A HIS­TORIC VISIT

Vado­dara is known to be one of In­dia’s an­cient ci­ties. Sharmila Chand lists places you shouldn’t miss when here

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Must visit spots in Vado­dara

The minute I set my eyes on The Ma­haraja Saya­ji­rao Univer­sity of Bar­oda, I wished the build­ing was part of my teen years. Built in the early 1900s, there is some­thing at­trac­tive about this Indo-Saracenic struc­ture with lofty domes and in­tri­cate carv­ings, com­plete with ex­panses of green­ery, de­spite its peel­ing ex­te­rior and mossy roofs.

This is one of the many her­itage build­ings with which I as­so­ciate my memories of Vado­dara (for­merly known as Bar­oda). It is the most re­cent of all the an­cient sites that keeps alive the 2,000-year-old city’s his­toric charm. In the short drive from the air­port to my hotel, I spot­ted a num­ber of an­cient palaces, parks and tem­ples.

Here is a list of some of my favourite spots in the city.

Pre­vi­ous page: Champ an erPav­a­gadh Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Park Left and right:

Laxmi Vi­las Palace; and the Lord Shiva statue sit­u­ated on Sur Sa­gar Lake

EX­PLORE Laxmi Vi­las Palace

Vado­dara’s royal fam­ily still re­sides in one sec­tion of the palace, which is not open to the gen­eral pub­lic. Vis­i­tors can, how­ever, buy an en­trance ticket for ac­cess to its court­yard, mu­seum and garden. When it was built in 1890 by Ma­haraja Saya­ji­rao Gaek­wad III, Laxmi Vi­las Palace was ahead of its time. One ex­am­ple of this is the pas­sen­ger lift, not com­mon dur­ing that era. Apart from that, most of this stately abode is out­stand­ing. The Dar­bar Hall con­tin­ues to host mu­sic con­certs and cul­tural events even today. It has Vene­tian mo­saic on its floor­ing, in­tri­cate mo­saic pat­terns on its walls, Bel­gium stained-glass win­dows, and or­nate foun­tains in its court­yard. The mu­seum build­ing on the palace grounds was once a school for the ma­haraja’s chil­dren. Today, it is a show­case of items from the royal fam­ily’s col­lec­tion. The var­i­ous view­ing rooms within in­clude the fam­ily’s ar­mour, head­gear and art­works.

• Open daily 9:30am-5pm; en­try ₹ 225 per per­son; lax mi-vi las-palace. busi­ness. site

Sur Sa­gar Lake

If you’d like to en­joy a beau­ti­ful sun­set while sip­ping on tea, Vado­dara’s Sur Sa­gar Lake is prob­a­bly one of the best places to do so. For me, this man-made lake was a serene site, de­spite be­ing lo­cated in the mid­dle of the city and sur­rounded by street food hawk­ers. I found solace be­ing in the pres­ence of the 120-foot tall statue of Lord Shiva “ris­ing” from the lake. Tourists visit for boat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, and dur­ing fes­ti­vals, lo­cals use the lake for im­mer­sion of idols.

• Open round-the-clock; boat­ing is open daily 5:30pm8pm and prices de­pend on the boat­man.

Sayaji Baug

It is one of the largest gar­dens in west­ern In­dia. In 1879 Ma­haraja Saya­ji­rao III con­verted 45 hectares of the Vish­wamitri river­bank into a zoo. Years later, the gov­ern­ment added a plan­e­tar­ium and a mu­seum. The plan­e­tar­ium is sit­u­ated near the main gate of Sayaji Baug and has three shows daily. The zoo’s most pop­u­lar res­i­dent is the Asi­atic lion, amongst the other 18 species

of mam­mals, 64 species of birds, and seven species of rep­tiles. Vado­dara Mu­seum and Pic­ture Gallery, also lo­cated within Sayaji Baug, has an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of arte­facts re­lat­ing to In­dian ar­chae­ol­ogy, ge­ol­ogy, natural his­tory, minia­ture paint­ings from the Mughal times, and a Per­sian edi­tion of Ma­hab­harata that was spe­cially com­mis­sioned by King Ak­bar him­self. If it isn’t for the build­ings within this gated “set­tle­ment”, visit for an early morn­ing walk when the air is crisp and you can hear the an­i­mals at their an­i­mated best.

• The plan­e­tar­ium is open Fri­day-Thursday 9am-6pm; the zoo is open daily 5am-11pm; Vado­dara Mu­seum and Pic­ture Gallery is open daily 10am-5pm.

Khan­derao Mar­ket

An­other ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vel of the city, Khan­derao Mar­ket has a beau­ti­ful fa­cade with tra­di­tional carv­ings, bal­conies and spires. In­side, the only el­e­ment that adds beauty to the oth­er­wise bare hall is the colour­ful flow­ers, fruits, veg­eta­bles, spices, pickles, items for re­li­gious pro­ces­sions and other such wares en­er­get­i­cally sold to vis­i­tors. Don’t for­get to put your best ne­go­ti­a­tion skills to work here.

• Open daily 5am-11pm; Mar­ket Cross Road, Palace Road, Kevd­abaug.

