nature lovers. You can expect to spot the Asiatic lions, sloth bear, greater flamingo, blackbuck, Indian wild ass and Indian bustard, among several types of flora as well. The state has 21 wildlife sanctuaries and four national parks, making it the perfect destination for a wildlife getaway in India. When in Gujarat, do visit:
If you wish to know more of the history and culture of Gujarat, the state has excellent museums that have captured the past for visitors and the next generation of locals. You can learn of the culture, the freedom struggle and the people of the state here.
Art and Culture
Gujarat is a state that boasts of a rich culture and a variety of traditions. The arts and crafts of Gujarat have international appeal and are critical to the state, not just from an aesthetic purpose, but also with a commercial point of view. Visitors will find stores and roadside stalls with the traditional art, all across the state. Some of the handicrafts to pick up while on a visit include:
The people of Gujarat love dance and music in all forms. Every year a 9-day festival, Navratri, is organized to bring the entire community together for 9 nights of music, dance and merriment. Garba and Dandiya are dance forms that are enjoyed in Gujarat.
Besides dance, music and their art, Gujarat has several festivals that the visitor must try to experience when visiting the state. Gujaratis find a reason to celebrate life and the seasons, making them one of the most cheerful and culturally-vibrant people in India.
Despite having such a vast coastline, Gujarati cuisine is predominantly vegetarian because of a strong Jain influence. The five regions of North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kachchh, Central Gujarat and South Gujarat each bring their unique flavour to Gujarati cuisine.
Gujarati meals are wholesome, and a typical thali will consist of roti, dal or kadhi, sabzi (a dish made with vegetables and spices) and rice. There will also be side preparations such as farsan, dhokla, pathra, samosa, etc. No Gujrati meal can be complete without a sweet dish. It could be either of jalebi, mohanthal, doodh pak, etc.
Interesting facts about Gujarat
Gujarat lies on India’s western border, along the coast of the Arabian Sea. It is flanked by Rajasthan on the northeast, Maharashtra to the southeast, and Madhya Pradesh to its east. Its vast coastline of 1600 km, mostly part of the Kathiawar peninsula, contains numerous ports. One of its more well-known and ancient ports is Lothal (part of the Indus Valley Civilization), which is believed to be the world’s first seaport. The state was an important port and trading centre, and Bharuch and Khambhat were powerful cities during the Maurya and Gupta empires, and continued to hold their own right up to later dynasties as well.
While Gandhinagar is its capital, Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat.
Timings: When you should visit
The best time to visit Gujarat is in winter, when the weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging in the twenties. Plan your vacation during the months from November to February.
Gujarat has extreme summers, with temperatures crossing 40 degrees at the season’s peak. The weather is dry and traveling can get uncomfortable. Avoid the months from March to June.
The monsoon season in Gujarat brings some respite; the temperature drops, and the days can be pleasant. However, as is typical of the monsoon in India, it can get messy. July to September is when Gujarat gets its annual rainfall.
By flight: Gujarat has one international airport at Ahmedabad, and it is connected to London, Chicago, New York, Muscat, Kuwait, Doha, Qatar, Sharjah, Dubai and Singapore. Travelers can also take domestic flights from other cities in India.
By rail: Gujarat has an excellent railway network and major cities in the state are connected to nearly all parts of India.
By road: You can drive into Gujarat from neighbouring states. Alternatively, you can also hop on to inter-city private or government-run buses.
History: A civilization going back in time
Gujarat was one of the main centres of the Indus Valley Civilization, and excavations have unearthed more than 50 Indus Valley settlement ruins here.
It was an important commercial centre and there is evidence of trade between the state and Bahrain, Egypt and Sumer during 1000-750BC. The state has been ruled by eminent dynasties, right from the Mauryas, Guptas, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, the Western Satraps, and the Satavahana empires, each of whom left their mark on the region. Some of the signs of these empires can still be seen in several cities of Gujarat.
