Cultural monuments and natural beauty

Prosperity and poverty, modernity and tradition, grandeur and austerity, calmness and chaos – India is a nation of opposites. Visitors to the subcontinent are fascinated by the people’s joie de vivre, the beliefs that are firmly anchored in everyday life, the rituals and traditions, and the frenzy of fragrances and colors.

Population

Approx. 2.1 millions

Federal state

Gujarat (approx. 67 million residents)

River

Vadodara lies on the Vishwamitri River. Around 100 crocodiles live in the 25-kilometer-long section that flows through Vadodara.

History

The first mentioning of Vadodara dates back to 812 BC. The location has been renamed multiple times. Roughly speaking, there was a Hindu period until 1300, a Muslim Delhi sultanate until 1400, an independent Gujarat sultanate until 1570, the Mughal Empire until 1720, and a Maharaja period until independence in 1947. During the Maharaja period, Vadodara was called Baroda and was an independent principality, from 1820 to 1947 it was an official British protectorate. When the British retreated from India in 1947, Baroda was initially independent, but in 1949, was annexed to India and incorporated into the state of Bombay. In 1956, all Indian principalities were abrogated and Baroda has belonged to the state of Gujarat since 1960. Since 1971, the city became Vadodara once again and has been ever since.

The northwestern part of India does not rank among hotspots for tourists. People that have chosen this travel destination, however, are impressed by cities worth seeing, prominent cultural monuments, and its impressive natural beauty. Since the beginning of the 1990s, as India’s economic liberalization began, many foreign companies also began establishing themselves here – including a few German companies. Among the upcoming, rapidly-expanding industry and service centers in the state of Gujarat is Vadodara, in the industrial area Savli, where Röchling Industrial opened its first location for producing semi-finished products made of thermoplastics in 2014.

Industry and Tourism
The city with its 2.1 million residents is a center for the petroleum processing industry, which has a major refinery in its northern area. Additional focal points include production of pharmaceuticals and chemicals as well as metal processing. From a tourist’s point of view, taking a trip to Vadodara, Gujarat’s third largest city, is worth it. In the old city, surrounded by city gates, is Laxmi Vilas Palace, one of its most important attractions. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century by Maharaja Sayajirao III in the Indo-Saracen style, and is four times larger than Buckingham Palace in London. The reign of the Maharaja, from 1881 to 1939, has even been characterized as the “Golden Period.” This era saw connection to the electricity grid, the mechanization of factories, comprehensive land and agricultural reforms, expansion of the regional rail network, and the beginning of prohibition. To this day, alcoholic beverages are forbidden in Gujarat.

The intricate palace ensemble in Vadodara ranks as one of the most grandiose Maharaja palaces in the country among Indian art historians. Today, portions of the grand structure house a luxury hotel, which is how many families who descend from former high nobility in India try to preserve their expensive palaces. Within the palace, the school where the Maharaja’s children were educated has been replaced with the small but refined Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, which displays many artistic works of the royal family. Among the most important paintings are those painted by European and Indian artists, including a collection of portraits of the royal family painted by Raja Ravi Varma. The museum is particularly known for works by European Renaissance artists like Raphael, Titian, Murillo, and Rembrandt.

30-Meter-High Shiva-Statue
Other places worth seeing in Vadodora include the buildings of the District Court Nyay Mandir and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. It is the only English-language university in Gujarat and over 100,000 students currently study there. The old city also features Sursagar Lake, which has a 30-meter high statue of the Hindu deity Shiva holding a traditional trident.

About 50 kilometers northeast of Vadodara is the historic city of Champaner. Near the 800-meter high mountain, Pavagadh, which can be reached via a funicular railway, are ruins that are largely unexploited archaeologically and which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The 11th-century Hindu temple Kalika Mata is part of the complex of the archaeological park as well as the Jami Masjid mosque which lies at the foot of Pavagadh Hill and stands as one of the most beautiful structures in the state of Gujarat.

Gujarat’s old capital is Ahmedabad, about 120 kilometers from Champaner. Today, the metropolis, inhabited by 5.7 million residents, is the economic center of the state and the sixth largest city in India. European travelers who visited Ahmedabad at the end of the 17th century fantasized about its extraordinary grandeur. Even if the great brilliance of the former city of residence for Hindu and Muslim monarchies has faded, the old city is still very appealing with its bazaars, old and dilapidated living areas and narrow alleys, mosques, Hindu temples, and palaces.

