I was skimming through the map of Gujarat on places to visit. Somnath was already on my list and so was Dwarka. So while I was looking for options, Porbandar popped up between the two cities and all my history lessons came rushing into my memory. It was midway and a stop to see the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi will not hurt. And so Porbandar got added to the list of places to visit in Gujarat. The bus from Somnath slowly chugged its way to Porbandar and the bus pulled into the dusty mud roads of Porbandar bus stand. With plenty of stay options right next to the bus stand I quickly checked into one and set out to explore Porbandar. My primary idea was to check off tourist places at Porbandar and move on to the next destination. And so the journey began.
Porbandar is neither a town nor a big city. Its roads are still dusty, the ancient heritage buildings are still holding up, the narrow market lanes amuse you, there are autos to take you around, the crowd is 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 most of the places you can walk around and figure your way. Dutifully I stopped the moment I saw Dhokla and Pathrode and filled my tummy before proceeding to explore the city :)
Me being the religious went straight to the Sudama Mandir. The story of Sudama is often popularly told in Bhagavatha or when it comes to the life of Lord Krishna. Sudama and Krishna were childhood friends and they grew apart as time passed by. Sudama was struggling in poverty while Krishna was part of the royal family. Sudama's wife pushes him to meet Krishna as Sudama struggles to meet even his daily needs and feed his children. Hesitantly, he leaves to Dwaraka to meet Krishna with just a fistful of beaten rice tied in a cloth as a gift to him. Krishna is so happy to see his childhood friend and treats him with great hospitality. He then asks Sudama, what he has got for his friend. Sudama is shy to hand over the parcel of beaten rice after having seen all the riches and food Krishna offered. However, Krishna pulls it out and stuffs himself with the beaten rice.. Sudama overwhelmed by the love doesn't ask for anything else and leaves the place. But when he reaches his home, there is no longer any poverty. There is a palatial house filled with riches..
Porbandar is where Sudama was born and Lord Krishna grew up as a kid. And so there is a temple dedicated to Sudama here. It is a small temple, yet mesmerizes you with the symmetrical arches and pillars. Following the above story, beaten rice or Poha is offered to Sudama by devotees. Regular devotees keep walking in and old aunties and uncles gathered up to chat at one corner of the temple. 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 :D Anyways, I felt blessed to be there cos I have read so much of these epics and I got to witness it.
Sartanji Choro is right behind Sudama temple. Neither google maps show you that nor people of Porbandar know if you ask about it. Just walk out of the side gate of Sudama temple and walk past the houses, you will come to Sartanji Choro. I don't have much history on it for I could not find any palace around. Sartanji Choro is a music hall and has been constructed keeping in mind everything that is required for good acoustics. Why is just a music hall standing in the middle of nowhere is a mystery. It was built by Raja Rana Sartanji in 1813 AD. Built like many palaces found around Gujarat, this music hall so intricately carved. The pillars depict musicians playing instruments, the inside has a sitting area, made of wooden pillars that would absorb noise and the ceiling is of wood with floral designs. Around the performance stage, is a moat-like structure that would be filled with water for better acoustics and to keep the temperature cool. I loved this place a lot. But photography is strictly prohibited here. I failed to understand actually, it was not a painting, nor needs flash inhibition, and it stands in the open. But then the security guard was standing with a stick. So I just stood outside the gate and clicked :D This is a must-visit place in Porbandar.
Manek Chowk, Soni bazar, Bhatia bazar all are pretty close to each other. And if you are like me who loves to walk around markets and pick up local stuff then these Chowks are a great place to walk around. It is a heavily crowded market, and you will see much unique stuff. I stuffed myself with Khaari (bakery puff like thing), Ayurvedic shops, pooja shops, flower markets, name it and you get it. Look up these streets and they are lined with heritage buildings. It is so rustic and you will definitely enjoy walking around here. Also, this is en route Kirti Mandir, so stop by.
This place needs no introduction. Kirti Mandir is a memorial built around the house in which Gandhiji was born. It is a three-story house that gives you a peek into how heritage houses were built during those eras. There is a room for Ma Kasturba, a room where Gandhi was born, a reading room as well as Mahila library and a room which is a museum of pictures, handicrafts and things used by Gandhi. Porbandar is still a relatively small town and to think that Gandhi went abroad to pursue higher education from this small town made me go in awe. And also to think a man from this small haveli moved a whole nation, gave me goosebumps.
