Monday, July 13, 2009

Junagadh – Fort town of Gujarat, Gateway to Gir Forest.

The main attraction of Junagadh is Jain pilgrimage at Girnar hill. However, Junagadh is more known to tourists as the link Railway Station to Gir Forest.

History of Junagadh

Juna stands for old and Gadh stands for fort. In 1472-73 the Sultan of Gujarat Mahmmed Begra defeated Rajput king and took possession of Junagadh. In the Mughal era, the Mughal General Sher Khan Bari ousted Mughal ruler of Junagadh and became the Nawab of Junnagadh. The last ruler of free Junagadh, who was the direct descendent of Sher Khan, Nawab Mahbbat Khan Rosul Khanji joined Pakistan during the partition of undivided India. The Pakistani national flag was hoisted In Junagadh. But defying the atrocities of the Nawab, Junagadh joined Indian Union as an integral part of Saurastra. Nawab Mahabbat Khan took political asylum in Pakistan. After the reorganization of states, in 1960 Junagadh became part of Gujarat province. The history of Junagadh is quite. The stone inscriptions of 250 BC have been discovered in Junagadh. From 400 BC to 400 AD Junagadh was the capital of Gujarat in Buddhist-Maurya era.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Junagadh Fort – The main attraction of Junagadh

To the North East of the city Junagadh Fort is the prime attraction of Junagadh. It was founded by Rajput kings in the 9th century on Uparkote hill. Historians, however, believe that it was built by Chandragupta Maurya in 319 BC. However, it had undergone repair in 976 AD. Later the fort underwent repeated renovation in 1472, 1683 and 1880. The area of the fort became larger with the renovations.

Crossing past three well built and decorated gates through the 20 meter high enclosing wall, visitors enter the fort. The fort faced siege by raiders at least for 16 times, once for 12 long years. From 7 to 10th century, the fort was left condemned.

There are legends about the Fort:

“Adi Baudi Naogaud Kua Jo Ma dekha Jinda Mua.”

Means - while one is here in Junagadh but did not see Naogaud Kua is living dead!

Adhi Chadhi Bauri or the Vav is yet another attraction of the fort. It is said, there were two maid servants named Adhi and Chadhi. They were slaves who spent their lives in carrying water from the well. 127 steps down were the source of water or, well!

The Buddhist Vikshus (monk) caves inside the fort are most interesting. Possibly, some 1500 years ago, there was a well decorated beautifully carved Buddhist Vihara at Uperkote. However, caves of Ashoka's era were there as well. On the wall, petite images of Buddha are still there. The fort itself is destroyed. However, the Jami Masjid built by Nawabs on the Ranakdevi Mahal (Hindu temple) founded by Rajputs is still intact. The wartime store of the fort has now become the supplier of water in the city.

Another attraction of the fort is 5.2 m long Nilam Cannon with 25 cm diameter of barrel made in Egypt in 1531. A little smaller though, there is another cannon named Kadanal. Both the cannons had been used against Portuguese on 1538 war in Diu in favour of the Nawab by Turkish Admiral Sulaiman Pasha. From above the fort, the temples of Girnar are well visible by telescope. Guide is available to visit the fort and it remain open from 7-00 am to 7-00 pm.

Other places to see at Junagadh:

The second attraction of Junagadh is, on the way to Girnar, Solapuri. This is a beautifully enclosed huge cremation-ground in a sprawling garden. The environment is so heavenly that even Gods feel attracted to it. There are many beautiful marble statues. A little ahead on the right is the Stone Inscription of Ashoka. 14 commandments by emperor Ashoka to his subjects in Pali are inscribed on the block of stone 20 ft high in 250 BC. The Sanskrit inscription of Rudramma of 150 AD and the last Maurya king Skandagupta of 450 AD are also there. However, they are hardly decipherable. Visiting hrs 9-00 am to 12-00 pm and 3-00 pm to 6-00 pm.

Bajeswari Temple

On the hill the original image of the goddess is there and the Goddess is said to be responsive to devotees. The flights of steps go up to the door of the temple; at the foot, there is similarly another temple, a new one.

Damodar Kunda

Wayside, there is sacred Damodar Kunda—the holy shrine of Lord Vishnu, who is known to be equally responsive to believers. Centering the main temple, there is a cluster of small temples. Some entrances of temples are so low that you have to crawl inside. The springs are there close to the temple. Legend goes that the kund was created by the Lord Brahma himself at the time of Yajna and all the sacred streams of the universe run into this kund so that one will attain salvation by taking a holy dip here. Locals sacrifice the bones of the deads in the kund water after cremation. Beside kunda is Muchkunda Gumfa.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Rang Mahal

At the centre of the city at Dewan Chowk is situated the 19th century Nawab's palace, Rang Mahal. The Nawab was fond of dogs and had a pack of 800 with their separate rooms for living. The museum of the Nawab's Durbar Hall is full of wealth and treasure of antiques like armours and weapons, shields, dresses, ornaments, seats on elephant back (called hawdo), throne, luxury, articles, a store house of war materials and weapons. The Nawab's painting gallery is full of painted images of the members of the family. It was the Nawab who created history by hosting marriage ceremonies of his pet dogs with pomp and grandeur. He is portrayed with his pets and the portraits are all on display.

