From Veraval we drove to almost a 100 km to Junagadh and first landed at Mahabbat ka Maqbara.
Tomb of Wazir Bahaduddinbhai Hasainbhai
Its location is quite a play on your senses – right opposite the Junagadh District Court – it has accused individuals, their distraught families, busy lawyers, the alert police force all bustling just opposite this calm witness to it all.
Tomb of Bahar-ud-din Bahar
It is hard to believe that such grand structures are mausoleums. The first one seems like a brilliant front for a Gothic library and the second for a palace- however they house the tombs of Wazir Bahaduddinbhai Hasain bhai built by the King Mahabat Khan of Junagadh and another of Bahar-ud-din Bahar respectively. Its Indo-Islamic, European, and Gothic architecture is attributed to it being constructed in a time when Junagadh was one of the princely states under the British empire in the late 1800’s.
It is remarkably easy to stand and stare at the buildings exteriors, arches, French-style windows, columns and doorways with the intricate work on them a feast for the eyes. The 4 minarets around the tomb of Bahar-ud-din Bahar have staircases winding in the opposite directions of each other paint a picture in symmetry and elegance.
Just beside them is the Juma Masjid built even earlier in the 1400’s by the founder of Ahmedabad – King Ahmed Shah. It has a vast courtyard and also has the minarets with the winding staircases- though a tad less impressive than the ones on the mausoleum.
The Narasinh Vidya Mandir just beside Jama Masjid is itself a heritage building that impressively has withstood the ravages of time and continues to function as a school.
From there we drove on to the Uparkot fort. The fort which is at the center of the city but accessible via narrow roads whose traversal is left to the mercy of the herds of cattle who make themselves very comfortable in the middle of the narrow alleys. Also waiting for them is futile since they have no intention of moving for your automobile to pass by.
The entrance of the 2000 yr old Uparkot fort would welcome you with ancient carvings of the Gods Hanuman and Ganesh. is 150 ft high. We were accosted by a “guide” at the entrance and were soon joined by 2 young police recruits as they too explored the area with us.
History: The fort is said to have been built by Chandragupta Maurya but renovated after it fell into disrepair. While the entrance to the fort is via the bustle of the town, all other sides are covered by lush green forests and the sounds of peacocks interrupted the silence ever so often.
Guide Hearsay: The guide claimed that the fort was built by the father of Kans(the legendary villain of the story of Krishna) but either he was wrong or it was built by Raja Ganesh of Dinajpur in Bengal, who was referred to as Kans by Muslim historians due to his persecution of Muslims. The only other connection I could actually find is the legend is that the king of Jungadh was King Revat whose daughter married the brother of Krishna- Balaram.
Legend: The legendary beauty Ranak devi was wooed by both the Chudasama king Khengara and the Chalukya king Jayasimha. Her wedding to Khengara threw Jayasimha into a rage. The route to the fort was divulged to Jayasimha by 2 nephews of Khengara who had been unfairly accused of improper intimacy with the Queen. Jayasimha with their help entered Uparkot and won the battle against Khengara, killing him in the process. Meanwhile the nephews also led Khengara to the palace of the queen. To avoid any further vengeance by the young sons of the queen, he killed them and took the queen to be his wife. She however escaped via a secret tunnel and instead choose to immolate herself (commit Sati) on the pyre of her husband thereby ending that tale. According to the guide, the nephews were also killed by the King Jayasimha and buried under the underground granary knowing that they betrayed their own king and could similarly betray him someday.
Guide hearsay: It is believed that there were originally houses built over the granaries to prevent them from being easily found.The reserve food there also helped the people in times of long drawn war.
Note: The fort as it is today, is not as large in terms of areas to explore today as most forts, so we’d recommend you take a picture of the map at the entrance and make your own way in. We had a guide but we could have easily skipped it.
The first thing one would encounter is the Jama Masjid which is said to have earlier been the Queen Ranakdevi’s palace that was converted to a mosque by the King Muhammed Begda when he conquered Saurashtra. The insides of the mosque are therefore different from typical mosques since it has several pillars holding up the roof.
A lady inside the premises had setup a tiny makeshift stall with sweetmeats and small books in Gujarati. She inquired if I’d buy some of the items she had to which I smiled and refused. Then she attempted to start a conversation too but my non-existent knowledge of Gujarati failed me and I mumbled that I didn’t speak the language. She picked up 2 sweets made of tamarind wrapped around a stick and offered it to me- when I insisted that I didn’t want to buy it- she gestured that she wanted me to just keep it anyway as a little something from her. Needless to say I was moved by her graciousness. Every single time on our journeys we end up receiving the richest gifts from the simplest folk.
From atop the palace/mosque one is treated with an uninterrupted view of the Girnar hill, of which, if an image was rotated vertically, could be imagined to be the shape of a man’s face. It is also called Revatak Parvata in view of the story that the king of Jungadh was King Revat whose daughter married the brother of Krishna- Balaram.The hill is a popular pilgrimage spot with a cluster of Jain and Hindu temples atop it that can be reached with an ascent 10000 steps. It is also known for the Aghori ascetics who reside there and apply funeral ashes on their person and in general embrace everything society discards or fears. There are edicts inscribed on rock dating back to 250 BCE near Girnar in a language similar to the ancient language of Pali too.
Guide’s heresay :It is believed that the King Ashoka circumbulated the Girnar hill in repentance for the lives he took during Kalinga war after which he converted to Buddhism.
In the fort premises,it was the first time we’d encountered cannons with actual names assigned to them – Neelam and Manek who had traveled all the way from Cairo before making their way here to defend the kingdom against the Portuguese.