SOUTHERN GUJARAT

SURAT

Surat (250 kilometers south of Ahmedabad, 290 kilometers north of Mumbai) is the center of India’s diamond business and home to about 4.5 million people. Located at the mouth of the Tapti River, it was the largest in India . During the 18th century and was the site of serious conflicts between Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders when it was the main European trading port. Surat lost its position as a prominent port when mumbai too over that role but it remains an important commercial center for trading, cotton and silk milling, handloom weaving and textile industries. It is the eighth largest city and ninth largest urban area in India.

Surat is a growing and thriving economic hub. It will be the world's fastest growing city from 2019 to 2035, according to a study conducted by Economic Times and registered an annualised GDP growth rate of 11.5 percent over the seven fiscal years between 2001 and 2008. Surat was awarded "best city" by the Annual Survey of India's City-Systems (ASICS) in 2013 and was selected as the first smart IT city in India which is being constituted by the Microsoft CityNext Initiative in conjunction with the major IT services Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro. In 2017, Surat was the fourth cleanest city of India according to the Indian Ministry of Urban Development.

Places of interest include finely carved mosques, Parsi agiyaris (a fire temple), European tombs and colonial bungalows. While many tourists head straight for majestic Surat Fort and the Mughal Sarai, it is worth taking the time to check out quaint eateries and a multitude of charming shops. Along the Tapti river is the beautiful Lake Garden. Surat’s diamond trade attracts artists and fashion designers as well as diamond dealers from all parts of the country. The city hosts an eclectic mix of ethnic communities. Once renowned for its silk weaving and brocade, today it is known for its polyester fabrics.

Getting There: By Air: Surat airport is located 11 kilometers from the city. There are regular flights to Surat from other major cities of the country. By Road: Surat is connected with reasonably good roads to all the major cities. By Train: The main railway stations in Surat are the Surat, the Udhna Junction, Sachin, the Bhestan, and the Utran. Trains to Surat are easily available from all major railway stations in India.

Sights in Surat

Surat Fort, of Surat Castle, is a 16th-century structure. The Ahmedabad king Sultan Mahmood-III (1538-1554) ordered its construction to defend the city from the frequent attacks that had devastated it. He entrusted the work to Safi Agha, a Turkish soldier also known as Khudawand Khan. The Mughal Sarai is a caravanserai located in Surat. It was briefly used to detain political prisoners during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The clock tower was also added by the British. Parsi Agiari is the main Fire Temple in Surat, It has a sacred flame. There are also other less central temples around the city. Non-Parsis are not allowed to enter, as in all Parsi fire temples.

Chintamani Jain Temple is one of the oldest temples in Surat that was built about 400 years ago. It draws visitors not only for its spiritual significance but also for its architectural beauty. The temple was built under the reign of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, at the end of the 17th century. It has simple exteriors, but its beautifully carved interiors more than make up for it. The wooden pillars in the temple are covered with gorgeous vegetable dye paintings and are topped with carved brackets that make for a fascinating sight. The vegetable dye paintings of Jain preacher, Acharya Hemchandra, and king Kumarpala, of the Chaulukya dynasty, are notable. The temple's popularity can be estimated by the fact that the London Museum also houses a sandalwood replica of it.

Saputara Museum has exhibits on lifestyle, culture and history of different ethnic group and tribes in the region. Also known as Sardar Sangrahalaya, this museum was established in 1889. Some of the interesting displays one can find are traditional textiles, metal ware, wood carvings, porcelain items, books and precious stones. A planetarium close by runs a show on the universe in the Gujarati language.

Diamonds in Surat

Surat is famous for its diamond cutting and polishing industries and has traditionally been the center of India’s diamond business. It is widely known as the Diamond City of India. The streets of Old Surat are filed with businesses engaged in the diamond trade. Not so long ago, for less than US$1 a piece you could buy diamonds with 58-facets that fit into the pits on a strawberry. Varachha Road lies ta the center of Surat diamond factory district. The factories employ tens of thousands of workers and vary from upscale establishment to grimy sweatshops. Some require their workers all to wear the same colored uniforms. All are guarded.

India is the world largest diamonds and gemstone cutting center. At one time it polished and cut around 70 percent of the world diamonds as determined by weight. Centered in the western cities of Mumbai and Surat, the diamond industry provided India with 17 percent of its export earnings in the 1990s. These days India is getting more and more competition from China and Thailand.

The diamond industry produced $8 billion worth of exports a year in the 1990s. At that time bout 90 percent of the industry was based in Surat. Mumbai is more of a diamond trading center.

The Indian diamond industry traces its origins back to the 1970s when a group of Jains set up an operation in Bombay and began to cut very small diamonds for export. They are credited with creating a market of small gems from industrial diamonds. The amount of processed diamonds rose from $39 million in 1970 to $3.5 billion in 1993. India held about 45 percent of the worlds' market in cut and polished diamonds in 1990. Lead by phenomenal growth in the export market, the country share rose to 70 percent in 1997.

The Indian diamond business is dominated by a handful of Jain families, which have been involved in the trading of pearls and precious stones for centuries. Most of the diamonds are supplied by the Rio Tinto-controlled Argyle mine in Western Australia and by South-Africa based De Beers, the world's largest player in the diamond trade. Most of the stones cut and polished in India are small. The larger stones are cut primarily in Belgium.

Diamond Workers

Most diamonds are cut in India, China, and Thailand, where skilled labor is cheap. The diamond industry in India employs about 800,000 people in its cutting, polishing and exporting operations. Many of them worked 10-hour days at plants in Surat for $80 a week in the 1990s. At that time a bout 10 to 20 percent of the workers were children, many of whom ate and slept in their workplace.

