Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

THE HISTORIC, ARTISTIC AND ARCHIOLOGICAL TREASURE TROVE OF VADNAGAR


Amidst all tall buildings, industries, concrete roads leading to a developed future; Vadnagar is a place that is still dipped into the richness of the past. It is ancient city in Gujarat that can boast of human inhabitation over a period of more than 4500 years of human history. Vadnagar, the original home of Vadnagar Nagar Community is situated in Mehsana district. The existence of the city has its mention in various scriptures. It has stood to be a strong and prosperous town since centuries. It seems that the city is set on an elevated land’ but the elevation is due to the several settlements that were built and destroyed since its inception.

ANCIENT VADNAGAR

Situated on the banks of a river, the city consists of the richness of tales from the bygone era. It is believed to be one of the oldest and developed cities in India. It has its mention in scripts and epics like Skanda Purana and Mahabharata. The city was given different names during various centuries like Chamatkarpur, Anandpur and Vimalpur. It is also believed that the famous Chinese Traveller Heuen Tsang explored the place during the 7th century. Various cultures and religions have been set up at this place over centuries. Jains, Buddhists, Nagars, Brahmins etc. have had their traditions spread here for years. The city once used to be a Jain centre and it is believed that remarkable Jain monk Bhadrabahu wrote the famous Kalpsutra here. It was an important place of education with many Jain and Buddhist monks who provided their learning here.

Vadnagar is a land of many legends, starting from Rishi Yagyavalkya, Satyaki and Kirtivarma (Anarta warriors) in Mahabharata had their dwelling in Vadnagar. At present Vadnagar celebrates Tana Riri festival which is a remembrance to Tana and Riri two Nagar sisters. It is believed that the Tana and Riri were two sisters who beautifully sang Raga Malhar to call the rains and relieve Tansen from the burning sensation that he had developed by singing Raga Deepak. Even today we find a Samadhi of the two Nagar girls.

There is one more story of King Chamatkar who was suffering from leprosy due to a curse from a she-deer. As per the advice of the munis, the king took bath in the famous Shankhtirth during the 14th month of the Hindu calendar that cured his leprosy. Thereafter, the town came to be known as Chamatkarpur.

Vadnagar was attacked several times by the sultans and the Marathas. However, the city grew back to light and showed an increasing progress.

VADNAGAR EXPLORATIONS

Vadnagar has been a city of temples. There are innumerable large and small temples in the city. The most famous of all temples is the Hatkeshwar Temple built 400 years ago. Built after the Solanki era, this is one of the most important and grand temples in Gujarat dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temples might have suffered several attacks as it has been renovated time and again. It is enclosed by a high wall surmounted by three circular domes. From the roof of the sanctum rises a massive pinnacle, which soars high above in the sky. It is said that the shivalinga here is self emerged. The exterior of the temple is exquisitely and profusely ornamented with figures of the nine planets, regent deities, the chief gods of the Hindu pantheon, scenes from the life of Krishna and Pandava princes, besides the varied animal and floral motifs. Apart from the main Hatkeshwar temple there are several other temples in the compound like Kashivishveshvara Shiva Temple, a Swaminarayan Temple and two Jain temples. All these are the age old temples that give you a feel of the ancient architecture and design.

There are several other temples in the city that belong to various eras. In all these temples you can see ornate carvings of the celestial beings. The doorframes, the pillars and the domes of the temples depict the marvelous minutely carved designs. It is a wonderful place for artists and architects.

The most outstanding historical monuments of all are the Torans or the Victory Arches. Many arches are built up on the shore of Lake Sharmishtha by the Solanki rulers. These arches date back to the 10th century. They are called victory arches as they were erected as a symbol on getting victory from the north east occupiers. Built from red stand stones, more than four feet tall arches are a treat to watch. However, some archeologists believe that these torans are remnants of forts. If excavated properly several mysteries might be revealed.

