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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Enchanting Mandvi – The Pride of Kutch, Gujarat

Mandvi is popular among tourists

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Pradeep Chamaria
Pradeep Chamaria
I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

INDIA. Mandvi, Gujarat. Mandvi is a tiny town located in southwestern Gujarat and is an hour down the road from Bhuj in the famous Kutch district. Located on the Gulf of Kutch, Mandvi was founded by the Rao of Kutch State, Khengarji -I, the first Jadeja ruler of Kutch in 1580 and was named after Sage Mandavya (from Mahabharata times). Mandvi is popular among tourists for its rich history, Shipbuilding center, the 20th Century red sandstone Vijay Vilas Palace built in Rajputana architecture style, soft sand beaches, palaces, freedom fighters, migratory birds and the Kutchi Dabeli.

What to see at Madvi. Being a port with a river flowing through it, most things in Mandvi revolves around the water and there are plenty of oprotunities to indulge in activities. While at Mandvi beach, you can watch the windmills and birds, take a short camel ride, or simply walk along the soft sand. The contrast of the cool seawater and warm sand is often enjoyed as the sand does not stick to the feet here.

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Dhrabudi beach is an unusual beach located half an hour east of Mandvi. Situated in the Kutch area, Mandvi experiences severe earthquakes. However, the people who live in the area have stored all kinds of remains such as broken statues, building parts, and religious idols from damaged temples which have been displayed in an open-air museum on this beach. 

Apart from enjoying the sea and the sands, it is also very interesting to visit a lot of beautiful old buildings in the heart of the town. Temples with wildly sculpted, cartoon-like facades draw a lot of attention. These buildings were built by Mandvi’s merchants and influenced by their travels to faraway lands. The eclectic architecture of traditional Gujarati homes has larger-than-life delicately carved angels, balconies with flowered trellises, and stained-glass windows.

Interiors of Vijay Vilas Palace, Photo Credit: Pradeep Chamaria
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The elegant Vijay Vilas Palace. The eternally beautiful Vijay Villas Palace, its heritage resort, and the private beach are the most visited attractions in Mandvi. The palace opens at 9:00 am and the entry fee is 50 rupees. The palace has an amazing depiction of fusion architecture where many blockbuster Bollywood movies have been filmed. A portion of the palace has now been turned into a modern resort where a tourist can experience the luxury of royalty.

The palace was built as a summer resort for Rao Vijayrajji, the Maharao of Kutch, in 1929. The royal abode is set in the middle of well-laid gardens with water channels and marble fountains. With the sea as the backdrop, the large terrace with jaali work, exquisitely stone-carved elements, and colourful tiles compels a visitor to pose with his beloved to re-enact romantic scenes from movies that have been filmed here. 

Kutchi Dabeli, Photo Credit: flavouroma.com
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Kutchi Dabeli. Dabeli is Mandvi’s famous double roti. Locals claim that Dabeli was invented here by Keshavji Gabha Chudasama (Malam) (Kharva) in the 1960s. This double roti is similar to a spiced potato burger that is topped with chutney and roasted peanuts. This all gets stuffed in a bread pav and sold by several street food vendors.  

Mandvi is an excellent place for bird watching as well. During the winter, hordes of migratory birds such as flamingos, brown and black-headed gulls, demoiselle cranes, and sandpipers arrive in the Gulf of Kutch.

Mandvi also has many other attractions which include:

  • The 72 Jain Temple Complexes. Koday is just 10 km from the town and houses 72 separate shrines. It is also known as Bounter Jinalaya or Adiswar Bounter dedicated to the 72 Deris of Lord Mahavir
  • Shyamji Krishna Varma Memorial was constructed to pay tribute to Shri Shyamji, a freedom fighter 
  • Swaminarayan Temple at Mandvi. The old and real temple in the main city is about 157 years old
  • Bandhni Bazaar. Mandvi is famous for its Bandhani (tie-dye) and this bazaar is the place to be for buying souvenirs
Shipbuilding at Mandvi, Photo Credit: Thehindu.com
  • Traditional Shipbuilding. Mandvi is also a 400-year-old shipbuilding center which was started by the Kharva caste on the banks of the Rukmavati River. When you visit, you can see master carpenters building handmade wooden ships or the giant wooden Dhows by traditional techniques at the still-active shipbuilding yard
  • Mandvi Port. For watching the loading and unloading of ships
  • Ashapura Mata Temple. This is a temple at Layja, Mandvi which is visited by devotees to offer prayers to the local deity Maa Ashapura

Travel Tips. October to March is the best season to travel to Mandvi. State Transport buses leave every 30 minuets from Bhuj. Taxis can also be hired. Mandvi has no airport and rail transport but the nearest public airport and train station is in Bhuj.

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