The often-bleak plains of Saurashtra on the Kathiawar peninsula are inhabited by colourful, friendly but reserved people. Although somewhat off the main tourist routes, Saurashtra is a pleasant area to travel around with very interesting – something spectacular – temple sites and cities to explore, not to mention some beautiful beaches and the Gir Lion Sanctuary.
Gondal was the chief town of the former state of the same name. Situated at the west bank of the Gondali River, a tributary of river Bhadar. The city is first mentioned about in history in the year 1350 when Mohammad Tughlak fell sick over here. When the Ghouries were ruling Junagadh, Amin Khan Ghouri allotted Gondal to the fugitive Sultan as a residence. Gondal is also mentioned as a pargana of the South Sarkar in both the Amin-Akbari and the Mirat-I-Ahmadi.
The present Bhuvaneshwari Temple is very famous all over India as this is one of the only two temple of Bhuvaneshwari in the whole country. Gondal is also famous for its Groundnut Oil.
Virpur is well known for the Jalaram Temple world over.
Jetpur is a small town that is famous for dyeing on clothes and sarees.
Few travelers make the trip out to Junagadh but it’s an interesting town situated right at the base of the temple – studded Girnar Hill. Junagadh is also the departure point for visits to the Gir Forest.
This city is full of some very exotic old buildings, most in a state of disrepair. It is a fascinating place to explore, but very few tourists come to this very friendly and unspoilt town.
Junagadh is also known for Uperkot Fort. It is believed to have been constructed by the Yadavas when they came to settle in Dwarka, famous by gone times for its virtual inaccessibility, the Uperkot or Upper Fort is griddled by a wall that is, in some places over 20 meter high. An ornate entrance gateway leads to the ruins.
In the Uperkot is a two-storied cave said to Chaitya cave. There are also Buddhist caves at Bava Pyara Math found below southern walls of Uperkot arranged in three rows. Scholars believe that they are Buddhist caves possibly belonging to the period between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D.
Girnar, situated at around 15 kms from Junagadh, is one of the two hills most sacred to the Jain Community of India. It rises to height of more than 600 meters, a climb marked by 10,000 stone steps, built and maintained from the proceeds of a lottery.
Five peaks, crowned by sixteen carved and sculptured marble shrines adorn this famous hilltop temple city.
Five of the temples of Girnar are Jain Temples including the largest and oldest – the 12th Century temple of Neminath, the 22nd Jain Tirthankar.
In the central shrine, there is a large black image of Neminath with several other smaller images. While descending, one can visit the Bhavnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Mahashivratri at Bhavnath is a major event, every year, where a fair is held for five days.
This place is known world over for its warm water kund. Either it is summer, or winter or monsoon; the water remains warm in this kund. It is said this water helps curing certain skin disease.
On the south coast of Saurastra is Veraval, which was the major seaport for Mecca pilgrims before the rise of Surat. It still has some importance as one of India’s major fishing ports and as the base for a visit of Somnath temple, five kms. south of town.
On the southeast coast, about midway between Veraval and Dwarka, modern-day Porbandar is chiefly noted as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. In ancient times, the city was called Sudamapuri after Sudama, a compatriot of Krishna, and there was once a flourishing trade from here to Africa and the Persian Gulf. The Africa connection is apparent in the number of Indianised Blacks, called Siddis, who form a virtually separate caste of Dalits.
Porbandar has several large cement and chemical factories and a textile mill. A massive breakwater was recently constructed to shelter a deep-water wharf and fishing harbour.
Some of the places of tourist interests are Kirti Mandir, Gandhiji’s birthplace, Nehru Planetarium, Bharat Mandir, Hazur Palace, etc.
On the extreme western tip of the Kathiawar peninsula, Dwarka is one of the four most holy Hindu pilgrimage sites and is closely related to the Krishna legend. It was here that Krishna set up his capital after fleeing from Mathura. Dwarkanath, the name of the temple, is a title of Lord Krishna.
Bet Dwarka (Okha)
A little of Dwarka, a ferry crosses from Okha to the island of Bet, where Vishnu is said to have slain a demon. There are modern Krishna temples on the island and other important religious sites around Dwarka.
Prior to independence, the princely state of Jamnagar was ruled by the Jadeja Rajputs. The city was built around the small Ranmal Lake, in the center of which is a small palace, reached by a causeway.
This bustling city has a long history of pearl fishing and a local variety of tie-dyeing, but today is mote well known for having the only Ayurvedic University in India and a temple listed in the Guinness Book of Records!
Some of the places to visit in Jamnagar are Lakhota Palace and Bala Hanuman Temple.
Founded as a port in 1723 A.D., Bhavnagar is still an important trading post for the cotton goods manufactured in Gujarat. Bhavnagar is a sprawling city with distinctly separate old and new sections. The bus station is in the new part of the town and the railway station is at the far end of the old town.
The bazaar is well worth a day’s exploration if you enjoy talking in the sights, sounds and smells of an extremely busy and colourful old town untouched by tourism.
The takhteshwar Temple sits on the highest hillock in Bhavnagar. The views over the city and out into the Gulf of Cambey are excellent but the temple itself is of mirror interest.
Situated 51 kms South – west of Bhavnagar, the town of Palitana is little more than a gateway of Shatrunjaya, the place of Victory. The 600 – meter ascent from the town to the hilltop is a walk of some two kms. Over a period of 900 years, 863 temples have been built here. The hilltop is dedicated entirely to the gods; at dusk, even the priests depart from the temples, leaving them deserted.
Almost all the temples are of Jain and this hill, one of Jainism’s holiest pilgrimage places, is another of illustration of their belief that merit is derived from constructing temples. The hilltops are bounded by sturdy walls and the temples are grouped into nine enclosures or tunks – each with a central major temple and many minor ones clustered around. Some of the earliest temples here were built in the 11th century but, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Muslims destroyed them, so the current temples date from the 16th century onwards.
This small city is known for wooden toys and for onion de-hydration plants. This is the birthplace of well-known Morari Das Bapu Hariyani.
Every year in the month of Bhadra (around September), the Trineteshwar Temple at Tarnetar, 65 kms northeast of Rajkot hosts the 3 days Tarnetar Fair.