Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shock & Awe at Junagadh

From : The DNA
2 Nov 2014

EAT AND DRIVE :- Shock & Awe in Junagadh

The Foodie & The Fotographer – Kim & Brajesh go Road Tripping through Gujarat.

Junagadh is often overlooked by most travelers to Gir or Somnath as a tiny town that you pass along the way. However, it is the most undiscovered and untapped gem of Gujarat for us. We have never found tourists (local or foreign) here, except for the pilgrims visiting Mt Girnar, inspite of the town housing multiple sites of interest from Buddhist and Mughal time periods too.

The journey to Junagadh from Ahmedabad, via Rajkot is around 317 km and takes roughly 5 hours, unless you decided to break at Rajkot / Khamabaliya or take a detour into Gondal.

Junagadh means “Old Fort” and this little town has been ruled in turn by the Mauryas, Maitrakas, Solankis, Chudasamas & Mughals – each of whom have left behind a bit of their history, architecture and aesthetics.

For a regular tourist, the main place of interest is the Uparkot Fort which was virtually inaccessible when it was built. Today, you can drive your car right into the fort and actually drive around it. The entry is on the narrow side, but an SUV can get in easily, as long as you come to an understanding with any driver approaching from the opposite direction.

Inside the Fort, the largest spot of interest is the 15th C. Jama Masjid which is itself built like a fort. Its covered courtyard is a unique feature in Indian mosque architecture. Be adventurous and climb up to the higher floor on the rickety stairs. The views are most definitely worth it and you can take multitudes of profile photos (which is what most of the visiting kids end up doing)

The oldest part of the fort is its Buddhist caves that are 2 – 3 stories underground carved out of monolithic rocks. You may feel that there is hardly anything to see and everything is faded, but remember that these caves are almost 2000 years old and use your imagination to visualise what it would look like in its heyday filled with Buddhist monks.

Hire a guide if you would like to hear the mournful story of Adi Kadi – the sisters who were sacrificed, so the stepwells would fill with water. Or have your picture taken astride a stuffed tiger with a BB gun in hand to resemble a shikari of yore, or scramble down the Navghan Kuvo which provided the fort with water in case of long sieges.

There is a snack shop opposite the Adi Kadi Vav, who sells packaged namkeen and cold drinks and you will often find street vendors selling seasonal fruits and cholafali or singdana. You may also find a lady selling local herbs and spices, be wary of what you buy, we found that the aroma of everything vanished even before we returned to Ahmedabad.

Just walk around this whole place and take it all in and enjoy the beauty of the fort and its magnificent backdrop.

Come back towards town and head to the pinnacle of Islamic Architecture in the State – the Mahabat Maqbara, with its external spiral staircase encircled minarets - from the Babi period, but built with a mix of European (Gothic columns, French windows), Hindu and Moorish influences. Climb up one of those staircases for some brilliant views and pictures of the Mahabat Maqbara and the neighbouring Bahauddin Maqbara which is also extremely picturesque.

Stop for lunch at Petals in Lotus Hotel for a pretty decent Indian meal with usable bathrooms. It’s also a good option for an overnight stay with comfortable rooms.

After lunch head towards Mt Girnar/Neminath which is home to Jain & Hindu temples, Buddhist Cave shrines and even a Dargah of a Saint. The Amba Mata Temple is sacred to newlyweds, Guru Dattatreya Temple is built on the spot where he performed severe penance to Lord Shiva for 24 years and Kalka’s peak dedicated to Kali Ma and the resort of Aghoris are the most famous. The annual Girnar / Lili Parikrama is a festival spanning 7 days and involves walking 36 kms and climbing 4000 steps upto Girnar Taleti and most pilgrims do this over 3 days.

If this is not your cup of tea, just drive up to the furthest point and stop to visit one of the few surviving Ashokan Rock Edicts from 3rd BC along the way.

If you spend more time in the city, the other spots of interest are the Sakkarbaug Zoo – which has an excellent conservation program with Asiatic Lions, Narsinh Mehtha no Choro, Bhavnath Mahadev Temple, Willingdon Dam, Datar Hill or the Darbar Hall Museum.

If you want to extend your trip to Junagadh, you can head off on a spiritual quest for God at Somnath / Dwarka or find God in nature at the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.


Uperkot Fort
Entry – 4 wheeler with passengers – 40Rs.
Entry – 2 wheeler – 5 Rs

Most sites are open from 9 – 6 and entry fee if any, is 5Rs per person.

Read the entire article on the DNA Website.

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