During the days of sail, Mandvi prospered and was known for it’s superb sailors. Ocean-going merchant vessels of Mandvi travelled between Zanzibar in Africa and Calcutta in eastern India via the ports of Arabia, Persian gulf and the western coast of India, trading cotton, rice, salt and pottery of India for ivory, cloves and rhino hide from Africa. Even Vasco Di Gama is said to have used sailors from Mandvi to navigate the stretch from Mombasa to Zanzibar.
The Maharaos, Rajput rulers of Kutch, maintained a huge fleet of cargo, passenger and war ships. The Maharaos were respected even by the Mughals, for Mandvi was one of the few important ports in India that was not captured by the Portugese and other European invaders in the 17th century.
Mandvi therefore became an important trade post for Mughal India and an important harbour for India’s Muslim pilgrims to start their pigrimage to Mecca. In the 1760s, a ship of Rao Godji of Kutch is said to have travelled to England and back from Mandvi.
Mandvi is located on the banks of the Rukmavati river, barely one km away from the Arabian Sea at the Gulf of Kutch. The town has a very pleasant climate throughout the year. The establishment of the town dates back to the late sixteenth century (1581 AD). Mandvi was originally a fortified town having a fort wall of about 8m high and 1.2m wide stone masonary. The fort had several gateways and 25 bastions, but at present, most of the wall has disappeared. The bastion on the southwest is largest and acts as a lighthouse.
Mandvi is known for its 400 year old ship building centre. The local carpenters still make ocean going Dhows in much the same way that their ancestors had done a century ago. One can go and visit the men at work, shaping the great vessels with hand tools and coaxing the seasoned timber into shape. The carrying capacity of these boats can vary from 250 tons to 1000 tons. The predecessors of these very same ships had roamed the Indian Ocean and made Kutch a maritime power. Hand made models of these Dhows can also be procured from local artisans.
Mandvi is also interesting for watching and photographing birds like the flamingos, godwits, sandpipers, gulls. There are beaches in and around Mandvi.