The entire town has six protective walls around it built in 1152 Ad by king Kumarpal. The inscription on stone plaque at ‘Arjun bari’ gate near Sharmistha Lake bears a testimony to this fact. The other five gates were Nadiol, Amarthol, Ghaskol, Pithori and Amatol. Several excavations are a worth watch. In all they throw a light on the bygone era. The recent excavations have brought to light Buddhist Monastery belonging to the 2nd-7th century AD, within the fortified area of Vadnagar. The monasteries had two stupas and the open courtyards having nine cells. These cells create a swastika like pattern around the central courtyard.

It is difficult to find a place in Gujarat which has made its mark since the ancient era. Also it is a land of several communities and traditions. However, it is a place not only dipped in religious aspects but also depict the architecture, culture and tradition of various eras.

Also you can visit the beautiful Taranga hills situated 20 kms from Vadnagar. It is a beautiful picnic spot situated on Aravali hills.

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SASAN GIR: THE BEAUTY OF THE BEAST


STROLLING THROUGH THE COASTAL EDGE OF GUJARAT –PORBANDAR


 

Several great personalities have been born on the land of Gujarat. But for free India, Mahatma Gandhi is one of the eminent names in giving a free life to the Indians. Mahatma started his struggle from the place he was born –Porbandar. Situated between Dwarka and Veraval, Porbandar is a small beach side town. Earlier it was called ‘Sudamapuri’. It was named so because it is believed that Sudama, Lord Krishna’s friend lived here.
Porbandar was a rich port that belonged to Jethwa Rajputs who ruled the vast area of Kathiawad for nearly 2000 years. Many prominent personalities are attached to the ancient city. It is not only the land of Mahatma Gandhi but even Swamivivekand had done much of his research here. Moreover, Rabindranath Tagore visited the city for a considerable period of time. The city used to be a prosperous trading centre conducting much commerce with the Arabian and the Persian countries.

THE CITY

Porbandar is an ancient prosperous town and due to its prosperity, it has several places of attraction. Structures throughout the city display the architectural beauty. Till date on either side of the road one can see magnificently carved windows and gateways which speak the architectural language of the olden era.

Kirti Mandir is the most important attraction of Porbandar. It is a place where Mahtama Gandhi was born in 1869. The mid 19th century Haveli of the Gandhi family has three stories around a courtyard with a kitchen, 17 rooms and a wooden shrine. Kirti Mandir is constructed adjacent to the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. It contains a library with books on Gandhism, a spinning hall, a children’s nursery and a lovely prayer hall. In the prayer hall of the Kirti Mandir of Gujarat prayers of all faith are regularly organized.

Huzoor palace is perhaps the most impressive structure in Porbandar. The massive structure built in the European style is situated at the edge of the sea. It has several massive windows and wings overlooking the sea. The palace was built by Natwar Shah, the then ruler of Porbandar. Sprawling gardens and fountains add to the beauty of the mammoth structure. Just by having a glance you might take it as some European Palace. The neo- classical pillars and the porticoes with a semi circular design, the terraces with beautiful rails and the slopping timber roof are the notable parts of the palace. The architecture, beauty, and the picturesque view of the sea attract a large number of tourists to the Huzoor Palace. Being located on the sea side it is visited by both residents and visitors of Porbandar.

Daria Rajmahal is another important palace of the city built by Maharaja Bhavsinhji in the 19th century. Standing on the edge of the Arabian Sea the palace shows the influences of the Arabian culture. However, some parts of the palace are Italianate in style with an interesting blend of Renaissance and Gothic touch. The interiors of the palace like chandeliers, painted murals and the European furniture are eye catching. Moreover the town hall and other public buildings are also no less in terms of architecture as they were made under the watchful eyes of the Maharaja. It is crowned by a tall tower that offers a marvelous view of the palace courtyards, the beach beyond, and the sea. The palace has now been converted into a college.

