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Old 8th April 2012, 15:18   #31
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Default Day 9: Bhuj - Ajrakhpur - Bhujodi - Bhuj

We wake up to our last day in Kutch with a tinge of sadness and excitement. We have been in Bhuj for the past 4 days but haven't seen what Bhuj city has to offer.


The check-out time of the hotel is 12:00PM and staying beyond that means that we have to pay another day's charges. Our train to Ahmedabad is at 10:15PM.
We decide to check-out at the scheduled time and request the reception staff to provide us a room for refreshing ourselves in the evening – they agree to this.

After breakfast, we take an auto to the Swaminarayan Temple. It takes about 10 mins to reach there through the Sunday early morning roads of the city.
We are amazed by the temple and it's architecture. This is a new temple built after the devastating 2001 earthquake destroyed the older one. The temple is made of marble and gold and has exquisite carvings on the marble throughout the temple.
This truly ranks as one of the finest pieces of modern temple architecture I have seen.
We walk spellbound through the temple complex and take pictures.

First glimpse of the Swaminarayan Temple.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4734.jpg

Wonderful marble carvings on the temple columns.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4736.jpg

Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4737.jpg

Designs on the temple floor are simply mind blowing!
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4738.jpg


After having our fill of the temple, we walk down to the Kutch Museum nearby and pleasantly find a piece of Karnataka out here in the midst of Kutch.
We are received at the gate of the museum by Tipu Sultan's cannon that he swapped with the local rulers for the famous Kutchi horses.

Tipu Sultan's cannon at the Kutch Museum.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4748.jpg

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Photography costs Rs.110/- and I decide to keep my camera tucked away. We walk around the museum offering a glimpse of the various tribes of the region and their economic and cultural information on the ground floor.

On the first floor, numerous handicrafts and antiquities from the royal days are on display. We actually rush through the section as we are short of time.

Once outside, we grab an auto for Aina Mahal. The auto takes us past the scenic Hamirsar Lake into the congested inner city of Bhuj where the Mahal is located.

As we enter through the gates, we are welcomed by a huge Gothic structure – the Prag Mahal.

The Prag Mahal.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4753.jpg

From Prag Mahal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Quote:
The Prag Mahal is a 19th-century palace located next to the Aina Mahal in Bhuj, Gujarat, India. It was commissioned by Rao Pragmalji II, and construction began in 1865. It was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style, and many Italian artisans were involved in its construction. The palace artisans' wages were paid in gold coins. Construction of the palace, which ultimately cost 3.1 million rupees, was completed in 1879 during the regency of Khengarji III (Pragmalji II's son) following Pragmalji II's death in 1875.
We get our tickets and enter the 19th Century palace of the Kutchi royals. The first thing that struck me was the maintenance. The palace is indeed very poorly maintained by the royal estate, and is in a state of despair. But the poor state cannot hide the wonderful structures, the beautiful canvas ceilings and the majestic columns from our eyes.

The entrance to the Prag Mahal. Note the wonderful canvas ceiling.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4756.jpg

Beautiful canvas paintings on the ceiling.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4760.jpg

Very European structures on the walls and columns of the Durbar Hall.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4770.jpg

A photo of an erstwhile king of Kutch.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4771.jpg

We walk through the large durbar hall, the adjacent rooms and then towards the bell tower, when I am suddenly struck by a painting on the wall.

As I suspected, it is a Raja Ravi Varma. I have always enjoyed paintings by the master and am rather surprised finding them here in this state. Priceless things rotting away!

A Raja Ravi Varma on the walls of the Prag Mahal.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4776.jpg

I take the narrow circular stairway to the top of the bell tower, where I am offered a grand view of the city of Bhuj. It is beautiful with the Harmirsar Lake forming the backdrop at one end and the outlying hills on the other.

View of Bhuj city from the bell tower of the Prag Mahal.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4782.jpg

We move to the Aina Mahal next door.

From Aina Mahal | Things to do | Bhuj | Kutch Hub | Tourism Hubs | Home | Gujarat Tourism -
Quote:
The Aina Mahal palace, or “Hall of Mirrors” was built during the flamboyant rule of Lakhpatji in the middle of the 18th century. Master craftsman Ramsinh Malam, who trained as an artisan for 17 years in Europe, felt unappreciated by lesser rulers in the area, so he went to the royal court at Bhuj and appealed to the king for work, who commissioned this palace.
We are again disappointed at the pathetic state of the palace that could be a head turner if it were to be maintained.
This is a palace that was destroyed in the 2001 earthquake and only a small portion is in working condition now. It contains a museum filled or rather jammed with antiquities.

