A little sea side town in Kutch Gujarat, Mandavi has several claims to fame. Among others is the Vijay Vilas palace, now made famous by Bollywood movies, and the second is the Wind Mills which dot the Mandavi Beach.
History made by the ship makers of Mandavi
This port town was set up by the Maharao of the princely state of Kutch at the estuary where the river Rukmavati meets the Gulf of Kutch. It was a major trade centre of the time. The town was built within a walled fortress to house the Kharva families who specialised in making ships out of wood. The fortified walls were built in the mid fifteenth century. Though not much of the fortress stands today, remnants of it can still be seen.
The town, in its heyday, was a major trade centre. It was said that the merchants of Mandvi owned a fleet of 400 ships, collectively. They were engaged in trade with Africa, along the Spice route and with the Persian Gulf countries. This port was also a point of entry to the states of Marwar, Sindh and Malwa. The traders had brought in so much wealth, that the town was more prosperous than the capital Bhuj.
The British and the Portuguese, and even the Mughals before them, formed treaties with the Maharao of Kutch as they held the port in high regard. Mandvi was after all an important trade centre for imports and exports and for travellers too.
The town began to decline with the advent of steamboats. Though the art of ship making still exists and several families still make them, the demand for them is not the same anymore.
Being a seaside town, Mandvi has been blessed with pleasant weather all the year through. The vast expanse of its clean beaches had made it a popular destination even in ancient times. The Rulers of Kutch State made it their summer retreat and built the beautiful Vijay Vilas Palace.
Set amidst beautiful gardens full of fountains, the Vijay Vilas Palace was built in 1920. The Rajput architecture is pretty evident in the ornate coloured glass windows, the high ceilings with the stone carved Jalis and domed hallways. The palace has its own private beach.
Today, the beach has its own tented accommodation for visitors as the palace is become a popular tourist destination, thanks to its featuring in several Bollywood movies.
Another attraction on the Mandvi beach is the windmills which are significant. These were set up as part of Asia’s first Windmill Project in 1983.
Do not miss visiting this beautiful beach during your visit to Kutch, if not for its rich history, then do so because it is one of the best beaches you will visit.