TASTE

For Gu­jarati snacks, I was di­rected to Khamb­hat­wala Sukha­dia. A pop­u­lar name in the city, it has shelves lined with a dizzy­ing va­ri­ety of pack­aged snacks. If you’re un­fa­mil­iar with this cui­sine, choose an as­sort­ment of freshly cooked snacks dis­played within the shop to ac­quaint yourself with Gu­jarati bites. It also has a menu of sweets, with which you can end your binge.

• Open daily 8:30am-9:30pm; tel: +91 265 2342872; sukha­di­afoods.com.

For Gu­jarati thali, I was rec­om­mended three places:

• Amantran: open daily 10:30am-3pm and 7:30pm-10:30pm; tel: +91 265 2313137; atr­vado­dara.com.

Man­dap: open daily noon-3pm and 7:30pm-10:30pm; tel: +91 9227881135; ex­pressho­telsin­dia.com.

Sa­suma: open daily 11:30am-3:30pm and 7pm10:30pm; tel: +91 9574652652; sasumaagu­jaratithali.com.

I ended up eat­ing at Amantran and en­joyed the thali, though it was sweeter than I had ex­pected — Gu­jarati food is known to be sweet. The restau­rant also serves spicy In­dian, Chi­nese and con­ti­nen­tal veg­e­tar­ian dishes.

STAY

• Eastin Res­i­dences Vado­dara is lo­cated in the heart of the city and is ideal for long stays. It is a bou­tique apart­ment hotel with four ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gories: Stu­dio Twin apart­ment (27 sqm), Stu­dio King apart­ment (27 sqm), Deluxe Stu­dio room (29 sqm) and One-bed­room apart­ment (30 sqm). There is one all-day din­ing restau­rant on the prop­erty — The Glass House. east­in­ho­tel­sres­i­dences.com

• Wel­comHo­tel Vado­dara is a brand run by ITC Ho­tels. It has 133 rooms and suites, three meet­ing rooms, one ban­quet hall, a swim­ming pool, a 24-hour eatery, and Pe­shawari, the sig­na­ture restau­rant of ITC Ho­tels. On book­ing di­rectly through the ITC app, web­site and call cen­tre, guests are given free in­ter­net ac­cess. itcho­tels.in.

• Grand Mer­cure Vado­dara Surya Palace is a ten-minute drive from the city’s air­port. Amongst its 146 rooms and suites, the Ac­corHo­tels prop­erty has women-only rooms for solo fe­male trav­ellers. The only restau­rant here is open round the clock. There are 16 meet­ing rooms, a swim­ming pool and a gym. ac­corho­tels.com

GETTING AROUND

Cabs and au­torick­shaws are eas­ily avail­able to com­mute within the city. They don’t go by the me­ter, but that’s the norm in Vado­dara and they’re rea­son­able.

ON­WARD TRAVEL Cham­paner-Pav­a­gadh Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Park

A one-hour drive from Vado­dara took me to Cham­paner-Pav­a­gadh, an old set­tle­ment recog­nised by UNESCO as a note­wor­thy ar­chae­o­log­i­cal park and World Her­itage Site in 2004. This for­est land was brought to civil­i­sa­tion by King Chavda in the eighth cen­tury. As you drive into this almost for­got­ten city, you’re sur­rounded by thick green­ery, occasionally dot­ted with ru­ins of an­cient struc­tures. Today, the ones that stand and are ac­ces­si­ble for pub­lic view­ing are the palace, fort, mosques, tombs and tem­ples — built be­tween the eighth and 14th cen­turies. Gu­jarat Tourism de­scribes this place as what was once an “out-of-theway pil­grim­age site for hun­dreds of years”, and one that vis­i­tors en­joy for a scenic walk down its “an­cient streets just as its in­hab­i­tants did five cen­turies ago”. Due to paucity of time, I could only man­age to squeeze in a quick trip to the Ka­lika Mata Tem­ple here.

Ka­lika Mata Tem­ple In Pav­a­gadh

As I was be­ing trans­ported in a lit­tle ca­ble car, over a lush, green val­ley, I could spot the tem­ple crown­ing the Pav­a­gadh hill. Ka­lika Mata Tem­ple is said to have been built be­tween the 10th and 11th cen­turies. It is from this hill that the holy Vish­wamitri river orig­i­nates.

On alight­ing from the ca­ble car, I walked up about 200 steps to the tem­ple. This may sound like a lot of climb­ing, but it’s re­ally not be­cause the stairs aren’t steep. I found the head of Ka­lika Mata, painted red, in a sanc­tum in­side the tem­ple. Apart from this, there are idols of God­dess Ma­hakali and the yantras of God­dess Bahuchara.

On my way back, I de­cided to buy metal coins en­graved with the God­dess’ im­ages from the many sou­venir shops out­side the main en­trance of the tem­ple. A quick snack at one of the stalls vend­ing tra­di­tional food marked the end of my visit, or so I thought. While wait­ing for my ca­ble car, I had an in­ter­est­ing ren­dezvous with the lan­gurs re­sid­ing in Pav­a­gadh. They wanted my prasad (food blessed by God dur­ing prayers), and I was truly bowled over at their sense of dis­ci­pline. A group of six came down from the trees, lined up and took one box each from me and my com­pan­ions. Each one walked off with one box, nei­ther beg­ging for more nor at­tempt­ing to snatch an­other mon­key’s box! ■

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