Sunday, January 15, 2017

BHUJ: The dusty town

One might think of this Gujarati town to be sleepy minuscule one where you literally need to take leisure steps to go around lauding palaces and lakes while relishing the Gujarati snacks and other food items, but keep your senses alert as you are entering, yes tiny, but over populated and polluted town. The town gives a feeling like you are on the outskirts of a city where the roads are not laid even, unbreathable dust, traffic which is haywire, oodles of fast-food dhaba type hotels that you will skirt around fighting chunk of plastic, shit, rotten food and not to forget uneven and unfathomable noise! Welcome to Bhuj!

We reached the dusty town around noon and headed straight to our Odhav Hotel which was mere 8 minutes auto-ride from the railway station. The well staffed-hotel is more like a transit kinds offering tiny (I was shocked to see the size actually) yet clean rooms with attach bathrooms. There are many options to stay around the town but we opted for this due to our budget. Rs. 1500/- per night exclusive breakfast. Soon after checking in, showered and ready, we walked down to Hotel Prince for our first Gujarati Thali. The thali was something I have had anticipated, full of oil, ghee and sweetness but nevertheless it's a definite Must Try!

After a heavy meal we took an auto and left for our first destination, Prag Mahel and Aaina Mahel. Unfortunately Aaina Mahel is shut on Thursdays hence plan your visit smartly. The whole palace-building of Prag Mahel is made of sandstone which gives it a look of any-other British building in your South Mumbai. Once inside, look for the interesting staircase that will take you to the first floor which is where the main entry into the palace is situated. Most of the notices are in Gujarati but the helpful women staff is there to guide you. Please remove your footwear here.


Its an interesting palace with a massive well decorated main hall that was restored with the help of Amitabh Bachchan after the 2001 earthquake. You will easily spend major time in this hall. Except this section rest of the palace is in shamble with chipped walls adorning few interesting photo frames. I wonder why. Once out, wear you shoes and take the next stairway to reach the terrace. Again most of the rooms are shut except one with spiral staircase taking you to the upper crust of the building. Its relatively very small but you get a whole 360 degree of the dusty town. Spend sometime here before stepping down to visit the next palace.


Portrait of dancer Mastani 

A major part of Aaina Mahel, built by Rao Lakhpatji, is also destroyed in the massive earthquake that rocked Bhuj in 2001 leaving few glimpses which is still worth visiting including the bed room, music room, court room and other old pieces of arts, paintings, arms, palanquin etc.. This palace is relatively close to any of your typical Kerala house with major wooden work, a courtyard surrounded by rooms and kitchen. It actually looks like a house after the renovation. Cutely small this palace is full of mirror work on the walls, doors, cabinets and windows due to which it gets a very vast and shiny look. Lots of interesting wooden frames with equally interesting art works. It's a collectors delight.


After exploring these two palaces take the narrow lane and head towards the main lake of Bhuj called Hamirsar Lake. The lane leading to the lake (behind the old Swaminarayan Temple) is the filthiest one ever to walk upon. But brave yourself and go. You would wish to sit by the lake or walk around but again there is filth all around forcing you to just stand, click and leave. Depending on the monsoon the lake is filled with water, unfortunately for us the lake was just thirty percent full and which might dry up by the end of January. Surprisingly there were hundreds of Pelican migratory birds swimming in the lake overlooking the setting sun. That was some beautiful sight. After the sunset, come on the main road and head towards Zeenat Masjid skirting the lake for the evening stroll. Here you will see a mini mela like scene with kids enjoying camel rides, adults chit chatting over delicious dabelis or ice cream and older people catching up after a days work over a cup of hot tea.

Head to the Jubilee Bus-Stop (walkable distance from the lake) for the best street food. Look out for Shankar Pizza for the BEST pizza in town. There is a special place dedicated to eggs called Omlet Centre for variety of dishes made with eggs. And then look out for K for their sweet delicacies. Havmor ice cream parlours are spread across the town to cater to your cold sweet teeth. Yummy.

Jubilee Bus-Stop market

The only camel at Hemirsar Sarovar taking the kids for rides

Irrespective of the belief there is literally ONLY one Bike rental place in Bhuj called “MK Auto” which is right opposite Shankar Pizza. He has some decent bikes which will do the job and the person on the desk is quite friendly.
we were very fortunate enough to get our hands on Honda Navi. Brilliant. Stylish. 60Km/liter. Rs 800 per day. Contact Mr Jacky at
MK Auto – 09898983999 / 09913060136.

Mr Jackky of MK Auto

If you are planning to visit many places that is around Bhuj including Kutch, the White Rann, Ajrakhpur, Bhujodi, Anjar, Narayan Sarovar, Mandvi beach then it is convenient that you keep Bhuj as your base.

Photographs by: Inderjit Nagi
Text by: Syed Ali Arif

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