Though our initial ideas about a Gujarat Tour were confined to only the temples of Nageshwar (one of the 12 Jyotirlingas), Panch Dwarka, and Somnath, later we expanded the scope of our tour to include a few historically important places, the deserts of Kutch and the beaches of Diu.
Some comments on tourism in India in general
India, its diversity, and ancient history offer tremendous scope for development of tourism. Unlike many other countries, different places in India offer differing tastes to the tourists. There is a great amount of variety here in India, which is very unique. Nature tourism, Eco tourism, Religious tourism, Spiritual tourism, Leisure tourism, name anything, it is all here in India.
Only, we don’t seem to have made sufficient efforts to give a boost to tourism. We haven’t fully realized the potential of tourism as a great catalyst to economic growth. So, in the past, we hadn’t focused sufficiently on infrastructure development like roads, electricity, water connection, communication, hotels, and other facilities to encourage tourists to visit thousands of small places that offer excellent scope for tourists to go.
To cite only a small example, there is a place called Thiruppudaimaruthur in Tirunelveli district, close to Cheranmahadevi. Here is a magnificent temple for Lord Siva, with a partially complete temple tower in the front, five circumambulating corridors around the Garbhagriha, right on the banks of the river Gadana (a tributary of the river Tamirabarani), a clean bathing ghat, and to cap it all, eye capturing scenes of flocks and flocks of birds foraging for their food and pecking for water during particular seasons. Not many are aware of this place.
Brahmadesam near Ambasamudram is another example. And there are several places in and around Tirunelveli alone.
In developed countries, they make a hill out of a small mole. Volumes of printed brochures, information, visual aids, and promotional materials are created for many places there that are nothing more than a damp squib.
Why, I write this? Because, I found that in Gujarat they have made a conscious effort to promote tourism of every sort. They had rightly identified that deserts can be beautiful like the forests, and scary too. In fact, they are. And people go there in numbers.
Now, let me tell you briefly about the few places we were fortunate to visit:
Little Rann of Kutch:
This is a salt marsh, lying near the Great Rann of Kutch. We stayed in a place called Patdi. This place is famous for its rare wild ass sanctuary. Besides, it is also a destination for a variety of migratory birds like pelican, flamingo, crane, ducks, Indian bustard etc. The farm house where we stayed took us for the open jeep safari around the marshy land. We also saw the beautiful sunset in the evening. The scary thing about this open jeep safari is that there are no route directions or paved roads to roam around in the 100 and odd kilometers-deep desert. One will be lost in the wilderness if you have no guide. Also, although the marshy soil is mostly dry, at some places it is still wet. There are shallow lakes due to collection of rain water. In fact, when our jeep driver-cum guide was a little distracted for a second, our jeep plunged into a wet marshy soil, and we could extricate the sunken vehicle from the soil only after some tense struggle. Thank God, we were safe.
In the evening, we were at the Swami Narain temple, a fabulous structure of white marble, glittering under lights of different colors and shades. The evening Aarti was a memorable and exciting experience, with the Aarti song playing in the background over the speakers and immediately after Aarti, one of the pundits dancing in front of the Lord for another song.
To be continued...