While planning for things to do on my second day at Bhavnagar , I was told that for the Velvadar Blackbuck National park the safari is to be conducted in ones own private vehicle. So I hired a car for the day and we started off around 7am to the park which is around 47kms from Bhavnagar. Once you leave the city limits of Bhavnagar the road takes you through the high tide zone of the Gulf of Kambhat (also called Gulf of Cambay) which gets inundated with sea water during the monsoons. Due to this the drive through this semi-arid region with no trace of vegetation seen for long distances is quite an experience by itself.
The high-tide semi-arid region of Gulf of Cambay enroute to Velvadar
The safari of the Park is to be conducted with your own vehicle. You need to drive quite a distance into the park to reach the forest office where you can pay for the permit and also for the guide services. This permit enables you to get into the grassland area which you passed by as you entered the park. The safari as such is a very short one , more or less two square areas on either side of the road leading to the forest office. Better to be in here early in the morning just as the antelopes are starting to graze and are moving from one side of the park to the other in search of shade, we were a little late as we started the day only at 7am. Its flat grassland, the only place in Gujarat where you can see grassland. A tiny miniature version of the Savanah grasslands of Africa that you are used to seeing on Animal Planet and NatGeo.
The park boasts huge herds of antelopes, blue horse (nilgai) and birds , if you are lucky enough you can also spot wolf, bustards and hyenas.
After spending a delightful hour at the Velvadar National Park I headed to another very interesting place , Lothal , one of the most prominent cities of Indus Valley Harappan Civilization. It is considered to have been a major trade center exporting beads, gemstones, ivory and shells. Its also claimed that the largest collections of trade seals have been found at Lothal. The place is completely in ruins, so visit the Museum which is beside the site first to get a fair idea of what the stones scattered at the site signify. There is a small video that is played if you request the caretaker. The dockyard for which Lothal is famous for being the worlds earliest known is on your right as you enter the premises, you can then see the well and the city drainage canals, the acropolis and the lower town area, the bead kiln etc.
Worlds earliest known dockyard at Lothal
The well and kiln along with the advanced drainage system at Lothal
For me this was a very significant visit as I missed Dholavira in the Kutch region and this was the only other excavated Harappan site in Gujarat.
Ayodhyapuram, Jain temple of Adinath, considered as the first Jain Thirtankara of present time cycle, is right on the highway back to Bhavnagar and hence thought would pay a quick visit. Was pleasantly surprised with the internal structure of the temple. The inside roof of the temple is a huge dome beginning right from the outer walls … reminded me of the Pantheon at Rome. I was spellbound by the dome at the Pantheon and had the similar feel when I entered this temple. Just for this reason I would highly recommend a few minutes stopover at the temple.
The idol of Adinath is pretty impressive with it being 23 feet high with a very pleasant face. While I was there a devotee offered a huge garland of pink roses and I was wondering how they were going to drape it on the idol. There are steps on either side of the idol ofcourse and they seem to have mastered the technique of doing it as in no time at all the garland was on the statue, neatly drapped.
Another interesting part, on the walls of the temple depicts the life of Rishabh Dev (Adinath) and as I was glancing through the paintings and the story, one of them referred to Yugalia, the epoch of twins, an era where it is believed that human couples would give birth to twins, one male and one female and this pair would become husband and wife on reaching adulthood and die together after leading a contended life. I was so taken aback by this story that I must have stood infront of that painting for quite a long time, felt the guard staring at me and I quickly moved on to the other part of the temple… This was the first time I had ever come across this belief and on my return from Gujarat when I searched the story found this good writeup – http://jaincosmos.blogspot.in/2009/08/lord-rishabhdev.html
Our last stop was at Sihor Gautameshwar temple and this was a major disappointment. Possibly at one point of time this temple must have had a great setting as it is surrounded by huge rock cut hills , a narrow river flowing by(dry now) and the Shivalinga being inside a cave. However at present time the religious group running this place have built a huge terraced building enclosing this cave with no trace of the rocks surrounding it hiding the cave completely.
On the way back I stopped by a sweetmeat shop to checkout the Kesar pedas that Sihor is famous for and yes tastes much better than the ones you get at Bangalore.
Reached back Bhavnagar by around 7pm, a very long day, although did thoroughly enjoy.
Visited in January 2016