Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Indian Epic - Travels In Kutch, Gujarat - The Temples, Ruins & Tombs Of The West



Just after 8am & accompanied by fellow Devpur house guest Susan, a German-born architect living in Zurich, we set off to explore western Kutch. On the way we passed through the Tropic of Cancer. I remember my dad, a keen sailor, explaining the various rituals involved in crossing the line but, in the absence of any of the correct props, a photo had to suffice.


Our first stop of the day was the Lakhpat Gurudwara where Guru Nanak (1469- 1539), founder of the Sikh faith, stayed in a house on the site on his way to and from Mecca. The Udas sect of Sikhism was established here in the 16th Century by Guru Nanak's son, Shrichand. There's been a Guru Nanak temple in Walsall since 1962 - longer than we've both been alive - so it was a real privilege to visit the place the great man had visited.


Wearing our obligatory orange headscarves we were welcomed in and invited to take prasad* in the form of karah, a halva type sweet made from semolina.

*A devotional food offering made to a god, later shared among devotees.

The end of India - you can't go any further west!

Not far from the Gurudwara were the remains of the once important merchant town of Lakhpat. Following an earthquake in the 19th century, the water supply dried up and the residents were forced to abandon their homes. All that's now left of Lakhpat are the crumbling city walls and weed strewn ruins.


X marks the spot!


Within the crumbling city walls stood the tomb of Sufi saint, Ghosh Mohammed Kuba, who lived in Lakhpat in the early 19th century. Revered by Hindus and Muslims alike, he was both a renowned healer and a celebrated songwriter. After his death in 1855 his brother commissioned a tomb to be built using traditional flower motifs and inscriptions taken from passages from the Koran carved by Kutchi artisans using the local blackstone.



At first glance we though these were coffins but were assured that they weren't and it was fine to take photos.

  
Isn't the carving beautiful?




These ladies were employed as road labourers. They were happy to pose for photos, no doubt a welcome diversion from their backbreaking work.





 A short walk away from Ghosh Mohammed Kuba's resting place was the tomb of Kasim. According to legend Kasim was said to have taken and destroyed the nearby city of Kanoj, killing the chief and sending as a prize to his sovereign the king of Ghanzi, two of the vanquished leader's daughters. At Ghazni they were treated with every kindness, but refused to be comforted, saying, that while they were under his charge, Kasim had violated them. Enraged at the story the king, without enquiry, ordered Kasim to be put to death and his head sent to Ghazni. When it was shown them his accusers rejoiced that they had avenged their father's death, and confessed that Kasim had done them no harm. On account of his undeserved punishment Kasim became a saint.


Kasim's tomb had recently been repainted. Usually it's only open on a couple of occasions every year but luckily for us the caretaker was passing by and invited us in to take a look. 





This was the Lakhpat customs house, built in 1850. Here traders would pay duty on goods before they were moved further afield by caravan. The windows were especially designed with wide sills to enable the camels to feed easily - an old fashioned filling station.


A short drive away from the silence of the tombs and the desolation of the once great Lakhpur and ....boom! Coachloads of pilgrims, rickshaws, the deafening horn okay please, herds of itinerant cattle & scruffy pi dogs and vendors plying their trades and selfie mad youngsters, we were back once again in the general chaos of urban India.  


This was this wonderfully colourful temple at Narayan Sarovar. The beauty of the vivid interior along with the vibrancy of the clothes worn by the pilgrims made us ponder on whether the parched environment led to the Kutchis embracing colour - a bit like I do back home in the grey UK.


 
Once again we were welcomed into the temple where we managed a few photos before being mobbed.







 Lunch was magical, served in a gurudwara canteen run by volunteers. A delicious veg thali eaten with our hands on long metal tables with hundreds of hungry pilgrims more interested in taking photos of us than enjoying their lunch. It's tricky enough eating dhal with your fingers let alone posing for a selfie at the same time! The lunch was a donation of whatever people could afford. We paid the same as we'd paid for lunch yesterday.


Lunch was followed by a fresh coconut bought from a roadside wallah and then a wander around Koteshwar, a temple dedicated to Shiva. On a clear night it's possible to see the lights of Karachi in Pakistan twinkling in the distance.


We posed for yet more photos - Jon being the centre of attention with the hip young guys.
Uncle, uncle, one selfie please!



Pah! Who needs booze and bars when there's this much action? There were just three of us for dinner back at the Devpur Homestay that night so K cracked open his stash of artisan chocolate he'd bought from a posh chocolatier in Kemp's Corner in downtown Mumbai last month and we shared some with his mum and his daughter, Badmini.

Another chota peg and another early night, the three of us were exploring the north tomorrow.

All of our photos of western Kutch can be seen HERE.

57 comments:

  1. What a lovely book your photos would make.

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  2. How fortunate that you were able to see Kasim's tomb and Koteshwar is very imposing, the colour of the stone looks stunning in that light. Are you missing the adoration now you are back in Walsall? xxx

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    1. Talk about good timing with those tombs. I'm always reluctant to take photos at religious sites, having a driver on hand to ask the right questions was just brilliant. x

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  3. such fabulous pics and lots of color and amazing buildings (those carved details are awesome!) and you look so relaxed and happy!!! another lovely post to enjoy!!
    besos

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    1. Thanks, Monica. India is so colourful! xxx

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    1. Aren't they? The talent is just incredible. x

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  5. The stonework & textiles of India are some of my favorite things!
    Gujurat looks a lot like the deserts of my native southern California.
    Those 'camel stations' have a high front porch so one may gracefully dismount one's camel if necessary.
    xox

