If you’re travelling around India, chances are you’ve got visiting the White Desert in the Great Rann of Kutch on your list. Visiting the salt flats of the Rann of Kutch entails passing through a city called Bhuj, which doesn’t seem to have much to its name apart from being the easiest way to get into the desert. A lot of Bhuj’s heritage was damaged in the devastating earthquake a few years ago, but there’s enough to keep you interested (and contemplative) as a quick day trip to Bhuj from the Rann of Kutch before you take your train or flight out.
Top 5 Things To Do in Bhuj
1. Aina Mahal
This 18th Century palace, will certainly break your heart. Walk through its decrepit ruins, imagining how glorious its white marble walls, covered in mirrors and Venetian glass once looked. Inside, a little museum feebly attempts to bring alive the European lifestyle that once thrived here, in its various pleasure rooms, dedicated to the arts and culture.
2. Prag Mahal
Within the same complex, connected to the Aina Mahal, sits the pigeon infested Prag Mahal. Stroll through this 19th Century Italian Gothic masterpiece, covering your nose as I did, since the fumes of pigeon poop fill the air. Look forlorn at the decaying taxidermy of what were once magnificently mammoth stags and bears. Not much remains of the valuable antiques that once sat here, but the interiors still lend a helping hand when it comes to imagining this palace in its heyday. Climb the clock tower for a fabulous view of the city of Bhuj.
3. Swaminarayan Temple
The new Swaminarayan Temple, was built only recently (in 2010) to replace the old one that was destroyed in the earthquake. Sprawled across a whopping 5 acres, this massive temple in marble and gold is definitely a sight to behold. Even if you aren’t here to pray among the thousands of devotees (who flock from all over the world), stay awhile, studying the beautiful pillars, and enjoying a bit of respite away from the hot Kutch sun in its cool marble cocoon. Standing on the marble staircase in the midday sun, I was stumped at how cool the floor felt under the soles of my bare feet.
4. Bhujia Fort
When I overheard fellow travellers referring to Bhujia Fort as India’s answer to the Great Wall of China, I laughed. But one peek at it, as we drove past, and I was forced to admit the (stretched) resemblance. Built atop a hill, this fort protected Kutch from several invasions, and most of it is under the Indian Army today.
5. Bhujori Crafts Village
The region is famous for it’s handicrafts and ancient arts, still being practised as they were eons ago. Tie-dye, weaving, embroidery, block printing, you name it and it’s being skilfully laboured over in this village. Several emporiums that have gone on to become large brands source their wares from here, and even if these crafts aren’t your cup of tea, just sitting and watching the artisans create magic as you sip a cup of tea is a wonderful experience.
Have you been to Bhuj? Did you only visit the Great Rann of Kutch, or did you explore the city too? How many of these things to do in Bhuj did you see? What was your opinion of it?