As I skimmed through Gujarat's map for the places I should visit, I realised that I had always wanted to see Somnath and Dwarka. I also found that Porbandar was situated just between the two cities. The moment I saw it, all my history lessons came rushing to me. "It would not hurt to see the birthplace of the Mahatma," I thought to myself. And that is how Porbandar got added to the list.
After having travelled Somnath, I found myself at the bus station to board a bus to Porbandar. The bus made its way to the small and dusty lanes of Porbandar. My joy knew no bounds when the destination was reached. With plenty of stay options right next to the bus stand, I quickly checked into one and set out to explore Porbandar. I could not wait to tick these places off my list, but not before munching on sumptuous delicacies— Dhokla and Pathrode.
Porbandar has the best of both worlds — it is neither a town nor a big city. Its roads are still dusty; the heritage buildings give a historical feel; the narrow market lanes beckon you; there are autos to take you around; the crowd is always buzzing around; every corner of the street smells of Gujarati snacks; the tobacco-chewing uncle cannot converse with you without spitting right next to you, and the best part of the city is that it can mostly be explored on foot.
Here are a few places you can visit in Porbandar if you have a day on your hands.
The story of Sudama is not unknown. It is a popular tale that finds mention in the Bhagavata Purana. Sudama and Krishna were childhood friends; however, they went their separate ways as they grew up. In the later years, Sudama struggled with his poverty while Krishna was, as we all know, a part of the royal family.
A popular anecdote thus goes—One day Sudama's wife urged him to meet Krishna and request him (Krishna) to alleviate their poverty. Sudama hesitantly leaves for Dwarka to meet Krishna. He only has a fistful of beaten rice tied in a cloth as a gift to him. He reaches Dwarka and meets his friend. Krishna is joyful about seeing his childhood friend. He treats Sudama with the best of his hospitality. He then asks Sudama, "What gift do you have for your friend?" Sudama hesitantly hands over the 'potli' of beaten rice to Krishna, especially after being bestowed upon with all the riches and delicacies. However, Krishna stuffs himself with the beaten rice in great humility.
Sudama is so overwhelmed by the love that he does not ask for anything else. He leaves the place with contentment. But when he reaches his home, lo and behold — His poverty has vanished away! There is a grand palace in place of his home, filled with all sorts of riches.
Porbandar is where Sudama was born, and Lord Krishna grew up as a kid. This small temple is thus dedicated to Sudama. It mesmerizes you with symmetrical arches and pillars. There is also a unique maze-like structure constructed in the temple, and it is believed that if you walk through the maze, your sins will be washed away.
No brownie points for guessing what do devotees of Sudama offer here in the temple— yes — beaten rice or Poha!
Walk out of the side gate of Sudama temple, and soon after having passed the houses, you will come to Sartanji Choro. Not even Google Maps can get you here!
Sartanji Choro is a music hall and was built by Raja Rana Sartanji in 1813 AD. Built like many palaces found around Gujarat, this music hall also is carved very intricately. The pillars depict musicians playing various instruments. There are floral motifs all around. The hall has been constructed with features that enhance its acoustic sounds. The inside has a sitting area which is made up of wooden pillars and a wooden ceiling. The wood absorbs noise and enhances the sound. Around the performance stage, there is a moat-like structure that is filled with water for better acoustics. It also keeps the hall cool. Sadly, photography is strictly prohibited here.
Why a music hall is standing in the middle of nowhere is still a mystery!
What is a city without its hustling- bustling market? And Porbandar has not one but three popular markets.
Manek Chowk, Soni Bazar, Bhatia Bazar are all located close to each other. And if you are anything like me who loves to walk around markets and pick up local stuff, then these Chowks are a great place to be at. The markets are heavily crowded. A lot of unique and antique stuff can be found here. It also houses Ayurvedic shops, Pooja shops, flower markets — you name it, and you get it! And of course, a lot of munchy snacks too! I stuffed myself with Khaari (a puffed bakery product).
These markets lead you to our next destination.
