Thursday, April 13, 2017

Vibrant Gujarat: Roadtrip to Diu and Devbhoomi Dwarka. (Gujarat Travelogue Part 2)

This post continues from where I left off in the previous post here. Our next stop was Diu. Although we call Daman and Diu as a single entity, there's a distance of 650 KM between the two towns. Together they are a Union Territory. Like Goa, Diu was also a Portuguese colony, until 1961 when Indian army successfully took command of Diu from them under Operation Vijay. Diu is a small town with a handful of attractions which can be covered in a single day. We reached Diu by 3 PM. I had blocked a home stay through based on reviews.

Posing at Naida Caves, Diu

Entrance gate for Diu city

But after reaching there, my wife didn't like it much. Thank god I hadn't paid for it, we quickly made our way out and started searching for nearby hotels on Goibibo. We booked a room in Hotel Apaar International. Goibibo gave us a phenomenal discount which even hotel staff were surprised when I showed them the price. The rooms were quite spacious with sea facing balcony. We had a quick lunch at the hotel and started for covering places nearby. I asked one of the hotel staff for best sunset spot nearby.
Hotel Apaar in Diu
Hotel Apaar, Diu
He told us to go to Nagoa beach. I checked the place on maps and thought of covering Gangeshwar temple before going to the beach as it was on the same route. Gangeshwar temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said the Pandavas laid the 5 shivlingas during their exile period. The temple is just on the sea shore and the lingas get hit by waves regularly when there's high tide or during monsoon. The water level was down currently so we were able to go down near to the lingas and a few steps below that. The temple complex has a huge area to hang out and view sunset/sunrise.

gangeshwar temple, diu
Entry gate to the main Temple, Gangeshwar Temple.
the five shivlingas inside Gangeshwar Temple
The five Shivlingas, said to be laid by the pandavas. These get submerged in water during high tide.
Shivlingas inside Gangeshwar Temple
Shivlingas inside the Gangeshwar Temple.
View from Gangeshwar Temple, Diu
Beautiful view from Gangeshwar Temple.
But we took our hotel staff's advice which was a bad decision.  Nagoa beach was opposite to the sunset and sunset was not even visible. I was really furious as we had just one day here and we missed the spectacular view of the sunset. We later came to know INS khukri memorial is the best spot for sunset viewing here, which we went to the other day. The beach was really beautiful though. It's a white sand beach and water is very clear. Water sports are also available on this beach.

Nagoa beach, Diu
Nagoa Beach. A beautiful white sand beach.
view from hotel apaar, diu
Long exposure shot from hotel room's balcony.

After staying for a while we came back from the beach, had food at Hotel Apna, near our hotel. We checked out from the hotel after having the complementary breakfast next morning and started for the local attractions at around 9. Our first stop was Diu fort. The gates open at 9 AM and we were probably the first to visit this morning. Diu fort has an interesting history and has been ruled by foreign rulers as well as Indian rulers. Diu island was ruled by Sultan Shah Bahadur of Gujarat. Portuguese had tried seizing the island numerous times but failed. The Portuguese got a chance to get a hold in Diu when Sultan Shah asked them to save his empire from Mughal invasion. This gave the Portuguese a chance to negotiate and finally, they signed a treaty with the ruler to allow them to build a fort. Thus the Diu fort was constructed.

Diu fort complex
Diu Fort complex. Most of it is in ruins. Lighthouse is visible in the picture.
Cavalier Lighthouse, Diu Fort.
Panorama shot of the lighthouse inside the fort.
St Pauls Church, Diu
St Pauls Church, Diu.
Diu fort's armory section
Armory section of Diu fort. Some of the cannons used in wars are kept here

The fort complex has 3 churches, a lighthouse, armoury house which still has several cannons. Our next point was INS Khukri memorial. It's a memorial site paying homage to the soldiers who were killed when their ship, INS Khukri sunk off the coast by the attack from a Pakistani submarine during 1971 war. There's a scaled model of the real ship on the display which has all the minute details and looks like a real ship. An anchor from the real ship has been preserved and put up on display as well. INS khukri is the best option for viewing a sunset.

