Historically Junagarh is well known in India. When plans of partition of India based on religion were drawn the then ruler of Junagarh - the Nawab, had opted for joining Pakistan. However, the majority of the people of the state of Junagarh voiced against the line of thinking of their Nawab who finally went on to join Pakistan, of course, without his state or its subjects. That is the historical significance of Junagarh. The tourism department of 'incredible India' fame, however, does not accord that prominence to Junagarh, the tourist spot. That is evident from the state of neglect which the tourist attractions in Junagarh are in. The star attraction there - The Mahabat's mausoleum (or Bahauddin's is it?) is as photogenic a structure as the Taj Mahal in Agra but it doesn't seem to have drawn even a fraction of attraction and care of the Indian tourism department. It is a magnificent structure and deserves a lot more protection.

The old fort atop a small hillock called Uparkot (meaning the upper fort) is spread over a large area with a high boundary wall still intact. In olden times the habitations were set up inside forts protected by huge boundary walls. This fort has two step wells (Gujarat has many and none is less than a jewel in its crown. The Rani ki Vav (The Queen's Step-well) at Pattan and the Adalaj vav and Dada Hari vav in Ahmedabad are some of the famous tourist attractions). The Adi-Chadi vav and the Navghan Kuvo are deep rock-cut water sources (step-wells) built in the 11th century AD. The legend has it, as the guide was telling me, that once upon a time there was a severe shortage of water and despite cutting deep into the rocks people couldn't find a trace of water. Then an astrologer is said to have made a prediction that water would appear only if two virgins were sacrificed. That done, water sprang up and the Adi - Chadi vav, named after those two sisters Adi and Chadi beheaded at the altar, never went dry despite many severe droughts in the area. I wonder if man has completely left those barbarian beliefs behind.

Then there is the palace inside the fort which the erstwhile Hindu kings have built and later on where the Muslim conqueror reigned from.

There are also two canons on display overlooking the present day township. The larger of the two was acquired from Turkey by the Nawab and the other, smaller one, brought from the adjoining island of Diu. The latter is said to be Portuguese made.

The Girnar mountain faces the fort and the view from the there is attractive. This Girnar range extends more than 100 km southwards and the famous Gir forests, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion, is part of this range. It is a string of peaks, the highest being 600 metres, revered by the devout as a pilgrimage spot. Jain and Hindu temples dot the hill and as many as 14 Rock Edicts of King Asoka (250 BCE) are inscribed in Pali language on huge stones and rock faces along the way to the summit. You will have to visit Junagarh in December - January if you'd like to venture a trek to the top of the mountain. They say it takes a minimum of three hours to negotiate the 10,000 steps to the top. And in Gujarat summer starts fairly early and the heat becomes unbearable in February itself. I visited Junagarh in the last week of March when day time temperature was touching 42 Celsius. Certainly not a desirable time of year for scaling mountains.

As you come down from the Uparkot on the road to Girnar, you can see one of the Asokan Rock Edicts well preserved by the tourism department.

My Visit

Since I thought of doing Junagarh after I had drawn up the detailed itinerary of my seven day Gujarat tour, it had to be squeezed in with only one day stipulated to do the destination. I didn't feel any shortage of time covering all the important places including the museum. At 9 in the morning I got into an express train at Somnath (80km) and by 10:30 I had hired a three-wheeler at Junagarh. I took my time and did all the places at leisure before catching a bus at 5 p.m back to Veraval from where my onward journey was scheduled.

I strongly suggest Junagarh to be a part of any tourist's itinerary that plans visiting Gujarat.