If you are a bit of a history buff bitten by the travel bug, Gujarat should be the place to visit while we celebrate India’s 75th anniversary of independence as Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (August 15, 2022). It was from here that the country’s two tall leaders of the Independence movement, MK Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, hailed.
It is fascinating to learn from history how these two great sons of India worked in harmony towards their common goal of achieving freedom for the country from British rule, despite having sharp differences in ideology and approach to the movement.
Gandhi’s iconic Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad is, of course, unmissable, but let us first turn our attention to the latest monument in Gujarat which has the whole world turning to India in wonderment: The Statue of Unity. Dedicated to Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India, the Statue of Unity is now the tallest statue at 182 meters (or 597 ft), dwarfing the Spring Temple of Buddha in China which stands at 128 meters.
Inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Patel’s 143rd birthday on October 31, 2018, the Statue of Unity was designed by Padma Bhushan award-winning sculptor Ram V Sutar and executed by Larsen & Toubro. The intricate bronze cladding work was done by a Chinese foundry. The whole project was completed in 33 months at a total cost of Rs 2,989 crore.
Standing majestically on the banks of river Narmada and Sardar Sarovar dam at Kevadia with the Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges as a backdrop, the statue celebrates the man who brought 562 princely states and Union territories under the control of the Indian union in less than two months as the deadline for independence approached. He enabled 340 million people (at the time of independence) to come within the ambition of one nation, one flag and one Constitution and hence the Statue of Unity is an apt tribute to his achievements.
The Gujarat government is banking on the statue to give a big boost to tourism in the state — both national and international. While the statue was being made, the state government encouraged about 26 three-to-five star hotels to come up in and around Kevadia, without wasting any time. The tented accommodation close to the statue’s location is truly world-class. With an eye on domestic tourists, eight new trains have been introduced to Kevadia from different parts of the country and more are in the offing.
For anyone interested in India’s freedom movement, a half-a-day tour of Gandhi’s ashram will give a panoramic view of the struggles and sacrifices of the nation’s leaders at that time and kindle the urge to learn more. Having opened the ashram in 1917, Gandhi embarked on his historic Dandi March or salt satyagraha from here on March 12, 1930 and completed the 387 km walk in 24 days on April 6, 1930. He vowed not to return to the ashram until India gained freedom and he never did, as he was assassinated five months after independence. The ashram, which later added a Gandhi memorial, a museum, an excellent library, and an archive of thousands of letters and photographs, attracts about a million visitors a year. A highly-polluted Sabarmati river, on whose bank the ashram is built, has recently been rejuvenated with the diversion of water from Narmada, with the addition of an 11-km waterfront.
modhera sun temple
About 100 km from Ahmedabad is Modhera, which hosts one of the top five sun temples built in the 11th century by King Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty, the temple’s architecture abounds in a variety of Surya statues and the stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
One can’t afford to miss the Somnath temple which has an enchanting beauty of its own and gives a unique vibration which is indescribable. History tells us that the temple has been repeatedly raided, looted of its gold and silver and also destroyed by the Islamic invaders. The temple was rebuilt the last time in 1950 at the behest of ‘the Iron Man of India’ Sardar Patel.
The famed Junagadh Fort was closed for renovation during our visit, but
this ancient town’s Islamic heritage with tolerant kings who respected its citizenry’s pluralism is fascinating. Mahabat Maqbara, a mausoleum built for its last ruler and a couple of other mosques give a glimpse of rich Moghul architecture.
A Union territory, which has a ‘borderless’ road link with Gujarat, has a wonderful history of its own, with a magnificent fort built during Portuguese rule. Clean and beautiful, Diu has a spectacular sunset point.
A recent addition is a nicely designed memorial for 196 martyrs of
INS Khukri (a naval ship with 18 officers and 178 Indian Navy personnel) that drowned due to an unexpected missile attack by Pakistan during the 1971 war.
Anand’s Amul Dairy
Who hasn’t heard of and tasted the “utterly, butterly delicious” products like milk, cheese, butter, chocolate, ice cream or baby food made by Amul? A small town called Anand, about 77 km from Ahmedabad, where the Gujarat Cooperative Marketing Federation began a factory for Amul products in 1946, is today a hi-tech unit, whose gross revenue has gone up to $ 5.1 billion, making it the most successful farmers cooperative venture in the world.