Indian diamond cutters and polishers have traditionally used cutters wheels in poorly light sheds, where they lived and worked. Some of these sweatshops have been replaced by brightly-lit factories with modern lathes and power driven cutting tools. Some craftsmen are highly skilled: crafting stones weighing a fraction of a carat into polished gems.

Diamond cutting and polishing is not a very glamorous business. Half the workforce in India suffers from kidney disfunction, tuberculosis, lung disease, stomach problems, pain in the joints and sore eyes. It can also be dangerous work. In August 2003, a gas cylinder exploded at a diamond processing factory. The fire spread to a residential building and 19 people were killed and 36 were injured.

Gandhi and the Salt March in 1930

Gandhi reemerged from a long seclusion by undertaking his most inspired campaign, a march of about 400 kilometers from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, just south of Surat, on the coast of Gujarat between March 12 and April 6, 1930. At Dandi, in protest against extortionate British taxes on salt, he and thousands of followers illegally but symbolically made their own salt from sea water. Their defiance reflected India's determination to be free, despite the imprisonment of thousands of protesters. [Source: Library of Congress]

In March 1930, when he was 61, Gandhi began a his famous 24-day Salt March to protest colonial taxes and laws and British resistance in granting India self rule. Gandhi marched to the Arabian Sea with his followers to protest a British tax on salt-making and other local industries. Indians paid prices for salt that were said to be 2000 percent higher than the cost of producing it. When he arrived at the sea he illegally made salt by boiling seawater.

Describing the beginning of march on March 12, 1930, Amanda Bower wrote in Time: “Soon after saying his customary dawn prayers, Mahatma Gandhi emerged from his ashram to greet the crowd of thousands gathered to witness the start of his latest and most defiant protest against the ‘curse’ of British rule. A volunteer band raised its horns and, it was reported, blared a few bars of God Save the Queen before it apparently dawned on the musicians that a rousing salute to the English sovereign was not the most appropriate send-off. Their fading notes were overtaken by the sound of coconuts being smashed together, a traditionally Hindu sign of devotion...Gandhi leaning on a lacquered bamboo staff, soon set out along the winding, dusty road...

At each rest stop of the march, Gandhi explained his mission to the crowds that came to check him out and asked them to join him. As he walked, larger and large crowds came to see him, walk with him and listen to what he had to say. At one point hundreds of thousands joined him in a human mass that stretched for more than two miles. More than 60,000 were arrested. At Dandhi, thousands of Indian villagers followed his example and waded into the water to extract saltwater themselves. Gandhi said during the Salt March, “Let the government then, to carry on its rules, use guns against us, send us to prison, hang us. But how many can be given such punishment? Try and calculate how much time it will take for the Britons to hang 300 million of us.”

The salt march marked the beginning of Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience. To levy the duty on salt, the British established a customs line that in 1869 stretched for 2,300 miles from Madras to the Indus and was guarded by 12,000 men. Describing Gandhi's appeal, one Indian man told Time, "Gandhi was a natural leader. People loved him because he loved the country and not a religion." Another man said, "Gandhi had immense power over everyone because people believed that he spoke the truth. His message was simple, but he could always captivate people." Nehru said, "I saw him marching, staff in hand, to Dadhi...Here was the pilgrim on his quest of Truth, quiet, peaceful, determined and fearless, who would continue that quest and pilgrimage regardless of consequences."

Dandi Beach and the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial

Dandi Beach (20 kilometers south of Surat) was the destination of Gandhi’s great 1930 Salt Satyagraha March to protesting British salt laws. He walked from Ahmedabad with a group of followers that kept growing at each stage of his protest march. At Dandi, he plucked a handful of saline mud and seawater, producing salt in protest against the British monopoly on salt production. “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life,” Gandhi said. This simple act got much national support and is credited with breaking the back of the British Raj in India.Today, the beach is a popular weekend picnic spot and invites visitors to relax in beautiful surroundings. It is among the cleanest beaches in the country that makes for a great picnic spot.

National Salt Satyagraha Memorial (in Dandi) was conceived as an experiential journey recreating the spirit and the energy of the 1930 Dandi March led by Mahatma Gandhi and 80 of his fellow Satyagrahis, taking the visitors to the Monument step-by-step in order to visualise and understand the history of the historic Salt March and the methodology of Satyagraha, which finally led to India’s Independence from the British colonial rule. This unique memorial was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in January 2019.

The National Salt Satyagraha Memorial (NSSM) sits on a 15-acre plot in Dandi. where Gandhiji and his fellow marchers picked up salt from the sea beach to break the Salt Law imposed by the British India. Blending technology, innovation, art, architecture and design, the NSSMis a Net Zero Energy project reflecting the ethos of self- sufficiency, the guiding tenet of Gandhi’s teachings was the basis for the design of the Monument. This memorial contains a statue of Gandhi inside a pyramid of light, followed by a cluster of life-size bronze casted sculptures of the 80 fellow marchers.

A Light Pyramid is formed every evening, rising up in the sky and lighting the salt crystal at the top. The Welcome Center at the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial, Dandi houses a Library, a Book Shop, an Auditorium and an Activity Space. The Salt Making facility at the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial Complex at Dandi enables visitors to make a pinch of salt using the electric salt-making pans developed especially for the Memorial by IIT Mumbai, that can be taken away as a memory of the visit. NSSM also subsumes an artificial lake to symbolise the sea shore aspect of salt Satyagraha,24 narrative pedestal murals that represent the spirit and determination of the 80 marchers who accompanied Gandhi and 40 solar trees producing all the energy required. Prarthna Mandir and Saifee villa is also new tourist attraction due to NSSM at Dandi.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Salt Satyagrah and the Dandi March: Route of the 24 days and 390 kms. long protest march (from Sevagram Ashram to Dandi village with 40 in-between halts at Aslali, Bareja, Navagam, Wasna, Matar, Dabhan, Nadiad, Boriavi, Anand, Napa, Borsad, Ras, Kankapura, Kareli, Gajera, Ankhi, Jambusar, Amod, Buva, Samni, Tralsa, Derol, Broach, Ankleshwar, Sajod, Mangrol, Rayma, Umrachi, Ertham, Bhatgam, Sandhier, Delad, Chhaprabhatha, Surat, Dindoli, Vanz, Dhaman, Navsari, Vijalpur and Matwad) held from 12 March 1930 in protest against the British Salt Act and broke the law by collecting salt directly from the sea. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Saytagrah — India’s Non-violent Freedom Movement — Sites

Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah, a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.

“Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner, as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.”

Saytagrah Ashrams and Protest

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centers for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.”

“When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints. This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

“The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction program for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British. The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

“The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making. No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.”

Near Surat

Navsari (30 kilometers south of Surat) is important to the Parsis, who settled here on the banks of Purna river when they first migrated to Gujarat. Various edifices built in authentic Parsi style stand testament to the excellence of Parsi architecture. One major tourist attraction is the Parsi Vad that has become a heritage site. Navsari boasts many spiritual sites, including the fire-temple Atas Beharam and smaller agiyaris, the Parsvanath Jain temple and the legendary Dargah of Sayed Saadat. Another special attraction is the house of the pioneer and founder of the Indian steel industry, Jamshedji Tata, who was born here. His house is well-preserved and is visited by tourists from across the country. Indulge in shopping Zoroastrian Arts And Crafts and sampling delectable local cuisine, to get the flavor of this quaint city.

Saputara (160 kilometers from Surat) is one of the few hill stations in Gujarat. Set at a height of 1,000 meters above sea level, this quaint town has some nice hikes, including the traverse to Gandhi Shikhar. The rolling hills of Saputara are particularly enchanting during monsoons when their thick forest covers acquire a green freshness. From the Governor's Hill, one can catch the beautiful view of the sun dipping into the Saputara Lake. Lying in the Sahyadri range, Saputara derives its name from the snake god revered by tribals, who are the predominant inhabitants of the region.

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

Dadra And Nagar Haveli(75 kilometers south of Surat) is a Union Territory on the western coast of India that consists of two separate parts. Of these, Dadra is surrounded by Gujarat, and Nagar Haveli lies on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The territory has hilly terrain especially towards the northeast and east where it is surrounded by ranges of Sahyadri Mountains (Western Hills). River Daman Ganga and its three tributaries cut across this territory. State Tourism Website : http://www.tourismdddnh.in/

Dadra And Nagar Haveli was colonized by the Portuguese. In August 1961, it became a part of the India as a a Union Territory. As it shares borders with both Gujarat and Maharashtra, the languages spoken here are Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Konkani, Bhilodi and Bhili. The most prominent tribes are Dhodia, Kokna and Varli, with small groups of Koli, Kathodi, Naika and Dubla scattered across the territory.

Some popular religious places include Bindrabin Temple, Tirupati Balaji Temple, Swaminarayan Temple, Church of Our Lady Piety and Saint Thomas Church. Endowed with immense natural beauty and lush greenery, Dadra and Nagar Haveli is one of the most beautiful Union Territories in the country. Vanganga Lake, Hirwa Van Garden, Dudhani, Satmaliya Deer Park, Vasona Lion Safari, Nakshatra Garden are some other attractions.

Dadra And Nagar Haveli Culture

Dadra and Nagar Haveli are home to numerous indigenous tribal groups. Among these, the unparalleled expertise and masterful creativity of Varli tribe is apparent in their wall paintings. With essential components like squares, circles, and triangles, tribals change a plain wall into an impression of the world around – the sun, the moon, trees, and nature – and pay their appreciation towards these through their art. Varli painting has many motifs which depict everyday life as a celebration.

Traditionally, the Varli men that live here wear a loincloth, a turban and a waist-long coat. The women drape lugden around their waist that goes down to the knee and adorn themselves with silver and white metal ornaments. The cuisine of the area comprises different types of pulses, vegetables, which include wild mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Rice, nagli (raagi) and jowar flour are used to make chapattis. Karanda berries, ajoola leaves, ambada leaves and raw mangoes are used to make chutneys. Barash is a holiday mostly celebrated by the Varli and Kokna tribes and is quite similar to the biggest Hindu festival, Diwali.

Among the main sources of entertainment of the tribal people are folklore and folk dances. Folk dances form a significant part of the life of these people. People belonging to different tribes dress up in colorful attire and dance to the tunes of various folk songs and musical instruments on special occasions such as child birth, weddings, festivals and important ceremonies. The different types of folk and tribal dances of Dadra and Nagar Haveli include the Tarpa Dance, Gherria Dance, Bhawada Dance, Dhol Dance and Tur and Thali Dance. This popular dance is performed by men and women of the Varli, Kokna and Koli tribes at night during the harvest season. In this dance, people make a circle by holding each other around the waist and a man with a wind instrument called Tarpa stands in the middle of the circle.

Silvassa

Silvassa (85 kilometers south of Surat) the capital of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and home to about 100,000 people. Sitting in the shadow of the hills of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Western Ghats, Silvassa retains some of its Portuguese heritage and is jumping off point for nice trekking, camping and hiking in its lush-green surroundings. Kilvani Road, in the citywhich is a bustling marketplace, with a fine selection of Warli paintings, baskets, mats and other items. Among the tourist sights are the century-old church of Our Lady of Piety and the ruins of the Tadkeshwar Mahadev Temple at Bindrabin. Located in the southern fringes of Gujarat, Silvassa acts as a gateway to Mumbai and Vapi. The name Silvassa was derived from the Portuguese word “silva”, which means wood.

