Earthquake victims memorial – Bhujia fort

Bhujia fortress was probably built to fend Bhuj town against the pirates from Sindh and the Moghul army. The construction of the fort was commissioned by Rao Godji (1715-1718 ) to ensure that his bastion is safeguarded from enemies over the hillock. However the fort was completed over a long period of time during his son’s Deshalji I ( 1718-1741 ) period. The walls were strongly built to protect his kingdom from invasions. The fort has witnessed 6 major battles after its construction.

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During the first war against the Moghuls, a group of Naga Babas came to the rescue of Kutch army. They feriously fought against the moghuls and snatched victory from the hands of defeat. Sher Khan Buland’s army retreated when they witnessed such a ferocious conter attack. Since that time Naga Baba’s have a special status in the minds of the ruler of kutch. A temple was constructed in reverence of their diety Naga. Every Nagapanchami there is a procession from the town leading up to Naga temple on the Bhujia premises.
The British took possession of the Fort from 1819. Kutch accepted the suzerenity of the British under Colonel William Coir. Most of the trading was carried out from Mandvi port into Kutch region by the british. The british were primarily interested in the ship building industry to maintain their naval fleet.

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Once the commercial liners started operation Mandvi port started loosing importance. The Burj fort served as centre to store arms and ammunitions safely. Later after Independence Indian army took charge of the fortress to store their ammunition till 2001 earthquake. Before it was a restricted area since the army was stationed, after 2001 the Army relocated to different area paving way for tourist to freely enter the area for trekking up the fortress.
One has to climb a few hundred steps before reaching the peak from where the view of Bhuj township is clearly visible. The stairs begin from the Naga temple. On the left hand side another devi mandir is located which is managed by Kannada sangha of Bhuj. It has a small enclosure for teaching the local school children too and a stage is set up to conduct cultural programs. Hopefully the fortress will be resurrected since it is in various stages of crumbling due to walls cracking and giving way.  It is a simple renovation job considering the simplicity of construction.

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The Gujarat govt. is planning to erect a huge memorial in honor of the victims of the earthquake. More than 15000 people lost their lives to the devastation unleashed by the earthquake on 26th January 2001. The body count was undertaken in front of the Bhujia fort. The fortress has been a mute witness to the tragedy and is fitting place for a memorial considering its vast area and heritage. The memorial is still to be completed.  A list of victims who lost their life will be put up in the memorial plaque which is being installed.   It is a grim reminder that man cannot control the fury unleashed by nature in whatever form. Thus the original nature worship stands us in good stead.

Ack : Photos from Lagaan film clip and wiki.

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