Pretty, Peaceful and Picturesque. These are the three words that instantly come to my mind when I think of Porbandar. Earlier Porbandar, for me, was just an obscure little port city- a tiny dot that sat close to the shoreline line of Gujarat which was once home to the greatest freedom fighter and leader that India ever saw. In the past, I have always passed the city by without giving it a second glance or thought but now, after spending a day in this beautiful city, I have come to realise that it is so much more than just that.
This time I was headed to spend my summer break in Jamnagar at my nani’s (Maternal grandmother) place and the plan was to fly to Porbandar from Mumbai and then travel by road to Jamnagar but, a warm and effusive phone call from my grandmother’s sister, inviting us to visit her in Porbandar before we could speed off to jammy (that’s what Kaajal and I fondly call Jamnagar :P) made us change our plan and spend a day in Porbandar.
If you happen to be in this beautiful coastal city for a day or only a few hours and don’t know what to do, don’t stress, you can still play tourist and make the most of your visit in this fascinating seaside city by following the #kktwinstravelguide and touring Porbandar in #kktwinsstyle 😀
We took an early morning flight from Mumbai and landed at the Porbandar airport at 11 am. The city of Porbandar was ours to explore from 11 am till 9 pm and as I walked into the sunny awning outside the airport, I felt like a gourmet who has suddenly landed in an exotic restaurant with 8 hours at hand to explore each dish with exquisite slowness.
I believe that every airport reflects the vibe and culture of the city it belongs to. In fact airports are like teasers of a city that is just about to unfold before your eyes as you walk out of the glass doors of the airport. The Porbandar airport is small but vibrant with beautiful trees lining the parking lot. The first sound that greeted me as I walked out of the airport was a loud honk and the sputter of a rundown yellow and green rickshaw that was packed with luggage and a group of sweaty (all thanks to the soaring temperatures of Saurashtra) but cheerful people, who spoke excitedly in Gujarati. To me, the sights and sounds of Porbandar embodied the perfect combination of modernity and antiquity and that’s why I took an instant liking to this city.
We were warmly welcomed by my nani’s sister, Sudha masi, who lives just a few minutes away from the airport. She was the epitome of gracious hospitality and warmly welcomed us with a glass of cool and tangy orange juice to quench our thirst and fight off the heat of Porbandar that can bog down anyone within a few minutes of direct sun exposure! Even though the weather in Porbandar was hot and humid, Kaajal and I were keen on exploring the city. Whatever little we saw on our way to masi’s house was temptation enough to see more of this scenic seaside town.
We requested Sudha masi to take us sightseeing and to our delight she was more than willing to take us around this tiny but historically significant port city which has been her home for the past 39 years. We had already shortlisted a few places that we were keen to visit and the first place that was on our ‘bucket list’ was – yep, you guessed it right, the place where the father of our nation was born, Mahatma Gandhi’s home – ‘Kirti Mandir’.
1. Kirti Mandir
I imagined that Kirti Mandir would resemble an old but well maintained building standing like a solitary soldier in a quiet street and I was pretty much convinced that it would feel more like a museum and less like a home where our nation’s leader was born. But what I saw blew my mind!
Kirti Mandir turned out to be a multi-storeyed mansion, albeit a humble one, that stood right in the centre of a narrow and crowed street on Kasturba Road with a bevy of cars and people walking past. It has a grand entrance made of red and white stone with intricate design work comprising of our national emblem (the three headed lion that is found on top of the Ashoka Pillar of Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh,) and the charkha (the spinning wheel which is synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi).
Kirti Mandir (which means temple of fame) is built in fond remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi. Like a temple, its doors are open to welcome anyone and everyone who wishes to go back in time and live through the triumph and tribulations of his life which was intertwined with the fate of our glorious motherland- India
Kirti mandir has a huge courtyard and surrounding this capacious courtyard are several rooms that pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. There is a huge library named after Gandhiji’s wife Kasturba Gandhi which is filled with books written by Mahatma Gandhi, a Bal Mandir and a number of display rooms filled with personal items, documents such as the property papers of Kirti Mandir, an elaborate family tree of the Gandhi family and decorative pieces and heirlooms displayed meticulously in glass cabinets that once belonged to the different rooms and corners of the house.