The land of palaces and forts has one more fort depicting its fortune. Darbargadh is a fortified palace built by Rana Sartanji. Stone carved entrances, wooden doors and windows are a part of the attention seeking entrance. The large mansion and courtyard are a beautiful example of Guajarati wooden carving. Moreover, the fort has several bastions, 3 small gates and 4 main gates. The main gates are Porbandar gate in the west, Kathiawar Darwaja in the east, Halar Gate in the North and Junagadh gate in the south. The smaller gates are Sita Bari, Bhinji Bari and Darbari Bari. One can approach the palace through Darbari bari, a beautiful entrance resting on the brackets adorned with four elephants with the jharokhas adding to the beauty. The palace resembles the Navlakha palace in Gondal. The palace is made to resemble a jewel box. It is designed with complex geometric designs, sculptures of musicians, intricately carved pillars decorative kanguras and horizontal friezes.

Everything that was built in the city during the ruling era has a royal touch. Even Grishmabhuvan, a pavilion built by Maharana Sartanji provides the glimpse of the Rajput architectural style. The three-storied summer pavilion has exquisite pillars, impressive domes and delicate arches. It is divided into four parts depicting four seasons. It was a kind of asylum for the Maharaja away from the crowd of Porbandar.

Over and above the palaces and forts, it is interesting to know that Porbandar is the only city in the country which has the temple of Sudama, the close friend of Lord Krishna. The beautiful shrine constructed between 1902 and 1907 is situated in the center of the city. While constructing Sudama Mandir there was a shortage of fund and hence in order to complete the structure people organized drama shows. There is a plaque in the temple depicting this entire course of events. The temple contains a maze. It is believe that crossing the maze washes all the sins of a person.

Another such shrine in the city is Bharat Mandir situated amidst a beautiful garden. There are a number of murals that depict the religious men and preceptors of India. There are beautifully matched mirrors in the temple which depict the Gods and legendary personalities from the Hindu Epics and the Indian Puranas. Here children can enjoy the distorting mirrors present in the temple.

PEEPING AROUND THE CITY

If one has a day or two more than Porbandar offers some beautiful places around the city. Wildlife lovers would not like to miss Kuchdi, a picturesque hamlet situated just 20 minutes away from the city. The place has a bird sanctuary and would be a paradise for bird and photography lovers. This is the only bird sanctuary in the state which is established very near to the city. The area supports good population of Flamingos and other resident and migratory waterfowl. In the past, flamingos had attempted nesting also.

If one is fond of viewing the age old constructions than Ghumli is the right place. It was once the capital of the Jethwas before they moved to Porbandar. The place is famous for its Naulakha temple, considered to be the oldest sun temple in India built around the 8th century, and the 12th century Vikia vav, with numerous flights of steps and string coursed carvings.

A 30-minute drive from Porbandar takes one to Barda Hills covered with forests where one can find the Khambala Dam with its intricate, decorated kiosks.

THE SILVER SCREENS OF GUJARAT


Gujarat is a state which is known all over the world for tourism. Like few places in the world, it is proud of the tall mountains, valleys, water resources, forests, wildlife, desert, palaces, temples and many cultural and diverse places. Gujarat has a rich history and many rulers have touched the throne of Gujarat, hence it is also known for its majestic beauty. Due to the geographical and historical location, Gujarat has been a favorable place for shooting. It attracts film makers, documentary makers and at times even advertisements are shot in the state. These locations have acquired fame and are thronged by tourists round the year.

VIJAY VILAS PALACE

We often get to see this majestic palace in Bollywood films. Vijay Vilas Palace situated at Mandvi was built in 1929 by Vijayrajji. The grand structure is made in Rajput style using red sandstones adding beauty to the monument. The main central dome, bastions, Bengal domes and color glass windows catch the eye of every visitor. The entire lush green surrounding can be observed from the top balcony of the palace. Bolywood blockbusters like ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Lagaan’ are shot here.
Mandvi also has one of the most beautiful beaches in India. Mandvi has a well maintained private beach situated along the palace. Many picturesque villages are situated nearby the palace which can be an appropriate site for a village seen.

GONDAL

Gondal has been a famous location for feature films, fashion shoots, TV serials and Gujarati films. Gujarat is one of the few towns of Gujarat that hold the real cultural heritage of the Rajput kings and the early rulers of Gujarat. Once the capital of a princely state, it was run by the Jadeja Rajputs, later overtaken by the Mughals and again recovered by the original rulers. It is a fortified town located on the river Gondali after which it was named. It was known as a model state of Saurashtra in late 19th and early 20th century.

