Mahabat Maqbara Junagadh
Dwarka to Junagadh: Two direct busses (9:30 AM & 1:30 PM). Else get a bus to Porbandar and then change to Junagadh.
Dwarka to Porbandar is a scenic sea side drive through the back waters and estuaries. Coastal side of Gujarat is also dominated with Wind-mills on the rocky patches. Before Porbandar lies Harshiddhi Mata Temple which is another holy site of the region and blessed with picturesque setting. Temple lies on a hill-cock overlooking the backwaters adjoin the Arabian Sea and a bridge over the creek which could have been a river.
Bridge near Harsiddhi Temple
Finally we touched down to Porbandar after some 3 hours of journey. Porbandar is the coastal town of Gujarat and primary known as the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi.
** Dwarka to Porbandar: 104 km, 3 hours, 73 INR **
Porbandar to Junagadh can be a tricky ride during late hours and luckily we managed to get the last bus to Junagadh.
** Porbandar to Junagadh: 100 km, 48 INR, 3 hours **
City of Junagadh
It was already dark in Porbandar and further east was darker…. By the time we reached Junagadh, everything was closed except a nasty lodge in front of the Bus stand and ironically it was the only option for us to get a shelter that night and we agreed on it overcoming unwillingness… boiled eggs became our dinner though it was already morning…
Jungadh from Uperkot
Typical breakfast of Saurashtra
Kadanal Gun Uperkot
Day once dawned and we vacated that clumsy room. It was Junagadh waiting for us and we hit the road. The fortified city of Junagadh is primarily visited by the pilgrims for sacred Girnar hills which is a home to many Hindus and Jain temples, scattered around the hill. Junagadh has got plenty of impressive archaeological sites of historical importance and a perfect town for meaningless meandering.
Mahabat Maqbara Jungadh
In the search of break-fast we stumbled upon an impressive building in the midst of ignorance where kids were playing cricket and damaging the beautiful architecture. It was Mahabat Maqbara. Built in 1892 over the grave of Nawab Mahabat Khan 2 (1851-82), this tomb is a mixture of Islamic, Hindu and European influences typical of late 19th century royal monuments of Junagadh. Notable European features are the floor-to-lintel French windows and the gothic columns alongside the doors are windows. Similar European influence can be seen in royal buildings of many other princely states of India built around the same time.
Cricket and the heritage of Saurashtra
Junagadh is a cricket fanatic town with matches going on in all the streets…Mind the ball… I am passionate about cricket but at the same time I am also passionate about conserving heritage…If we cannot be part of restoration then at least we should avoid being detrimental to these stupendous buildings which do not speak and will never speak….I hope you understanding what I am trying to convey…
Streets of Junagadh
While navigating through the streets of Junagadh, we stumbled upon some striking structures, ruins and relics. Junagadh is architecturally quite rich. We headed towards Junagadh museum which is one of the major attractions of the town but was not yet open so we walked uphill towards Junagadh fort which is also known as Uperkot Fort. This ancient fort traces back to 319 BC and associated with many legends. It’s also said that entire fort complex were overgrown by Jungle once and rediscovered later. Uperkot fort complex houses some of the fascinating archeological wonders of Junagadh. Archeological sites are dispersed around the fort complex which is largely dominated by overgrown jungle.
Overgrown forest inside Uperkot Fort
Visiting hours of Uperkot Fort: 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM. Entrée fee is 2 INR per person.
From Fort entrance we took the anti clockwise trail which touches two water reservoirs and leads to Kadanal Gun which is salvaged from a lost battle. Like the Neelam and Manek nearby, this gun may have been left in Diu by the Turkish navy sent to help Sultan Bahadurshah against the Portuguese in 1538 A.D and brought here later. The barrel is delicately ornamented towards the front. Towards the rear, inscribed in Arabic is the name of Ali Bin Sarja, Possibly the gunsmith who cast it sometime around 1530 A.D. The gun is 3.90 meters long and has a girth of 1.75 meters. Rampart of the Uperkot fort overlooks the city of Junagadh.
From the base of Navaghan Kuva
Negotiating the tract of thick bushes which is grown besides the fortification, we reached to the other side of the fort fronting the Girnar hill. Walked inland towards the center and reached Navaghan Kuva, another archeological wonder of Uperkot Fort. Navaghan Kuva is often referred as precursor to a step well. This well is named after Ra' Navghan (A.D 1025-44). To his reign probably belong the built parts of the huge forecourt through which the well is reached. Steps, first straight and then traverse, descend around the shaft in right-turning flights. Opening in the side walls let in light. The well itself may be much older than the built-up forecourt. Some scholars believe it to be the oldest example of step well.
