The Port of Mandvi lies almost one kilometer from the Gulf of Kutch in the state of Gujarat, India. Located about 52 kilometers southwest of Bhuj on the south banks of the Rukmavati River, the Port of Mandvi was a major seaport and trading post built by the rulers of ancient Kachchh, who used the port as a summer sanctuary. With a four hundred year old ship-building industry, the Port of Mandvi still manufactures small vessels.
In 1581 AD, Rao Khengarji, the first Jadeja ruler of Kutch, established the town of Mandvi. He built a fort (some of which is still visible) that surrounded the city. The early fortified town had a wall of about eight meters high and 1.2 meters thick. Although much of the wall has disappeared, it originally had many gateways and 25 bastions. Today, one of those bastions is used as a lighthouse.
Soon, ship-builders were constructing small country craft in the Port of Mandvi. The town was at the crossroads of the spice trade route and the desert camel caravan route, making it an important trade center.
Before steamboats appeared on the seas, the Port of Mandvi was a prosperous town with most of its revenue coming from exports. During that era, it was the Kutch state’s profit-making center, more wealthy than nearby Bhuj.
By the 18th Century, merchants in the Port of Mandvi shared ownership of a 400-vessel trading fleet that traveled to the Malabar coast, the Persian Gulf, and East Africa.
In the early 1800s, the Port of Mandvi was an important entry point for goods from Marwar, Malwa, and Sindh on their way inland. The ships built in the Port of Mandvi sailed as far as England. Today, the master carpenters apply those traditional ship-building techniques to construct fishing boats.
During the colonial era, European powers controlled most of India’s main ports. Yet, the kings of Kachchh and the Port of Mandvi were well-respected by foreign traders, even the Mughals who used the port for pilgrimages to Mecca as well as for imports and exports.
Today, most of the Port of Mandvi’s industries are small in scale. Leading industries are bentonite mining, fishing, traditional ship-building and production of edible oils, cotton goods, household Bandhani (a form of tie-dye), and sweet farshan. Modern Mandvi is also home to many modern windmills that generate power.