The town offers a variety of heritage locations for various shoots. The Darbargadh or old palace complex, with its medieval walls and 1740s Naulakha Palace, is ideal for period films and Indian heritage fashion shoots. Riverside palace built by Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji in 1875 is a famous landmark of the town. The interiors are beautifully decorated with enchanting artwork and the furnishings are one of their kind. The Oxford Palace or the Huzoor Palace is a magnificent palace surrounded by gardens of fruit bearing trees.

The Orchard Palace of the erstwhile Maharajas of Gondal is very famous for film shoots. It has now been converted into a heritage hotel. Many scenes of the bollywood blockbuster ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ have been shot here. The scene in which Ajay Devgan pulls Aishwarya Rai down a flight of carpeted steps where the actress disturbs the antique wooden table and brass artifacts on the way to the entrance, feature few portions of the grand palace. The palace contains beautiful interiors that show a glimpse of both the British and the Indian culture. The ‘room of miniatures’ is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass, and antique furniture. The erstwhile princely family has a huge fleet of vintage and classic cars besides horse drawn carriages and rail saloons. An extensive collection of vintage and classic cars including a 1935 Mercedes, 1955 Cadillac limousine, sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s like the Mercedes 300 SL, Jaguar XK 150 and Chevrolet Camaro, a fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles from the World War II and post-war period and some contemporary sports cars can be seen.


WADHWAN

Rajmahal Palace in Wadhwan is situated in Surendranagar district of Gujarat. The huge palace is spread over an area of fourteen acres. The palace was built in the 19th century by H.H. Bal Sinhji. The most peculiar area of the palace is the Darbar hall with beautifully painted ceiling. The hall contains the royal throne and some portraits. Beautiful murals, rich velvet tapestries, huge chandeliers and antique furniture give it an imperial touch. In the pillared courtyard of the palace, the marble statues draw attention of the guests.
The palace has now been converted into a heritage hotel. The famous fashion feature ‘Lily takes a trip’ by Vogue was shot here in 2005. The famous photograph of a model standing on a spiral staircase with a long hanging gown is the part of this palace. Other historic buildings of Wadhwan include the Darbargadh fort, the Hawa Mahal, Ranakdevi temple and step well.

LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH

It is a delight to see vast open barren land spread kilometers together. The dessert looks splendid in moonlight. It is an extremely popular site for advertisement films, especially advertisements featuring cars and tyres. The advertisements of Tata Safari, Hero Honda and MRF Tyres are a few ads shot here. It also proves to be an exotic location for fashion advertisements and fashion photography. Shoots of Jade Blue’s shirts and Deepkala sarees for their editorial advertisements and hoardings also happened in the Little Rann of Kutch.
Besides the desert area, Rann of Kutch is also known for lakes filled with colorful birds. It also contains wild ass sanctuary and some beautiful traditional villages nearby. All these are a good location for shoots. The Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch has also been featured in the documentaries of BBC, National Geographic, Partridge Films, etc for its variety of wildlife.

BALARAM 

Balaram is situated near Palanpur. It is surrounded by lush green forests. Built around 1922-1936,it was a hunting retreat of Lohani Nawab of Palanpur. The area is spread in 13 acres on a hilly region. The palace is surrounded by lush green gardens having colorful flower beds. The palace is a graceful manifestation of neo classical and ornate architectural style. It is situated near the border of Rajasthan. Many villages, hills and rivers form a beautiful location for film shoots.
Balaram Palace has been a spot for feature films, ad films and TV serials. It is extremely popular for TV serials. Suryavanshi starring Amitabh was filmed in Balaram, which has many attractive locations like the palace, Chitrasani river, Jessore Hill and nearby villages. Now the palace has been converted into a resort.

