Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gujarat - A state with many facets

Famous as an industrialized state of India, Gujarat is also a favourite haunt for the tourists. Set between the states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, Gujarat is known for its vibrant festivals, religious shrines, rich cultural heritage, varied wildlife, magnificent mountains and sand dunes. Western coast of the state is flanked by the Arabian Sea which is home fine beaches as well. Gandhi Nagar, is the capital city of Gujarat while former state capital Ahmedabad is now the commercial capital of the state. Surat and Vadodara are other major cities of the state. So, plan a trip to the state to experience its distinct aura, its rich culture and also to enjoy its traditional dances. Savouring delectable cuisines and spotting rare wildlife add more to your vacationing experience in the state.

Wild Adventures in Gujarat : Gujarat is known for its varied habitat and housing a fascinating variety of wildlife. Gujarat is home to a variety of forests and wetlands that include the dry deciduous forests like the Gir, magnificent grasslands like those found at Velavadar, vast landscapes providing shelter to rare animals in habitats like the Little Rann of Kutch, marines ecosystems such as those found near the Pirotan Islands, wetland habitats such as the Narlsarovar and the rich moist deciduous forests like those found in the thick forests of the Dangs.

Gujarat’s varied land forms also provide shelter to some extremely rare wildlife. You can see the rare Asiatic lion found only in Gir, the wildass found only in the Rann of Kutch. You can also spot the Great Indian Bustard, one of the most threatened birds found in certain protected areas of the state. The Chowsingha - the world’s only four-horned antelope, Dugong – a marine mammal resembling a seal are other rare animals that you can spot in the state.

Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is the wildlife protected area of Gujarat, which provides natural habitat to a variety of animals and avian species. Besides Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the state has a number of other wildlife parks that include Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, Vansda National Park, Blackbuck National Park, Marine National Park, Wild Ass Sanctuary, Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Chinkara Sanctuary, Thol Wildlife Sanctuary, Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary and Porbandar Bird Sanctuary.

Temples and Holy shrines in Gujarat :
Gujarat has temples, mosques, churches, temples, synagogues, gurudwaras and the holy places of almost every religion of the world. Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar is one of the finest contemporary temples in India. A sand-stone temple, Akshardham is carved with state-of-art technologies like fibre-optics. Sound and light shows, multi-media, audio visual shows etc. are other attractions of the temple.

Gujarat is home to a number of other Hindu temples namely Ambaji temple (Somnath), the Balaji temple and ISKON temple (Ahmedabad) Swaminarayan temples (Sarangpur, Gadhada and Gondal), Jain temple complexes (Palitana, Girnar, Sankeshwar, Mahudi, Taranga and Kumbharia). Besides temples, the Dargah of Mira Datar attracts Muslism pilgrims and people of other religions in large number. Parsee fire temples of Sanjan and Udwada are other major holy places of the state.

Fairs and Festivals in Gujarat : People of Gujarat celebrate a number of fairs and festivals all through the year. Among the festivals of Gujarat, the Navratri is the most important festival of the state. During the festival cultural troupes from SAARC nations and other foreign countries are invited to perform in Ahmedabad. Far from the regular tourist trappings, the nine days festival is a circle of ecstasy which goes on non-stop for nine brimming nights and is dedicated to Maa Amba, the Goddess of Shakti.

During Navratri, dancers young and old, from children to grandmothers, enjoy Garba and Dandiya-Ras. Another popular festival of the state is the Sharad Utsav celebrated in Kutch during October. Every year the International Kite Festival is held in Ahmedabad in the month of January. People from all over the world display exotic kites of various designs. Cuisine and crafts display are also enjoyed by participants and spectators.

Handicrafts of Gujarat : Handicrafts reflect the innately artistic nature of the Gujaratis. As you wind up your Gujarat trip, carry home handicrafts of Gujarat to live with you a lifetime. In fact, Gujarati handicrafts has put its stamp on the textile market with its excellent quality and varied designs. Check out the exquisite silk sarees from Patan, rogan and zari prints of Surat, tanchhoi or silk brocades of Surat. The tie ‘n’dye of Jamnagar is also very popular. Traditional motifs in bandhani work in silk and cotton is the house style here.

Another Gujarati art is hand painted cloth fashioned to make bedspreads, wall hangings, teble cloths etc. The colourful costumes of the Rabaris (a pastoral community) can be turned into Gypsy styled ghaghras or full length skirts, blouses and waistcoats. Brss covered wooden chests or pataras of Bhavnagar and Mahuva come in various size. Ivory and rosewood inlay is used to fashion souvenirs like nut-crackers, paperknives, handles for walking sticks etc. Wood carving is an ancient art of Gujarat which has now attained a very high standard of technical skill. Wood carvers produce life-like figures of animals, artists objects of daily use such as teapots, stools, table lamps, toys for children etc.