The place needs no introduction. Kirti Mandir is the memorial built around the house in which Gandhiji was born. It is a three-story house and takes you straight away back in the times of the Mahatma. The house showcases the room where Gandhi was born, a room specifically for Kasturba Ba, and a separate reading room. The highlight of Kirti Mandir is the Mahila library and the museum housing pictures, handicrafts and the paraphernalia used by the Mahatma himself.
The photos in the museum are well maintained. As I walked past them, they spoke volumes of history to me. From a picture showing Gandhi standing with his young bride to show people mourning at his deathbed, there are so many photos that reflect his life. His photos with the stalwarts like Nehru and Patel, the famous Dandi March; his family members; him working at his Charkha, and so much more depict his extraordinary life.
To think that a person of such humble origins went abroad for further studies and later shook the entire world with his principles always gives one goosebump.
The place is as majestic as it sounds!
The palace is also called the Raj Mahal and was constructed by Raja Rana Natwarsinhji in the early 20th century. Heavily influenced by European architecture, grandiose French windows and tiled roofs give it a royal feel. The palace is huge and cannot be captured in a single frame! The palace now belongs to the descendants of Rana Natwarsinhji, but they do not seem to live here. I must admit that the place does look a bit neglected and lacks proper maintenance.
I reached the palace during sunset time. It looked so picturesque in the golden light with pigeons fluttering about. I wanted to witness the grandeur from inside as well, but the time did not permit me. Thus, I only marvelled at the beauty from a distance and moved ahead.
Porbandar Beach / Chowpati Beach
Porbandar, a tiny city, has a lot to offer. After the colourful markets and majestic palaces, it was now time to hit the beach.
I reached the beach just in time to catch the sunset. I could see the Porbandar port at a distance from where I stood. As I sat at a comfortable spot after the day's wanderings, I admired the seagulls that were flying around. I immersed my tired legs in the calming water and bought some Kava with some hot tea spiced up with ginger and lemon. What a break after a tiring yet fruitful day!
The Porbandar beach is completely safe as it is well lit and has many restaurants and apartments around it. There is also a walkway; hence a lot of people can be seen walking at the beach. I decided to stay late and then dined in one of the finest restaurants overlooking the beach. The peace I felt is beyond the capability of the words to describe!
Wait, the excursion is not over yet!
I then went to the Bileshwar Temple, which is 30 kilometres away from the city. After multiple auto rides, I finally reached the temple.
The temple has a Swaymabhu Lingam, which means that the statue was formed by itself! The legend says that Lord Krishna was once engaged in a fight with Indra. Krishna then prayed to Bileshwar Mahadev, and thus the Lingam emerged on its own! The Lingam is huge and has only a small portion visible above the ground, while about 8 feet is hidden beneath the floor.
However, the temple does not have very striking architecture. Only the Lingam is heavily ornamental in its design. The temple is well known among the Rabari tribe. There is a huge statue of Nandi, Lord Shiva's bull, right opposite the Lingam, which is also ornately decorated.
With that, I retired for the day. Though I lacked the time and could not visit a few places, you must check them out.
There is a famous Jambuvati cave which is only 20 odd km away. If you have read about the life story of Lord Krishna, you will know about the war between him and Jambavan over the precious jewel — Syamantaka Mani. As the fable goes, Jambavan lost the war and thus gave the hand of his daughter, Jambuvati, to Krishna.
You can probably pair a visit to this temple along with the visit to the Bileshwar Temple itself. There are a few more beautiful temples in Porbandar that can be explored more.
That was all that I saw and got to know of Porbandar.
Also read, Plan your visit to Somanth - Temple timings, stay options and Darshan at Somnath
How To Reach Porbandar
Thankfully, Porbandar has its own airport. If that seems an expensive option, one can first visit nearby places such as Jamnagar, Diu or even Ahmedabad. Porbandar is well connected by trains and buses too. There is no reason why you should miss visiting this small yet significant place!
Where to Stay in Porbandar
Honestly, Porbandar did not have great hotels. I stayed in a very basic one near the bus stand, and that sufficed. Some exotic and posh hotels can be found towards the beachside. One such hotel was 'Lord's Inn', where I had dined. But I did not stay the night there, so I cannot vouch for it completely.