And there it stood, the oldest extant palace dating back to the 17th Century. The stone carvings felt like poetry which had managed to live through centuries – ornately beautiful and overlooking the princely state of Kathiawar it once governed. Naulakha Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces I’ve ever seen in India.
Visiting this town in Rajkot district of Gujarat was a pleasant surprise – there is so much history all around! However, in spite of having been governed by wealthy rulers, Gondal hasn’t developed much over the years. I would recommend you to remove one day and check Gondal when you are in Rajkot. You can do the following –
1. Get awestruck at Naulakha Palace
This palace was commissioned in the 17th century and had cost Rs. 9,00,000 during that time! The carvings on the rock, intricate designs, delicately carved arches, spiral staircases justify the enormous cost! It is well maintained by the descendants of the royal family and is converted into a museum. Many movies have been shot here – Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, etc
2. Let blue soothe your eyes at Riverside Palace
This palace was built in 1875 by Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji (the ruler who uplifted Gondal under his watch till 1944) for his son Yuvraj Bhojraji. This has been converted into a heritage hotel presently and has been given a modern look. It has massive lawns which are rented for wedding purposes.The living room is furnished in typical colonial style with chandelier, antique wooden furniture and sofas; whereas the “Indian room” decorated with beadwork, brassware and paintings, it has now become a heritage hotel. Parts of Hawaizaada and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo have been shot here.
3. Observe the opulence of 125 year old school
Sangramji High School is one of the biggest campuses of Gujarat. It’s a shame that such a heritage building which is still intact is not used at all. The school grounds are used to learn bike and car driving by teenagers. This place has a lot to offer for photographers.
4. Find peace at Akshar Mandir (BAPS)
Swami Narayan temple of Gondal has been built over two phases – the same is reflected in the colour of the marble. There are quarters to stay if you are interested in staying inside. Let the calmness of the place enter as you breathe in its ambience and exhale all your worries.
5. Walk in the local markets
There is an allocated place for shopping where each area has been alloted for specific purposes like clothes, electronics, utensils etc. Business thrives on sales made in this market. Not many people use online apps. The quality of living isn’t that good; however, people I saw and talked to had a huge smile on their faces and were content with their lives. That’s what matters in the end!
6. Try Mahavir Vadapav
People from Mumbai won’t find this much different from the vadapav served in Mumbai. However, this place is famous in Gondal and is rightly so. It offers salad along with vadapav and it is quite tasty and spicy. You might have to eat an ice-cream if you decide to have the vadapav and salad along with fried mirchis!
Gondal is approximately 37 kilometres from Rajkot and is merely an hour away. Reach Gondal Chaukdi bus stop in Rajkot using local bus transport. See how well managed the transportation system it. It will leave a smile on your face.
From Gondal Chaukdi there are a lot of buses and private jeeps going towards Gondal which drop you there for Rs. 30-50 per person. Ensure you board a jeep/bus which goes inside and drops you at Akshar Mandir (Swami Narayan Temple, BAPS). Else, they’ll drop you on the highway.
P.S. Ensure you reach either during the morning or after 3 PM, everything is closed from 1 PM to 3 PM. I was able to visit all these places from 2 PM – 6 PM.