Spotted in Bhavnagar

Mahatma Gandhi studied for a few months at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar. The Gandhi Smruti in that city contains a first class collection of photographs recording the life of the Mahatma. This echibition is on the first floor of a building. Its ground floor is occupied by the exhibits in the city’s Barton Museum.

The Barton contains some fine artefacts made in different eras. Amongst these, there are some lovely Jain stone carvings.

One area of the museum oncludes a case showing the evolution of the flag of what was to become post-colonial India. Near to this, there is a vitrine containing ageing historic postage stamps in various states of decay.

While looking at the stamps, I spotted several bearing the name “Ifni”. Never heard of it? Well, I had. I used to spot Ifni on the pages of atlases published before the 1960s. However, I had never seen stamps bearing this name.

Ifni was a tiny Spanish colonial enclave on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The Spanish ruled Ifni from 1860 until 1969, when it was returned to Morocco. The Sultanate of Morocco had ceded the tiny piece of land to Spain in 1960.

According to an article in Wikipedia, Ifni issued several new postage stamps each year. More of them remained unused than used.

I do not know who donated the sheets of postage stamps to the Barton Museum in Bhavnagar, but those from Ifni were certainly isdued orior to 1969.

The museum in Bhavnagar is, like many other museums in provincial towns in Gujarat, filled with a variety of artefacts. You never know what you will find when you enter one of them. The stamps from Ifni were certainly unexpected.

The maharajah’s garage

I am not sure that we would have discovered the collection of cars assembled by the maharajahs of Gondal had we not had a detailed guidebook to Gujarat. Maybe we might have learned about it by chance but being in possession of a guidebook made certain that we were aware of it.

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Detailed guidebooks of Gujarat, written in English, are few and far between. During the planning and our actual trip, we made use of two books.

book 1

Philip Ward’s “Gujarat Daman Diu – A Travel Guide” was published in 1994. Like his excellent guidebook to Albania, Ward presents Gujarat and its associated former Portuguese colonies in the form of a detailed, informative travelogue. It is a book that is both designed to be read in an armchair and to be used ‘on the road’. However, it was written before the earthquake of 2001 and its practical information is out of date. Nevertheless, it is a useful book for those who are planning to explore Gujarat.

book 2

The “India Guide Gujarat” by Anjali Desai was published in 2007. This colourful production includes many maps, which help with orientation but lack detail and were occasionally inaccurate. It is a thorough guidebook with entries on most of the places that are worth visiting in Gujarat. We made much use of the Kindle version of this publication during most of our trip until we reached Baroda, where we managed to obtain a paperback version, which is far easier to use than the electronic edition. Even though it is a few years out of date, anyone planning to visit Gujarat should carry a copy of it.

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During our two month odyssey through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu, we saw many of the things recommended by Desai, but also attractions that she does not mention either because they have been built since her book was published or because of our exploratory instincts. One place, which gets a two line mention in Ward and three lines in Desai, is the collection of vintage cars at Gondal.

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The collection is in the grounds of one of the palaces built by a Maharajah of Gondal to house his guests but is now used as a hotel. In my recently published book about Gujarat, I wrote:

“The grounds of this palace contain a collection of vintage cars, which I was permitted to see after paying an immodest fee (by Indian standards). More than thirty cars are stored in a series of garages surrounding a courtyard. They range in age from a pre-1910 model to some built in 1997. They include vehicles ranging from racing cars to small vans. Many of them were made in the USA, but others were British, German, and French. All of them are in immaculate condition, and, I was informed, each one is still in perfect working order. In Bombay, we saw some of these cars taking part in a vintage car rally held in February 2018. All the cars are owned by the family of the Maharajahs of Gondal. Photographs on the walls of the garages record the former royal family’s involvement with motor racing.”

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We visited Gondal because of reading about it in Desai’s book. She mentions the palaces as being worthy of a visit, but our curiosity led us to discover more, which is not included in her book. One of these places, which I describe in detail in my publication is a large Victorian Gothic school, which was founded by a forward-thinking maharajah. We were fortunate to meet its headmaster, who provided us with fascinating insights into the school system of Gujarat. If it were not for Desai’s book, we would not have stopped in Gondal. If we had been less adventurous, we would not have visited the venerable school.

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I regard the listings in guidebooks as nuclei around which the fruits of our curiosity can crystallise. My travelogue about Gujarat, Daman, and Diu describes a journey initially based on recommendations from guidebooks. It shares with the reader the myriad of experiences and discoveries, many of which have not yet been described in guidebooks, that we enjoyed in a part of India less-visited by foreigners and Indians alike.  

 

ADAM YAMEY’s BOOK ABOUT

TRAVELS THROUGH GUJARAT, DAMAN, AND DIU

IS AVAILABLE

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