Kutch, Gujarat : Bhuj to Lakhpat | Horn please, OK?

Kutch, Gujarat : Bhuj to Lakhpat

Day 4 : Bhuj -> Lakhpat -> Bhuj
When : February 2014 | How far : 270 kms | How long : 5 hrs 

Border Line Case 

Gujarat shares a large part of its border with Pakistan. We planned to drive to as many points along the border as we could.

Vigakot is the closest that you can get to the India-Pak border in Gujarat. It's guarded by a BSF out post and visitors require a permit to enter.  The BSF Sector Headquarters in Bhuj issues these permits which typically take a day to get processed. Since our plan was to visit Vigakot the next day, we made the sector headquarters our first stop and used the rest of the day to explore Lakhpat, a fort close to the India-Pak border.

At Ease

The  BSF Sector Headquarters at Kodki Road houses training grounds for officers and jawans. On entering we spotted a group playing volley ball and another engaged in some form of drill. As civilians our paths rarely cross with defence personnel. Walking around the compound we were struck by the discipline and rigour that are so much a part of their lives and so completely missing from ours. We felt a frission of patriotism as we made our way through the immaculately maintained grounds to the main building.

A written request stating where we were from and why we wanted to visit Vigakot was required. This was submitted alongwith identification proof and a copy of our car's registration papers. The process was completely hassle free and devoid of any complication. 
Our permit would be ready later the same evening. 

Travel Tip : Carry a copy of your drivers license or passport and your car's registration certificate. It will save you the trouble of hunting for a photocopy machine in Bhuj.


We used the rest of the day to explore Lakhpat. 

Lakhpat, which translates to the city of millionaires, lies close to the India Park border, approximately 60 kms away. It lies at the mouth of the dried up Kori creek which separates it from Pakistan. 
It was once a thriving mercantile town situated on the banks of the Sindhu river but now all that remain are the crumbling ruins of a once prosperous town.   

SH 42 from Bhuj is a fairly straight road that leads to and ends at Lakhpat. It took us a little over 2 and a half hours to reach. SH 42 passes through flat scrubland that gets browner and more desert like as you approach Lakhpat. 

We saw camels crossings

Shepherds dancing

And the Tropic of Cancer. Thats right. Nope, its not imaginary. Here's proof. 

What looks like an impressive fort from outside is really just an empty shell.  There's nothing left of the 18th century Fort Lakhpat except for its ramparts. 

An entrance gate opened onto an expanse of undulating land. All that was visible were broken, abandoned shacks and a tomb. Not a soul in sight. Even a ghost town has more life.

With no clear path to follow we drove towards the tomb hoping to find someone there.  No luck.  

The tomb of Pir Ghaus Muhammed, a Sufi saint 
The only other option was to drive along the ramparts. We kept a lookout for an observation tower and this time we got lucky. Scaling the steps all the way to the top we found a tiny BSF outpost. The jawans guarding the post were chatty (and glad to have some company, we think). They regaled us with stories of Lakhpat's past. 

The ramparts that we were standing on belonged to a fort built by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed in 1801. An earthquake 20 years later destroyed most of it. 7 kms of fort walls still stand today. 

Lakhpat was once a prosperous trading post connecting Gujarat to Sindh. It was situated on the banks of the Sindhu river, the source of the town's prosperity.  Legend goes that Guru Nanak came to Lakhpat and asked some of the town's merchants to help him cross the river by boat. The merchants agreed to help him but kept putting off the task claiming to be too busy with work. Tired of waiting for them to find time to help him, Guru Nanak prophesied that in days to come the tradesman at Lakhpat would have nothing but time on their hands.  Soon after, the river dried up killing trade, and Lakhpat faded into obscurity.

The real not-so-colorful story is that an earthquake caused the river to change direction leaving Lakhpat high and dry. Literally.

Views of the dried up Kori creek from the observation tower are stark and beautiful. 

Pakistan lies 60 kms away, as the crow flies. 

Peering across the barren expanse we spotted a small solitary structure. Believe it or not, it was a Bollywood movie set created more than 10 years ago to shoot the movie Refuge, Abhishek Bacchan's debut film. 

We asked the jawans whether they'd caught anyone or heard of people trying to cross the border in to Lakhpat. It isn't physically possible, they said. What lay before us was too treacherous to cross by foot. The flat, obstruction free land made it easy to spot anyone approaching from miles away.   

What lies under

A further exploration of Lakhpat revealed an exquisite mosque which was locked from the outside. There was no way of telling if it was an active place of worship or an artefact from Lakhpat's heydays. 

The ghost town that we drove through bore evidence of Lakhpat's faded glory days. 

A camel feeding station attached to the Custom House. A bustling centre for trade, merchants would use camels as beasts of burden to bring their wares to the custom house

Akbani Mahal, a house belonging to one of the most prosperous trading families in Lakhpat. Made up of 5 structures, it was said to have 120 intricately carved windows and dozens of rooms. The foundations of the house were rumored to have contained gold coins, a testament to the Akbani family's wealth.  

Curiosity got the better of us and we climbed in through a gaping hole in the door. Akbani house had been reclaimed by nature. Trees and grass sprouted out of everything. 

Most of us associate the India-Pak border with stories of insurgency, unrest, espionage and strife. Lakhpat is the embodiment of everything that is not. The silence and stillness that shroud it are almost tangible. 

Maybe we need to rethink our associations or maybe this is just the calm before the storm.

Stories from the entire trip
Day 1 -> Mumbai to Zainabad
Day 2 -> Zainabad to Patan
Day 2 -> Patan to Modhera
Day 2 -> Little Rann of Kutch
Day 3 -> Dholavira & the Great Rann
Day 4 -> You just read it
Days 5-7 -> Bhuj to Vigakot

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Maria George said...

Everytime I read one of your entries, I feel so envious of you guys and all the travels you've done.
Lovely writeup as always

Trip-a-doodle said...

Aw thanks! You know that you're always invited to join us.

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