The highlight point of my visit to Kirti Mandir was the exhibit of paintings and photographs put up in the expansive courtyard, that beautifully chronicled Gandhiji’s life right from the time when he was a little boy of 7 till the day he took his last breath with the words ‘Hey Ram’ when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.
The photographs on display made me look at this leader from a perspective that was vastly different from what I believed him to be in my school days. He is so much more than a national leader, whose face is plastered on the Indian currency. I saw him as a human, a husband, and a brother. I saw him looking utterly devasted sitting next to his wife’s dead body trying desperately to mask his sadness with an expressionless visage. I also saw him smiling from ear to ear as he lovingly held a child in his arms. These pictures present another side to the Gandhiji we all know, it reveals the man behind the image of a hero and idol who is so revered and respected by millions in our country.
Kaajal and I also had a terrific time exploring Gandhiji’s living quarters which is located inside Kirti Mandir. His home is a magnificent four storey bungalow. It felt surreal to see the very rooms and climb the very stairs that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had lived in and climbed almost 150 years ago. I peered out through one of the countless jharokhas (windows)and climbed all the four floors to take in the view from the terrace. Just imagining Gandhiji running around and playing games on this very terrace with his siblings or sleeping under the clear starry skies brought a smile to my face.
Kaajal and I purchased a key chain from the gift shop as a memento to remind us of the wonderful time spent in a place of such historical importance. Honestly, an hour at Kirti Mandir is just not enough, because its every corner has an interesting story that is waiting to be unearthed and explored but as we were pressed for time and had things to tick on our ‘When in Porbandar, we must see…’ list, we bid Kirti Mandir adieu and took with us a little bit of the faith and quiet determination that came to life right there, in the home that housed a man who created our reality, a free India.
2. Sandipani Vidyaniketan – Shri Hari Mandir
After devouring a sumptuous home-made Guajarati lunch at masi’s home, we headed for Sandipani Vidyaniketan. It took us approximately 20-25 minutes to reach Sandipani which is located on the outskirts of Porbandar (approx. 5 km away from the city and next to the Porbandar airport). Founded by Shri Rameshbhai Oza, Sandipani Vidyaniketan is an educational institution (more like a modern day Gurukul) that imparts Vedic education to students who are eager to learn about India’s culture and scriptures. It is named after Rishi Sandipani, who was a mentor to Lord Krishna and Sudama (Lord Krishna’s most cherished friend who was born in Porbandar).
The Shri Hari Mandir is located right at the centre of Sandipani and is open to the general public. What puts this temple on KKtwins ‘must visit’ list is its impressive architecture that resembles the stupendous beauty and grandeur of the temples in Dwarka and Somnath.
We reached the Shri Hari temple around 4 pm and I was at once smitten by the luxuriant sprawling gardens and gurgling fountains that preceded the main temple. After loitering in the gardens and clicking several pictures of the myriad exotic flowers, I stopped for a whole minute to take in the grand frame of the temple that rose like a majestic mountain. At 105 feet, with approximately 66 pillars and 5 spires, the Shri Hari Mandir looked spectacular in daylight. The late afternoon sun lit up the stone temple giving it a warm beige glow and I eagerly climbed the grand stairs leading to the main temple, stopping several times to admire the rounded and graceful figurines ,intricate carvings and design work on every pillar and archway.
That day Sandipani had very few visitors and as a result the temple was silent except for the soft chant of hymns. As I entered the white marbled sanctum sanctorum, I felt a deep sense of peace and calm that stayed with me for the entire duration of my visit.
