Our trip to Ahmadabad was primarily owing to the fact that Sajan was shooting a travel show for one of his clients and I had basically just tagged along. The idea that he was going to have all the fun for a good 15 days while I was gonna sit at home, just filled me with jealousy :P
Now its very important to remember that Ahmadabad is a no alcohol city. In fact, whole of Gujrat is no alcohol zone. So, if you are from outside wither you should carry your own and not publicize it. Else you can get a visitor’s license to buy alcohol. But you need to apply for it within 24 hours of your arrival in Gujrat. You should connect with your hotel reception for assistance.
So, on the second day of our trip after the shoot was over, we decided to venture out of the city to enjoy one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world. The Nal Sarovar Lake and Bird Sanctuary. However, before going there we decided to first stop by an architectural marvel right in the heart of Ahmadabad.
The Huthee Singh Jain Temple.
The temple is located right in the centre of the city. It was around 12 mins from our hotel which was in Navarangpura a centrally located place in Ahmedabad. The temple naturally has no entry fee. Cameras are NOT allowed in the temple. The timings are 0800 hours to 1700 hours.
This magnificent structure was built in 1850 AD by a rich Jain business man called Seth Hathee Singh. The temple today is strangely named after the businessman instead of the Jain Tirthankara known by the name Dharmnath. Apart from the above-mentioned fact everything else about this place is pure gold. The architecture is a celebration of ancient India with intricate carvings and large pillars.
Built with white marbles Hathee Singh Temple is a double storied structure with a massive dome in front. The temple has a large enclosed courtyard which house all the 52 holy places of Jains. Each of the spots have a statue of a Tirthankara. The temple has huge galleries on both sides with intricate carvings. The temple has a large column called the Manastambha. Its similar to the Kirtistambha at Chittore in Rajasthan. The Manasthambha is sixty story in height and enshrines an idol of Mahavira. The temple is a true celebration of the old India in relatively modern times. It is definitely worth a visit. There are many Jain temples in India with each rivaling the other in terms of its architecture and location. This temple is particularly reminiscent of another Jain temple in the nearby state of Rajasthan. Ranakpur Jain Temple in Jawai Band, Rajasthan.
Nal Sarovar Lake
After our temple visit, we decided to set off to Nal Sarovar Lake. It’s a 90-minute drive from Navrangpura in Ahmadabad. The road is good and we reached in quick time. The Sardar Patel Airport is around 90 Kilometres from Nal Sarovar. The nearest railway station Viramgam is 40 kilometres from the lake. The roads to the lake are awesome.
The entrance fees at the lake has many tiers depending who you are, when you are and how you are commuting.
On week days the entry for Indians is INR 75 and for foreigners its USD $10. On weekends the entry fee for Indians is INR 85 and for foreigners its USD $12.5. For kids below the age of 12 there is a concession of 50%.
Vehicle parking is additional, but low. The maximum is INR 50/ USD $0.80 for a bus. Two wheelers and Cars are INR 10 and 20 respectively.
Camera charges are INR 200 for Indians. USD $20 for foreigners.
Once at the lake there is a huge garden you can relax and chill out and there are park benches to sit and enjoy the view of the lake. However, to actually enjoy the lake one must go boating on the same. This too needs to be fixed before you really start “enjoying” the lake. As per the rate card the charges start out at INR 220/ USD $3 per person and goes upto INR 1320 for a full boat of six, the maximum allowed. However, be prepared to be surprised. The rates are not likely to be followed. The prices quoted are likely to be significantly inflated. Pointing towards the big board with the rate card is likely to be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Now there are six locations in the lake where exotic birds turn up every year. The rates for a small trip to one of the locations and back is likely to be around INR 2000-2500 / USD $29-35/ for a full boat of six. And the full trip with all six locations is likely to be quoted around INR 5000-7000/ USD $80-$100 for a full boat of six. Negotiation skills will be key to ensure you are able to bring them down as close to the rate card mentioned. If you are not from India. Push your guide to negotiate on behalf of you.
Now coming to Nal Sarovar Lake, it is the largest wetland bird sanctuary in India “Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary”. It is spread over an area of 120 kilometres! However, the deepest part of the lake is not more than 4 feet! in most places the average depth is around a foot or so. Only paddle boats are allowed and even they get stuck in the gravel sometimes! It is probably the shallowest lake on the planet. Its like a gigantic swimming pool. However, its forbidden to get into the lake. Only the licensed paddle boats are allowed into the lake. It is home to nearly 250 species of mainly migratory birds coming from far off Europe and Russia.
The best time to visit the place is in November to February. That’s when Nal Sarovar is a paradise for migratory birds and bird-watching enthusiasts. You can find rosy pelicans, flamingos, cranes, brahminy ducks, purple moorhen, herons, white storks, and many other species.
It is believed that there was a sea at this site separating Saurashtra from mainland Gujarat some 75,000 years ago. Over time the sea has receded and now it is a shallow sweet water lake.
The boats are pushed with the help of a bamboo in the marshy waters thus making the entire ride more enthralling. The shallowness of the lake ensures we can see the underwater life. Reed beds and marshes, makes it unique. This is like fodder for aquatic plants and avian life to thrive.
Around us, the lake shimmered under the sun. Stunning reflections formed around, making the bountiful views even more captivating. We thoroughly enjoyed our ride looking at the beautiful aquatic plants, some jutting out of the water, some with gorgeous patterns; some flourishing beneath the water.
Enjoying the breeze
Shoot crew at work
Come noon, we stopped over at one of the islands Dhrabla, where we enjoyed the scrumptious traditional Kathiavadi meal prepared by women of local Padhar tribe. Definitely worth trying.
Don't go by the look. The meal is absolutely YUM! The cost comes to around INR 150/ USD $2 per person.After a good 40 mins meal break, we resumed our journey.
The sea gulls descend upon you
Sun is shining
We were welcomed by scores of seagulls running on the water together and flying in different directions. It was a scene to behold! The erstwhile silence of the place was punctuated with their collective sounds! We picked up some bird feed from the island. We made sure the gulls had a great time. As soon as you start chucking them the gulls completely crowd you. In fact, it’s probably the only part of the lake where human and bird interaction is encouraged.
It was time to go back. Although we so much wished time could go still. As we were about to return, we were left spellbound by the most spectacular sunset we have ever seen. It was pure magic. The Sun changing hues from a bright yellow and orange to a mellower deep red and shyly sliding inside the water. We were all awestruck. It was like gold scattered in the lake.
After this amazing experience, we ended our day by shopping to our hearts content in one of the most popular night market in Ahmadabad-The Law Garden. For the shopaholics looking for something ethnic and traditional and within budget- this place is a true paradise.
One can buy exclusive wall hangings, bandhej sarees, chaniyas (long colorful skirts), antique jewelry and more at, reasonable price if one can use their bargaining skills a bit. This was the perfect ending to our Ahmadabad trip. Our stay was short and hectic but the experience and the memories of the trip will stay with us for a lifetime.
If you wish to know anything about this place do reach out via comments. I will try my best to share.
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