Vasona Lion Safari Park (10 kilometers from Silvassa) is a kind-of-lame, drive-through wildlife park. The best way to explore it is to take a safari in a bus or van fitted with mesh screen and spot the majestic lions in their natural habitat. There are just a few Asiatic lions in the safari park, which is sprawled over an area of 20 acre and bound by a three-meter-high wall. You can also spot pythons and other wild species of reptiles during the safari. The park is a part of Dadra and Nagar Haveli Wildlife Sanctuary and also shares neighbourhood with the Satmalia Deer Park. Built with an aim to preserve Asiatic lions, the Lion Safari Park is open to 5:00pm

Vanganga Garden (5 kilometers from Dadra and 6 kilometers from Silvassa) is a Japanese style garden with picturesque Vanganga Lake. Visitors can enjoy a calming boat ride in the lake and spot different species of fish, ducks and turtles. One of the prime attractions of the garden is the evening musical fountain show that begins at 7:00pm every day. The garden is paved with jogging tracks, which are lined with tall trees on both sides. Its lush landscape is dotted with wooden bridges and thatched huts. Vanganga Garden is very popular among filmmakers and a number of movies have been shot here. It sprawls over an area of 7.58 hectares.

Silvassa Tribal Museum is located at the heart of the city and displays the rich heritage of various tribal groups of the region. The museum walls are adorned with bows, daggers, spears and other hunting equipment and fighting weapons used by the tribal communities. The museum displays pictures and clay sculptures depicting the life of tribals, wedding costumes, handmade ornaments, daily use utensils and pictures of celebration of different tribal festivals. The museum also exhibits musical instruments ranging from tarpha or parvi to dhol and madal. One can also see handmade masks of mythological characters, puppets and dolls. Fishing equipment has also been put on display at the museum. The museum is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm everyday.

Daman And Diu

Daman and Diu (bordering Gujarat) is a Union Territory that was part of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. It was made a separate Union Territory after Goa was given statehood in 1987. The Union Territory of Daman and Diu is comprised of two districts namely Daman and Diu. Both Districts are situated on western coast of India at a distance of about 700 kilometers from one another by road and a 100 kilometers from each other by water. Daman is the headquarters of the Union Territory. It is on the main land, while Diu is an island, Both the Districts of Daman and Diu are adjacent Gujarat State

Dui is a tiny island off the extreme south of the mainland. It has a secluded beach resort near a colonial town. Diu was a Portugese colony until 1961 and now a Union Territory separated from Goa in 1987. It had been an important trading post and naval base of armies for centuries in the past. A perfect blend of the Sun, Sand and Sea this serene island is situated off the tip of Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat. Lapped by the Arabian sea Diu has some superb beaches and a fascinating history of the colonial past. The branching palms of Diu, known as Hoka trees were introduced by the Portugese from Africa. Historical Portugese monuments, golden sand beaches, unpolluted blue water, and various water sports make Diu a perfect gateway at any time of the year.

Nestling near the mouth of Damanganga River as it embraces the Arabian Sea, the Union Territory of Daman is a picturesque fort town has retained its old world atmosphere and vestiges of Portuguese colonial rule from 1531 to 1961. If you listen closely enough whispers of history can be heard the walls of its forts and churches. A beautiful lighthouse, fort, beach, churches and proximity to Mumbai and Surat make Daman a convenient gateway. Daman is at its best in the winter, though a monsoon visit with greenery around the city and approaching roads is wonderful. Recently, a helicopter service is connecting Daman and Diu, which is added attraction for visiting both the places.

Daman

Daman (65 kilometers south of Surat, 170 kilometers north of Mumbai) is situated at the mouth of Damanganga River and the Arabian Sea. It is a picturesque fort town that has retained its old world atmosphere and vestiges of Portuguese colonial rule from 1531 to 1961. Among its attractions are golden and black sand beaches and , a beautiful lighthouse, fort and churches. Nestled in the Gulf of Khambhat and divided by the pristine Daman Ganga river into Moti Daman and Nani Daman, the Union Territory has several quaint churches and ancient forts that are fine specimens of Portuguese architecture.

Getting There: By Air: Situated at about 170 kilometers, the Mumbai Airport is the nearest airport from Daman which connects all major cities of India. By Road: Daman is connected to other cities by Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway via Vapi road. There are regular bus services from major cities, including Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Nasik and Shirdi. By Train: The nearest rail head to Daman is Vapi in Gujarat, which is about seven kilometers away. The rail head is well-connected to other cities through Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Moti Daman Fort sprawling over an area of about 30,000 square meters and is famous for housing a large number of cannons. These beautifully designed cannons have noteworthy carvings. The Moti Daman Fort is also famous for the Church of Bom Jesus, the Chapel of Our Lady of Rosary and the Church of Our Lady of Remedies. The fort was built by the Portuguese as protection against invasion by the Mughal army in 1559. Close by the fort lies the house of the eminent Portuguese poet Bocage, which houses his marble tomb. Entry to the house is prohibited and it remains locked.

Chapel Of Our Lady Of Remedies (outskirts of the Moti Daman Fort) is a quaint Portuguese-style church. The main attraction is a white cross that is beautifully decorated with flowers. As you enter the premises, an intricately carved bell, which complements the flanking doors and windows, greets you. Don’t forget to admire the engravings of the main altar that are reflective of the 17th century style of architecture. The prayer hall of the chapel is a work of art and is ornamented with intricately carved figurines. Exploring the church almost feels like walking through the pages of Daman's rich colonial past. The chapel was constructed in 1607 by a Portuguese governor and captain.

Dahanu Beach is an ideal stopover for taking long walks, enjoying cooling dips in the sea and admiring sunsets. The coastal town of Dahanu is steeped in old-world charm. Lined with old bungalows and lush chikoo orchids, the town is also a center of tribal tourism and visitors can explore the rich cultural heritage of the region here. The town gets its name from ‘Dhenu Gram’, which means village of cows. It is said that there was a time when most of the people in Dahanu owned cows, and that is why the place was named so.

