Western India and Gujarat
This is a large swathe of country that runs south of Rajasthan and covers the state of Gujarat – Mahatma Gandhi’s home province – and then down the mountain fringed west coast to Mumbai and inland into the drier country in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats to Aurangabad – once the southern headquarters of Aurangzeb, last of the Great Mughals.
This is the catchment area of the sophisticated but enigmatic Proto-Indian civilisation of the Indus Valley that predates the arrival of the Aryans. Peopled by an energetic and enterprising population trading with the Arab, African and European worlds since the time of the Pharaohs, the stunning cultural artefacts ranging from the vibrant frescoes of the Buddhist caves of Ajanta to the Hindu Sun Temple at Modhera, the Muslim era treasures of Ahmedabad, the beautiful wooden carved merchant homes of Patan to name a few serve as a record of the artistic and cultural attainments of this region.
It is an area that is rapidly industrialising but yet manages to retain the last population of Asiatic Lions at Gir which offers a wealth of exciting wildlife besides; the last population of the Indian Wild Ass still race across the salt flats of the Rann of Kutch – the flat salt marshes with its high mounds or islands – the bets – that shelter an extraordinary array of wildlife and the wetlands that offer some of the greatest avian spectacles in the world.
And not to forget the Marine National Park designed to protect wondrous species like the Whale Shark – for ages left alone by the local people but now being hunted to extinction to satisfy the demand from China and the East for shark fin soup. Rapid economic change has brought about improved infrastructure and it is relatively easy to get around allowing one to combine the lovely private tented beach resort at Mandvi with the colourful shepherd cultures and their textile riches around Bhuj and then to the wildlife areas of Gir and the Little Rann with Ahmedabad and it’s fantastic heritage hotel The House of Mangaldas which can serve as base to visit the Worlds finest textile museum – The Calico Museum with an afternoon spent at Gandhiji’s ashram on the Sabarmati and an exploration of the heritage areas of the old Walled city of Ahmedabad. Western India has more than enough to keep you occupied and entertained for several visits as a stand alone destination or to be combined with Rajasthan or Central India or Goa.
Western India & Gujarat – Highlights
- The magnificent frescoes and temples of Ajanta and Ellora representing a vibrant age in history when trade links connected India with Central Asia, South-east Asia, China, Africa and Arabia as depicted in the splendid Buddhist frescoes.
- The bustling city of Mumbai – with its elegant colonial architecture, The legendary Taj Mahal Hotel and the Elephanta Caves – and BOLLYWOOD!
- The last wild Asiatic lions of Gir.
- The wild asses and other desert fauna of the Little Rann of Kutch – the vast salt pans of Gujarat and the wondrous birdlife in winter which includes Great Indian and Houbara Bustards.
- The Banni grasslands with it’s rich wildlife including wolf, gazelle, antelope, fox and wild cats and shared with colourful Maldhari and other shepherd communities.
- The vast flamingo colonies of the Rann and rich birdlife of the coasts.
- The rich and delicate textiles of this region and the pioneering Calico Museum of Ahmedabad.
- The beautiful private beach side camp at Mandvi owned by the ex-ruler of Kutch.
- The magnificent Hindu temples at Modhera and the intricately traditional homes of Palitana.
- The incredible Harrier roosts at Velavadar where you can watch up to 600 birds gather of an evening. And its vast herds of blackbuck antelope, hyena, wolf and fox.
- The magnificent scenery and engineering of the Konkan Railway Line.