"Pass a khakhra, bro," I heard one of my roommates holler across the hall. The four of us had been mugging up expansive portions on the theories of communication with our final exam looming. The watch on my hand beeped as Sunday turned to Monday. Hunger had started to take its toll with cravings for a midnight snack growing larger by the second. While I disliked khakhra, the lack of food at home meant that it was either this Gujju breakfast dish or ketchup directly from the bottle. After critically analysing my choices where I did consider having the ketchup, I ultimately chose the traditional Gujarati snack. And that's how my love affair with khakhra and Gujarat started.
I couldn't believe my luck when the Gujarat assignment fell on to my lap, it felt as if it was God-sent. Informed about a 24-hour stopover in Vadodra, I called up my roommate from college and with him planned a thorough itinerary to roam around the cultural capital of the state looking for khakhra and sightseeing. While a day wasn't particularly enough to cover every single corner of the city, it did allow me to get up close and personal with the history and essence of this alluring destination. So, here's a wholesome mini-guide on how to spend 24 hours in Vadodra.
The Sursagar Lake
A landmark location in Vadodra, the Sursagar Lake is situated in the heart of the city. The statue of Lord Shiva arises majestically in the middle of the lake offering a mind-blowing sight, especially during sunrise and sunset. A popular location during Mahashivratri where the statue is light up, the lake remains full of water throughout the year.
A one-of-a-kind temple, the temple is a prominent feature of unity and togetherness as it displays aspects of many popular faiths in India. Dedicated to Lord Dakshinamurthy, a form of Shiva as supreme teacher, the aluminium building of this holy palace is surrounded by 106 ancient statues. Shaped in a dome, representative of Islamic architecture, a kalasha, a symbol of Hinduism, is situated at the top of the structure. The entrance of the temple is built in parallel to Jain religious beliefs while the fire in the temple represents a Zoroastrian string of faith.
About a 45-minute drive from Vadodra lies this gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site. Studded with forts starting from the hills of Pavagadh to the hills of Champaner, living cultural and archaeological sites flood the area. The Kalika Mata Temple at Pavagadh Hill is an important Hindu destination while the Jami Masjid in Champaner is one of the finest mosques in India. Preserving the Islamic ethos, the Masjid encompasses a vibrant mix of Hindu and Muslim forms of architecture. Located between the two is another elegant piece of heritage recognised as the Saat Kaman (Seven Arches). A site built for military purposes, it is on the edge of a hill with a view of the entire valley beyond it.
Lukshmi Vilas Palace & Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum
Encompassing nearly 170 rooms for merely two people, the Maharaja and Maharani, the prime location also houses the Moti Baug Palace and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum. The majestic palace, built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890, continues to house the members of the royal family who are held in high-esteem by the people of Baroda. Four times the size of Buckingham Palace, the Lukshmi Vilas is reputed to be the largest private dwelling ever to be built. One can venture on an exclusive audio journey where they can be taken from the courtyards of the palace to the Coronation Room, Gaddi Hall and even the Royal Armoury.
On the other hand, my cravings for Khakhra only came to an end when my friend took me to his house where I had the by far the best version of the traditional dish. With the perfect amount of crunchiness and an assortment of pickles and chutneys to choose from, it was one unbelievable Khakhra experience.
Although I did not get to try authentic Gujarati cuisine, you can do so yourself at some popular places like Mandap, located on R.C Dutta Road, or Sasumaa Gujarati Thali, which serves a remarkable Gujarati thali consisting of vegetables, snacks, desserts, butter milk to just name a few.