Junagadh is a perfect getaway for anyone who has even a bit of interest in architecture and heritage. Junagadh is all about beautiful medieval mosques, ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, Gothic archways, beautiful mansions, and off course splendid Jain Temples on Girnar Hills. The town is a fantastic chapter of history to discover.
Located in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat somewhere 50 km from the only left abode of Asiatic Lion in Sasan Gir, this heritage town derives its name from the old fort that surrounds the medieval part of the city. All through history, Junagadh had a very checkered past that ended with the unfolding of dramatic events while India gaining independence. But above all, it has a timeless allure to win the charm of even the most discerning traveler.
Wandering around the grand Indo-Islamic structures along the bustling street of Junagadh is a sheer delight. The rich cultural fabric of this historic settlement is spotted in and around its myriad of landmarks that have grown and flourished over hundreds of years, giving shape to this fantastic city. Amongst its innumerable sights, definitely Uparkot or Upper Fort is the most imposing one and making its presence felt for over 2000 years. It is believed to be built by Chandragupta Maurya in 319 BC. The fort has long, bloody history. It was captured 16 times before being overpowered by surrounding jungles between 7th and 8th centuries when it was abandoned. Later, Mehmud Begada (Sultan Abu’l Fath Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah I) won the fort. As you enter the fort there is a beautiful ornate triple entrance gateway which leads to the ruins inside where lies the ‘Nilamtope’- a cannon acquired by the Nawab of Junagadh from a Turkish sultan, the ‘Adi Chadi Vav’ and ‘Naughan Kuva’ – two step wells, the latter with a superb staircase winding down to the water level over 52 meter below and 1500-year old Buddhist caves. This offers great views of Girnar Hills. Constructed during the British period, the Welington Dam supplied water to the city and the fort. After a long haul of sights and scenes at Junagadh Fort, the Dam is a cool and calming place to chill out in evening.
There is a group of mausoleums built for the Muslim rulers in the 19th century. The tomb of Mahabat Khan I built in 1892 is the most magnificent of the lot. The mausoleum has imposing carved silver doors, its splendid minarets, and winding staircases. The Durbar Hall Museum which houses a vast collection of memorabilia from the royal courts, silver chains, thrones, crystal chandeliers, palanquins and elephant howdahs makes for an interesting viewing. Jami Masjid another wonderful landmark which rests on 140 pillars.
Mount Girnar will surely be the highest point of your trip to Junagadh. The hills are believed to the most sacred place for the Jains. A cluster of 16 beautifully carved marble shrines set atop these 600 meter high majestic hills. The tenacious climb begins at the sacred Damodar Kund after which you’ll have to climb over 10,000 uneven steps to reach the highest point. It’s a long journey and, therefore, must be started early morning. And as you start climbing up you’ll encounter the Emperor Ashoka’s Edicts written in the Brahmi script of the Pali language which encourages people to follow the tenets of Buddhism. Built during the 12th century, the earliest Jain Temples set about two thirds of the way up. While climbing up the temples appear as if they are popping down through the window between the thick clouds. As you arrive on the top, you’re welcomed by some of the most intricate stone carvings and beautiful temples. Once you set inside it is complete silence – the silence of devotion and belief.
There’re many more fascinating places in and around the city. And when you are in Junagadh it is a must to give a visit to the world famous Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the only left abode of the Asiatic Lion. Besides lions, the sanctuary is home to highest number of leopards in India. Therefore, if you really want to spot big cats, there can’t be a place better than this sanctuary. It is only around 55 km from Junagadh and can be covered in a day’s trip.
How to Reach
The closest airport is at Keshod some 40 kms away, but it would be best to check before if flights are actually operating to this airport. The other airport is Rajkot 107 kms away.
Junagadh is connected to Ahmedabad by train.
From Ahmadabad it is 377 km to Junagadh via Rajkot.
One can get autos or hire taxis in Junagadh. But it may be best to have your own vehicle. Most of the government maintained places remain closed on Wednesday.