In the summer of 2011, my parents, my sister and I took a trip to India to visit our family. It took about 16 hours of flying time to reach Mumbai, where we waited overnight for the morning flight to Indore, where my father’s side of the family lives, and nearby Ujjain, where my mother’s side of the family lives, both in the state of Madhya Pradesh. After spending a few days with the families, we decided to visit the neighboringstate of Gujarat, because of the beautiful weather, the many temples and parks that my grandparents suggested we visit.
So, the four of us began our journey by boarding a train from Ujjain on June 24th in the afternoon, which reached Ahmedabad, a large city in Gujarat, at 11 p.m. We stayed at the Ritz Inn hotel overnight, before our taxi and tour guide arrived at 6 a.m. to pick us up.
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The journey to Dwarka took about 6 hours, in which we travelled about 300 miles. We reached Dwarka in the early evening, just in time to attend the evening aarti (prayer) at the Dwarkadish Temple. The temple was built in the 16th century, is five stories tall, and is made of limestone and sand. The security was so tight due to recent terrorist attacks on other temples that we were unable to take cameras inside. Once inside, we saw groups of people sitting in peace and other groups dancing and singing. It was a magical scene, filled with the sounds of bells and Indian drums and the sight of hundreds of oil lamps making the stone architecture glow in the evening light. Afterwards, we stayed overnight in Dwarka. The city of Dwarka was the home of Lord Krishna, who had first built the city farther north around 3000 B.C.E. The city was fully planned, and had 700,000 palaces made of gold, silver, and other precious stones. Now, that city is partially submerged, and the part of it that can be reached by boat has become an island, and people still visit the temples and houses there. The present city of Dwarka was built later, and dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Early next morning, we began our journey south to Veraval, stopping in Porbandar to see Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace. Gandhi’s home is now a museum and the inside was preserved just as it was during Gandhi’s time. On the route to Veraval, the road was very nice, lined with coconut trees, then open fields, and then the ocean. We reached Veraval at sunset, and got to attend the evening aarti (prayer) at the famous Somnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiv. Our overnight stay at the Lords Inn hotel was nice and dinner from the hotel’s restaurant was delicious. Then, at sunrise, we went to the temple again, and then walked around the newly renovated temple campus. The temple was first built before the Common Era, and has since been destroyed and rebuilt at the same site six times. The current structure was built with Mahatma Gandhi’s support after India’s Independence.
Now it was time to return to Ahmedabad for the train back to Ujjain. On the way, we visited the Gir National Forest, where we saw lions, peacocks, and deer. We visited the Swaminarayan temple in Rajkot that had beautiful carvings, and the Sabarmati Ashram, where Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked during India’s Independence Struggle.
At last, it was time to board the train for Ujjain. This trip to Gujarat was unforgettable, and I enjoyed it and learned a lot about the history and culture of India.
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