We kept changing today's plans as we took to the road. Initial plan was to go to Dholavira - Gandhidham. Then changed it to Diu and set out to Diu. Half an hour from Ahmedabad, changed it again to Junagadh - Somnath after a long discussion with a friend. So Ahmedabad - Jetpur - Junagadh - Somnath it was.
The road from Ahmedabad to Rajkot reminded me of Chennai - Trichy highway. Same kind of traffic and scenery. Last 30 kms to Rajkot the roads had lost their top surface and it was a bouncy ride.
At Rajkot, the police stopped me and asked me whether I was carrying any liquor in violation of Gujarat's prohibition. I said no. They checked all the luggages and let me go. Thankfully they didn't check my instagram account.
First stop was Jetpur, about an hour's drive from Rajkot. Jetpur is famous for Bandhini Sari production. The Saris shop was a riot of colors. Unfortunately only a few shops accepted cards. (My experience with cashless India deserves a separate post).
After shopping we went to Junagadh. Had lunch at a Patel restaurant Junagadh before visiting the fort. They insisited us on having Gujarati Thali. It was not as bland as we feared. Only sour (or sweet) note was the Dal was sweet.
The Uparkot fort is an impressive structure maintained poorly. It is a huge fort and you have to drive inside the fort to visit all the monuments. A guide offered his services, but knew only Hindi. I asked for an English speaking guide and he responded "This is Saurashtra. Even Hindi speakers are few here. Where will you get an English speaking guide?" . So took him along with us and as he spoke in Hindi, she translated to me in English. That's how I learnt the historical fact that Bollywood actress Parvin Bhabi's father was the Dewan of Junagadh Nawab.
|Rani's Mahal, converted into Masjid by Mahmud Begada|
The guide told us about the history of siege by Solanki King Siddharaj Jaisinh in 11th Century AD. The King had fallen in love with Ranak Devi, but she had married Raja Rakhengar of Junagadh and become a mother of two kids. Siddharaj besieged the Uparkot fort for 12 years but was unable to break through its defences. He then bribed two nephews of Rakhengar who smuggled in Siddharaj's soldiers in food grain sacks and the fort was captured. Rakhenger was beheaded and his two sons were slayed. The Rani who was praying in Girnar hills, got angry at the God for not saving her family and cursed the mountain to be levelled. The mountain started losing height. Sages who were meditating in the hills then pleaded with Ranak Devi and she revoked her curse. That's the reason the mountain lost height. (Most probably an avalanche happened when the fort was captured and the local myth makers spun a yarn around it).
It was interesting to hear all that and try to separate myth from History.
The fort was captured again by Mahmud Begada in 15th century.
|King's Seat (Simhasan) area|
|Buddhist Cave - first level|
|Buddhist cave - second level|
|Carved pillars in Buddhist cave|
|Letter box style homes for Carrier Pigeons, carved in rock|
After Junagadh, drove to Somnath. The roads were in excellent condition making it an easy drive. Checked in at the hotel and went to the Somnath temple. Due to Z category security, no mobile phones, cameras, belts, remote car keys are allowed into the temple complex.
The temple is an awesome sight at night. It is an imposing structure with intricate carvings all around. I was reminded of the temples of Belur and Halebidu in Karnataka. Later learned that Somnath temple was rebuilt in 1950 in the same Chalukyan architectural style as those.
|Somnath temple - Photo from Wikipedia page|
The crowd was less (as in 100s not thousands) and had an easy darshan. The temple is situated on the shore. To sit in the garden benches and look at the sea is a calming experience. Even for a non believer, this temple is a must visit for the History and architecture. Also don't miss a small room at the left hand side after entrance that has photographs from 1950s reconstruction of the temple. it has photographs of foundations of the older temple.
Saw a board inside the temple saying they accept credit and debit cards for temple poojas. Hotel Namaste outside the temple wouldn't accept cards though. There is some story here.
Total distance so far : 2645 kilometers