Kutch region of Gujarat is unique in terms of history and nature. There is no other place like Kutch. I have traveled to Kutch and made Bhuj our base for exploring the surrounding area. From Bhuj, we traveled to Great White Rann of Kutch, Dorado, Kala Dungar, Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar, Mandovi and Mundra port. There are some interesting places to visit in Bhuj. We spent one and a half day to explore the beautiful and unique places of Bhuj town.
Also, read Travel to Great Rann and Stay In Hodka
Initially, the Sindh (Now in Pakistan) was the capital of Kutch state but in 1510 Rao Hamir developed Bhuj. Later on, in 1549 Khengarji I made it the capital of Kutch state. There have been 6 attacks on Bhuj over the centuries but it didn’t lose its importance and flourished under every regime. In 1818’s earthquake 2/3 of the buildings completely damaged in Bhuj and remaining 1/3 also damage badly. Approximately 1140 people from the population of 20,000 lost life in this earthquake. The city emerged back to life with the help of rulers and zest of hard-working people of Bhuj. There was two more earthquake in 1956 and 2001. The earthquake of 2001 has damaged many parts of Bhuj and lots of people lost their lives in this earthquakes. But the reconstruction work was taken up by people and government. There are still some signs of the damage occurred to monuments due to the earthquake.
Despite all these earthquakes in Kutch and Bhuj, this area remained an important tourist destination in Gujarat. I am fortunate that I am able to explore and visit many places in Kutch and Bhuj.
These are some of the places to visit in Bhuj when you are in Kutch.
Bhuj is home to one of the first Swaminarayan temple in the world. This merchant community is one of the richest in India. The people of Swaminarayan faith are mostly businessman and are settled all over the world, despite everything they are still connected with this temple.
The original temple in Bhuj was built in 1822 after the main saint of the faith got a divine vision. The original temple was badly damaged in the earthquake of January 2001 but nothing happened to the idols even though the temple damaged badly. People of Swaminarayan faith consider it a miracle that the idols remained as is without any damage.
After the earthquake, the Saints and the devotees of Swaminarayan faith decided to build a new grand temple to house these idols. The foundation stone of temple was laid in 2003 and it took 7 years to complete the temple.
The new temple is made of white marble and gold.
The new temple is spread in 5 acres of land. Temple’s marble pillars, ceiling, and beams are carved beautifully, which enhance the beauty of the temple. These religious sculptures add to the beauty of the temple. The new temple was built at a cost of 1 billion Indian rupees (100 Crore Rupees). The temple is open for everyone from 05.00 AM to 09.00 PM.
The Swaminarayan Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in India.
Prag Mahal was commissioned and construction by Rao Pragmalji II in 1865, it was named after him. The Prag Mahal was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style. The Palace was built by Italian and Indian workers from Kutch. It is said that the Italian workers were paid in Gold coin. The palace’s building cost was 3.1 million rupees in those days.
We bought the entry tickets and entered the main hall of Prag Mahal, which still beautiful reflects the lost glory of its golden days. The chandeliers and classical statues are broken at places. I can imagine that it must have been a very beautiful place but now it’s decaying.
Later on, we climbed the bell tower through narrow and circular stairs. It was worth climbing the tower because we got the bird’s eye view of the city from the top of the tower.
The earthquake of 2001 damaged many parts of Prag Mahal. In 2006 thieves stole antiques worth millions of INR from the palace and damaged many other items throughout the palace. It is sad to see such a beautiful place is decaying slowly.
The Prag Mahal remains closed between 12 Noon to 3 PM.
Aina Mehal is adjacent to Prag Mahal. The main entry gate of it is just after crossing the Prag Mahal.
It was built in the regime of Rao Lakhpatji in 1761. He assigned the construction of Aina Mahal to Ram Singh Malam, who got the Aina Mahal constructed with the help of local workers. The Aina Mahal was constructed with marble and its walls are adorned with gold lace and colorful glass. Some white marble walls are covered with mirrors and are separated by the shades of Venetian glass.
The Aina Mahal was also damaged in 2001 earthquake but a part of it was not badly damaged. This part was restored and now it is converted into a museum displaying the artifacts, paintings, arms, and a palanquin used royal family. There are a bedroom, a small music room, and the courtroom on display.
Though the museum is not in great condition still some of the work displayed here is beautiful and worth a visit.
It is a small museum where they have displayed the traditional handwork and life in Kutch region.
The ground floor of the museum has antiques and some old statues etc. My personal favorites in the museum are mannequins of men and women in traditional costumes with brief descriptions of their tribes.
The first floor is dedicated more or less to the traditional hand embroidery and handicrafts of Kutch region.
Considering the rich history of Kutch region, this museum could have been much bigger.