Steps to Adi Chadi Vav Junagadh
Close to Navaghan Kuva lies Adi-Chadi Vav which is another fine step well of Uperkot fort complex. This 162 stepped well 81m long, 4.75m wide and 41m deep, is cut in virgin rock. It has none of the usual constructional elements such as Kutas (Pavilion towers) bracing beams or niches.It's location in such complex geological strata reveals the skills of the water diviners of its period of construction. With no distinctive architecture, icons and inscription, dating is difficult but this may be one the earlier vavs known. On the way to Jama Masjid lie Buddhist caves, the only Buddhist finding inside the Citadel.
Underground Buddhist Caves Uperkot
Entrée fee for Buddhist Caves: Indian (5 INR), Foreigners (100 INR), Video Filming (25 INR)
The Buddhist Caves, Uperkot, Junagadh
This important rock-cut group of caves is located at the Uperkot ridge across an eastward slope leading to the Adi-Chadi Vav. These Caves are scooped in three tiers from surface downwards, with all members of each gallery shown in semi-relief.
Buddhist Caves Uperkot
There are three rock-hewn chambers, each open to the skies. A winding flight of steps from the south leads into the first chamber, which is a pond with a covered corridor around it. The pond got water directly from the rains as well as from the elaborate system of vertically-cut drains and cisterns on top surface joined to the pond.
Water Reservoir in the backdrop of Girnar hills
Only two of the storeys have regular floors. The main hall of the lowest storey is partly open to the sky and contains exquisitely carved pillars, whose base, shaft and capital contains unique decorative designs. The pillars, having spiral ridges on their shafts, Octagonal plinth base and florally ornamented capitals carrying animal figures, etc. Partake in the main satvahana art traditions on one hand, and in the exotic graeco-schythian trends, on the other. Further, portrayal of representing the "Malvahakas", the garland-bearers, amongst the art forms, is a typical Buddhist decorative theme from Gandhara and Andhra. All these traits suggest heyday of Satavahana art inspired by exotic elements of Scythian and graeco-roman contacts. Stylistically, the caves are datable to circa 2nd century A.D.
Excavation of cultural debris that had accumulated on the ground, with the caves buried underneath, has revealed the Kshatrapa pottery at its earliest level, besides coins etc. All Datable to circa 3rd-4th century A.D
Carvings on the wall of Jama Masjid
finally it was Jama Masjid, the key highlight of Uperkot Fort. This 15th century mosque is a type rare in India. Its courtyard has a roof with three octagonal openings. Over these there may have been raised domes resting on pillars. The main entrance on the east is one floor lower than the prayer hall. The Mihrabs, Jharokhas and bands on the outer walls show the influence of local stone carving traditions. A Mihrab is a niche marking the qibla-the direction of Mecca. In Indian Mosques this is on the inside of the western wall.
Neelam and Manek Guns
Neelam and Manek Guns are positioned in front of Jama Masjid and look over the city of Junagadh. These Guns were used against the Portuguese in Diu in 1538 A.D by the Turkish naval force under Suleman, invited by the Sultan of Gujarat. The Turks were defeated and left the guns behind. The guns (Cast in A.H 937) were later brought to Junagadh and installed here. Sultan Bahadurshah, who invited the Turkish intervention, had already been killed by the Portuguese by the time help came.
Girnar Hill from the Roof of Jama Masjid
Traversing through the monuments on Uperkot Fort was quite enriching and delightful. We also graced our thirst with watermelon and other fruits to cool off on that sunny day. Later we descended back to the main street towards Darbar hall Museum.
Central hall inside the museum
Darbar hall museum was established in 1977. There are five galleries in the museum. This museum is famous for its royal treasure of Nawabs reign. In this museum silver object, chairs, oil paintings, diwalgiries, weapons, textiles objects, Hodah Palanquin, Ambadi etc are displayed. One can understand civilization, history, knowledge etc, through museum objects. This museum provides education to visitors of human civilization through various artifacts.
Visiting hours: 9:00 AM to 1:15 PM & 2:45 PM to 5:45 PM. Closed on Wednesday, 2nd and 4th Saturday and Government holidays.
Fee: 5 INR for Indians, 2 INR for educational Institutes, 50 INR for foreigners, 100 INR for photography.