Visiting hrs 9-00 am to 12-15 pm and 3-00 pm to 06 -00 pm except Wednesdays, 2nd and 4th Saturdays. However, the palace now has been converted to Government offices. Clock Tower of the palace is also worth seeing. To the right of the palace is the Tourist Office.

At a little distance from the Railway Station, opposite High Court at M G Rd, the graveyard of the Junagadh Nawabs the Mahabbat Mokbara built in the 19lh century. The doors are all made of silver and the lattice works are outstanding. Visitors may go up to the top of the minaret by spiral flights of steps. Caretaker will help you with the key of the Mokbara available at the the adjoining mosque.

Sakher Bagh

At Rajkot Rd is situated Sakher Bagh, the charming garden created by the Nawab in 1863. There is a museum with paintings, archaeological collections, natural historical collections. The zoo garden of Junagadh is here in the Sakher Bagh housing the lion from Gir forest, tiger, leopard.

Except Wednesday, 2nd and 4th Saturdays, the garden is open from 9-00 am to 06-00 pm.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Other places worth visiting in Junagadh are 15th century tomb of great scholar Narshi Mehta, 259 meter long Willingdon Dam built in 1936, Vivekananda Udyan or the storehouse of medicinal plants and trees, a national park, the Muslim sacred place on Datar hill or the Darga of Maulavi Jamail Shah, famous for curing leprosy, Museum or Ayurvedic College at the Nawab palace at Sadar Bagh, Rupayatan Handicrafts Institute. There are Ranachhorji Temple, Swaminarayan Temple and Krishna Temple in Junagadh.

Visit Girnar Hill from Junagadh

How to reach Junagadh

From Ahmedabad, avail 9946 Girnar Express or 9924 Somnath Mail to reach Junagadh, Rajkot-Verabal Passenger reaches Verabal or Somnath in 2 hrs from Junagadh; there is also the Jetalsar-Verabal Passenger. Day and night bus service from Ahmedabad Bus Stand for Junagadh is available every hour; Deluxe buses also ply from Ahmedabad to Junagadh. The distance is 337 km.

From Rajkot at 10-55, 9838 Rajkot-Verabal Mail runs via Jetalsar/Junagadh. It's a 3 hrs journey, distance being 131 km from Rajkot to Junagadh. Passenger trains also ply from Rajkot at and reach in 4 hours to Junagadh.

Trains and buses come to Junagadh from Jetalsar, Delwada, Sasan Gir. From Somnath (79 km) buses and trains go to Junagadh via Verabal.

Buses ply towards different directions of the state from Junagadh—in every hour to Rajkot; Somnath-bound via Verabal hourly service; Sasan Gir at 8-45 am, 10-00 am, 12-30 pm, 13-30 pm; taking the tourists and visitors of Diu, Una-bound bus at 5-00 am, 6-00 am, 7-00 am; Palitana at 5-30 am, Bhuj at 5-45 am,7-15 am.

Share taxis are also available from Junagadh to Rajkot. Deluxe minibus of Raviraj Travels from Baibhab Hotel run for Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Porbandar, Jamnagar. Besides, there are private buses/mini buses from Central Bus Stand west of Chittakhana Chawk at Junagadh towards all directions.

Route-4 goes Girnar from south of Chittakhana Chowk. Nearest airport is at Rajkot. Tonga, taxi, auto, rickshaw plies in the city. Junagar can be toured by these vehicles.

Where to stay at Junagadh:

Pin Code:362001, STD code: +91 285

Sarada Lodge, Muralidhar Lodge, Muralidhar Guest House, Gila Lodge, Tourist Guest House, Sarkar Rest House, Monoranjan Rest House.

Though not so well linked, there is at Kalwa Chowk—Lake Guest House, Capital Guest House with common bath facilities.

Hotel National, Kalwa Chawk, Hotel Vishala, Ph:2633106, Hotel Vaibhav, 31 State Highway, Junagadh-1, Hotel Anand Ph:2630657, Hotel Relief, Dhal Rd, Ph: 2320280, they have a good reputation for their dishes.

Dilantin Guest House, Panchayat Rest House, Circuit House , Advance Booking: EE, PWD, Junagadh.

TCGL's Hotel Girnar, Majewadi Darwaja-1, Tele Fax 2621201,
Picnic Ph: 2630365
Hotel Raj, Dhal Rd, Chitta Khana Chawk, Majico Do Mar,

But one should first try to get accommodation at the Railway Retiring Room, it is decent.

Food : Near Railway station Geeta and Sharda; close by Relief are the reputed places where you can safely bet.. Don't forget to taste fruit product Keshwar Mango and Cheeku at Milk Shake.

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