Musical instruments jostling for space with clocks and palanquins, this isn't the best example of ergonomy. This place requires massive restoration efforts to get it back to it's pristine glory.

The Aina Mahal.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4793.jpg

With a sense of disappointment, we hail a auto to take us back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel we pack our bags and check-out of our room. Leaving our bags at the reception we take an auto for the village of Ajrakhpur.
The deal with the auto is Ajrakhpur-Shrujan-Bhujodi for Rs.500/-. I believe that this is defintely way above the local rates but I wasn't in a mood for a hard bargain.

The village of Ajrakhpur lies east of the city on the Bhachau highway. For a change, we stop at the Shaan-e-Punjab dhaba by the roadside for lunch. It feels that the staff are a bit taken aback at our presence, because it seems that tourists normally don't frequent this dhaba.

After a satisfying meal of masala tadka with rotis, we start for Ajrakhpur and reach there by 2:00PM to find a near-empty village.

Harsh's travelogue mentions about Mohammed Musa and we locate his house only to find it locked. It seems that he is away in Bhuj attending a wedding.
The rest of the village is also mostly empty and on inquiring we learn that the second half of Sunday is leisure day for all the villagers. By 12:00PM they wrap up their work and go to Bhuj or Mandvi to spend in leisure.

Hard luck but all's not lost.
One shop, which is still open, allows us to see how the Ajrakhi hand-block printing is done and Sonali buys some stuff for the house from here. But the shop isn't well stocked.
Our auto-driver tries to take us around in the hope of finding some other open shop, but we are clearly caught on the wrong-foot today.

Ajrakhi block printing.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4801.jpg

A finished garment for sale.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4814.jpg

We anyway move out to Shrujan next. This is a shop run by a NGO selling stuff brought right from the handicraft artisans of Kutch, but catering mainly to the foreigner crowd. The displays are undoubtedly of the highest quality but the prices are also outrageously high.
From Shrujan, I grab a nice book on the history of Kutch and we make our way to Bhujodi – the famous village of textile weavers.

Our auto-driver takes us to a house-cum-shop right at the end of the village after going through other options.
The shop is very well stocked and Sonali finally gets busy doing what she enjoys most – shop!

The prices are low compared to what we have just seen at Shrujan and we spend considerable time here since this is our final destination of the day prior to the railway station.

The shop we shopped at.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4817.jpg

Bargaining, arguments, display, colors - all thrown in.
Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.-_mg_4821.jpg

We reach our hotel by 6:30PM and say bye to the auto-driver who was a really nice person.
As agreed earlier, the hotel staff provide us a room to refresh ourselves.

We decide to try out Hotel Neelam next door for dinner. This turns out to be a bad decision. The food is bad and the staff not as courteous as we have come to expect in Kutch. Despite this, the restaurant does roaring business.

We grab our luggage and hail an auto to take us to the railway station. The train is already at the platform and we quickly settle down into our berths.
At 10:15PM, the train chugs out of the station and I say my final byes to the lights of Bhuj city.


Day 10: Ahmedabad - Bangalore

We reach Ahmedabad right on time at 5:00AM. Outside the station we take an auto for the airport. The driver initially asks for Rs.180/- but final negotiation is for Rs120/-.

We drive through the pitch darkness of early morning Ahmedabad and reflect on a beautiful week spent in the state. The desire to come back – we still have Saurashtra and South Gujarat to cover – has only grown stronger.

The Indigo flight is on time and we reach home in Bangalore by afternoon. We are back to reality.

THE END.
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Old 9th April 2012, 16:21   #32
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

arya - very nicely done TL. Totally enjoyed the pics. The "blue" in the sky is very captivating - did you do it w/o CPL? I read that you stop it down to achieve this effect - but pretty dramatic.

BTW - one pic that you mention as grey heron is actually Indian Pond Heron. And the next pic is "white throated Kingfisher" and not common kingfisher.

Last edited by sach.sri : 9th April 2012 at 16:22.
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Old 9th April 2012, 17:21   #33
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Default Re: Captivating Kutch: A trip to Gujarat's outback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sach.sri View Post
arya - very nicely done TL. Totally enjoyed the pics. The "blue" in the sky is very captivating - did you do it w/o CPL? I read that you stop it down to achieve this effect - but pretty dramatic.
Thanks!
I didn't use a CPL for any of the shots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sach.sri View Post
BTW - one pic that you mention as grey heron is actually Indian Pond Heron. And the next pic is "white throated Kingfisher" and not common kingfisher.
Thanks for this information! Appreciate it.

MODS: Can you please help update the photo labels with the corrected name of the birds?
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