This cultural tour to Gujarat reveals the life, crafts and traditions found in this little visited part of western India.
• Admire traditional crafts, particularly the intricate tribal textiles and embroidery.
• Visit the astonishing cluster of 863 Jain temples reaching up to the sky on Shatrunjaya Hill.
• Get under the skin of the real Gujarat with Tour Director Annie Owen, who has been travelling to the Indian subcontinent for over 20 years.
Situated in the far western corner of India, where the desert of the Rann of Kutch runs out into salt flats before reaching the Arabian Sea, Gujarat provides a feast for the senses. Above the long line of pale, arid land stretches the massive expanse of wide open sky; the rich colours worn by the people stand out, as do the ancient intricately carved buildings.
We begin our tour at Mandvi where the Rukmavati River merges with the Arabian Sea, once home to the centuries-old boat building industry. A few of the vast, handmade ocean-going dhows are still worked on here, and tower to the height of a three storey building over the carpenters working on them. Throughout the state, European style is often mixed with local craftsmanship. Mandvi’s Indo-Edwardian Vijay Vilas Palace was built by craftsmen from Jaipur, Rajasthan, Bengal, Saurashtra and the local Kutchi artisan community.
Textiles remain one of Gujarat’s most important industries. During our sojourn in the desert we will compare the precise and detailed embroidery in the Muslim village of Dhordo to the intricate tribal embroidery found in the Hindu village of Hodka. Ahmedabad’s Calico Textile Museum displays many stunning exhibits that date back over five centuries.
The influential and energetic Jains have played a large role in Gujarat’s development. We will see their beautifully carved temples on Shatrunjaya Hill where 863 cluster together, some 3,800 steps up from Palitana. This sacred site is left empty each night, believed to be the abode of the gods.
At Modhera sits the famous Sun Temple, designed to let the dawn sun shine on the image of Surya at the time of equinoxes. Built in 1026, it is one of the finest Hindu temples in Gujarat.
We will stay in a variety of interesting places, ranging from comfortable beach tents near Mandvi and beautiful bhunga (mud houses) in the tribal village of Hodka, to the historic Riverside Palace Heritage Hotel in Gondal. Due to some long journeys and less easily accessible sites a good level of fitness is required for this tour.
In the company of artist Annie Owen, BA we will explore and experience the real Gujarat. Annie’s passion for India has drawn her to Gujarat where she is fascinated with the people and their culture. A photographer, illustrator and printmaker, keen to explore off the beaten track, she observes the daily life with a keen eye.
Arrive Mumbai 1125. Internal flight to Bhuj and transfer to Mandvi Resort for two nights. Evening stroll along the beach.
Morning: Hindu temple and Mandvi town. Afternoon: Indo-Edwardian Vijay Vilas Palace. Optional camel ride along the beach.
Transfer to the small tribal village of Hodka for three nights at desert hotel of Shaam e Sarahad, staying in comfortable tents or beautiful bhunga (mud huts).
Morning: visit to Hodka (Hindu village of traditional quiltmakers). Afternoon: Dhordo (Muslim village where we will see detailed embroidery of Mutwa tribe). Sunset over White Desert.
Explore other embroiderers’ villages in the Kutch area, driving through dramatic desert roads. Many species of birds live in this flat pale landscape.
Transfer to Bhuj: Aina Mahal, Prag Mahal (19th century bell tower with an exhilarating view of the city), local museums, fascinating bazaars. Overnight stay at Hotel Prince. Optional evening visit to Swaminarayan temple.
Long drive to city of Gondal for two nights at historic Riverside Palace Heritage Hotel, complete with vintage car collection.
Visit to the 18th century Naulakha Palace and museum. Optional afternoon visit to the Maharaja’s vintage car collection.
Transfer to Palitana for two nights at Vijay Vilas Palace Hotel. Free afternoon and evening.
Early morning departure for climb up Shatrunjaya Hill to see the Jain temples. There are dholis (porters) with canvas hammocks or plastic chairs who can carry the more daunted pilgrims up 3,800 steps to the top.
Transfer to Dasada via Lothal (4,000 year old Indus site with museum). Two nights in desert resort Rann Riders, in local styled bhunga (mud huts) decorated with mirrorwork, carpets, painted walls.
Optional morning bird safari. Afternoon: endangered Asiatic wild ass sanctuary, excursion to village to see salt flats, wildlife, tribes people (we hope to see the Rabhari tribes people if their travels bring them near Dasada).
Whole-day excursion to Sun Temple in Modhera, Patan to see Ran-ki-Vav (stepwell) and Patola weaving museum (double ikat fabrics which only one family now weaves) followed by Adalaj stepwell. Two nights at The House of MG, Ahmedabad.
Morning: Calico Textile Museum. Free afternoon followed by farewell dinner.
Morning ‘Heritage walk’ around the palls (alleys) and havelis (private mansions) of old Ahmedabad. Free time to explore bazaars. Depart Ahmedabad 2115 via Mumbai.