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JUNAGADH & GIRNAR

The second most sacred hill for the Jain is Girnar near Junagadh. There is a motorable road between Palitana and Junagadh which passes through a desolate landscape. If you travel via Rajkot, you will come to Jetpur, an old walled town. After Jetpur the sleepy Junagadh and its remarkable Fort Uparkot (Upper Fort) come in view. Over the centuries, enemies had laid siege to this fort but it remained impregnable. An Anhilwad Patan king once attacked Junagadh to win the Raja's wife. He won the battle only because one of the Raja's ministers betrayed him, but he could not win the wife of the Raja as she committed Sati (burnt herself on the funeral pyre) - an irony of the fate because it was the Raja's affair with the wife of the traitor that led to his revenge.

In places, the walls of this fort are as high as 70 feet, Ruins of buildings - some three-storey high - lie nearby. The only structure which is intact is a mosque built from an earlier Hindu temple. Some Buddhist caves show that there might have been a monastery here before its regal history began.

Junagadh Fort

The town itself is surrounded by the walls of the Junagadh Fort and is today a beautiful city with cool gardens. In the Sakerbagh Garden Zoo, you can meet some of the Gir lions, if you cannot make it to the Gir Forest to have a look at them.

Emperor Ashoka began the stone-written history of Junagadh on a boulder on the road from Junagadh to Mount Girnar. His 14 edicts in Pali are exhortations to virtue and assurances that he, "The Beloved of the Gods", is looking after all his subjects.

Amba Mata & Neminath Temples

Thick woods surround the road to one of the fine peaks which is sacred to the Jains. This hill has 2000 steps rising 600 metres. The temple on the top is called Amba Mata. The Girnar hill has a sacred tanks of Damodar Kund. Couples come here to worship, praying for a happy marriage. Below this temple is the biggest and the oldest temple (12th century) dedicated to the 22nd Tirthankar - Neminath. When a traveler to Gujarat, Joss Graham, clibed up the hill for the festival of Shivaratri, he slept there overnight. He woke up on the hearing the praying murmurs of the great mass of devotees - 100, 000 of them, in their communities and tribal groups. There is an image of Neminath in each of the courtyard colonnade's 70 cells.

The town of Junagadh is beautiful - with wide streets, arches leading to piazzas and shopping arcades. It splendour is more like an English factory city than a city in a remote corner of Gujarat.


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