A WEEKEND AT SOMNATH, GIR, AND DIU
Weekends are sometimes crucial when you have fewer holidays in line or when you need a quick break from your work. A Weekend break to a place of Spiritual serenity or Nature’s wonder makes you composed and leaves you energized.
In a short travel series, this is a weekend plan to visit Somnath, Gir Forest, and Diu, which may be helpful as a ready reference for your trip.
About Somnath, Gir Forest and Diu
Somnath is famous for Somnath Temple. The temple has its pride for many reasons. First of all, in Hindu Culture, there are four Dhams which are must-visits for any Hindu in his lifetime (not by Compulsion, but by faith) Similarly there are twelve Jyotirlingas, which most people of Hindu faith try to visit in their lifetime. Lord Somnath is the first of all these twelve Jyotirlingas and so is the cultural importance.
When we are saying about Jyotirlingas, it refers to some special mention in Hindu mythology behind the temple being built or any inherent spiritual power which turns the entire aura of the geographical point into a magnetic pilgrimage. Somnath temple has been a center point of many such tourists and attracted pilgrims from far east and west.
The reputation of this temple was spread till Afghanistan and Turkey in the west to Nepal and beyond in the East. The popularity of this temple has invited many enthusiasts and created jealousy among the non-Hindus who were not permitted to enter this temple. This caused the temple to face attacks from the Muslims and Portuguese. Every time it was invaded, the Hindu caretakers would sacrifice their lives to keep it safe and re-build it.
According to history, this temple was invaded by Turkish Sultan Mahmud Ghazni for at least seventeen times among many others including Allauddin Khilji and Portuguese rulers. The Temple has been restored many times. Thus the survival of such a strong faith from 1000 century creates its importance as a place to visit.
Apart from above, this place is a must-visit for all types of visitors, Historians, Beach travelers, Cultural visitors, Religious visitors everyone. The temple provides a sacred feeling and shows a great proof of the Indian Culture and gives a good feeling about the Hinduism, why it has survived for so many centuries despite all the attacks.
Gir Forest is a dry deciduous forest, which means forest in a region with heavy rainfall followed by a dry season. This is an example of a typical ecosystem. To protect the Asiatic lions, There came a National Park, which is a wildlife sanctuary that is also a home for antelopes, leopards, pythons, and vultures.
Diu is an island connected by a small creek that witnessed many attacks and rulers from 1000 centuries and the Portuguese being the last rulers who ruled Diu for almost 300 years. Diu is presently a union territory under the Indian Government and has become a place of tourism due to the Diu Fortress, beach, foods, and other places of interest that are covered below in the trip.
Start with Somnath from Ahmedabad by overnight train (Somnath Express) which departs Ahmedabad Railway station at 10.05 PM to Veraval. You will reach there by 6 AM. You need to book at least a month before to get AC 2 tier berth. Otherwise, you can hire a taxi from Ahmedabad and reach Somnath in 6 to 7 hours. The Road distance is 470 Kilometres (Approx 300 miles).
Overnight Train will cut off your journey time without disturbing your sleep. Take an Auto to the hotel, where 90 % chances are that you will get an early check-in ( As the majority of guests do checkout in morning hours around 8 AM. The early check-in might cost you around Rs 100 to Rs 4000 depending on the size of the Hotel.
Book a cab for a full day, either from the Hotel ( Most of the Hotels have the contacts) or from the travel agents / Railway stations.
Safari booking is either by Gypsies ( an Open Jeep with a maximum of 6 people sitting capacity and have a special route. or by Bus, which has a sitting capacity of 18-20 people. Temperature and humidity are high, so please carry your water bottle along with you during the Safari. You may need to wait for the jeep/bus up to 30 -45 minutes depending on the crowd.
After check-in, you can start the day with your cab with breakfast. Start with Gir. Gir forest is around 60 Kilometers (40 Miles) from Somnath which takes around one and a half hours. You need to reach there before 11 to start a Safari Booking.