Devka Beach is considered as one of the most beautiful beaches of Daman. It is an expanse of black sand, it features water that is ideal to enjoy a refreshing swim in. You can even take a pony ride here. When the tide is low, tourists can head deeper into the Arabian Sea and collect shells and conches. Tourists can also visit an amusement park located close to the beach. The park has beautiful walkways and multicolored musical fountains.

Diu

Dui (140 kilometers south of Rajkot, 350 kilometers southwest of Ahmedabad, 120 kilometers west of Daman via the sea, connected to southern mainland Gujarat by a bridge) is a 21-kilometer-long island off the extreme south of the mainland. It has a secluded beach resort near a colonial town. Diu was a Portugese colony until 1961 and is now a Union Territory separated from Goa in 1987. It had been an important trading post and naval base of armies for centuries in the past. A perfect blend of the Sun, Sand and Sea this serene island is situated off the tip of Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat. Lapped by the Arabian sea Diu has some superb beaches and a fascinating history of the colonial past. The branching palms of Diu, known as Hoka trees were introduced by the Portugese from Africa. Historical Portugese monuments, golden sand beaches, unpolluted blue water, and various water sports make Diu a perfect gateway at any time of the year.

Diu is tucked away in the southern fringes of Gujarat. Freckled with ancient ruins of Portuguese forts, bungalows, churches and villas, Diu is drenched in colonial culture, traces of which can be found in its architecture, cuisine and handicrafts, and dotted with golden expanses of sand lapped by the green-and-blue Arabian Sea. The northern side of the island faces dramatic salt pans and tidal marshes, while the southern part features rocky limestone cliffs and pristine beaches.

Diu got its name from Sanskrit word, 'dweep' meaning island. According to legend Diu was once ruled by demon king Jallandhar, who was beheaded by Lord Krishna. The Gazetteer of Goa, Daman and Diu states Diu was known as 'Jallandhar Kshetra' during Satyug. A temple of Jallandhar still exists in the island city. Between 320-322 B.C., the Mauryans ruled Diu. Then came the Guptas (415-467), the Maitrakas (470-788) and Chavdas (789-941). The Sultan of Oman ruled here between 14th and 16th centuries and then the Portuguese established their rule in 1529.

Sights in Diu

Diu Fort lies at the mouth of the Gulf of Khambhat. A colossal structure built by the Portuguese in 1535, it is an enchanting sight that gives a magnificent view of the sea. The parapet of the fort is lined with cannons that were earlier employed in the defence of the fort. It is also home to three beautiful churches: St Thomas Church, St Paul's Church and Church of St Francis of Assisi. Tourists can also visit the Venetian-Gothic style bungalow that lies in the vicinity. A Shiva temple that is dedicated to Gangeshwar Mahadev also makes for an interesting visit. Another attraction is a lighthouse from where tourists can get a bird's eye view of the entire area. The fort was built for defense purposes when Mughal emperor Humayun had lead a war to annex the territory. Today, the fort stands drenched in the old world charm and the rich historic past of the Portuguese rulers.

Naida Caves (outside Diu Fort) are the most interesting rock formations in Diu. It is believed that these caves existed naturally earlier, but when the Portuguese took over the region, they used the orange-brown stone from them to make the majestic Diu Fort, leaving behind an interesting structure. These caves are a maze-like formation that are a delight to explore. The caves are adorned with an intricate network of tunnels and huge step-like structures that make for a fascinating climb. Traversing through the rock-hewn structures and climbing over the steps is a lot of fun.

Nagao Beach is a pretty beach. Also known as the Golden Beach, it is the largest beach in Diu and draws visitors throughout the year. The beach is lined with a large number of palm trees, locally known as Hoka Palm. Tourists can engage in various activities at the beach including water sports. The beach is known for its cleanliness and is dotted with benches. Tourists can find plenty of hotels near the beach and a number of food joints nearby.

Jallandhar Beach is a rocky beach that offers splendid views of the sea along with some really good beach dining options. Nearby the beach lies the famous shrine of Jallandhar, a mythological demon who is said to have been killed by Lord Krishna. Situated on a small hill near the beach, the popular Jallandhar shrine has a dome that contains a niche wherein the stone-carved face of the mythological demon king is seen here. According to Hindu mythology, the demon Jallandhar was beheaded by Lord Krishna in Diu. Tourists can also visit the nearby temple dedicated to Goddess Chandrika. A visit to the beach and shrine makes for a perfect family outing.

Palitana (170 kilometers from Diu) is famed for a large cluster of Jain temples. On your way to the Shatrunjaya Hill top from the base, you will come across as many as 836 beautiful temples. Reaching the top is not an easy task as it requires tourists to climb almost 4,000 steps over a 3.5 kilometers long uphill climb. The site holds immense significance for the Jain community as it was here that the first Jain tirthankara (saint), Adinath, achieved enlightenment, making the Shatrunjay Hill a holy site for Jains. The temples have been built in the 11th, 12th centuries and 16th centuries. Interestingly, unlike other temples in the country, these were not built under the patronage of any dynasty or kings but are a result of the efforts of the wealthy businessmen who followed Jainism.

Porbandar: Gandhi's Birthplace

Porbandar (130 kilometers southwest of Rajkot, 400 kilometers southwest of Ahmedabad) is birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. A small but bustling port city, dotted with temples, historical monuments and serene beaches, Porbandar, acts as the gatekeeper of the rich heritage of the region such as a majestic gurukul that keeps alive ancient Vedic sciences to a unique temple that portrays the nuances of Gandhiji's life. According to legend this city was the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s friend-turned-devotee Sudama, and this friendship is honored in the one-of-its-kind Sudama Mandir.