The Chhatedi is located close to the Himsagar lake. Chhatedi is similar to the Chatri’s or Cenotaphs of Rajasthan. The Chhatedi’s were the cremation ground for royals of Bhuj. I could not find the record about when the construction of these started and which cenotaph belong to which ruler. There are several cenotaphs/ Chhatedi’s and a temple with an idol in chhatedi.
There is no entry ticket and timing to visit Chhatedi.
Chhatedi’s also got damaged in the 2001’s earthquake but still, the area looks beautiful with ruins. This is one of the offbeat places of Bhuj because people usually do not recommend it to tourists but I liked this peaceful place.
The lake is spread in an area of 28 acres and there is a small island in the lake. This 450 years old Lake was built by of Rao Khengarji I and he named it in memory of Bhuj’s founder Rao Hamir. It took several decades to developed canals and tunnels to bring the water from three river systems and fill the lake. This lake fulfilled the water requirements of Bhuj for many decades and is the main source of water even today.
Over the years Hamirsar had lost much of its catchments due to the development of Bhuj. Due to this lake lost its ability to fulfill the water requirements of Bhuj. The earthquake of 2001 became the boon for Hamirsar. After the earthquake, it was decided to revive the traditional water system. Hamirsar’s catchment was developed to meet the domestic water needs of the people of Bhuj. The awareness campaign mobilized municipal corporation and citizens, the repair work was done and the lake filled up in 2003. Most interestingly the year of 2003 recorded the highest rainfall in 50 years due to which the Hamirsar lake was overflowing with water.
This overflowing of water was celebrated as an important occasion. It is a tradition that whenever lake overflows in the rainy season, the locals perform a traditional puja and distribute prasad of Ladoo sweet. The lake a good place to spend an evening.
Bhuj is like an oasis in the saline arid desert of Kutch.
Shopping in Bhuj
Bhuj is a shopping heaven for people looking to buy traditional handmade stuff.
Saree, handbags, handicraft, Kutchi Bandhej, mojari with embroidery, silver traditional jewelry, fabric with mirror work, fabric with Kutchi and other colorful embroideries, readymade garments with traditional embroidery and mirror work are main items to buy in Bhuj.
The main shopping areas are Haat bazar, Old City Market, Talav seri and market behind bus stand.
The shopkeeper normally keeps the prices high because they know that tourist and local people generally bargain before buying.
You can also shop from khamir.org, kalaraksha.org and Shrujan shop, which are cooperative societies working with local artisans.
Bhujodi is 10 km from the Bhuj town. This village is a hub of textile handicraft items and almost everyone here is involved in some of the other traditional handicraft makings.
Bhujodi is famous for Kutchi Shawls and every shop is full of the very good collection. I personally bought 6 different color and design of shawls from here.
The local people are friendly and if you buy from them, they take you to their workshop. We went to shawl weaving unit and a tye & dye unit.
Ashapura Crafts Park is another interesting place to visit in Bhujodi. The non-profitable part of Ashapur industry manages this park. Here local artisans can display their work. Artists are given free accommodation and food during their stay. Artists can sell their craft in shops here.
This craft park is spread in 10 acres of land and beautifully landscaped. I was informed by locals that on weekend they organize traditional dance and music programs in the open area of the park. It was a peaceful place and the prices were fixed, which was a welcome relief for me because I am not good at bargaining.
All these things make it a place to have different cultural experience.
Best time to visit is Bhuj
From October to March. It gets very hot during the summer months because it is an arid saline desert.
If you are not planning to go for Rann Utsav festival then don’t visit Bhuj around full moon nights of December and January. Rann festival is a two-month long program but it is most crowded during the full moon night. During the Rann festival, Bhuj receives the maximum number of tourists.
Read more about Rann Festival and other festivals of India.
Things to remember when visiting Bhuj in Kutch
* Ahmedabad to Bhuj is 350 Km. Road conditions are ok for driving.
* Bhuj is well connected by Indian railway from Ahmedabad, Mumbai and other parts of Gujarat.
* There are many direct buses from Ahmedabad to Bhuj and from many other cities in Gujarat, these buses mostly run overnight.
* There are 2 direct flights from Ahmedabad to Bhuj.
* In winter months also you don’t need to carry too many woolens, a shawl or cardigan is enough for the evenings and mornings.
* Bhuj is a small town and it is advisable to wear clothes which cover your shoulders and calf.
* You will mainly get vegetarian food but there are some shops in the Bhuj market, where you can get good nonvegetarian food.
* For traveling in Bhuj you will easily get cycle rickshaw and autorickshaw (Tuk-Tuk) but to go outside the Bhuj you need a cab.
* There are budget and traditional hotels in Bhuj, which cater to all budgets.
* People mostly speak Gujarati and Hindi but they can manage with broken English also.