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Vadodara

Vadodara, formerly known as Baroda, was once capital city of one of the most powerful and wealthy states in India. Today, it is a fast developing centre of industry and education on the lesser-visited south-eastern corner of Gujarat. Vadodara is not on the hard-worn tourist trail, and those that do make the effort are rewarded with a friendly welcome, a laid-back atmosphere and plenty to explore.

One of its most important attractions is the royal palace, Laxmi Vilas, where the Royal Family still resides. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century with a beautiful fusion of Indian architecture and European interior design as displayed by its use of pretty stained glass and Venetian mosaics, laid by Murano workmen from Venice. The Palace is quite a spectacle - four times the size of Buckingham Palace, it has a frontage over five hundred feet long.  It is set amidst a vast landscaped garden complete with tinkling Italian fountains and even a railway line which winds its way through the mango plantations - supposedly to transport the Maharaja's children to school!

Also worth visiting is the College of Fine Art which has an excellent reputation and attracts both Indian and foreign students. Set in the Sayaji Bagh, a large public park is the Museum and Art gallery whose collection includes European masters and Indian miniatures - a legacy of the once powerful royal family.

Vadodara also makes an excellent base for visiting the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Champaner and Pavagadh. The 8th century fort-city of Champaner is known as one of the 7 wonders of India, and shows the glorious past of Gujarat's lost capital. The most impressive monument is the Jami Masjid, an extremely well preserved mosque that details beautifully ornate carving. Rising above Champaner is the hill station of Pavagadh, surrounded by dense forest topped by a Hindu temple and pilgrim centre. Visitors can access by a pathway through the forest or take an exhilarating ride of the cable car ropeway.

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