About 10 kilometres south of the small town of Virpur in Saurashtra (Kathiawad), a short distance from the main road connecting Virpur with Junagadh, lies the archaelogical site of Khambalida. It was there that archaelogists discovered some Buddhist rock temples in 1958. These temples, which overlook a river bed, carved from the ‘living rock’ date back to the 4th to 5th centuries AD. Though slightly weathered, these fine carvings are in pretty good condition.
Other Buddhist carved caves can be seen in Gujarat at Junagadh and near Somnath.
The old part of the city of Ahmedabad is divided into self-contained districts, like gated communities, called pols. Each pol has its own single gated entrance which gives sole access to a number of narrow streets. The narrow streets are lined by tall buildings, which together render the temperature of the pols at ground level far lower than the temperature in wider streets and open places in the city.
In times of trouble and strife, the gates of a pol can be closed to prevent intruders entering it. Secret passages lead from one pol to its neighbour(s). Pols have their own wells.
Often a pol is inhabited by families that have something in common, for example religion, caste or profession.
One of the many delights of the pols in Ahmedabad (they are also found in Baroda) is that they often contain buildings decorated with intricately carved woodwwork decorative and stuctural features.
For tourists, a pol is not only a place that they can literally ‘chill out’ but also they can experience a valuable part of Ahmedabad’s living history.
This lovely old building surrounded by trees and other luxuriant vegetation stands on the campus of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Sayajirao University of Baroda (Vadodara).
Here is an excerpt about this place from my book “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”:
“In 1935 to celebrate the diamond anniversary of his reign, Maharajah Sayajirao III Gaekwad set aside huge funds, both the state’s and his own, to create a university in Baroda. The Faculty of Fine arts, set in park-like grounds with many trees, is a part of this. The campus contains several buildings. The most attractive of these is an almost octagonal building surrounded by deep verandas with wooden balustrades at both ground floor and first floor levels. This building, which contains some studios, was constructed in the 1930s. Other buildings on the campus are newer, having been built after the Fine Arts Faculty was founded in 1951.
One of the joys of art schools in India, and that in Baroda is no exception, is watching students creating artworks in the open air, and seeing their completed creations exhibited outside. Many of the works on display demonstrate the great technical skills and lively imaginations of their creators. We saw many youngsters sitting in the shade of the trees, at work in their sketchbooks. There were plenty of great sculptures in the gardens of the Baroda art school, but no one was working on them outside. Maybe, it was too warm.“
“Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey
is available from Amazon, Bookdepository.com, Lulu.com, and on Kindle
The Indian Government has just ‘unveiled’ the world’s largest statue, the Statue of Unity. It is 182 metres high and stands in Gujarat between Baroda and Ahmedabad. It is a memorial to Sardar Vallabhai Patel (1875-1950), who was born in Gujarat.
A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Patel was a great fighter for India’s independence. When the British finally relinquished their hold over India on the 15th of August 1947, the territory of India was a complex mix of formerly British territory and the so-called Princely States, which were self-governing.
There were well over 500 Princely States embedded within the boundaries of what is now India. Over 200 of these were within the Saurashtra (Kathiawad) district of Gujarat. India in 1947 was a jigsaw puzzle of independent states each with their own ruler. These states were contained within a matrix that was formerly the part of India under direct British rule. After Independence, the rulers of the Princely States were given the choice of becoming part of India or joining the newly formed Pakistan.
Had the Princely States maintained their autonomy after Independence, the Indian subcontinent would have been as complex, if not more so, than the Balkans, and maybe as troublesome. Some of the states like Hyderabad and Junagadh, both large and far from Pakistan, had leanings towards joining with the new Islamic State of Pakistan. Others like Kashmir were not sure with whom to ally.
It was the great skill and statesmanship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel that persuaded the Princely States to join India. Even Junagadh and Hyderabad were eventually incorporated into India. The unification of India was achieved under the leadership of Patel and his colleagues. So, it is fitting that the enormous new statue should be called The Statue of Unity.
Whether Patel would have approved of the enormous expense involved in creating his latest monument, we will never know!