Various Islamic invasions took place between 1197 and 1614, and Gujarat was ruled by historical leaders, including Allauddin Khilji, Humayun, Bahadur Shah, and even Akbar. Then came the Portuguese and Spanish looking for trade. Even the Maratha Empire made forays when the Mughal Empire showed signs of flagging. Zoroastrians fleeing persecuting Muslims came to Gujarat and made it their base, till this date.
A European colonisation took place from 1614-1947, and the British ruled the state until Independence. Post-independence, the princely states of Gujarat were merged into the three units of Saurashtra, Kutch and Bombay. And it was finally on 1 May 1960, that the independent state of Gujarat was formed.
Gujarati, Urdu, Sindhi, Hindi
When it comes to tourism, India is a land of profound diversity and beauty that leaves none of its four corners stay an exception. Gujarat, the vibrant state from its western nook is one such region that is blessed in abundance for its colourful cities, culture, flora and fauna, and its people alike. The land of vibrant culture and plush heritage, Gujarat is also the address to some of the most astoundingly winsome landscapes, and one of the best and the most scrumptious cuisines that India has to offer. As far as its glory is concerned, the state does not need any introduction, thanks to its rich blend of history, music, art and culture. It is thus, not a surprise to know that Gujarat is also given the sobriquet of ‘The Land of Legends’.
More than anything else, Gujarat tourism finds its footing in being the only home of the purebred regal Asiatic Lions. Found in the famous Gir forests of the state, Asiatic Lions are not the only impressive creatures of jungle but in fact, co-inhabit an intense range of their flora and fauna kin. The angelic beauty of Gujarat is visible in every square inch of its grounds, be it at Great Rann of Kutch of the hill range of Satpura and every place falling in between. Although, the western part of India is mostly known for Rajasthan and the lovely desert cities and palaces it brings in tow with it, Gujarat is the rare gem of a destination that harbours some spellbinding natural sites and architectural marvels. Tourism in Gujarat is not just about its flawless scenery but long coastlines, ancient murals, fascinating cave paintings, historic capitals, serene beaches, holy temples, remarkable handicrafts and thrilling wildlife sanctuaries as well. On top of it all the hospitable people and their cultural exuberance makes for a delightful vacation in Gujarat!
Gujarat as a tourist destination is a great place to unwind. Along with having a great many number of sightseeing options, naturally alluring sites and famous landmarks, the state also favours a tourist in terms of being a very well developed and equipped tourist destination. Gujarat is very well connected from the various other states of India as well as domestically via roads, rail or airways. You can not only reach the place from almost anywhere in the country with utmost ease, but also stay here comfortably owing to many superior hotels and resorts in the area.
Moreover, since Gujarat has many big cities that are highly industrialized, they are equipped with all the necessary modern amenities that ensure a happy stay here. Besides, the variety of destinations Gujarat tourism offers ensures there’s something for every kind of traveller- the history buffs, the culture explorers, the adventure seekers and the ones looking for blissful repose. It is therefore a good idea to check out a Gujarat tourism guide that will introduce every facet of Gujarat tourism to help you make an informed decision and plan your holiday to the state faultlessly.
Although a superb place for visiting on your holidays, Gujarat can be discouraging for some tourists owing to the fact that it is a dry state, meaning alcohol is banned in Gujarat. Moreover, since majority of the state has vegetarian population, you will also have a hard time trying to find a restaurant dishing out non-vegetarian food. Moreover, since the state has become quite commercialized and receives tourists in huge numbers during their peak season, it can again be intimidating for some on the lookout for a peaceful getaway.
On the other hand, Gujarat is a paradise of its own accord for those in search of a rendezvous with history. With spectacular ancient ruins of Indus Valley Civilization such as those at Lothal or Dholavira, dating back to over 4000 long years, innumerable temples and beautiful palaces, the region has a lot to offer you. Nature lovers too will find their respite here. You can enjoy safari in the dense forests of Gir and get the unique experience of looking at the regal beasts of Asiatic Lions and many other jungle creatures. The cities like Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Vadodara, Gandhinagar, Rajkot etc. give you another strong reason to visit Gujarat. These are both beautifully planned, and have lots to discover from the daunting buildings and temples to the many great activities to enjoy like taking an elephant or camel safari, riding in a hot air balloon, do rock climbing, and much more.
