A friend of mine from here in Texas recently handed me a copy of the Gujarat guidebook she’s edited and published after living there for some time (and with the additional help of some paid local writers). Since my family is originally from Gujarat I’ve never even considered the need for getting my hands on a guidebook before each visit there. After skimming through nearly 400 pages rich in history and photography I think I’ll be taking this along on my next trip to the motherland. Think “Lonely Planet on steroids”:
Five thousand years of civilization
Savor the history and romance, colors and textures, rhythms and dance of a land where time have never stood still.
From the rocky heights of the Sahyadri Mountains across to the salt flats of the Desert of Kachchh, Gujarat has something for everyone. Wander through remains of ancient Indus Valley civilizations; venture to meet the lions of Gir Forest; soak in the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi; dance on the streets for nine nights of Navratri. Enjoy an unparalleled ethos of hospitality. Experience vibrant crafts, exquisite architecture, rich wildlife reserves, colorful festivals and eclectic traditions. Join five millennia of seafarers, merchants and settlers from around the globe and come explore Gujarat. [Link]
What the hell. Gujarat has lions? I wonder why my dad has failed to ever mention this salient fact to me (but I’m sure he’ll comment on it and give me an earful down below). I remember going all the way to the northern part of India on a tiger safari but had no idea that there were lions right there in Gujarat. I think part of the problem is that to me Gujarat is just Ahmedabad, and if someone asks me what you do there I’d say “ummmmm…CG Road, Gandhi Ashram, and Siddi Sayid.” I love eating Amul cheese sandwiches when I am in India but I didn’t know I could take a tour of the Amul plant and watch it get made. It’s probably similar to going wine tasting in Napa (but cheese sandwiches are better than wine). The guidebook also taught me a little about the village (Sarkhej) that my grandparents lived in and where my parents partially grew up. I’ve been there but either didn’t know, or couldn’t remember, the significance of the place until I read here about the complex that the village was built around:
Sarkhej Roaza is a mosque, tomb, and royal complex dedicated to the memory of Salikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh, the spiritual advisor of Ahmed Shah…The Roza was a retreat for successive rulers, each adding a garden or pavilion. Sarkej is another excellent example of a structure that combines Hindu and Islamic design.
The best guidebooks are those that give you a deeper appreciation for what you are visiting by putting it into a context that you can relate to. I appreciate the fact that this book is compiled from the perspective of an Indian American who’s been living there for a while and has been seeking out overlooked places instead of simply relying on guidance from relatives or other travel books that don’t contain nearly this level of detail.
India Guide Publications develops comprehensive travel guides to lesser known destinations in India. Our informative, easy-to-use travel guide books give travelers a complete resource to navigating the rich culture and sights of India’s unexplored regions.
A passionate and energetic team of writers, researchers, designers and map makers, we are totally committed to promoting the insider’s perspective to Gujarat. Locally driven – we know the local culture, speak the local language, and have a deep connection with this space. [Link]
I asked my friend if there will be more guidebooks like these covering some of the other Indian states. I think they are open to collaborating with other groups who want to do other states. I know most people don’t go on vacation to India in the summer but given that everyone I know seems to be planning a trip somewhere right now I thought I’d throw out this tip to some of you who might be going to Gujarat soon.