Travel in India
Bhuj is the capital city of the fascinating region of Kutch in Gujarat, India. A massive earthquake devastated the region in 2001, Bhuj suffering the most damage. Nearly a decade later, the people are prospering. A visit to Bhuj will not disappoint and is a highlight for many people visiting the region.
People of Bhuj
Travelers who come to Bhuj are rarely disappointed, but this has little to do with the sites and everything to do with the people. The people of Bhuj are laid-back, yet incredibly driven. They have come a long way since the earthquake to rebuild, and they are flourishing.
The people of Bhuj are incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists, and it’s not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home for chai, conversation, and even a meal. The opportunities to interact with the people on a deeper level are what make this such a great place to visit.
Shopping in Bhuj - Unique Crafts and Textiles
The Kutch region is well known for its large variety of hand-made textiles, and many of these items can be found in Bhuj. Items made in the surrounding villages, including embroidered cholis, skirts, wall hangings, bonnets, head-pieces, and bags, can all be found in Bhuj. Each tribe has its own specialty of design, such as block-printing, bandhani (tie-dye), mirror-work, bead-work, and a variety of stitching styles.
The shopping experience in Bhuj differs from many other places in India, due to the no-pressure attitude of shop-owners. Not only do they refrain from begging tourists to enter their shops, but they also avoid pressuring tourists to buy once inside. The shop-owners are happy to show their goods if there is an interest or simply sit and chat. As they say... looking is free.
Bhuj Sites - Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal
While the star of Bhuj is the culture, not the sights, but there are a few places worth visiting. The Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal are worth the 10 Rupee fee (each) for a quick look around. The larger camera fee may not be worth the price, as there are few photo opportunities. The earthquake caused significant damage to these structures, which have yet to be restored.
The 18th century Aina Mahal is a wonderful, but perhaps tacky museum filled with old mirrors, patterned walls and ceilings, stained glass windows, painted glass portraits of British royalty, chandeliers and candelabras, and various pieces of weaponry, clothing, instruments, and jewelry. There is even a stuffed lion on display.
The Prag Mahal consists of two buildings, the old and new palace. The new palace is open to tourists, although many areas are off-limits since the earthquake. This European-style palace is full of stuffed animal heads, including antelope, bear, lion, and hippo. All of these are said to have been shipped over from Africa. It is an eerie experience wandering around in the large palace halls with damaged walls, broken banisters, half-crushed animal heads, and pigeons fluttering about.
Some other sites in Bhuj include a palace, several small temples, gardens, and the Hamirsar Lake (great for bird-watching in the late afternoon). The best way to spend time in Bhuj, however, is simply walking the streets to interact with the people.