For centuries, Porbandar has been an affluent trading destination, exchanging spices, fabrics and sundry wares with countries in the Gulf, Arab and Persian regions as well as in East Africa. Porbandar finds a place in Skanda Purana, an ancient Indian text, as Ashmavati and Sudamapuri. Around the coast, visitors can spot historical ports and jetties that prove that Porbandar was once a center of maritime activities.

Kirti Mandir was built in the honour of Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi, right next to their ancestral home in the city. It has now been converted into a small museum that displays items used by Gandhiji, along with some really old photographs. The museum houses a library that has books either written by him or relating to his philosophies. The construction of the temple marked Mahatma Gandhi's release from prison in 1944. Visitors can also enter the ancestral house of Gandhiji through the museum. As you enter the house, you will come across old paintings of Gandhiji and his wife Kasturba, some of which include the rare black and white pictures of the two sharing lighter moments. The temple has been visited by a number of world leaders who still come here to pay their respects to the Father of the Nation.

Getting There: By Air: The city of Porbandar is well-connected with major Indian cities. By Road: Various towns and cities in Gujarat are connected with Porbandar through good roads and highways. By Train: Porbandar, a major railhead, is connected with major cities in India.

Gandhi’s Early Life in Porbandar and Rajkot

Gandhi was born in Porbandar on October 2, 1869. "Gandhi" means "Grocer." When translated literally Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi means "Action-Slave Fascination-Moon Grocer." Gandhi came from a family that belonged to the Vaisya cast of farmers and tradesmen. His father, Kaba Gandhi, served as a dewan (chief minister) under a ruler in Porbander for 28 years and was 47 and on his fifth marriage when Mohandas, his third son and forth child, was born. En route to Mohandas Gandi's wedding, Kaba's carriage overturned and he spent the last three years of his life in bed.

Gandhi's mother Putlibai was a frail, illiterate and deeply religious woman. She prayed and fasted dutifully and once commented on life that "it was a pity one could not dispense with it altogether" for "it entered the mouth fresh and fragrant, and left the body as waste."

Mohandas was born in a dark, windowless ground-floor room of the Gandhi family residence in Porbandar. As a child, Gandhi was described by his sister Raliat as "restless as mercury, either playing or roaming about. One of his favorite pastimes was twisting dogs' ears."

In 1874, Gandhi's father moved to the smaller state of Rajkot, where he became a counsellor to its ruler. His family later joined him there. At age 9, Gandhi entered the local school in Rajkot, near his home. There he studied arithmetic, history, the Gujarati language and geography. At age 11, he joined the High School in Rajkot. He was an average student, won some prizes, but was a shy and tongue tied student, with no interest in games; his only companions were books and school lessons. Gandhi was married when he way 13. In November 1887, the 18-year-old Gandhi graduated from high school in Ahmedabad. In January 1888, he enrolled at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar State, then the sole degree-granting institution of higher education in the region. But he dropped out and returned to his family in Porbandar.

Junagadh

Junagadh (250 kilometers southwest of Ahmedabad) is a 2300-year-old fortified city at the foot of the Girnar Hills with 330,000 people. Marco Polo stopped near Junagadh in Gujarat on his sea journey from China to Venice in 1291-95. Among its attractions are glorious architecture, bustling bazaars, grand palaces, forts and cave temples. The fortified city is situated at the foot of Mt Girnar, the highest point in Gujarat, and lies at an elevation of 1,000 meters. Junagadh is also a gateway to Somnath Temple and Gir National Park.

Ashoka's Rock Edict found here support the fact that the region was once ruled by the mighty Mauryan empire. Later, Junagadh slid under the reign of the Mughals and with the Mughal rule ending around the mid-18th century, an Afghan ruler, named Sher Khan Babi, established it as an independent princely state. Junagadh became a part of independent India on November 9, 1947, as a part of Saurashtra state and later, Mumbai. After the Maha Gujarat movement, it became a part of the newly formed state of Gujarat in 1960.

Wall hangings, bandhani saris, devotional items, embroidered clothes are some of the things to look out for while shopping in the bustling markets of Junagadh. Ayurvedic medicines, herbal remedies, incense sticks and footwear also make for interesting buys. The markets of Junagadh are particularly known for their footwear, and while they may not be very highly westernised, they are quite beautiful and rare. Handmade carpets and textiles are also quite popular here.

Getting There: By Air: Keshod is the nearest airport (40 kilometers), which is connected with all major Indian cities. By Road: Good roads connect Junagadh to all villages, towns and cities in Gujarat. By Train: Junagadh railway junction connects to important Indian towns and cities.

Places in Junagadh

Uparkot Fort was built by Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka’s father, around 320 B.C., The upper citadel has contains the oldest part of the city of Junagadh. Its walls are up to 20 meters high in some places, owing to which the fort is believed to have once withstood a 12-year siege. Inside the premises stands Jama Masjid, which has a rare roof courtyard and carved octagonal openings. In the vicinity of the mosque is a set of Buddhist caves that are monastic quarters, which were carved out of rocks 2,000 years ago. The fort also has a 300-ft-deep moat, which once housed crocodiles so that if an attacker managed to surmount the high walls, they would fall into the trench or be exposed to the battlements. The main hall of the fort is dotted with pillars that have weathered carvings. Inside the premises, there are two rock-cut step wells called Adi Kadi vav and Navghan kuvo, which are believed to be about 1,000 years old. Archaeological evidence suggests that the fort has been inhabited continuously since the 3rd century B.C. Inside, one can see relics from different eras.