RAJPIPLA

Rajpipla is a major city of the Narmada district in South Gujarat. Rajpipla is known for its grandeur as it contains beautiful palaces and grand ancient buildings. It is a famous location for the shooting of Gujarati and Bhojpuri films. Gujarati films are shot here since 1971; hence few also call it Gollywood. Now many Bhojpuri films are also shot here. The ‘Ab to Banya Sajanya Hamra’featuring Saira Banu and the first ever cross border Bhojpuri film Saiyyan Chitchor are a few amongst the movies filmed at Rajpipla. The location is often seen in TV programmes and serials.
Rajvant Palace Resort situated into Vijay Palace is most famous for shoots. The palace was built by Maharaja Chhatra Sinhji in 1910. The palace is surrounded by gardens and it has the view of the river from the rear. The drawing room has retained its original character with European settees and elegant tables. The pillars, Gothic arches and European domes are worth a watch. A number of old and new decorative objects and in brass, marble and ceramics decorate the hall. The other impressive palatial building of Rajpipla are the Vadia Palace called Gujarat’s Taj Mahal because of its magnificent architecture ,the Natvar Nivas which has beautiful murals and other works of art inside, and many others.

BEAUTY OF THE BARREN LAND


Places having mountains, valleys, beaches, culture and heritage, excavations, glaciers etc. get famous throughout the world. Apart from these places having tourists round the year, there is a place away from water and greenery and yet cocooned in its own beauty. Yes, it is the desert. Along with varied wildlife, beautiful beaches, mountains and shrine Gujarat is also blessed with the rare beauty of the deserts.

Little Rann of Kutch is situated about 93 kms from Ahmedabad. It lies in Gujarat along Pakistan border. The demography of the Little Rann of Kutch comprises of saline desert plains, grassland, scrubs, lakes and marshes. It is a geographically unique landscape that was once an arm of the Arabian Sea. As the land separated from the sea by geological forces, it became a vast, featureless plain encrusted with salt that is inundated with water during the rains. The land with beautiful sand carpet offers wildlife viewing opportunities, colorful villages, safaris and lakes. It is a unique place on earth with an unending possibility of exploration. It provides varied sites that become a part of an unforgettable experience.

HOME TO THE ENDANGERED

Little Rann of Kutch harbors the last population of Asiatic Wild Ass. The sanctuary was established in 1972 and is known for its herds of the wild ass (Gudkhar). The brown creatures are not found anywhere else in India. Around 3000 wild ass live in this region and most of the time they are spotted in herds, especially during the breeding season. Apart from wild ass, the sanctuary is also a home to 32 animal species. The elegant blackbuck, nilgai, graceful chinkara, jungle cat, fox, wolf and many more species of animals can be spotted in the safari.

The place become a paradise for bird watchers during winters. Houbara bustard, sandgrouse, desert chat, desert wheatear, nine species of larks, quails, gray francolin etc are seen in the saline desert wilderness. One can also have the pleasure of watching Eagles, vultures, harriers and falcons hunt their prey. Thought a desert, there are small lakes surrounding the region like Nawa Talao and Vanod Saran. Flocks of water birds are found in this region like Flamingoes, pelicans, cranes, storks, ducks etc.

The Sanctuary has three main access points: Dhrangadhra, Range Bajana, and Range Aadeshwar. If you are planning to visit it during winter, Range Bajana is the best place as you can get closest to the migratory bird from this point. Whereas, Dhangadhra being a bigger town will provide easy transportation and accommodation facilities.

Exploring nearby villages is a good option apart from the sanctuary as the place is a home to tribal groups. The traditionally built houses, paintings and dresses fill color to the beautiful picture of the desert. The Rabari and Jath women embark various tattoos; wear large beaded necklaces, ornamental jewellery made from lead, white metal, iron and silver.

Zinjuwada, bang on the edge of the Rann, has an old, 11th century fort built during the Solanki era and houses one of the area’s largest salt works. On your way to or from the Rann, you can visit the glorious Sun Temple at Modhera and enjoy the delicately carved stone walls. There are some other national parks in the region including the Marine National Park and Nal Sarovar Park, which are rich in flora and fauna and are really worth a visit.

ACCOMODATION 

You will get many government guest houses. At few places you can also opt for the traditionally build huts and have a feel of the culture of the tribals.

