Lakhpat – The City of Millionaires

Lakhpat, which literally means ‘city of millionaires,’ is a fortified town that sits on the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch at the confluence of Kori Creek and the Great Rann. On its west is the Arabian Sea and Bhuj lies 135 kilometres southwest.

According to popular lore, Lakhpat was named for Ras Lakhpatji (1741–1760 CE) who founded the city.

In the eighteenth century, Lakhpat was a thriving port city on the banks of the Indus River. Caravans from the Indian hinterland and ships from across the Indian Ocean brought riches –  goods that contributed to revenue of one lakh kori (the former currency of Kutch) during its period of prosperity.

A fortified city

Between 1801–1808 Jamadar Fateh Muhammed, the military commander of Maharao Raydhanji III (1778–1833) fortified Lakhpat to repel frequent attacks by the Kalhos and Talpur Amirs of Sindh.

The fortifications extend for 7 km, enclosing the town and rising as high as 112 metres. The thick wall has four nakas (gates), two baris (wicket-gates), and 24 watchtowers.

The fort gained prominence during the regency of Jamadat Fateh Muhammed. Its magnificent gates—Bhuj Varo Nako and Katha Varo Nako—connected the region with sea routes that facilitated cultural and economic exchange.

An old fort wall
A section of the gated wall at Lakhpat-Fort (image courtesy: Suman Bajpai)

A maritime past

Lakhpat’s exposure to the influences introduced by its mercantile activities is enshrined in monuments to maritime trade and cultural diversity. They bear testimony to the prosperous heritage of a late-medieval cosmopolitan ethos.

After the earthquake of 1819, the Indus River changed its course and the town and its port went off the trade map. But its relics continue to remind visitors of a rich and glorious past.

You can experience the town’s charming beauty in the bylanes of the Lakhpat Heritage Walk which offers 16 points of interest.

A remains of an old town
The Lakhpat Heritage Walk (Image courtesy: Suman Bajpai)

Lakhpat Heritage Walk

 The walk begins at Gurdwara Pehli Patshala (which means Gurdwara of the First Master.) According to folklore, Guru Nanak visited Lakhpat during his second and fourth pilgrimages to Mecca. The house where he is believed to have stayed was later converted into a gurdwara. The building holds relics such as a decoratively carved bookcase and two pairs of wooden sandals, said to have belonged to the Guru and his son Srichand.

The Gurdwara complex comprises a main building with a courtyard and a gateway. The gateway, on the western side of the complex, is a double-story structure with a large pointed arch entrance and massive wooden doors. The internal and external walls have paintings in line patterns with floral motifs around the openings and select areas of the walls.

Reloics inside the Gurdwara Pehli Patshala in Lakhpat  town
Inside the Gurdwara Pehli Patshala which houses relics believed to have belonged to Guru Nanak and his son Srichand (image courtesy: Suman bajpai)

Akbani Mahal  consists of a complex of five interconnected single- and double-story houses that belonged to the five Akbani brothers. These gorgeous wood-and-stone-carved homestead with connecting courtyards represent the architectural intricacies and craftsmanship of the late 19th century. They stand as a living symbol of the Memon community which actively participated in trade  and stored a range of goods used for charity inside their homes.

The Custom House was one of the main administrative offices of trade in Lakhpat up until the 1980s. In this mid-19th century building, traders paid duties on incoming goods, which were subsequently sold to wholesalers or transported to the interior of Kutch and neighbouring regions. An ornate window on its side served o feed draught camels.

Next on the list is Pashamwala House, or Parliament House, which functioned for years as the office of the Collector of Customs.

A place of pilgrimage

Not far away is Hatkeshwar Temple, built by the Nagar community in 1850 and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Nagars, a Hindu community who are thought to have come to Gujarat via Sindh, used the temple for their Nagar rituals. Today the temple also welcomes other communities to offer pooja.

The Dariyasthan a family shrine of the Lohanas who worship the deity Dariyalal, lies beyond the Chabutra and Old Lakhpat House. The Lohanas were a Kshatriya community, who formed a significant proportion of Lakhpat’s population.

The next stop is Ghaus Muhammed no Kubo – the tomb of Ghaus Muhammed, a holy man revered by both Hindus and Muslims. He lived in Lakhpat in the early 19th century. A Sufi pir, he was known for songs about Krishna and was reputed as a healer. After his death around 1855, his brother Bava Miyan began building the edifice. The tomb is ornamented with traditional floral motifs and inscribed with passages from the Koran. Artisans from the Sompura community, the traditional temple architects of Gujarat and Rajasthan, carved the Kuba. It is believed that the water in the Kuba changed colour when it was blessed by the Pir and that, bathing in it can cure skin ailments.

The image shows an old brick tomb
Ghaus Muhammed no Kubo – the tomb of Ghaus Muhammed, a holy man revered by both Hindus and Muslims (image courtesy: Suman Bajpai)

The Bibidullah port alludes to the mystical romance between Bibi and Abdullah, and stands 4 km from the fort gate, Katha Varo Nako. Ships from Sindh, the Persian Gulf, and East Africa, and other parts of India, unloaded and loaded cargo that was transported to and from the town in carts.

Shah Abu Tarab Dargah another attraction on the walk is a place of pilgrimage associated with mystical healing powers and divine blessings. The building—an intricately ornamented stone-carved structure with a wood-carved door and a large central dome surrounded by eight smaller domes—is also known as Lakhpati Masjid.

Walking through Old Matam and Paani Vari Bari, you reach Jageshwar Temple. It was originally a memorial built by the Gosai community to their ancestor Sura Dada, who died fighting the Mughals. A small stone image depicts him in battle, sitting astride a horse with a spear in hand.

Havelis and tollbooths

Bhatia Havelis and Krishna Haveli reveal the dominance of Bhatias, a Hindu community in the region at that time and showcase their maritime heritage. Besides the beautiful havelis, this affluent community built a Dharamshala outside the fort walls as lodgings for traders and travellers to Lakhpat.

The walk ends at Bhuj Varo Nako a gate situated in the southern fort wall on the road from Bhuj. Once a booth stood here to collect tolls and customs from visitors and traders. Along the road, running north-south, was the original fort wall, believed to have been built by Rao Lakhpatji in the mid-18th century.

Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 17 books on different subjects and translated around 160 books from...