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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Gujarat


 I have decided that I shall start with my most recent travels.This way it is easier for me to recollect my adventures (and misadventures).I travelled to Ahmedabad,Gujarat on the 17th of December along with my mother,aunt and uncle.It was a single night journey as we left Bombay central at 9:30 and reached Ahmedabad at 7 in the morning.Winter in Ahmedabad is far more severe than in Mumbai and cold weather greeted us at the station.We were to travel to Ahmedabad for a distant relative's wedding but it actually transpired to be a tour of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.The place we stayed was right outside Kankaria Lake.Cold weather not being a deterrent I ventured out early in the morning for a brisk walk. The 2.25 KM artificial lake is circular in shape with toy train tracks along the periphery of the lake.The lakefront has a zoo,amusement parks, gardens ,water rides ,food stalls and entertainment facilities.Surprisingly the waterfront was packed with people out for their daily dose of exercise.The view of the water front was refreshing indeed.At the centre of the park is 'Nagina Wadi'.It houses a small garden.The attractions of the park had not yet opened so early in the morning but the walk was pleasant nevertheless.

As the day wore on the entire family decided to go to the waterfront.I chose to ride the segway and paid the fee upfront but was dismayed when I realized that the segway ride was only for a paricular stretch of the road and not the whole perimeter of the park!!!!Seething I had approached the ticket vendor and demanded a refund but to no avail.We decided to spend the afternoon at the waterfront and decided take the toy train ride in the evening.The afternoon was well spent reminescing of the days gone by.This being a transitional phase for me as the baton of responsibility passed to the next generation.As I watched the sun set I was so lost in thoughts that I barely registered the swell in the crowd. By the time I came out of my reverie the lakefront was so crowded  I wondered whether we would be able to secure tickets for the toy train.My fears were ,however, unfounded and we soon boarded the toy train cheekily labelled as Atal Express after the former Prime minister.
It was childhood revisited as I thoroughly enjoyed the train ride.We quickly proceeded to the food stalls after the train ride and after having our fill promptly returned to the Hotel for the days rest.
   
 The next day dawned and we leisurely left for the tour of the city.First up on our list was the city museum.Kite flying is a serious sport in Gujarat and it was quite evident with the kites on display along with artifacts that included cooking utensils,shawls.etc.Even in the city the love for kite flying was on display as I saw several shops dedicated to only kites and other accessories.The ISKCON temple came next.Unlike the characteristically opulent ISKCON temples dedicated to Lord Krishna the temple in Ahmedabad was relatively simple.Next up on the list was the Jain temple dedicated to Vardhaman Mahavira.The statue of Mahavira was crafted so well that it reflected the inner calm  the great tirthankara must have felt.
 
It was a day of veneration as we rounded it up by visiting the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar.Security at the temple is taken very seriously and we deposited our phones in the secure area.The entrance to the temple area itself was very impressive.The temple is devoted to Lord Swaminarayan who is believed to be reincarnation of God.The devotees have benevolently preserved memorablia and other accessories of the Lord.The ensemble included recreation of the tree including a bark of the original tree where Lord Swaminarayan attained enlightenment ,the shawl and dress ,teeth  and also the scene where the Lord went to the village on his mare preaching to the simple village people besides the statue of Swami Narayan.We waited till evening for the water and light show which is a major attraction.The show was worth the wait.It pondered the question of life, death and everything in between as a naive boy encounters the God of death ,Yamraj.All this was projected on the screen of strategically placed water fountains that shot streams of water accompanied by flames and fire.The spectacle made me wonder of the technical wizardry of the design.
   
On the last day of the sojourn we visited Nehru science centre ,Vallabhai Patel National museum and Sabarmati Ashram.
 
Vallabhai Patel was conferred the title of 'Iron Man of India' for his immense contribution to coalesce the many princely states of India into a united India.The museum is dedicated to chronicling the life and times of Vallabhai right from his childhood to his death.There is also a short video clip in the state of the art mini-theatre created specially to screen the video.
  The science city is a science themed park created by the government of Gujarat to encourage students to take an active interest in science.It has a wide assortment of exhibits.These exhibits include hall of science,hall of space and earth pavillion.Many a wonderful hour may be spent perusing these exhibits patiently as the dynamics of acoustics, light, electricity, optics, mathematics,biology,geology are shown hands on.The place has its fair share of entertainment options too.The electrodome and IMAX 3D theatre are popular attractions.We watched a 3D movie in the IMAX theatre and left for the next stop on our list.The adalaj vav or step well ,with time, has become a memorial of the love the Queen Roopba had for her husband Rana Veer Singh.It is intricately carved and five stories deep.
The Sabarbati ashram memorial located on the banks of the river Sabarmati was one of the residences of the Mahatma.It was from here that the Dandi march or salt satyagraha began.In recognition of the significant influence that this march had on the Indian independence movement the Indian government has established the ashram as a national monument.
 
 Soon it was sunset and the time for our departure approached.I was very impressed both by Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.They struck me as clean and well organised with good infrastructure and a strong public transport system.It was time to say goodbye with a promise to come again(aawjo in Gujarati).

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