Shrine of Narsinh Mehta is a revered place, where the poet-saint Narsinh Mehta used to hold assemblies, bhajans (devotional songs) and religious discourses in the 15th century. Close by, is a small temple of Gopinath, along with idols of Shri Damodar Raiji and Narsinh Mehta. Narsinh Mehta was a great poet whose poems are renowned in Gujarat. He was a devotee of Lord Krishna, a scholar, a philosopher and a social reformer. The famous poem, "Vaishnavjan To Tene Re Kahiye Je Pid Parayi Jane Re", one of the favorite bhajans of Mahatma Gandhi, was originally written by Narsinh Mehta. It describes the qualities of a devotee. Some other places of interest nearby include Ayurvedic Museum, Wellington Dam, Narsinh Mehta Lake, Dataar Hills and Damodarji Temple.

Bhavnath Temple is one of the holiest places in Junagadh. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it lies at the foothills of Mt Girnar. While its origins are unknown, one can assume that it has been standing since time immemorial. It is best known for the Bhavnath fair, which is organised in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar (around January or February). On the full moon day in October-November, a parikrama (circumambulation) is organised at the temple after a dhvaja (flag) is hoisted. The parikrama lasts for five days and roughly covers around 40 kilometers. As soon as the puja commences, one can sages, seated on elephants, coming towards the temple, holding flags in their hands. In the background, conch shells are blown along with tungis and turis (musical instruments). According to legend on this day, Lord Shiva himself visits the temple and thus a grand welcome is organised. The organisers also serve free meals to devotees. Many events are organised and performances are put up by dancers and folk singers during the festival.

Mahabat Maqbara is a mausoleum built between 1878 and 1892. A fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture interspersed with Gothic influences, it was commissioned by Mahabat Khanji, one of the Junagadh nawabs. It was completed in 1892 by his successor Bahadur Kanji. Its vertical pillars, windows, intricately carved stone walls and nicely designed arches are noteworthy. The most striking feature of the structure is the staircase encircling the minarets and domes of various sizes. The mausoleum is yellow-colored and has an onion-shaped dome. The premises are generally locked but one can gain entry with permission from the authorities of the Jama Masjid lying adjacent to it. The mosque also has an exquisite architecture that is a sight to behold.

Mt. Girnar Area and Ashoka Rock Edict in Junagadh

Mt Girnar has been an important pilgrimage site in Gujarat for generations. Older than the Himalayas, it houses a number of Jain and Hindu temples that are spread over five different summits. Visitors can reach the summit via a flight of steps that begin at Damodar Kund. Embarking on this trek is a memorable experience as you get spectacular views of the surroundings. As the pilgrims ascend the stone path, which links the five summits, they cross a number of ancient temples belonging to different sects of Hinduism. Then, they come across a complex of Jain temples on a plateau that is equally fascinating. It is said that at one of these places, the 22nd tirthankar (saint) of Jainism died after 700 years of ascetic meditation. Most visitors arrive here during the Girnar Parikrama festival and Mahashivaratri festival, which see grand celebrations.

Ashoka Rock Edict (en route to Mount Girnar) is one of the 14 edicts of emperor Ashoka, of the Maurya dynasty, inscribed on large boulders. Housed in a building, the boulder here is an uneven rock, about 10 meters high and with a circumference of 7 meters. , The inscriptions etched in the rock are in Brahmi script. These edicts convey the message of peace, communal harmony and tolerance. Added to the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit language by the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, around 150. It mentions the history of the turbulent waters of River Suvarna Sikta and River Palasini flowing down the hills and breaking the dam on Lake Sudarshan.

Damodar Kund is one of the most sacred lakes of Gujarat. Located in the foothills of Mount Girnar, the lake is surrounded by temples dedicated to Goddess Radha, Lord Baldeva, Goddess Vagheshwari and Lord Damodar. Visitors generally come to perform the last rites of their loved ones here. Pilgrims also take a dip in two small reservoirs, Revati Kund and Mrigi Kund as they believe it absolves them of their sins. The temples were built by Suryavanshi ruler, Chandraketpur.

Muchkunda Cave (west of Damodar Temple, near Revati Kund) is said to be associated with the legend of Muchkund, who had reduced the enemy of Lord Krishna, Kal Yavan, to ashes. The cave has a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva) that is said to have been established by Muchkund. According to legend Lord Krishna was escaping from his enemy, Kal Yavan, and happened upon the cave where Muchkand was meditating. The lord threw his blanket over him and hid in a corner. Kal Yavan followed the lord into the cave, saw the blanket and drew it away. This disturbed Muchkunda's meditation and when he saw the demon, a beam of fire came from his eyes and burnt Kal Yavan to ashes.

Near Junagadh

Somnath Temple (94 kilometers from Junagadh) is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the most important spiritual sites in the Hindu circuit. Believed to be the first of the 12 jyotirlingas (devotional shrines of Lord Shiva) in the country, the temple attracts large crowds every year. Skirted by the Arabian Sea, the temple commands a spectacular view of the Saurashtra peninsula. Boasting an imposing architecture of the Chalukyan style, the Somnath Temple with its striking shikhara (spire) is 50 meters tall. Silver doors, intricate carvings, a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva) and a Nandi idol (bull god) add to the splendour of the building.

The huge courtyard of the temple has an equally large mandapa (hall) and the main shrine, whose arches tower over the whole temple complex. After paying obeisance, devotees can slip through a side door to find an ethereal view of sunlight tripping over the sea waves. Somnath Temple is said to have been originally built by the moon god with gold. Later, it was razed to the ground and rebuilt by Ravana with silver. Later, Lord Krishna made it in wood and then an edifice of stone was erected by one of the Pandava brothers, Bhima. In the month of November, the Kartik Purnima fair organised here attracts a large number of pilgrims.

Sana Caves (76 kilometers from Junagadh) is a group of 62 Buddhist rock shelters that have been carved out of soft rock. They draw tourists from across the country for their architectural wonders. Most of these caves are different from one another and are scattered at different levels. While some caves have a pillared hall and a dome, others have stupas, chaityas and rock-cut pillows as well as benches with ornate carvings. Experts are of the opinion that these shelters date back to the 2nd century B.C. and are among the oldest found in Western India. Cave 2, which is around 21 meters in depth and 18.3 meters wide is the largest of them. The caves are around Sana Hills in Amreli.

