A couple of hours north of Ahmedabad will take you to Unjha – reputedly the largest market for jeera (cumin) and isabgol (psyllium) in India. I don’t know about the latter, but you can smell the jeera from about 4 kilometres before you hit the town.
My reason for visiting Unjha had nothing to do with the spice or the healing effect of isabgol. I went to visit the Umiya Maata Temple – a beautiful structure right in the heart of town. The temple website tells you a lot more about the deity and the temple itself.
The beauty of the temple is really wonderful – also, I was intrigued by the legend of Sati and Shiva and the belief that the Lord Shiva established the temple of Maa at Unjha.
From Unjha to Becharaji – where the devotees worship the Goddess Bahuchara Mata as Bala. It is one of the three Shakti Peethas worshipped in Gujarat.
Devotees from many parts of Gujarat and other states of India came to worship the Mother. A comparatively small temple, it houses a comparatively small idol – but devotion is not linked to size at all. Sitting under the shady trees, I found myself getting really fond of this small temple in this small village.
In a different direction from Unjha and Becharaji, Lothal lies about 3 hours away from Ahmedabad. If you go there with a lot of expectations, you will be disappointed – there’s nothing much to see. But you should spend time in the charming little museum and watch their video presentations.
Lothal is one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation, dating from 3700 BCE. Lothal’s dock is the world’s earliest known, and connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea.
When I visited Lothal, all one could see were ruins. The Museum showed the excavations that had been carried out, and the various layers of the ancient city, the artefacts, the probable lifestyle, the river route to the docks, and many more wonderful things. A senior officer from the Archaeological Survey of India very kindly answered my question about why one can’t see the excavations now. He explained that the Survey had covered up the site after excavation in order to preserve it – exposure to the elements and to tourists would have certainly hastened its demise.
Wandering around the site, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the life of the city in its heydays – the ships bringing in the cargo, these being carried to the customs house and the warehouses, the evening meals being cooked at home, mothers shouting to their kids to get back home fast or else, the town elders discussing news from elsewhere with the traders – just my imagination running away with me; but that’s what imagination is for, right?