Coming to the wildlife in the Land of Legends, you will find some of the rarest and most imperial of animals here along with many endangered species that you may not find anywhere else in the world. Gir National Park is the home to many wonderful species of animals of which the Asiatic Lions top the list. It is the last of wildlife sanctuary for these animals. Kutch is the home of many animals like hyenas, black bucks, wild asses and dozens of beautiful migratory birds who fly to Gujarat’s marshes in the winters from the world over. These include many varieties of ducks, Arctic Terns, flamingos, sea gulls etc. who make their way from North Pole to reach here. The Jamnagar Marine Sanctuary is another popular tourist spot in Gujarat where its visitors come to spot some incredible animals such as the rock fish or sting rays.
Gujarat also derives its fame for being the birthplace of Gandhiji or Bapu, as we endearingly call him. Born in the state, he returned back from his sojourn abroad, only to propagate his ideologies in the c.ountry, beginning here. This is the prime reason why you will find several ashrams and monuments here that are built in his name. These are sure way to give a glimpse of the kind of life and philosophy he believed in, along with the mass movements that played a great role in directing the freedom struggle of India.
Kocharab Ashram, located near Ahemadabad is one such ashram which retains the relics of the items he used in his day-to-day life. Sabarmati Ashram is another ashram that’s highly popular for being the germination ground for Swadeshi and Khadi movements. Gandhiji’s birthplace, Porbandar, has emerged as an important tourist destination of Gujarat which features a museum chronicles his entire life’s doings. Dandi, is another place here that that finds its strong connection with him owing to the origination of the famous Dandi March.
One of the best aspects of tourism in Gujarat is its geological wonder, the Rann of Kutch. Its beauty can only be expressed through its sight, and seldom with words. The experience of standing under starlit skies at the infinitely stretching expanse of sandy terrain, is simply ecstatic. What adds to its beauty is the colourful annual festival celebrated here between November and February which is dedicated to the regional music, dance and gastronomy. You get to stay at luxurious tents right in the middle of the barren desert and savour the traditional Gujarati performing arts and foods, as well as various desert activities like paramotoring, cart rides and camel rides.
The place even has the provision to satiate those visitors who want to revel in the peace and quietude of the desert through its relaxing yoga and meditation schedules. The panoramic beauty and the aura of Rann of Kutch that renders time to come to a standstill, encourages families, couples, groups of friends and photographers alike to visit this place.
Gujarat is a state in India located in the west and has a diverse topography. From a coastline that stretches for 1660 kilometres to dense forests, the place has dynamic geographical features. While it has many grasslands, marshlands and mangroves, it also has a vastly spread desert and coastal region which is inhabits many different marine animals.
Gandhinagar is the capital city of the Gujarat with some noteworthy cities and towns of the state including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are the three states with which it shares its borders. Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch also shares an international border with Pakistan. Gujarat has many prominent ports such as Kandla and Porbandar and also has the world’s largest ship-breaking yard.
Being rich in natural resources and having a great strategic location, Gujarat has remained an important Indian port for over thousands of years. This is also the reason why it was inhabited since ages, with evidences of one of the earliest known civilizations- the Indus Valley Civilization. Numerous major cities dating to this period were constructed on the coast of this land and immensely flourished due to the prospering trade with the Persian Gulf. You can take a sneak peek at these ancient cities through the ruins found at World Heritage Sites of Gola Dharo, Lothal and Dholavira regions of Gujarat. The places showcase skilfully designed sea ports, cities, old sign boards and ritual tanks that are well-preserved.
It has been the birthplace of many great empires such as Maurya, Stavahana, Gupta, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and Palas; succeeding in the order. These dynasties built some great cities and monuments in Gujarat, shaping its history. These prominently include palaces, tempes and other buildings belonging to different era such as Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vijay Vilas Palace, Prag Mahal, Tomb of Ahmed Shah, Shaking Minarets and many bathing houses for the royal members which are known as Vavs. It is here that the famous Somnath temple was built which was known for its immense gold and opulence and was hence looted several times for the same. The Surya Mandir situated here is a sheer architectural and sculptural wonder.
