The port of BHAVNAGAR, founded in 1723 by the Gohil Rajput Bhavsinghji, whose ancestors came to Gujarat from Marwar (Rajasthan) in the thirteenth century, is an important trading centre whose principal export is cotton. It has also produced a string of artists and writers, notably poet Jhaverchand Meghani. For Gujarati industrialists, it serves as the jumping-off point for the massive, controversial and booming ship-breaking yard at Alang. The yard, which employs twenty thousand labourers, has been off-limits to foreigners since Greenpeace red-flagged it for environmental damage, toxic spills and hazardous work in the early 2000s.
With few sights of its own, Bhavnagar is nonetheless an obvious place to overnight before heading southwest to the Jain temples of Palitana. The focus of interest is the old city, overlooked by delicate wooden balconies and the pillared facades of former merchants’ houses, which boasts a fascinating bazaar, clustered around the Becharaji railway station. The marble temple, Ganga Devi Mandir, by the Ganga Jalia Tank in the town centre, has a large dome and intricate latticework on its walls, while the Takhteshwar Temple, raised on a hill in the south of town, affords a good view over to the Gulf of Cambay in the east.