Drive south from Rajkot to Gondal and you pass Vintage Fords and Buicks taxis of a bygone era still plying the roads of Saurashtra. Gondal, a city state mere 35 km away from Rajkot ruled by a family of car enthusiasts whose royal passion resulted in a fine collection of automobiles which are now part of a museum in the palace premises. Such was the royal passion that Gondal had the best planned and well designed road system in preindependent Gujarat. Gondal like its neighbors has some visually exciting palaces and living spaces; some like the Riverside Palace commissioned in 1875 by Bhagwatsinghji is now a Heritage Hotel. The palace grounds form a private forest reserve with frolicking deers and a variety of birds adding to the tranquil beauty of the place.
A building worth visiting is the old Darbargadh a seventeenth century structure which reputedly cost Rupees Nine Lakhs thus earning the sobriquet ‘Navlakha Palace’. The palace is built on series of arches delicately carved and inscribed in stone with a magnificent spiral staircase leading all the way to the top. The interior of the Darbargadh is open to visitors and for a fee one can experience the opulent living style of the Maharajas of old. Mandvi Chowk. The central marketplace of Gondal is a typical riot of color, the bustle of street cries and hawkers, vendors and beggars and wafting aromas of food stuffs amidst flowing bales of trade cloths in a variety of exotic prints. To experience Gondal is to take a walk down its winding streets inhaling the soul of the city and its people!
The tourist attractions in Gondal are the forts and palaces. The oldest and most beautiful palace in Gondal is the Navlakha Palace. Built in the 17 th century, this palace is an architectural marvel with stone carvings and exquisite balconies. The place also has a marvelous collection of antiques, gifts and relics of the princely times. The most unique display item being the weighing scales on which he was measured against gold and silver on his anniversaries.
The Riverside Palace is another attraction on the banks of the river Gondali.It was built in 1875 Ad by Maharajah Bhagwat Singhji for his son Yuvraj Bhojrajji.It has a magnificent display of colonial and Indian styled furniture and decor. The Orchard Palace although just a wing of the Huzoor Palace, which is the present royal residence, is worth the visit .
Set amidst fruit orchards, lawns and gardens it is famous for its ‘room of miniature’, which has a splendid collection of miniature paintings. The Riverside Palace and the Orchard Palace have now been converted into heritage hotels.
For car lovers, the Royal Garage is a must see with its vast collection of vintage and classic cars including a Daimler form the 1930’s, a 1935 Mercedes, a 1935 Packard two-door convertible, 1941 and 1947 Cadillac, 1955 Cadillac limousine, sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s like the Mercedes 300 SL, Jaguar XK 150 and Chevrolet Camaro, numerous imposing American cars of the 1940s and 1950s, a fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles from the World War II and post-war period and some contemporary sports cars.
Other attractions in Gondal are the Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy where you can see traditional herbal medicines being made according to ancient principles. The Bhuvaneshwari Stud Farm has remarkable specimens of Kathiawadi horses, Gir cattle and other ethnic breeds of livestock, which have won prestigious awards at national level and prizes at local horse and cattle shows. The Swaminarayan Temple is famous for its lovely wall murals of the various Swamis who preached this faith. The Sangram Sinhji High School, a model of Eton in Gondal is worth visiting with its impressive Gothic architecture, Italian marble floors, old European laboratory equipment, an antique clock tower, and intricate wooden ceilings.
Excursions can be made form Gondal to Rajkot, 40 km from Gondal, is known for the Watson Museum, Mahatma Gandhi’s old residence, and its handicrafts and textiles. The historic city of Junagadh, 60 km south of Gondal.Junagadh is known for its third-century BC Ashoka rock edicts, the magnificent Uperkot Fortress, splendid royal mausoleums, Darbar Hall Palace Museum, Junagadh Museum, and Sakkarbagh Zoo.Dhoraji, which was the second most important city of the erstwhile Gondal state is famous for the Darbargadh Palace with exquisite sandstone sculpture. The textile town of Jetpur, 30 km from Gondal, is known for its screen-printing, block printing, and yarn dyeing workshops.
Gondal situated 40 kms south of Rajkot in the state of Gujarat still has remnants of its glorious past. Once a princely state replete with history and tradition, Gondal was infused with the modern spirit by the visionary ruler, Sri Bhagwatsinghji.