Gondal

Gondal (64 kilometers from Junagadh) has many tourist attractions. The 17th century Naulakha Palace is particularly beautiful, with stone carvings, a pillared courtyard, magnificent jharokhas (balconies), carved arches, a spiral staircase, a grand durbar hall and gilt wooden furniture. A stone's throw away lies the majestic Riverside Palace, situated on the banks of River Gondali. Set amidst gardens and lawns, the palace boasts a marvellous living room that exudes colonial charm with antique wooden furniture, British-style chandeliers and sofas. The Indian room is a must-visit as the decorations of brassware, paintings and beadwork are quite enchanting. There are many pretty sit-outs on the terrace, from where tourists can get spectacular views of the river and gardens. The Riverside Palace was built by Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji, of the princely Gonda state, for his son Yuvraj Bhojraji in 1875. A museum housed in the palace gives an account of the glorious days gone by through exhibits like the silver caskets that carried gifts and messages for Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji, etc.

The Orchard Palace is another attraction that is set in a huge complex of lawns and gardens and sweet-smelling fruit orchards. It is a wing of the present royal residence of the Huzoor Palace. Tourists should see the enchanting room of miniatures, a sitting room boasting a fine collection of brass, antique furniture and miniature paintings.

Next on the list is the vintage Royal Garages that host an extensive collection of classic cars like 1935 Packard two-door convertible, a Delage and a Daimler from the 1920s, 1955 Cadillac limousine, 1941 and 1947 Cadillac, four-wheel drive vehicles from the World War II etc. Some of these still carry the original Gondal state plates. Other attractions include the Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy, Bhuvaneshwari Stud Farm, Swaminarayan Temple and Sangram Sinhji High School, which is modelled after Eton, in England.

Gir National Park

Gir National Park (100 kilometers from Keshod, 250 kilometers southwest of Ahmedabad, 65 kilometers southeast of Junagadh) is the main home to the last surviving population of Asiatic lions. Located on the Saurashtra peninsula, this 1,412-square-kilometer (545-square-mile) park is composed of steep rocky hills, deep ravines, some mixed deciduous semi-arid forest and occasional stretches of grassland. Many of the good grassy areas have been overgrazed by cattle and some of the streams have dried up.

Animals seen in Gir National Park (Sasan Gir) include sambar, chital, nilgai, chowsingha (the world’s only four-horned antelope), chinkara, wild boar, India fox, langur monkey, wild cat, jackal and marsh crocodile. Some of the snakes that reside here are the king cobra, the saw-scaled viper, the krait and Russell's viper. More than 200 species of bird have been sighted. Among these are endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures, paradise flycatcher, black headed cuckoo shrike, grey drongo, pied woodpecker, coppersmith, Indian roller, crested swift, fish owls, black vulture, sheen falcon, Bonellis eagle, crested serpent eagle, pained sandgrouse, rock bus quail, grey partridge and white necked stork.

The Gir Forest is situated on the Kathiwar Peninsula in Gujarat. Keshod s the nearest large town. One can fly there from Goa. It is a 2½ drive from Keshod to Gir.The park has a lot of people, goats and cattle in it. The riverbed is cultivated. The lions are often surrouded by huge crowds of people. Besides lions, leopards are the main attraction of the park. To spot marsh crocodiles in large numbers, one can visit the Kamleshwar reservoir in the sanctuary.

The park has a core area of about 258 square kilometers. It began as a wildlife sanctuary created in 1965 to conserve the Asiatic lion. The lions were completely wiped out from other parts of Asia, The indiscriminate hunting by the people of Junagadh led to a fall in their numbers in Gir forest. The Nawabs of Junagadh protected the lions in their hunting grounds before the Gur forest became a sanctuary and park. From a population of about 20 lions in 1913, the numbers rose to about 523 in 2015.

Visiting Gir National Park

Visitors to Gir National Park can book vehicles and guide services for a jungle safari at the park’s reception center. One can obtain permits to visit the park at Sinh Sadan Orientation Center at the park or get it online through the Gir Online Permit Booking System. Between mid-June and mid-October, the Gir Jungle Trail Safari is closed to the public.

There are some temples and other tourist sights in the park. Kankai Mata temple is dedicated to the protector of the shepherds of Gir forest. Located in the middle of the jungle, it allows people to spend the night and they can often hear lions roaring at night. Nearby you can see animals gathering at the lake to drink. Though tourists and devotees are allowed to stay at the temple at night, the Forest Department prohibits the stay of more than 50 people at a time. The premises of the temple has high walls that keep temple area relatively safe from lions and leopards. At night, you can gaze at the star-lit inky black sky through the treetops of the jungle.

Situated on the Dhari-Una road amid scenic setting, Tulsishyam Hot Springs are believed to have curative powers. Pilgrims can often be seen bathing in the waters. The springs also find mention in the Puranas and are referred to as 'Taptodak'. According to legend Lord Krishna killed a demon, Tul, and thus the place has been named Tuslishyam: Tulsi for tul and shyam for Lord Krishna. There is a temple by the same name located in the vicinity that is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is said to be a hundred years old and is a major pilgrim center. It houses about 200 cows in its gaushala (cow shed). While visiting the springs, rope in a visit to the evening arti (a fire ritual) that is quite a sight. Lunch and dinner are provided free to visitors here.

Getting There: By Air: The closest airport is at Keshod, 70 kilometers away or visitors can opt for the one at Rajkot, 160 kilometers away. By Road: Gir National Park is well-connected by road to all major cities in the state through good roads. By Train: Sasan Gir has a small railway station so visitors can reach the national park through Jungadh or Veraval railway stations which are both about the same distance from the park.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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