Over 2,000 years old, Vadodara, also known as Baroda, is one of the most popular cities in the state of Gujarat. The city is located on the banks of the Vishwamitri River, the water stream named after the revered rishi (saint) Vishwamitra. The city has been ruled by Hindus, Pathans, Mughals and Marathas and today houses a diverse population speaking various languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi and English to name a few. Vadodara is littered with ancient palaces and old markets along with modern shopping malls and gourmet restaurants, but the main reason for coming here is the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Champaner and Pavagadh nearby. If that’s on your itinerary, check out what else Vadodara has to keep you occupied.
Also known as Kamati Baug, Sayaji Baug is the largest garden in Western India, built by Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1879. Spread over 45 hectares of land, the garden houses two museums, a zoo, a planetarium, a flower clock, and an operational toy train, among other attractions. The planetarium is situated near the main gate and has daily public shows as well as offering special shows to educational institutions in Hindi, English and Gujarati. The zoo was opened as part of the original park in 1879and now has 167 types of 1103 animals with the Asiatic lions being the most popular. It also has an impressive aviary. The garden is the finest in the whole of India and is visited by thousands of people every day to get a reprieve from urban life and bask in the beauty of flora and fauna. There are three gates; the first entrance gate is just nearby to Vadodara Railway Station and new Bus Stand (500 m) and is the best way to reach the garden at the earliest.
Founded by the famed Indian freedom fighter, philosopher and yoga guru, Aurobindo Ghose, the Aurobindo Ashram is a community centre where you can meditate, relax and remove the stresses brought upon by modern society through yoga, meditation and many other ways. The main ashram is situated in Pondicherry, South India. The ashram in Vadodara, houses a library, study room and sales emporium. Aurobindo Ashram served as the residence of Aurobindo Ghose during his stay in Baroda (1894 – 1906). The ashram is open for all to meditate; it’s a fantastic place to visit if you have time to spare while in Vadodara.
Baroda Prints is one of Vadodara’s most famous destinations for hand-printed dress materials in original, colourful and attractive designs. Started more than 50 years ago, today it provides a wide range of products such as dress material, sarees and salwar in cotton, butter-silk and satin. Quality is excellent and it’s pone of the most popular fabric shops in the city. There’s also a branch on Salatwada Rd, where you can see the printers at work upstairs. It’s a great place to purchase excellent quality Indian dress pieces which are beautiful and perfect for the hot and humid weather, at really affordable prices.
Situated in the middle of the city of Vadodara, the Sursagar Lake also known as Chandan Talao is a peaceful place to visit. Rebuilt with stone banks and masonry in the 18th century, this lake remains full of water throughout the year. A concrete wall has been constructed around the lake making room for people to sit and relax while gazing at the lake and the 120 ft. tall statue of Lord Shiva in standing posture constructed in the middle by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation. The lake is also used for boating and has become a favourite among the locals. Another tip is to visit at the weekend, when light shows illuminate the water.
Champaner is a historical city in the state of Gujarat. It is located 47 kilometres from the city of Vadodara. It was founded by Vanraj Chavda of the Chavda Dynasty, in the 8th century, and he named it after the name of his friend and general Champa. Today, Champaner is the site of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, which UNESCO designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. The heritage site is studded with forts with bastions starting from the hills of Pavagadh, and extending into the city of Champaner. The park’s landscape includes archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage monuments such as chalcolithic sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat. You can also see the tombs and temples, residential complexes, agricultural structures and water installations dating from the 8th to the 14th centuries. If you ever visit Gujarat, do take out some time to visit this place, it’s rare for one to come across an area filled with such history and awe.