The Darbar hall or "Kacheri" is the main part of the museum's display. It incarnates a picture of royal court as it used to happen in the past. The majestic meeting place of Nawab with his ministers, earls, officers and guests, as an administrative assemblage or ceremonial gathering to ark special occasions. The hall is a rare combination of typical European and Nobel Saurashtrian tastes.
Palanquin inside Darbar Hall museum
In this hall, various kinds of wooden, glass and silver coated furniture is kept. This furniture represents the best craftsmanship of Silver-smith in foil mounting on carved wood as well as repose work of late 19th century. With artistic designs of floral and faunal motifs viz those of Gir Lions. The woolen rug carpeted in hall was woven in Junagadh jail. The fabulous grandeur of cut glass mirrors, chairs, tables etc from Belgium and a glass tree of fountain shape called Istanbul adds glamour to its magnificence. Huge colorful chandeliers and wall sets in floral shapes from Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, France and England are hanged to the ceiling of Gigantic Hall.
Umbrellas inside Darbar hall museum
The Corridor displays the mementoes, gifts and felicitation letters presented in honor of Nawabs by their subjects. Artistic clocks from France, Caskets, betel boxes, Hukkas, scent boxes, etc and a tusk shaped fish bone-horn are curious attractions in this hall.
City sightseeing of Junagadh was almost done so we headed to further attractions those lie in and around Girnar hill. Enroute we stopped at Ashokan Rock Edicts (2 km from Museum) which is on the way to Girnar Taleti. The 3rd century B.C saw extension of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka's rule over Saurashtra as attested to by his famous fourteen rock edicts at Girnar, Junagarh. Ashoka, the great (273-232 BC), choose slopes of the Girnar (Or Urjayanta) Hill, and got his fourteen rock-edicts engraved on the north-east face of a granite boulder at the foot of the hill. Besides these rock edicts the same boulder also contains two more inscriptions of two other illustrious rulers of ancient Indian History, Namely Mahakshatrapa Rudradaman (130-150 A.D) and Skandagupta (455-467 A.D). All these inscriptions were first reported by Tod in 1822. Composed in the Western dialect, probably in "Ujjaini" and engraved in "Brahmi" script, these fourteen rock-edicts of Ashoka variously record royal orders against slaughter of animals; promulgation of royal dharma comprising respect to parents, economy in cost of living, kindness to animals etc; transparency in public works; caring for all communities; avoiding extremes in anything; preference to visiting the aged and holy spots over hunting; courtesy to elders; following righteous path of living; practicing true detachment; exercising restraint of speech; following the policy of forbearance; and so on so forth.
** Entrée Fee for Ashokan Edicts: 5 INR for Indian, 100 INR for foreigners, 25 INR for filming.
Inscriptions on the rock
The other two inscriptions of later Rulers, amongst other things, also record the storm water of the rivers of Suvarna-Sukta and Palasini rushing down to the hill slopes and periodically damaging the dam of the famous lake called "Sudarshan" lake. They together provide the history of the dammed lake-its original construction and restoration caused by Vaishya Pushyagupta and Suvishakha; the local officials under Chandragupta Maurya (323-295 B.C), and Ashoka; and later by parnadatta the provincial governor under skandagupta with the help of his son, Chakrapalita.
Girnar Hill Junagadh
Ashokan edicts are an unusual archeological site which casual visitors might not appreciate. It is sullen and requires an earnest effort to comprehend it fully. It is quite a site for archeological scholars. Finally we hit to the most revered site of Junagadh… Girnar Hills.. Home of the important pilgrims sites both for Hindus and Jains, Girnar hills are considered sacred and famous for its myth and legends. The tallest of the mountains rises above 1100 meters and can be approached by 10000 stone steps. Climbing Girnar hills was not in the plan but I proposed a shorter trip to some 2000 steps just for the sake of quenching curiosity. Ideally the trek should be started early in the morning so cutting it short was the only option. It’s a typical pilgrim’s trail always vibrant with religious chants and fringed with stalls selling idols of God and Goddesses. Trail is also fringed with snack stalls serving varieties of cold beverages and fruit products. We climbed some 2000 steps…enjoyed the panoramic view of the hills in the backdrop of distant city and then receded back to the town.
City of Junagadh from Girnar Hills
Last but not the least, I would like to mention delicious Gujarati Thali which I took that afternoon in a restaurant opposite to Bus stand.. Truly fulfilling meal… we folded the belongings and catch the bus to Sasan….On the way to Gir National Park…
Pillars inside Jama Masjid Uperkot
Trailing Gujarat Series: In Chronological Order