Hub(s) : Kutch


Perhaps one of the most under-appreciated sites of great significance for India's religious history is Bhadreshwar, barely a kilometer from the coast, 69 km east of Mandvi, past Mundra, and 75 km south of Bhuj. The Jain religion, like other religions of Indian origin, places considerable importance on the act of pilgrimage and Bhadreshwar is one of the major centers of Jain pilgrimage in Gujarat. Unreliable reports claim the city was founded in 516 BC, and oral accounts state that the first temple was built “2500 years ago, about 45 years after the death of Lord Mahavir,” but there is no evidence to either support or debunk that claim. The main temple is strikingly beautiful, in all white marble with majestic pillars. Around the central one are 52 smaller shrines, one of which reputedly holds the original Parshavanath idol from 500 BC Non-Jains cannot spend the night in the temple complex, but other lodging is available in town.

In addition to the Jain complex, there are also two mosques which are reliably dated to the late 12th century, meaning they predate the well-known Islamic architecture of Ahmedabad by 250 years or so, making them in all likelihood the first mosques built in India. Their existence indicates that Iranian seagoing traders arrived on the coast of Gujarat at least 50 years before Islam swept into Delhi by land. As such, they are much more stark, austere, constructions, without the flowery embellishments of the later period, but they are also the first mosques to incorporate Indian architectural elements into Islamic constructions. According to at least one researcher's extensive study, the style indicates that this blending was not done because they plundered Hindu temple ruins for parts or only employed Hindu craftsmen, but was a more deliberate incorporation of design elements according to the tastes of the builders.

How to get there

By road: ST buses and jeeps depart from Bhuj about every 30 min. from the central transportation area. For local excursions, jeeps can be hired in town.