As they say – “Kutch nahin dekha to kuch nahin dekha” (if you haven’t seen Kutch, you haven’t seen anything), I decided to venture into this less visited part of India. One of the place in my itinerary was Mandvi.
Mandvi is situated in Kutch (western Gujarat) is located at a distance of 56km from the local headquarters of Bhuj. Founded in 1574 by Rao Khengarji, the first Jadeja ruler of Kutch, it was one of the main centres of shipbuilding and trade since four centuries. At one time, Mandvi boasted of having 500 or more vessels which were being used for trade to west Asian and African countries.
Since Kutch has a large coastline, it has five ports – Mundra, Jakhau, Koteshwar, Lakpath alongwith Mandvi.
I started quite early in the morning by bike. I had just a few hours to see the place and come back to Bhuj. The road was great and it took me about an hour and a half to reach Mandvi.
As I entered the city, I found the bridge over River Rukmavati where the ships were being built. The golden rays of the sun was hitting the landscape.
I could also see the river merging into the sea.
Quite early in the morning, the workers start work on their ‘dhows’ or boats in Arabic. The sea going boats of Mandvi are called Kotias or Kuttias.
The workers are highly skilled. Some of them have mastered this art. The laborers are mostly locals and some from Tamil Nadu.
To reduce the time, workers are gradually embracing change by getting themselves equipped with modern equipment like electric drills. The wood used as the raw material is imported from Malaysia. Most of the boats are sold to the Gulf countries though some have been sold as far as America and Japan. A boat can cost about 2-5 crore and can last for upto 50 years.
The sea-trade was hit very badly after 2010 when a ban was imposed by India’s Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) on certain vessels after the incident of Somali pirates capturing eight Indian boats.
There are many old generation people who fondly recollect venturing out on voyages to the eastern coast of Africa. Due to the increasing challenges, many are moving to other business like hotels.
There were quite a lot of migratory birds flying around in the area which made the place more beautiful.
After visiting the shipyard, I went to Vijay Vilas palace, which is still in its pristine condition amid jungles and sea.
By afternoon, I was back to Bhuj.
Where to stay? The best place to stay is The Beach at Mandvi Palace. You can also make a day trip to Mandvi.
How to go? Local buses ply between Bhuj and Mandvi
Thanksgiving – Visiting around Kutch would have been impossible without help of my friend Linesh Shah who was kind enough to give me his bike for my use.
Thank you for reading this post. You might like to read by previous posts.
This article is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a professional photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer’ through his photo tours and Photography workshops.