WALKING AROUND THE STREETS OF THE NAWABI CITY


Each destination has its own peculiarity. Each travel place has its own marvel. A place is either rich in heritage, wildlife or possesses scenic beauty. But there are very few places on earth that contain all these exquisiteness. Gujarat is also proud to have one such place called Junagadh. Gujarat spills the colors of its heritage, wildlife and natural beauty through Junagadh.

Just like Porbandar which is known as the city of Sudama, Junagadh is the city of Narsimh Mehta, the saint poet of Gujarat who spent his whole life in Junagadh. It is located in the foothills of Mountain Girnar in Gujarat. In Gujarati Junagadh means ‘ancient fort’. Due to its magnificence, Junagadh acquires a notable position in Gujarat tourism.

GAZING TO THE PAST 

The name itself suggests that it is a city of the ancient era. The first inscription of the place was made in the days of king Ashoka. King Ashoka had stone edicts placed there that are even found today. Junagadh has been ruled by Mauryans, Kshatrapas, Guptas, Vilabhis, Chudasamas and Babi Nawabs. At different times in history, it was under the influence of four major religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Muslims. Political powers and religious influence enriched the culture. The edifices and architectural structures not only depict the royalty of various rulers but also give a glimpse of various religions and lifestyle of the ancient era. It was the capital of Junagadh state under the Muslim rulers of Babi Nawabs.

ROAMING THROUGH THE CITY

People visit Junagadh in order to have a glimpse of the magnificence of the historical structures. Apart from the monuments there are other places in and around Junagadh that are a must visit. The center of the city contains the main fort, Uparkot. The fort was built during the Mauryan period by Chdnragupta around 320 BC. Uparkot has been inhabited continuously since 3rd century BC. It is said that Uparkot survived 16 sieges in the last 1000 years due to its strategic location and difficult access. The entrance of Uparkot has a fine specimen of Hindu Toran, leading to flat land dotted with archeological sites.

Apart from the palace, one must have a look though the Buddhist caves. These caves are believed to have been built around 2nd century BC. Here, one can find the best rock cut architecture of the olden era with ornamented pillars, carved entrance and water cisterns. The dark caves take you to the monastic cells that were used for meditating. The town also owns Khapra-Kodia caves that are worth seeing.

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Every structure in Junagadh has an artistic architectural touch. Even the step wells here have some beautiful carvings. Adi-kadi Vav and Navghan Kuwo built by Chudasama Rajputs are unique water structures amongst the few notable step wells of Gujarat. Adi-Kadi Vav was built in the 15th century and has a long flight of 150 steps leading to water. Whereas, Navghan Kuwo built in 1260 AD, made up of soft rock is 52 meters deep.

The city underwent beautification in 1981-82 under the rule of Nawab Mahobat Khat II. He brought in the urban designs and also constructed edifices like Aina Mahal, Circle Chowk and Diwan Chowk. Other important buildings of the Nawabi period are Bahauddin College, Manoranjan Guest House, Mahobat Madresa (Narsi Vidya Mandir). The most interesting structures are the maqbaras (musoleums) of the Royal Family. All the maqbaras and architectural element expose the royal and artistic living of the Nawabi era.

The 14 rock edicts (257-56 BC) of the great Emperor Ashoka, inscribed on a huge stone in Pali script, inscription by King Rudradaman (150 AD) and Skandagupta (456 AD) are the proof of importance of Junagadh from ancient times.

Narsimh Mehta was the resident of Junagadh. He was a great poet and a devotee of Lord Krishna. Narsimh Mehta no Choro in the city displays the collections of his poetic discourses and Bhajans. Other places that one can visit are Sakkarbag Zoo, Welingodn Dam, Damodar Kund, Bhavnath Temple, city Rajmahal and Darbar Hall Museum.

