Information on Bhuj
Bhuj, a flourishing walled city is the most important town in the Kutch area, now it is the headquarters of the Kutch district. Bhuj was chosen by Rao Khengarji I as his capital in 1549. This city was greatly destroyed in the earthquake in 1819 and 2001.
Its name derives from the Bhujiyo Dungar, a hill, that overlooks the present Bhuj town. Bhuj is situated at the base of the fortified hill and partly round the lake. It has also been described as the Jaisalmer of Gujarat and is also very much similar like Bundi in Rajasthan.
Within the walls there is maze of enticing alleyways and many examples of fine Gujarati architecture, exuberant temple decoration and colourful inhabitants. This place is a paradise of handicrafts and lifestyle lovers. There are some villages in Bhuj which are rich in craft and culture. Embroidery is the most important handicraft in this region.
History of Bhuj
Bhuj was the capital of the former princely state of Kutch till 1947 AD. The Rajput rulers of Kutch came from Sindh in the late 15th century and settled at Bhuj. Rao Khengarji I chose the strategic location at the base of Bhujiyo Dungar and founded the city of Bhuj in 1548 AD. The need for better security arose only after the decline of Mughal power. In 1723 AD, Rao Godiji constructed the massive fort with gates and 11 meter thick masonry wall, surround the whole town.
The city wall was also armed with fifty one guns. The British took over the fort in 1819 AD and acted as peacemaker between the Kutch rulers and Bhayad Jagirdars. The treaty with the British resulted in peaceful period in the history of Kutch and the state thus became prosperous with surplus funds, enabling the rulers to undertake public and royal building projects.
Rao Pragmalji, who ruled Kutch from 1860 to 1876 AD also undertook various projects like the improvement of Mandvi harbour, construction of roads and irrigation works, hospitals, schools and jail. He also built the Prag Mahal and Ranjit Vilas Palace at Bhuj and Vijay Vilas Palace at Mandvi.
How to reach Bhuj
The nearest airport is located at Ahmedabad.
Some trains operate between Bhuj and Ahmedabad on meter gauge line and Mumbai on the broad gauge line from Gandhidham.
Bhuj is connected to some of the various cities of Gujarat. Bhuj is connected by State highway upto Bhachau to Ahmedabad by national highway No. 8A.
Tourist attractions in Bhuj
The Kutch Museum, formerly known as the Fergusson Museum, was founded by Maharao Khengarji III in 1877 AD. This museum was built by the state engineer Sir Ferguson, and thus named after him. This is remained a private exhibit for the Maharaos till independence and was renamed as the Kutch Museum.
The Kutch museum is the oldest museum in Gujarat. He is built in the Italian style and located in picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Hamirsar Lake. The museum has a large collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, various archaeological objects, arms and specimens of various crafts of the Kutch region.
The Cenotaphs Complex or Chattardi was built of red stones. These tombs were ruined by the successive earthquakes since 1819. The complex built for Rao Lakha in 1770, is one of the largest and finest complex. He is in the shape of a polygon with balconies and an intricately carved roof. Some other cenotaphs belongs to Rao Rayadhan, Rao Desai and Rao Pragmal. These cenotaphs served as memorial grounds for the royal family.
Kera is mainly known due to the 10th century old temple of Lord Shiva. This temple was damaged in the earthquake of 1819. In its original form this temple must be very beautiful as it can be seen from the remains of this temple.
Prag Mahal was constructed by Rao Pragmalji II (1838-76 AD). Rao Pragmalji appointed a famous architect, Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins to design Prag Mahal, who had earlier designed Deccan College, Sasoon Hospital, Ohel David Synagogue. Prag Mahal took about 10 years to get built at the cost of 20 lakh rupees.
Aina Mahal Palace
Aina Mahal Palace was built by Rao Lakhpatji in 1750 AD as a part of a large palace complex. It is a two storey building with Darbar Hall, hall of mirrors, and suites for royal family. In the 18th century, the Rao Lakhpatji sent a local craftsman Ramsingh Malam to Europe to perfect his skills in glassmaking, enamelling, tile making and iron founding.
After he returned back, he constructed the Aina Mahal with the hall of mirrors of Venetian glass. The Hall of mirror has white marble walls which are covered with mirrors and gilded ornaments and the floor is lined with tiles. The design and decoration of the Aina Mahal was due to the efficiency of Ramsingh Malam.
The platform above the floor is surrounded by a series of fountains operated by an elaborated system of pumps below a Venetian chandelier. Aina Mahal is a unique example of an Indian palace built in the mid-eighteenth century with European influence.
Lakhpat is located northwest of Bhuj at a distance of 170 km. This place can only be reached by road. Earlier Lakhpat was a prosperous port which yield one lac koris, (Lac means 1 lakh and kori was a Kutch monetary unit) and hence named as Lakhpat. This town was also the home to hundreds of families involved in fishing and manual labour but now it is an abandoned town. Since after the Indus river changed its course, the port dried up.
Almost 50 years ago, the town was home to hundreds of families involved in fishing and manual labour but now it is an abandoned town. The tomb is made of black stone, with four arched doors and its outer walls are decorated with floral motifs. The inside walls are engraved with passages from the holy Koran.
It also has a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) and a number of temples. It is not only the architecture but the stark loneliness and a vast view of deserted, crumbling houses which make Lakhpat a rare spectacle. Now, this place is only a barren plain of limestone rock. It also has a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) and various temples.
Bhadreshwar, about 36 kms. west along the coast from Gandhidham was important as an ancient seaport and has a temple and two mosques. The Jain Temple is attractive where the main building is surrounded by the small shrines which together reproduce the shape and form of the temple itself.
The archway leading into the enclosure, added in the mid 12th century shows Islamic influence. The Solah Khambi Masjid is the famous and one of the important mosque. This mosque is the only known Islamic structure that existed before the Muslim conquest. All its original features are intact.