Gir National Park : Junagadh to Vadodara | Horn please, OK?

Gir National Park : Junagadh to Vadodara

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Day 4: Gir National Park -> Junagadh -> Vadodara
When : May 2014 | How far : 440 kms | How long :  9 hrs 

Our love of forts lured us to Uperkot in Junagadh. This made our route to Vadodara slightly more roundabout but we didn't mind, we had a fort to explore!

Uperkot is in the heart of Junagadh and easy to find. A few signboards took us up to a point after which we relied on the good people of Junagadh to guide us. The roads are narrow and it was a tight squeeze for our pleasantly plump car but the local junta were accommodating and generously made way for us.

The fort is too large to explore on foot. We were glad for the car. Not much remains of the fort - a few Buddhist caves, two wells and a granary to be precise. Mohammad Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat, ruled Junagadh from this fort. It is said to have withstood a 12 year old siege only to fall when the attackers sneaked in by hiding themselves in large drums of wheat.

Our guide who reeked suspiciously of alcohol and painted every story with religious overtones, proudly pointed out that Junagadh lays claim to two very two famous people. Actress Parveen Babi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto both have tenuous connections to the last Nawab of the princely state of Junagadh.

These cannons, Uperkot's most famous relics, have names. A strange custom but not very different from naming your sword or your gun, I suppose. They're called Neelam and Manek and were brought to Junagadh by the Turks.

The oldest part of the fort, these Buddhist caves date back to the 2nd century AD.
Quoting from the tablet we found at the site "These caves are scooped out in 3 tiers. There are 3 rock hewn chambers all open to the skies. The first chamber is a pond with a covered corridor around it. The pond got water from the rains and from an elaborate system of vertically cut drains and cisterns."

The pillars found in the chamber on the lowest level have elaborate capitals with floral ornamentation. These designs are said to show a strong Greek influence.

 Adi -Kadi Vav is one of the stepwells at Uperkot who's origins are mired in misogyny. It was hewn out of a single rock. Story goes that after it was made there was no water to be found. A priest declared that the sacrifice of two unmarried girls would fix that. And so the unfortunate slave girls Adi & Kadi were sacrificed on the altar of water.

The Navghan Kuan is another stepwell with a less sordid past. Its claim to fame is that its 350 feet deep and structurally more complex than its counterparts.

Feeling dissatisfied with the lack of architectural complexity, we drove out of the fort in to the back lanes of the village that has crept up around the fort. The houses were quaint with embellished doors and windows.

The best route from Junagadh to Vadodara is via Rajkot via NH8.
We made a quick (arguably) stop at Jetpur to check out the 'Bandhani' designs that its famous for. There are 3 or 4 large 'factory' outlets on the new station road near the main bus stop. Someone had recommended going to Simran, which we did. The owner of the shop, who conformed to every Gujarati stereotype you can imagine greeted us enthusiastically. She was helpful, had good inputs and lots of designs, colors and fabrics to choose from. Having satisfied our material cravings we headed on to Vadodara

Photo Courtesy Shipra Bhansali, buyer of that saree 
Travel tip : Make that slight detour in to Jetpur town to buy some Bandhani fabric. The prices and variety of design will male it worth your while.

Vadodara is yet another one of Gujarat's mega cities. It has skyscrapers that would put Pune to shame.
Our hotel, The Fern was located next to the most futuristic looking building we'd seen since entering the city. We took it to be a mall but found out that it was the new bus depot! So in awe were we that we forgot to take a picture.

In search of the best Gujarati thali in town, a recommendation from the concierge sent us to Mandap restaurant in Express Tower hotel. We entered the impressive hotel wide-eyed, excitedly pointing at a room stocked with alcohol and salivating over some seriously good looking cakes. Four days on the road can have an adverse effect on one's capacity for proper social conduct.

A satisfying meal and a psychedelic auto-ride later we were back at the hotel plotting our next move.

Stories from the entire trip
Day 1 -> Mumbai to Bhavnagar
Day 2 -> Bhavnagar to Gir Forest
Day 3 -> Gir to Diu & Somnath
Day 4 -> You just read it
Day 5 -> Vadodara to Mumbai via Champaner

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