AROUND JUNAGADH

Girnar: Girnar is a famous holy place for both Jains and Hindus. With number of temples on the mountain range, it has been converted into a township of temples. Girnar is a collection of five hills and on each hill there are five Jain temples built in the 12th century. It also attracts the Muslims due to number of mosques present therein. One can have the pleasure of watching mesmerizing sunrise and sunset from the mountain hills. Its five main peaks are named Ambaji, Gorakhnath, Oghad, Dattatrey and Kalika. Of these, Gorakhnath is the highest at 3,666 ft. The range of hills is spread over an area of more than 200 sq km.

Gir National Park: When it comes to Girnar how we can forget Gir National Park? Gujarat is proud of being home to the Asiatic Lions here. Here one can have the pleasure of staying overnight amidst the jungle. It is a very good site for camping and trekking. People around the world visit Gir to have a glimpse of the Asiatic lions.

Somnath: If you have a day more, you can visit Somnath which is just 79 kms away from Junagadh town. Somnath is one of the most sacred places for Hindus as it contains one of the twelve Jyortirlingas. Apart from Somnath temple one can relax and rejoice at Somnath beach.

PALITANA:AN ABODE OF GODS


The act of ascending a path to reach a place of pilgrimage is a part of Jain and the Hindu culture. Many of their temples are located on hills and mountain sides. Palitana, the place where the first Jain Tirthankar, Adinath achieved enlightenment, is the most important shrine for Jains.

The temple hill of Palitana is located at about 56 kms from Bhavnagar at the foot of Shatrunjaya hills with Shatrunjaya River flowing on the south. It is an architectural and sculptural marvel with several temples soaring into the sky. There are several tales which say that all the tirthankars apart from Neminath achieved nirvana here.

TALE BEHIND THE ANCIENT EDIFICE

According to history, Palitana got its name from Guru Padalipta or Politta. It is the largest cluster of around 900 temples housed on the hills. These structures have been built over a period of 900 years by various generations of Jains. The first temple is believed to be set up in the 11th century. Other temples continued to be built over next several centuries. Some temples were torn down and some were ravaged by thieves or non Jains. The temples that were built in the 11th century were invaded by the Muslim invaders during the 14th and the 15th centuries. The shrines that are found today belong to the 16th century and so on. The Jain tradition could flourish under the rule of Emperor Akbar who granted special status to Shatrunjaya and hence protected the area from falling under non Jain influence.

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A WALK AROUND THE PLACE

All hilly regions provide a spectacular view, Shatrunjaya hills is no exception. The hill is filled with beautiful temples on all sides. The hilltops are bounded by sturdy walls and the temples are grouped into nine enclosures. Each enclosure has several temples clustered around the central temple.

One needs to climb a total of 3800 steps to reach the temple. One gets to see beautiful structures built up with sandstones and some by marbles. It is a treat to watch different hues and colors from the top of the hill. Amongst all the temples here, Chaumukh temple is the most important. It consists of four-faced deity of Adinath enshrined on a marble pedestal in a shrine open on all four sides. Here each structure is topped by a dome and is situated in a large square. The innermost five domes indicate the five important hills of Jains. If observed from architectural view point, it has an impressive sculptural presentation. The pillars have wonderful curves decorated in floral pattern. The top of the temple also has beautiful decoration that defines the architectural creativity of the 17th century.

Adinath temple is another important structure. It is probably most profusely decorated in Palitana. The idol of the deity is carved from marble. Angar Pir a Muslim shrine near Adishwar temple is also a key place to visit. Childless couples throng the place. They offer miniature cradles in a hope of being blessed with a child. Other temples worth mention are the Sampriti Raja, Kumarpal, and Rampal.

Apart from exploring Shatrunjaya hills, one can also visit Valabhipur the ex capital of this region. It consists of the extensive ruins and archeological findings that are displayed in a museum.

Lothal, a site of the Indus Valley Civilization is 143 kms from Palitana so if you have a day more than Lothal is worth visiting that takes you into a different world of the by-gone era.

Just like Muslims who try to go for hajj once in a lifetime, every Jain tries to visit Palitana once considering its piousness. It has to be noted that several customs have to be observed as it is a sacred place. Moreover, no one not even the priests are permitted to remain on the mountain at night as it is an abode of Gods and they are not allowed to be disturbed.