The photos in the museum are well restored. As I walked past them they spoke volumes of history to me. From Gandhi standing with his young bride to people mourning at his death bed, there are so many photos that reflect his life. There is him sitting in deep discussion with Nehru and Patel, and then there is him playing merrily with children. One photo shows thousands of people walking with him to Dandi and on another, he is seen working alone on his Charka. Then there are his family pictures. I stand for a moment in front of Kasturba’s photo. Great men never or hardly have time to tend to family and without a backbone, like her, who raised the family as well as supported his political movements it would not have been possible to be the ‘Father of our nation’. She was 14 when she got married. I took a bow and moved on from Kirti Mandir.
What a majestic place this is!! Huzoor palace also called the Raj Mahal was constructed by Raja Rana Natwarsinhji in the early 20th century. So we can see the best of European architecture influence on the palace. Huge French windows, tiled roofs, and the whole feel of it look majestic. But we poor peasants can only stand at the gate and watch this palace. Huzoor palace is still occupied by the descendants of Rana Natwarsinhji. He was the last king of Porbandar and the next prince and princess still own the place. They don't seem to live here, it definitely looked a bit neglected. I mean even if they live here, it is too big to maintain, I swear! I could not get this palace in one frame at all. I was there at sunset time and the palace was glowing that evening with pigeons fluttering around. I so wanted to step in and see the inside. Did they have Persian carpets, chandeliers, expensive china, silk curtains, fine carved furniture, exotic collection of paintings!! I so wanted to see. But I just stood there for some time at a gate, sighing at the opulence and moved on.
Porbandar Beach / Chowpati Beach
One of the well-maintained beach stretch. I was right on time to catch the sunset. At a distance was the Porbandar port visible. The seagulls were flying around, the waves were crashing and I found a spot to sit after dunking my feet enough in the waves. A man selling Kava came by and had the hot tea spiced up with ginger and lemon. Porbandar beach is completely safe cos it is well lit and there are restaurants and apartments bordering it. There is also a walkway away from beach sand, so a lot of people come here for walking. And it gets well lit at night. I stayed late until dinner and then dined in one of the restaurants overlooking the beach. It is that safe!
This is a Swaymabhu Lingam, which means the statue formed by itself. The legend goes back to Lord Krishna fighting in some war with Indra and praying to Bileshwar Mahadev. The temple is on a raised platform and the priest said only a portion of the Lingam is seen above the ground and nearly 8 ft is below the floor. Bileshwar is about 30 kilometers away from the city, I thought it would be an easy visit. But then this is not a metro :) So I hopped multiple share autos which finally dropped me at the temple. The temple does not have great architecture, I guess it is revered mostly for its historical significance. The Bileshwar temple is also well known among the Rabari tribe. The Lingam was majestic and beautifully decorated. There is a huge Nandi right opposite the Lingam which is beautifully decked up too.
With that, I retired for the day. There is also Jambuvati cave which is 20 odd km away. If you have read about the life story of Lord Krishna, you will know about the Syamantaka Mani and the war between Jamabavan and Lord Krishna over the jewel. And at the end of the war, Jambavan gives the hand of his daughter Jambuvati also to Krishna. You can probably pair it with Bileshwar if you have your vehicle. There are a few more temples in Porbandar that you can plan to visit. If I had some more time I would have still spent it walking around the markets and sitting at the beach. That's Porbandar for you.
Also read, Plan your visit to Somanth - Temple timings, stay options and Darshan at Somnath
How To Reach Porbandar
Porbandar has its own airport. If that is expensive, Jamnagar is next closest or go for Diu or Ahmedabad. Porbandar is well connected by train and bus too. Gujarat buses are bit slow though.
Where to Stay in Porbandar
Porbandar did not have great hotels. I stayed in a very basic one near the bus stand and I don't think you can expect much than that. There was one beach facing called Lord's Inn, I dined there and it seemed a posh option. But I did not stay there so cannot vouch for it. Please find hotels to book here - Porbandar stay