Shaking Minarets
In the old center of the city, surrounded by the traffic of the big city, is the Sidi Saiyyed mosque with delicately-carved lattice windows. Not far from it is the private mosque of Sultan Ahmad Shah, the city’s namesake. The “shaking minarets” of the Sidi Bashir mosque of the 15th century are an architectural feat. If there are tremors, the towers vibrate lightly. This was supposed to make them better withstand earthquakes.

Ahmedabad is the center of handicraft and trade. The city, along with the rest of the state of Gujarat, has always been known for valuable materials, picturesque folklore, artful dyeing techniques, mirror and brocade embroidery, and velvet weaving. Even in ancient times, its fabrics were sought after by Greek and Roman merchants. To get an insight into these crafts, people can visit the Calico Museum.

Mahatma Gandhi of Gujarat founded his first ashram in 1914 on the Sabarmati River somewhat outside of Ahmedabad. That’s where he began his non-violent fight for a sovereign Indian state. Gandhi demanded human rights for Untouchables and women, strived for the atonement between Hindus and Muslims, and fought for a new, autarchic economic system based on the rural way of life. The ashram on the Sabarmati was famous because that is where, in 1930, Gandhi set off on his “Salt March” that led him approximately 400 kilometers to the Gulf of Gujarat. It was a protest against the salt monopoly of the British government. The high tax on salt led to poor people hardly being able to afford it. Gandhi went forth with 81 followers; when they reached the Arabian Sea 24 days later, there were 90,000 people. Today, the buildings of the ashram on the Sabarmati, where Gandhi lived with his wife and a small following and where he taught, stand as a pilgrimage site for tourists from all over the world.

From Jungle to Semi-desert
Visitors are also drawn to Gujarat, the westernmost state of India, because of its landscape, flora and fauna. For example, Gir National Park is home to the last 400 Asian lions left in the wild. The climatic conditions in Gujarat vary greatly. The south is characterized by a tropical, wet jungle, while a dry, semi-desert and thirsty bushland dominates in the north. The coastal strip is about 1,600 kilometers in length along the Arabian Sea and has the most pleasant temperatures.

Not too far from Ahmedabad is the Great Rann of Kutch, where travelers dive into another world. The word “Rann” is borrowed from Hindi and means salt marsh. Very few plants thrive in the hot and dry environment, mainly grasses and thorn bushes. Some animals have also adapted to the inhospitable living conditions. For the rare khur, also known as the Indian half-donkey, the Great Rann of Kutch is one of his last retreats in India. The area is also home to Indian gazelles, nilgais, wolves, striped hyenas, Asian wild cats, and lynxes. In the very north, on the border with Pakistan, the region becomes a huge swamp during the monsoon season, in turn becoming one of the largest and most valuable bird sanctuaries on the Indian subcontinent, home to thousands of flamingos, herons, and cranes. Parts of the area are under conservation. This way, the flora and fauna of India should be preserved for generations to come.

Röchling in India

Röchling made the first step into the Indian market in 1998 with the founding of a distribution office in Mumbai. Then, in 2003, the company was approved to make direct investments in the country by the Indian government. In 2007, Röchling set up a modern machining factory in Vasai, near Mumbai, for the CNC processing of Lignostone®, a wood-based, high-performance material used for insulation components in high-voltage transformers. In 2010, these activities were expanded to include processing thermoplastic materials according to customers’ details.

At the end of 2012, Röchling began construction of a production-operation facility for thermoplastic materials on a 35,000-square-meter site in the industrial area GIDC Savli in Vadodara. Modern machines were imported from Germany and installed. Since 2013, Röchling has produced compressed boards and extruded profiles from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (PE-UHMW) as well as boards and round bars made of polyacetal (POM) and polyamine (PA6). The location has developed very positively in the last few years and has continuously increased its annual production of semi-finished products made of thermoplastics. An in-house machine shop supports the Indian industry customers with precisely fabricated components made of plastics. Röchling India employs 65 people and also indirectly generates employment in Vadodara and Vasai regions. “The Indian market is continuing to show strong growth for our engineering plastics, and for us as processors, it also offers great potential for the future,” says Manoj Kumar, Managing Director of Röchling Industrial in India.

 
 

Christiane Müller
Freelance Journalist
Phone: +49 40 32039535
chm.texte@me.com

Photos © Rafal Cichawa, Shyamal M Majmundar – shutterstock.com,
were, 500px — fotolia.com, Röchling