The Royal Cenotaphs (Chhatris) of Bhuj

chhatris of bhuj

The city of Bhuj was peaceful, tranquil and slow paced, and when I think of it now, it created a rather interesting contrast with overwhelming and mega touristic Jaipur I headed for the next day. One of the most secluded and architecturally rewarding places  I’ve visited in Bhuj was a complex of highly ornate royal memorials. The umbrella-shaped cenotaphs are widely known as chhatris throughout India, and they are commonly found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and partially Madhya Pradesh. Exploring the chhatris of Bhuj is an excellent way to start your acquaintance with the city, especially if you arrive early in the morning. When the streets are still sleeping and most of the major sights are closed, taking a stroll passed the Hamirsar Lake and further on is a pleasant beginning of the day. The chhatris of Bhuj are located in the barren field, the entrance is free, and there is hardly anyone apart from beautiful migratory birds to distract you from walking down the history lane.

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History of the Royal Chhatris of Bhuj

The royal memorials were constructed in the end of the 18th century for the kings of the Jadeja dynasty who had been ruling the princely state of Kutch from 1540 up to the middle of the 20th century. One of the most prominent kings of this Rajput clan was Rao Lakhpatji, and the grandest chhatri with beautifully sculpted walls is dedicated to him. Inside the structure, there is a tablet of the king and his consorts,  surrounded by countless ornamental pillars. Constructed of red sandstone, the chhatri used to feature a dome and an intricately carved ceiling, but the structure was devastated during the earthquake in 2001. Other cenotaphs of the complex vary in shape and size, but each of them is a fine example of the local architectural tradition.

chhatris of bhuj

The tablets of Rao Lakhpatji and his consorts

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Carved walls and numerous pillars

chhatris of bhuj

Play of light and shadows on red sandstone.

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chhatris of bhuj

Intricate floral designs

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The silent observer

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The cenotaph with a blue dome

This cenotaph with a blue dome was  obviously influenced by the Turkish and Central Asian Islamic architecture, and it looked particularly impressive.

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The Mandore Gardens near Jodhpur – a charming collection of royal memorials

Severe damage during the Bhuj earthquake in 2001

When we entered the complex, I was stunned by the number of broken pieces all around the place. Some of them were aimlessly scattered on the ground, the others were neatly put together with an obvious intention of further restoration. Walking along the streets of Bhuj, I would never say that the city was destroyed by the earthquake 17 years ago, but the ruined chhatris give an idea of what it must be like. The earthquake reached 6.9 on the Richter magnitude scale and lasted for about 100 seconds. Located only 20 km from its epicenter, the city of Bhuj lost 40% of its houses and lots of heritage buildings, including the historic Swaminarayan temple.

As for the chhatris of Bhuj, the earthquake was merciful to some of them, but quite a few beautiful structures are now in pieces. Broken pillars, sculptures, and domes are waiting patiently to be put together again.

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Some restoration work has already been done, but there is still a long way to go, and I do hope that eventually, the monuments will get all the love they deserve.

The local authorities also try to cultivate a garden around the complex, which is obviously a daunting task considering the water shortage experienced in the region.

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Travel tips of visiting the Chhatris of Bhuj 

~ The entry s free of charge,  and the place is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

~ Comfortable footwear is recommended as there is lots of walking to be done in order to explore all the memorials.

~ Make sure to take a bottle of water, sunblocks and a hat to protect your head from the generous Gujarati sun 🙂

~ The distance between the Bhuj railway station and the chhatris is hardly 4.5 km, so you can easily reach it by an auto-rickshaw or even on foot.

~ Many people consider Bhuj a transit location when heading for the Rann of Kutch, but the city definitely deserves more than just a short stop over for lunch. If you’re planning to stay in Bhuj for a couple of days, use one of the forms below to find some affordable accommodation options:

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19 thoughts on “The Royal Cenotaphs (Chhatris) of Bhuj

    • It’s actually amazing all those pieces are still there after so many years without proper security in place. Hopefully one day the whole think will be restored and the monuments will stand strong for centuries to come.

  1. I enjoyed your description of an early morning visit before the crowds were there. The chhatris are beautiful, and to be able to wander on your own and without others to ruin the photos must have been wonderful. I’m amazed at the intricate details carved into these structures, and the relative lack of destruction, since they are built of sandstone.

    • Many monuments in India were made of red sandstone – Hawa Mahal, Qutb Minar, and Humayun Tomb just to name a few. And they stand strong for centuries unless someone deliberately destroys them. I’m glad you liked the chhatris, Tami, thanks a lot for stopping by!

  2. Chhatris of Bhuj sounds like a really fun and educational spot. I’m sure we could spend a day exploring all the memorials. Your photos are lovely.

  3. I absolutely love the old and abandoned architecture, this looks like a great site to visit. I was going to ask about the weather, but saw that you recommend protecting against the sun.

  4. Really cool and beautiful. It reminds me of Hampi. I just need to go tour Pune and every other part of India to see all of the history and art for myself. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Pingback: Intricacies of the Prag Mahal in Bhuj, Gujarat - indiapalette.com

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