Shri Hari Mandir has beautiful marble idols of Goddess Lakshmi-Narayan, Lord Ram-Sita and Lakshman, Lord Krishna-Radha, Lord Shiva-Goddess Parvati, Durga Maa (also known as Shri Karunamayi Maa), Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman that have been created by a renowned sculptor of Jaipur. It felt surreal to join my hands in prayer and simply thank god for everything in my life.
Unfortunately photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple but even if it was allowed, I’m pretty sure that the beauty of the deities could not be captured by a camera lens. So to make up for this, I took innumerable photos of the temple’s equally stunning exterior and sat on the steps of the temple to soak in the peace and quiet that seemed to cloak the entirety of Sandipani.
Before leaving Sandipani we clicked a few selfies in the garden surrounding the temple and then headed for Chowpatty Beach. If you want to learn more interesting facts about Sandipani and if my experience intrigues you enough to want to know more about the history of this beautiful temple, then feel free to read more about Sandipani on this link – https://sandipani.org/shri-hari-mandir/deities-and-darshan/
3. Chowpatty Beach
Sunsets are one of the best gifts of nature and I believe that the perfect way to appreciate sunsets is to witness it from a beach. The open skies, limitless horizon minus the skyscrapers provide the perfect backdrop for gazing at the fantastic colours that bloom in the sky as the sun prepares to set and the stars come out to shine. We reached Chowpatty around 5.30 pm and walked leisurely on the stone pavement overlooking the sea.
Porbandar’s Chowpatty is strikingly similar to our very own Marine Drive in Mumbai, but the only difference is that it is less crowed, not interspersed with trees and opens up to bluer and cleaner waters. I sat on a sun warmed stone bench and looked out at the sea. Time seemed to slow down as I lost myself in the moment, awed by the golden hue of the setting sun against the background score of gigantic thundering sea waves that crashed against the rocky sea shore. This picturesque scene was complimented by the silhouette of white marble temples that decorated the far right side of the beach.
Kaajal and I clicked countless pictures of the beach and the setting sun, never once tiring of the spectacular scenery that changed in colour ever so slightly as the summer sun slunk lazily below the horizon. Time was of essence and with almost two and a half hours of road travel ahead of us, we reluctantly left Chowpatty beach and its surreal beauty. We left with a sense of happiness but also a deep yearning to stay a little longer and that’s why Kaajal and I made a promise to each other- a promise to walk on this very beach and stay back even after the sun would disappear, so that we can gush over the moon that will glow and the stars that are sure to twinkle above the dark foaming sea.
4. Shreeji Fancy Dosa
All the travelling and sight-seeing made us super hungry and our lovely host suggested that we must have dinner at this new restaurant that serves a wide variety of lip-smacking dosas made by a chef from South India. The restaurant- Shreeji Fancy Dosa, is much like a Gujarati version of a dhaba (roadside eatery but a little more on the elaborate side) and as the name suggests, the dosas made here are indeed quite ‘fancy’ such as the- Raja Rani Dosa, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Dosa, Maggi Dosa, Dabeli Dosa, Sandwich Dosa, Dry fruit Dosa, Chocolate Dosa and Dilkhush Dosa (to name a few) that made us laugh in part wonder and part delight.
When we asked the head waiter to enlighten us about the Raja Rani Dosa, he gave us a cheeky grin and in response asked us to call for any dosa that we ‘fancied’ guaranteeing that if we didn’t like it, he would give us any other dosa of our liking for free! As true as his tall claims, the dosas were indeed scrumptious and although I’m a firm believer of eating in moderation, I was guilty of severe overeating that day!
After filling our tummies with good food and our hearts with even better memories, we bid goodbye to masi and thanked her profusely for showing us around Porbandar.
There are several other wonderful places to visit in Porbandar like Tara Mandir, Sudama Mandir, Porbandar Bird Sanctuary and Huzoor Palace to name a few and if you want to, you can hustle and cover if not all then at least a few of these places in a day. Unfortunately, during this visit, time was a constraint for us, but I console myself by saying … there’s always a next time! 😛