The auto leaves me at the foot of the hills. As I make my way to the hills, there are shops on both ends which sell tapes, cds, pictures of deities and other things that you would find in shops near temples. Apart from that, they were also renting lathis or sticks which one could use to climb the hill. Even though no one as young as me was holding one, I thought I’d go for one. I thought I would need one in due course of time as I had a slightly heavy bag to carry too. The stick costed me Rs. 20 out of which Rs. 10 was refundable once i returned the stick.
As I enter the hill, it’s a series of steps in front of me. I thought the steps would be for some distance after which the real hill would start. But later on it turned out to be steps all the way to the top. So I went sprinting up the huge steps with all my might. After around 500 steps, I took my first break, had a lemonade and then moved up. After I reached 800 steps, it was time for the next break.
One good thing about the hill is that after every few steps, there’s a lemonade/cold drink/mineral water shops. The bad thing however is that they sell Bistar and Blisteri brands of mineral water. I get a cold drink at my 800 step break and ask the lady at the shop how many steps were left. She asked me where I wanted to go and I replied that i had no clue, which really was the fact. So she enlightened me that there was a jain temple after 4500 steps, an Ambadevi temple at 5000 steps and at the top, a Shiv temple which was a whopping 9990 steps!
800 steps and I already was exhausted. I thought of calling off the plan. I thought I’d return down and go back to Ahmedabad or plan anything else to do. But something made me go for at least the Jain temple. Let’s say shame. Later I decided to move slower and take fewer breaks in between. But as per my plan, I moved slower but against the plan, I again took a lot of breaks in between. After around 2500 steps, I take a long break and nearly doze off when a man comes and wakes me up for no reason. He said chalo so I thought I’d get started again.
As we climbed the stairs he asked me where I’d come from. On saying Ahmedabad, he replied saying Nagpur, Maharashtra as though I couldn’t even take my wildest guess at where Nagpur was. He asked me where I was headed. I said, I guess the Jain temple. He said ‘Now that we’ve come here, we must go all the way to the top’. ‘We’ll do it together’. So We continued climbing the stairs.
After a few steps, an old white couple was climbing down. He stops them and asks ‘aapke desh me aisa hai?’. No points to guess who had to translate it. They replied no, they had the Eiffel tower but it couldn’t be compared to this. ‘Vous avez francaise?’ I said to which they were really happy. They said they hardly got to hear any French in India to which I replied Nous ne parlons pas francaise a l’inde, we don’t speak French in India. Mr. Nagpur interrupted by saying there’s some temple in Maharashtra. Now I had no idea how I would translate that. So I explain that he’s come from Maharashtra, a state south to this state of Gujarat and he’s saying about so and so temple which he says is a must visit. Just as i completed the translation, I could see Mr. Nagpur gathering his thoughts and itching to ask his next question. I hurriedly look at the couple and say ok then... bye, au revoir. The reply au revoir with a smile and I get moving along with the Nagpur baggage.
A few steps later, I take a picture of the cliff. Just as i do that, Mr. Nagpur says ‘arre unka photo lene ka tha’ you should’ve taken their snap. I said there was no necessity for it. So he called out to the couple who were a few hundred steps below ours. ‘Hello Sir’ he called out. I didn’t even look at his face and went sprinting. I have no idea how but the next 1500 steps was a piece of cake. I only stopped on seeing an entrance which looked like the entrance of an ancient house. As we move through the door, we reach a couple of Jain temples. The temples display striking architecture and intrinsic carvings which are a delight to the eyes. Moreover, they’re very peaceful inside; something I’ve always liked about Jain temples. So after a short visit to the Jain temples, I decide to go downhill. Let’s just say I got over the shame.
While moving down, the energy level was not much of a problem as it was to control the speed of descending. There was this urge to keep jumping the steps and roll down all the way to the end. But there was something strange about my knees trembling during the descend. I don’t know if anyone else felt it. So I had to take a few breaks in between. I had planned at doing it with just one break. But I had to take 2-3 more. There was something about the starting 1000 or so stairs. They’re the hardest to climb up or down. Don’t ask me the logic. By the way, I met Mr. Nagpur while descending. He was still going up. He luckily caught someone else to bore.
Once I finished the trek, It was 1 pm. So I take an auto back to the Junagadh railway station. I decide to take the next train/bus to Ahmedabad. I had a ticket for 915 pm but decided to cancel that and go for the next train/bus instead. On my way to the railway station, towards the end, I ask the autowallah about places to visit in Junagadh. He took out a card with some 7 places of interest in it. He said he would show me around the places in 3 hours if I didn’t have to catch a bus or train immediately. So I agreed and decided to take my 915 train.