There are a lot of open restaurants on the way, where you can stop by, enjoy the music and have your traditional lunch. Some provide the buffet lunch as well. you can enjoy your food on ”charpai” ( A lightweight woven bed). People traveling from a far distance are seen taking rest under the tree shed lying on charpai as well.
The safari is hardly 30- 40 minutes. They will drop you the same place. Then you have the option to visit the park, playground area.
Now, you can start proceeding to the Somnath Temple which will take around 30 minutes to enter due to different levels of security check. You need to keep all metal objects, phones, bags, etc in the outside locker. The queue is very fast here. you will take hardly 30 minutes to complete your Darshan.
try to reach Somnath by 3-3.30 PM. Start with Triveni Ghat, where River Saraswati, Kapila, and Hiran. After Triveni Sangam, you can cover other temples like Geeta Mandir, Panch Pandav Gupha, Parshvunath Temple, Suraj Mandir, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Ram Mandir, etc. All these places will take almost 2 hours to covers.
You can take your time at the temple and can call it a day by returning straight to the Hotel. Have your dinner. The activities of the day will help you to have good sleep.
After the Darshan, now you can do a visit around the temple and enjoy the remarkable carvings, the art of the Temple and its nearby surroundings. enjoy the evening with Lights decorated around the temple. The Arabian sea near the temple makes the evening most memorable. Enjoy the sanctity of the environment and the spiritualism of the place.
Second Day Morning you can start your trip after your breakfast to Diu, which is around 75 kilometers from Somnath. By road, it takes around 2 and a half hours.
The next destination is to visit the Diu city and see the Zampa Gate, Chakratirth Beach, St Paul’s Church, Jalandhar Beach, Nagua Beach, etc. have lunch at any of the Beach restaurants and enjoy the delicious food here. Must not forget to look at the Hokka trees ( Palm trees with branches) which are only seen in these localities.
Start with the Diu Fort. This is another amazing place where you will be taken aback by the 1600 century built Fort built by Portuguese. You will get a glimpse of the Portuguese Governance of the then colonized era. The Seashore and the inside atmosphere is nostalgic. You can spend easily around 2 hours. This is free entry.
Then you can start with the Gangeshwar Temple, which is 10 /15 minutes drive from the Fort. This place is also another place of religious importance. There is a small half cave where there are five Shivlings at the Seashore and what makes most interesting is the sea waves clean the Shivlings every minute.
Come back to Somnath in the evening which will take another 3 hours as the roads are not smooth and considering evening hours. You can always have a break on the road at any Dhaba and enjoy the ginger Masalaa tea.
by the time you reach Somnath, you must have been tired. Time to make dinner and pack your bags. Check out from the Hotel ( If not done in the morning) and leave for Railway station which is 9 kilometers (around 5 miles). This takes up to 20 minutes including the traffic. Take Somnath Express, which leaves Veraval station at 9.35 PM and reaches at Ahmedabad Station at 5.30 hrs in the morning. Take a good sleep on the train. Your active weekend is over. Enjoy the memories and get ready for work.
Somnath Express is the best possible connection found to me considering my stay in Ahmedabad. There are other trains but these trains are not overnight and take a full day of yours to visit.both going and coming. Thus you are spending 4 days instead of 2 here.
Those who are looking for flight options, the nearest airport is Diu which has a very less frequency of flight routes ( one daily from Mumbai – departs at 3.35 PM and arrives at 4. 10 PM – 45 minutes). So this has its limitations as well considering Flight connectivity to Ahmedabad from all major cities is frequent.
In Somnath, you can always go to the temple anytime between 6 AM to 11 PM). Thus, in case you are not getting early check-ins, you can always drop your bags at the hotel locker and come to the temple for a visit. You can plan your day accordingly.
I hope this weekend plan looks suitable for you. Enjoy your trip.
AUTHOR: SRIKANT PATTANAYAK