Wheel comes a full circle. Ro-Ro ferry replicates the mediaeval sea route of the legendary Mokhdaji Gohil

With the coming of railways in the 19th century, and then the automobile, the sea route across the Gulf of Cambay from Ghogha to Dahej disappeared. But as they say, history repeats itself, which is what has happened with the inauguration of the Ro-Ro (roll on, roll off) ferry service by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi. Built at a cost of Rupees 6,150 million, it will cut the distance from 340 kilometres to a mere 31 kilometres, and travel time from more than seven hours to just an hour and three quarters. How much fuel will be saved is mind boggling as cars, buses and trucks will be ferried across the waters, easing congestion on the roads and rush in the trains.

Veer Mokhdaji, the legendary Gohil Rajput chief of Ghogha in the 14th century.

This is exactly the route used by the legendary warrior Mokhdaji, the Gohil Rajput chief of Ghogha in the 14th century. Thus from his capital Pirambet island did Mokhdaji traverse the Gulf of Cambay, and on to Dev Chatra, the capital of the principality of Rajpipla, high up in the Western Satpuras, to wed his second wife, daughter of the Parmar chief Chokrana. It is a distance of about 100 kilometres along almost the same latitude.

Chokrana Parmar had no male heir, and so adopted his grandson Samarsinhji born of this wedlock. On succeeding Chokrana, Samarsinhji assumed the name Arjunsinhji, becoming the first Gohil Rajput ruler of Rajpipla, a dynasty that was to rule this kingdom lying between the rivers Narmada and Tapti for 600 years till merger with the Indian Union in 1948. Mokhdaji was succeeded by his elder son Dungarsinhji from an earlier marriage to a Sarvaiya princess of Hathasani. A few generations later, the chief Bhavsinhji founded a city after his name, and the principality of Ghogha came to be known as Bhavnagar.

Mokhdaji Gohil was a master at sea and controlled the trade on the Gulf of Cambay. Unable to defeat him in the waters, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq sent a large force by land. A fierce battle ensued, and eventually Mokhdaji was martyred in 1340, revered to this day.

Ghogha continued to be an important port over the centuries, and now once again replicates the mediaeval sea route eastwards from Gohilwad in Saurashtra to the industrial corridor of modern Gujarat.

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