It is a short ride from Bhuj to get to Kera, the capital of a famous Kutch ruler named Lakho Phulani from the 10th century AD. Here are some ruins of a Shiva temple from that period. The temple stands on a plinth about 7 feet high. Little remains of the temple. It is said that an earthquake in 1819 levelled most of it. The inner sanctum is today open to the elements of wind and rain since the entrance walls have collapsed. The other three sides of the sanctum are covered with perforated stone screens, quite simple in design. An ambulatory goes around this small sanctum which today houses a modern linga and faced by a Nandi.
The shikara looks dangerously positioned but plenty of support has been given during restoration to keep it standing. It must have been a grander structure in the past and only glimpses of this grandeur remain. It is in the style of the Khajuraho temples that were built during the same period. The shikara in rekha nagara style is surrounded by smaller shikaras all around. Aedicules project out from the shikaras and house deities. Deities and apsaras in relief cover the walls. Their faces may be mutilated but their forms are graceful as ever. Frieze of elephants, overflowing kumbhas and dwarfs supporting pilasters reinforce the common motifs of Indian temple architecture found in Khajuraho and elsewhere.
I take a sip of from my water bottle and enjoy a few moments at the temple. The morning is crisp. There is no traffic on the roads. A milkman cycles by with his aluminium cans. I walk back to the main road where I had alighted from the bus earlier. I ask around for directions to a famous dargah at Kera.
‘You take that lane across the road. After a few paces you turn right, follow the lane to a masjid. Pass this masjid and continue all the way along the lane. You will not miss the dargah.’
The man who gives me these directions is so precise that don’t need to ask further for directions. A little boy is chasing a puppy through the lane. An old woman is sitting at her doorstep and watching the world go by through her thick glasses. A young woman is sweeping the space outside her house. Some men are decorating a square, perhaps for the New Year or some Muslim festivity.
I arrive at the dargah which stands on a hillock with an easy approach. The gates are closed but not locked. I enter through a pair of large wooden doors under an archway and into the courtyard. Bright and beautiful. Quiet and calm. As I stand admiring the buildings, I feel the sun warming the sand under my feet. The buildings are distempered in white. The doors are painted in subtle shades of green or blue. The door to the main building has a silvery paint that gleams in the morning light. The colours blend in harmony against a blue sky. Nothing here detracts from the mood of calm and peace. I love it.
Ribbed domes, pointed arches framing perforated screens and cusped arches framing doorways are some elements of the architecture at the dargah. The rolling hills away from town stretch beautifully in their browns and greens. Adjacent to the dargah is a large graveyard filled with tombstones. There are perhaps 300 of these tombs in which only a handful are covered or enclosed along with a mihrab. All others are plain. Behind the dargah and to the west is a building in ruins showing traces of wall murals.
As I leave the courtyard some women enter it. They are returning from their daily chore of bringing water from a well or a river. I stop by a group of children playing outside the dargah. They are wrapped in warm wools, jackets, head scarfs and woollen socks. It is a cold morning that’s just warming up. I take a picture to the sound of their laughter. More of it follows as I show them the picture.