Anchor of the ship INS Khukri which sunk off the coast in Diu.
The salvaged anchor from INS Khukri.
Homage to soldiers aboard INS Khukri
Memorial wall paying homage to the martyred soldiers who were aboard INS Khukri.
scaled model of INS Khukri at INS Khukri memorial, Diu
Scaled model of INS khukri on display at INS Khukri Memorial.
Our next spot was Naida Caves. It's one of the less visited places among all the attractions. Not sure why that is as it is unarguably one of the best spots for someone interested in history and photography. Naida caves date back to the time when Portuguese had come to rule Diu. While the caves are formed due to natural geological process, the Portuguese seem to have discovered it when they were breaking down sections of a huge rock formation for construction. I took some HDR shots here as the texture of the cave rocks was really fascinating. It had a mix of green, orange, red color.

Naida caves, diu
Interesting rock formation inside Naida Caves
Naida Caves, Diu
Huge rock formations inside Naida Caves
We continued our journey for Dwarka and hit the highway. I particularly chose this route instead of Diu-Bhuj as I wanted to drive along the sea and also wanted to visit Madhavpur beach.

Hotel Namaste, Diu-Dwarka Highway
Hotel Namaste en-route to Dwarka from Bhuj. It has amazing fast foods.

The beach is just on the highway. We reached the beach at around 3:30 PM and noticed there were hardly any tourist. There were coconut sellers and camel ride walas.

Camel ride at Madhavpur Beach
My car at a distance along with the camer ride cart at Madhavpur beach

We parked the car on the road and headed to dip our feet in cold water. Be careful while going to the water as sand till the water is very dense and feels like you're walking in Jaisalmer. We spent a good time here, clicking photographs and having coconut water and finally continued to Dwarka.

Panorama shot of Madhavpur Beach
Panorama shot of Madhavpur beach.
Alto k10 at Madhavpur Beach
My car at a distance among coconut vendors at Madhavpur beach.
travellingdiary posing at Madhavpur Beach
Posing at the beach. There's no one else till far distance except my wife and I. 

Dwarka city has a great importance for Hindu pilgrims. It is one of the Chardhams, and one of the seven most ancient religious cities in India. We had booked Hotel Gurupriya which was fortunately just near the highway. It had a huge parking space. The room was surprisingly huge as well. It had a six seater dining table and still looked spacious enough. We took rest for a while and then headed for the main temple of the city, Dwarkadheesh, also called Jagat Mandir. It was nearby so we thought of going by car. The GPS started acting weird showing the incorrect location. We resorted to the age old technique of asking locals. They guided us to the right route.

Dwarka Gate
Main entry gate to Dwarka Temple.
We went from the rear gate of the temple passing through a math. This gate is also known as Moksha Dwar ( Door to salvation).Several cows welcomed us on the way. I was carrying my camera bag which is not allowed inside the temple. There are several shops which keep your bag and shoes but you'll have to buy prasadam from them. We took the prasad for 150Rs and kept my bag in one of the shops. But the priest inside the temple told us they don't offer prasad from outside. We were disappointed as the shopkeeper didn't tell us about it. There was a huge crowd inside the temple. We were fortunate to get a glimpse of god Krishna's statue. We came back to our room and crashed for the day.
We checked out early next morning and went to see the temple from the main gate, also called swarga dwar (door to heaven). The main gate has 56 steps which lead to the bank of Gomti River where devotees are seen taking a holy bath.

Sunrise of River Gomti, Dwarka
Sunrise over the dried Gomti river, Dwarka
There's a suspension bridge, also called Sudama Setu, over the river for which there's a ticket counter. The bridge connects Jagat mandir to an island called Panchnad tirth. It is also called panch Kui due to the fact that there are 5 sweetwater wells, each named after the pandavas. It's a mystery about the sweetwater as there's seabed beneath the island and it's supposed to be salty.

Sudama Setu, Dwarka
Sudama Setu over River Gomti connecting Jagat mandir to Panchkui Tirth

Banks of River Gomti near Dwarka Temple
Banks of Gomti river where devotees are offering their prayers and taking sacred bath. Notice on the horizon River Gomti is joining the Arabian Sea.

We spent some time here, clicking photographs, and continued to our next destination, Bhuj. Read more on my stay in Bhuj here, and stay tuned for posts on Kutch.

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