Veraval: Temple town that fishes and builds boats
I hadn’t heard of Veraval until I started researching Gir. Most buses from Ahmedabad or Junagarh that pass by Gir terminate at Veraval. Its main reason of popularity is the presence of Somnath Temple that is said to be one of the 12 important temples devoted to Lord Shiva. The temple has been destroyed many times over by invaders to the country and now stands tall in its rebuilt state since 1951. With a distance of only 42 km from Gir, we’d decided to have a quick darshan of the temple before our return to Ahmedabad.
I happened to mention our plan of covering the temple to Mr. Anil Bhagia of Northwest Safaries on the phone while still in Gir, and he strongly suggested that we cover Bhalka Tirth and Treeveni Sangam to make our visit to Veraval somewhat complete. We did just that.
We set out from Gir in our taxi just before 6 am and found ourselves at the Bhalka Tirth temple in an hour, just in time for aarti. The temple marks the spot where Lord Krishna was hit in his foot by a hunter by mistake. In the outside yard of the temple, a white-clothes-clad young pandit was giving a discourse by holding a loudspeaker in one hand while his audience of about 30 people was sitting on the ground around him. The temple hall with Krishna’s idol had him sitting with his injured foot raised off the platform instead of one of his usual poses. The hall was large and clean but the outside area seemed unswept.
On the way to Bhalka Tirth, we were fascinated by sights of huge semi-finished boats arranged in yards. We stopped by a yard to take pictures on the way out. It felt unreal to be in a port town smelling of fish where boat building was a serious industry when the town was known to us only for its temples!
We were headed towards the Somnath Temple (about 2 km away) but our driver, Panna Lal remembered to stop by the Treeveni Sangam to show us the confluence of three rivers Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati and their merger with the ocean. We could just see a flat expanse of water and some people bathing on its bank, and otherwise were happy to be at the recommended spot.
Earlier, on seeing my interest in fresh coconut water, Panna Lal had suggested that we have it at Veraval where coconuts weren’t just cheaper, they were sweeter too. We had 2 small fresh coconuts right outside the Somnath Temple costing Rs10 each. On his other suggestion, we’d left our bags and phones in the car as a visitor to the main temple area could just carry a small pouch of money or offerings of flowers or sweets to the deity and nothing else. Even leather belts had to be removed. Any possessions had to pass through an x-ray machine too. On seeing crowds at the shoe deposit area, we decided to take turns to go inside the main deity hall to guard our possessions that we couldn’t carry inside. It was about 8 am but already hot. I’d bought some flowers to offer to the deity but later saw that all offerings had to be simply dropped in a big drum at the barricade before the Shivling.
We felt lighter after fulfilling our main purpose of being in Veraval, and moved forward to figure our breakfast options. Panna Lal again came to our rescue and took us to Sukhsagar whose new branch had come up at Gir too. We had idlis and aaloo-onion paranthas with coffee. The two-bearer staff at this fast food café was much sought after and could barely cope with orders from 4 tables. We were happy to have found some service and set off on our 7-hour drive back to Ahmedabad around 9 am.