Just opposite the railway station, is a monument known as the Sardar Patel Gate. The gate with a clock on it looks like the entry into a fort. As we move into the area, he shows me a monument to my side. He said it wasn’t on the itinerary but it’s a beautiful monument. I couldn’t disagree on the fact that it was beautiful. But I couldn’t believe how it couldn’t be on the itinerary. The Mahabat Makbara looked like a decolourised Constantinople.
The Makbara of the sixth Nawab of Junagadh, Mahabat was a specimen of medieval Islamic architecture in India. Besides the Nawab’s Makbara was another equally beautiful Makbara of his Prime Minister or Vazir Bahauddin. The minarets to the Makbara were straight out of a fairy tale. It was as if Rapunzel would out of the blue, let her hair down from one of those things.
I would next be taken to the Sakkarbaug Zoo. As I had just visited the Gir Sanctuary the previous day and I knew I couldn’t expect anything more from the Junagadh zoo as compared to the Delhi Zoo, I just click the picture from outside. The next was a Narsinh Mehtaji ni Choro. I have no idea what that is. The autowallah told me about it but even that didn’t seem to help. Because I thought it was a temple dedicated to the Narsimha avatar of Lord Vishnu. But the idols inside turned to be of some other deity. Nonetheless, I move on with the itinerary.
The next site would be Uparkot Fort. I had to hire a guide for Rs. 100 which is compulsory at the fort. The guide tells me the for was built over 8000 years ago by Maharaja Ugrasen, the maternal grandfather of Lord Krishna. After a grand archway through which we enter the fort, the guide shows me around the place. He shows me a wall besides me with no signs of plastering or joining or bricks or rocks of any kind. He said the entire fort was carved off a hill! Surprisingly the reason to believe him was right in front of us, though a lot more of reasons and evidence was destroyed by the Nawabs who would rule Junagadh and destroy the fort around the 15th-16th century.
The fort covered a distance of 6 kms inside, out of which the guide would show me some 6 places of interest. The first was a pathhar ki khai, a big hole dug in stone. Apparently, those stones were used to build the surrounding fence of the fort. The hole was then filled with water and dangerous animals were reared in them for protection of the fort from any attacker.
The next things shown were two cannons. They were brought from Iran by the Nawabs of Junagadh. The larger one had the Nawab of Ahmedabad, Ahmed Shah engraved on it. The next thing to be shown was the Queen’s palace during Maharaja Ugrasen’s reign, which was later converted to Jumma Masjid. The guide told me that a few pillars inside the palace, which served as a temple mandap were broken and placed on top of the palace to give it the appearance of mosque with minarets. The palace also had a couple of tunnels that led to places 5, 10 and 20 kms away, the 10 km away one being the Jain temple I had earlier visited atop the Girnar hills. One interesting trivia that the guide told me is that from the palace, the Girnar hills resembles the face of a sleeping man. I’ve tilted the picture of the hill so that you could see a man’s face on the hill.
The next to be shown were Buddhist caves. During the Ashokan reign, he built caves in his kingdom all over the country, where people could meditate. The well lit cave was supposed to be very peaceful but thanks to a bunch of school kids who came out of nowhere, there was none of it. They were getting their pictures clicked instead of the caves.
Next was the Adi Kav Well. The 162 stepped well was completely carved out of rock. 81 m long and 41 m deep. The sides of the wall resembled the grand canyon. Many of the withered rocks have now been replaced by new stones. Especially on the staircase. But it makes for a beautiful view. The well had pure drinking water at one point of time. Now, all it had were bottles, plastic bags and pigeon droppings. The 162 step climb took a toll on my already tired legs and I now quickly waited for the fort to finish and soon, it did.
Next, I was shown the Swami Narayan temple, a Gayatri temple and a Damodar Kund, three popular temples in the area. Another important sight shown was an Ashokan Edicts. The boulder kept during the Ashokan era had engraved messages of various teaching of Buddhism. But unfortunately they were in the ‘Brahmi’ script which is not known today. It is believed to be written in the Ujjaini.
After having seen all the ‘places of interest’ in Junagadh, I spend another 3 hours at a cyber cafe to while time while waiting for my 915 train. Anyone who knows me would know that 3 hours on the internet is not much of a task for me. But anyways, I was in no condition to walk or move anywhere. So I get the train right on time and sleep in no time. Thanks to the 4500 steps!