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    1. I need to visit Southern California. Jon's favourite place was San Diego. He reckons I'd love it.
      I don't think I've ever dismounted a camel gracefully! xxx

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  6. Such beautiful photos Vix.
    I love hearing about your trips to India.
    Hugs-x-

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  7. You are such a wonderful storyteller, there is at least one book I see in the future!
    <3

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  8. Those tombs are amazing, and the carving is beautiful. It is great that you were able to visit the temples too. x

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    1. We're so lucky that no half naked, drunken Westerners have got to Gujarat yet, offending the locals and getting us all banned! xxx

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  9. so much fun to see a new part of India

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  10. You have met some wonderful people along the way and the architecture is unique. Could you imagine that much detail being put into buildings today.
    I love the clothes of the local ladies. More please xxx

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    1. Everywhere you look, even on the most humble looking building, there's amazing detail or incredible paintwork. it takes my breath away. xxx

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  11. So much amazing architecture, love the window that was camel head friendly. Such a different area than the others you have gone to in the past

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    1. It really was a wonderful experience! There was so much to take in every day that we were asleep by 10 o'clock! xxx

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  12. Agreeing with the consensus here-you need to do a travel book!

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    1. If the Lonely Planet are reading this.....!

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  13. Fantastic photos! I especially liked the road labourer ladies. Women can do anything!

    Happy thrifting ;)

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    1. Women can do everything - although I wouldn't fancy that job! x

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  14. LLLLLOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE!!!!!!
    this post makes me very happy! thank you - vix!
    and greetings to uncle jon!
    xxxxxx

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  15. How absolutely beautiful. I love all the carved stonework and colourful buildings. It really makes the UK seem very drab by comparison (which it mostly is at the moment). Lovely ladies dresses too. No wonder they have so many camels. It looks parched there. I am really loving the posts from your trip. Xx

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! It's a real shock to the system being back in the grey, regimented UK after time spent in India. xxx

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  16. Those carvings on the tomb of Ghosh Mohammed Kuba are fantastic! And how lucky to meet the caretaker so that you could have a look into Kasim's tomb. And how beautiful is the temple at Narayan Sarovar! You're a great travel writer, Vix, your love for India is showing in every word you write. Uncle Jon and the hipsters made me smile! xxx

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    1. Uncle Jon & The Hipsters sounds like the perfect name for a band! xxx

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  17. I'm so enjoying seeing & reading about your holiday.It's magical & you both look like Rock stars -I luv it x

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    1. Hello Flis! You are kind! So glad you're enjoying it. xxx

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  18. The sky (so blue) and the beautiful stonework look amazing.
    Your writing is wonderful, I'm so enjoying your trip! xxx

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    1. Thanks you so much, Sally! There's lots more to come (if you can stand it!) xxx

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  19. I'm all caught up! Sometimes your Indian photos remind me of PNG where I grew up. But of course India is more modern. Sounds like you fell on your feet with your host and place to stay! It's lovely to read about another part of the world. Thanks for taking the trouble to share them all with us. xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. Thank you so much. I love it when you share your childhood memories of PNG and yes, India is a lot more modern, especially so in the last few years! xxx

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  20. The carving is exquisite!

    Such wonderful colour everywhere and I think you're right; it compensates for the parched environment. But just look at the amazing blue sky...

    I was intrigued by the tree with the offerings attached to it.

    xxx

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    1. The sky was just gorgeous, I don't think we saw a cloud our entire stay.
      I couldn't get to the bottom of the bangles in the tree but seem to recall that it might be an offering to Laxmi - the goddess of wealth and prosperity. xxx

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  21. I so enjoy living vicariously through you and Jon, Vix. Lovely pictures and descriptions, I can feel the hot sun and the heat of the stones beneath my bare feet. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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    1. Thanks, Sheila. the the thing I'm missing most, I think - the heat of the stones beneath my feet and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I'm not at all keen on these wintry showers we've been subjected to since we got home! xxx

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  22. The tomb is beautiful and I am curious to know what's under the cloths if not coffins! offerings perhaps? everything on your post today is fabulous and I want to do it all too!

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    1. Ramji said something about those covering being a sign of respect but, yes I was intrigued by them too. They did look morbid.
      You must visit Gujarat, I think you'd absolutely love it! xxx

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  23. Thank you for taking us on this special, personal tour. I have always wanted to visit India, and know only a few people who've been fortunate to do so. Someday, I hope to find a like-minded friend who would go with me. Your narration really makes it all so "real".

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    1. It's my pleasure, Cynthia. Susan, the lady who travelled with us for a couple of days was in the same predicament, she was single and none of her friends were particularly keen to visit India so she went on her own. She enjoyed it so much that this year was her second trip. xxx

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  24. I really appreciate the map! It was hard to picture what bit constituted India's far West. You've both had such an adventure! X

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  25. Such lovely places. There's something strangely romantic about the abandoned city at the end of India, it's like something from a legend.

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    1. It is, isn't it? Such a difference between Lakhpat and the hustle and bustle of every day India. x

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  26. Of course you were worthy of selfies!! Another fabulous installment of your holiday gratefully enjoyed. You and Jon are so very good to share it with us all.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sue. Glad you're enjoying the travel posts! x

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  27. The temples are beautiful - thank you for sharing these fabulous photos.

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  28. The Architecture and details of the buildings leave me speechless... Magnificent!

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  29. The carving on that first tomb is exquisite! It must have been mind-blowing to see it in person. Love these India travel posts so much.

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Don't be shy, if you enjoyed your visit leave a comment, I can come and visit your blog if you do.
Love from Vix
xxx