Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Trip to the Land of Dhokla and Khakhra

It seems really a tall order for me to make a proper beginning to this travelogue- A Trip to the Land of Patel and Bapu. The advertisement of Gujrat Tourism on television by Amitabh Bachchan had already been there a source of attraction but it was the presence of my Nidhi there at Gandhidham that acted as a catalyst to this tour plan. The old palaces and formidable towers on the one hand and the far off  remote lands on the other, seem to have specialized in my nature and interests that whenever I think of writing a travelogue the situations start falling in line. Since I had never been to sea shore, it always caught my fascination and this time it was the call of the sea that gave the final shape to this trip-the open sea beach of Mandvi.

[Part One- Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal]

The first stay in the tour was Aina Mahal and Prag Mahl at Bhuj. When we reached there driving through the narrow and congested lane, I was, at first, a little dismayed at the contrast of its location...the congested street and lane, with makeshift shops, seemed to me, nullifying the magnificence and grandeur of the palace. But once we were inside the periphery, the crowded street took a backseat in the mind.

The name 'Bhuj' brought back the reminiscences of the earthquake of 2001 which though, almost has been swept off by the time and tide of industrialization yet had left those deep scars on Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal, clearly visible in the riuns of Aina Mahal and the corroding cumbling plasters, walls of the Prag Mahal lending them the forlorn, haunted touch of seemingly Gothic tone. Adjoining the huge doorway were the remnants of Aina Mahal in a dilapidated condition, holding back its sleeping mysteries from the world. A sigh escaped my lips,"Would that the place had not been ruined by the destructive forces of time!

Aina Mahal has been completely prohibited for the tourists for the ongoing renovation work. So, we made our way to Prag Mahal which has been partially renovated. The Aina Mahal in its ruined state,held more charm for me... may be because the place was blocked for tourists or may be for its originality not being destroyed by the renovation work.

The dazzling entrance, belying the antiquity of Prag Mahal, infact, seemed a journey from the present to the past. The deer and the stag heads on the wall and the pair of Bengal tigers stuffed in, the semi dark room and the musty, decaying smell, in fact, were the shadows of the past reminding me of the crushed ego of the great king Ozymandias, "
                                                    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: 
                                        Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” 
                                        Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
                                        Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare 
                                        The lone level sands stretch far away."


Part II- Vijay Vilas Palace and the Mandvi Beach-

My next destination was Vijay Vilas Palace, well known for the shooting of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The entrance and the drive through the wild plantation, at first, reminded me of the Rebecca but the place hadn't that eerie, Gothic essence of Prag Mahal...maybe for its regular upkeep. The spiral staircase took us to the upper dome where the cool sea breeze was so refreshing that we lay down on the marble  floor for sometime...Hmm..., that's why, the place had been the Summer Resort for the then king Yuvraj Shri Vijayaraje.

I had never been to the sea shore before...had read mostly in the novels, stories and poems. The sea in my imagination was the amalgam of "The Old Man and the Sea", "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner",etc. So, I was much excited about my visit to the Mandvi sea beach.

On reaching there , the sea of my imagination took a back seat before the vast stretch of the sandy shore and the sea to that distant horizon...the foamy waves breaking one after on the land like the cur that keeps on returning to its master to please him/her. Its magnitude and humility overwhelmed me.

I enjoyed every bit of my stay there...walking barefooted on the sandy beach, the call of the seagulls, sitting on the sand making sand castle only to be swept away by the waves, listening to the murmuring of waves growing louder by passing hours, taking snaps of the prints of waves' patterns, standing in the knee deep silvery breaking waves, the sun setting in for the night's rest and lastly, the slouchy ride on the camel's back.

Part III- Sabarmati Ashram

The gap between the arrival and departure from Ahmedabad gave me the opportunity to visit the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi- Sabarmati Ashram. The place has a quiet, soothing effect on soul and mind. Here quietly flows the Sabarmati in between the two paradoxical banks, the dream and the reality...the Swadeshi, handwoven textile and the machine made, synthetic textile. 

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