Monday, March 3, 2008

Junagadh- the city of legends

Sunday, 02.24.2008, 09:58pm (GMT-7)
An ancient fortified city rich in myth and legend, Junagadh lies at the foot of Girnar Hill and takes its name from the 'Old Fort' which circles the medieval town. The Girnar Hills stands from 2500 years BC having a legend of the rimes of the emperor Ashoka (250 BC) whose fourteen rock edicts can be seen cut into a great rock outside the city.

Junagadh breathes history. These edicts, set up by Ashoka, the Great Indian emperor, date back 2200 years. Within this ancient fort of Uparkot, the architectural marvels of Hindu Chudasma rulers and Muslim Mohmud Beghda coexist in perfect harmony. The majestic Mohabatkhan Maqbara, a memorial to Junagadh's Babi Ruler and the Veritable Darbar Hall Museum show that Junagadh continued to make history untill as recently as 100 years ago.

History: An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built by the Mauryan Chandragupta in 319 B.C.E.. It was covered over for 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 C.E. It was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period. One unsuccessful siege lasted twelve years.An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder within 2 km of Uperkot Fort.

The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and date back to 250 B.C.E. On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 C.E. by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, a member of the Western Kshatrapas dynasty. Another dates from about 450 C.E. by Skandagupta, the last Gupta emperor. Old rock-cut Buddhist "caves" in this area, dating from well before 500 C.E., have stone carvings and floral work. There are also the Khapra Kodia Caves north of the fort, and the Babupyana Caves south of the fort.

The Maitraka dynasty ruled Gujarat in western India from 475 to 767 C.E. The founder of the dynasty, general Bhatarka, a military governor of Saurashtra peninsula under the Gupta empire, established himself as the independent ruler of Gujarat approximately in the last quarter of the 5th century. However, James Tod states Maitraka rule ended as early as 524 C.E.

Mughal rule: Zaid Khan Babi, who had owed allegiance to the Sultan of Ahmedabad, founded the state of Junagadh by expelling the then Mughal governor and declaring his independence in the 18th century (1748 C.E.). He assumed the name Zaid Khan when he came to power in Junagadh. The Babi Nawabs of Junagadh went on to conquer large territories in southern Saurashtra. It was rising of Babi dynasty. His descendants ruled over the state for the next two centuries, first as tributaries of Baroda, and later under the suzerainty of the British. Nawab of babi dynasty.

British rule: The British East India Company took control of the state in 1818, but the Saurashtra area never came under the direct control of the British. Rather, it was divided into over one hundred princely states right up to Independence. The present old town, developed during Chhatri of Lord Swaminarayan's Charanavind at JunagadhOn the land presented by Jinabhai (Hemantsingh) Darbar of Panchala, Lord Swaminarayan got constructed a huge temple at Junagadh by Sant Brahmanand Swami and installed Radha, Ramandev, Ranchhodji, Trikamji and Siddheshwar Mahadev with Parvati Devi in Vikram Samvat year 1884 on the second day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh (Vad 2), on Friday, May 1, 1828 A.D.

Places to Visit
Uparkot Fort: Famous in by gone times for its virtual inaccessibility, the Upar Kot or Upper Fort is girdled by a wall that is, in some places, over 20m high. An ornate entrance gateway leads to the ruins. A mosque still stands in a state of preservation. A Nilamtope (canon) was acquired by the Nawab of Junagadh from a Turkish Sultan. There are also two stepwells, Jama Masjid and Buddhist caves in the fort premises.

Chorwad Beach: 66 Kms. from Junagadh and 23 Kms. from the fishing centre of Veraval, Chorwad is a delightful resort on the sunny coast of Gujarat. And an excellent road connects it to Junagadh, Girnar, the Gir Forest Sanctuary and the famous temple of Somnath.

Sasan Gir Forest & Sanctuary: It is situated 65 Kms. from Junagadh via Keshod (where there is an aiport). It is connected both by Rail as well as Road. Sasan Gir Sanctuary provides refuge to that rare species-the Asiatic Lion. The sanctuary covers an area of 500 sq. miles of dry, open scrubland where the lions roam freely. They can be seen on guided jeep tours through the jungles.

Ahmadpur Mandvi: Close by the sea, with an option to entertaining oneself lazing on the beach, swimming or enjoying water sports facilities, Ahmedapur Mandvi is one of the finest beaches of the country.

Damodar: A sacred tank marks the ascent to the Girnar temples.

Ashoka's Rock Edicts:On the way to Girnar, fourteen rock edicts of the Emperor Ashoka can be seen inscribed on a great boulder. The inscription carry Brahmi script in Pali language and dates back to 263 B.C. On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit.

How to get there ?
Air: Nearest Airport is Keshod 40 km.. Daily flight from Bombay to Keshod.

Rail: 395 km. from Ahmedabad, meter gauge line.

Road: 400 km. from Ahmedabad via Rajkot, Junagadh and Mendarda, 43 km. from Veraval and 65 km. from Junagadh Via Mendarda.

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