During the Mughal Empire, the Delhi Sultanate too built their port in Gujarat and annexed their capital to the region. The Mughal kings developed their holdings in the area and Shivaji in th 17th Century, annexed Surat. The British too installed their subsidiaries here and with the commencement of the 19th century the city emerged as an important centre for the production of textile during the era. As the 20th century arrived, the state saw many significant developments and vehement struggles for independence from the British Raj and on 1st of May 1960, the Gujarat as we know it today was formed.
Gujarat has a population of 62.7 million. The region is known for its vibrant culture which has been preserved and promoted by its people adeptly. The two communities of Gujarat- Charans and Gadhavis have successfully passed on their legacy of Gujarati folk music, dance and arts to the newer generations. Their music mainly consists of folk songs in the form of festive, lullaby, nuptial or Rannade songs. The folk dances and music are enriched with a variety of melodious folk instruments.
Many regional fairs are also organized here which are based on the local lunar or solar calendars. The festivals are celebrated by the Gujarati folk with utmost fervour and are usually marked by colourful stalls and decorated kites, kirtans etc. that represent the true Gujarati traditions.
The Gujarati people are known for being entrepreneurs and industrialists, with a majority of them involved in one form of business or another; whether big or small. They are known to run successful local, national or international businesses from local shops to giant industries. The Jain community found in Gujarat are known to be mainly engaged in businesses pertaining to chemicals or textile mills, and in charity works related to schools or temples. Many industrialists with Gujarati descent have come to become well-known personalities.
Hinduism is the major religion followed in Gujarat with about 89% of the population being Hindus. Most of this Hindus in Gujarat follow the norms of Vaishnavism. Falling next are the Muslims and Jains, with Islam being the major minority religion (around 8.9%), followed in the state. The percentage of followers of Jainism is approximately 0.96% with the rest of the population also following religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity.
Gujarati is the officially recognized and most widely spoken language in Gujarat. Urdu and Sindhi are another languages that are popularly spoken in the area.
Indian Rupee is the only currency accepted in Gujarat.
Budget: Approximately, a sum of less than Rs. 3000 per day is required for a stay in a dorm room or a budget hotel, meals at local eateries serving ‘all you can eat’ thalis and travelling around via buses or trains.
Mid-Range: Approximately, a sum of Rs. 3000-Rs. 9000 is required for a stay at a mid-range hotel room, meals at local restaurants, entry fee for admission in museums and historic sites, and travelling around via local cabs or auto-rickshaws.
Luxury: You will require a daily budget of approximately Rs. 9000 for a stay at boutique hotel, meals at top-end restaurants and travelling around via first class in trains or renting a car.
ATMs are widely available all over Gujarat and while credit cards are accepted at most major restaurants, hotels and retail shops, cash may be needed at smaller establishments.
Bargaining is usually a rewarding skill when it comes to shopping at local markets of Gujarat or anywhere else in India; although some big shops or government emporiums may not find haggling for cost as amusing.
8 of us went on a trip to Dwarka – Somnath – Diu and Sasangir and gave the burden of making all the arrangements to the staff of Thomas Cook. You had to appreciate them for getting everything right in the place and not making anything over-budget. This was a journey of a lifetime and especially in Gir where you get to see Lions up close is really thrilling.
Travelling to Kutch during the Rannotsav is very hectic and chances of not finding a hotel is very high. But Thomas Cook assured that we will find a really amazing trip to the White Desert and their expertise convinced us to book a 3 night package for the festival. We saw best performances, stayed in a traditional home and got a chance to get as close as India Pakistan border.
Exploring the beautiful Somnath Temple and Dwarka temple is a beautiful experience. The Somnath experience became even better with a sea facing hotel. While our initial plan was to simply visit Somnath and Dwarka, Thomas Cook added Gir forest safari on minimal charges. It was an amazing journey to see so many sides of a travel destination in one go.