The amazing thing about India is that there is history everywhere…in almost our backyards, so to speak.The frustrating thing about India is that most of the time nobody cares.For every Taj and every Red Fort there are ten that are utterly neglected,confined almost to the dustbin of history. The Maratha forts,the many temples across the country,the Kos Minars on the old Grand Trunk Road,the Mughal monuments in Punjab…the list is endless.
When we set out, for a 4 day trip of Gujarat, from our base camp at Ahemdabad we had no expectations of what we would find on the way.A quizzing of many Gujarati friends before embarking had brought forth puzzled glances and a shrug of the shoulder. ” Not much to see in Gujarat…but good shopping in Ahemdabad”, was the refrain.A quick internet search yielded some details about the pilgrim’s trail to Dwarka,Somnath and some Jain temples.Our travel itinerary mentioned briefly the towns we would be driving through….Junagadh,Porbandar,Rajkot….
Thus it was, with few expecations, that we arrived at the dusty, town of Junagadh.Before I say anything about this town that seems to exist only for its inhabitants read what wikipedia has to say about this town.
Junagadh (Hindi: जूनागढ़ /junāgaḍh/, Gujarati: જુનાગઢ) is a city and a municipal corporation, the headquarters of Junagadh district in the Indianstate of Gujarat. The city is located at the foot of the Girnar hills. Literally translated, Junagadh means “Old Fort”. It is also known as “Sorath”, the name of the earlier Princely State of Junagadh.
An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built during the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta in 319 BCE The fort remained in use until the 6th century, when it was covered over for 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 CE The fort was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period. One unsuccessful siege lasted twelve years.(wikipedia)
We could see the fort dominating the horizon from many places in the town but no way to the fort or to information about it seemed at hand.A small part is accessible to public but most of it is in ruins, according to our driver.The next big surprise was the building housing Ashoka’s rock edicts
An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder within 2 km of Uperkot Fort. The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and date back to 250 BCE On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 CE by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, a member of the Western Kshatrapas dynasty. Another insciption dates from about 450 CE and refers to Skandagupta, the last Gupta emperor.(wikipedia)
The rock with the edicts.
The rock is huge and the entire surface is covered with the edicts.Some attempts in the past have been made to give the tourist some pictures and translations of the edicts but neglect is the word that comes to mind on seeing the rotting,mouldy pictures and fading,scratched translations.Only the rock stands in ist majesty….timeless and mysterious..one amongst the many markers of the vast empire of Ashoka that stretched from present day Afghanistan,Pakistan to Gujarat,Bihar….
Then we went to the better known, but totally negelcted,Mahabat Maqbara of Junagadh.
Mohammad Bahadur Khanji I, who owed allegiance to the Sultan of Ahmedabad, founded the state of Junagadh by expelling the Mughal governor and declaring independence in 1748. Mohammad Bahadur Khanji I, who assumed the name “Zaid Khan” when he came to power in Junagadh, was the founder of the Babi dynasty. His descendants, the Babi Nawabs of Junagadh, conquered large territories in southern Saurashtra and ruled over the state for the next two centuries, first as tributaries of Baroda, and later under the suzerainty of the British. Nawabs of Babi dynasty( Wikipedia)
It is an astounding collection of a few buildings with the local Jama Masjid and the buiding that used to be the residence of the Junagadi Nawabs (before they fled to Pakistan at the time of the partition of the sub- continent)adjacent to it.Almost black now with the effects of the weather this monument stands forlornly on a dusty street of small shops.
Children play cricket on the premises,goats nuzzle around for whatever little vegetation is there and the fakirs and the homeless sit in the shade of the building.
This was an impromptu counselling session by this man who had been sitting quietly in the shade.He was consoling a woman who had come in crying and in great distress.
The slender minarets with the staircases twirled around them are surprisingly sturdy still and gave us a vantage point for some aerial shots of the area.
The dome and the minarets of the local Jama Masjid are framed by the buildings on the maqbara premises.
The facade is in a state of disrepair but still impressive in its details.The jumble of various architectural styles seems to work and small graves are scattered around the entire compound.Steps lead up to the building that is locked but the many broken ‘jaalis’ and panes allow the vistor to peep inside.
Its only when you peep through the ‘jaalis’ that the full impact of the building manifests itself.Its like a scene frozen in time.Although the floor is littered with rubble and is dusty and neglected the building has enough of its past glory still showing through the dust to whisper stories of times gone by into your ears..Its like the Nawabs and their people are still there somewhere…
This is my favorite shot that captures the past spirit of the place while telling the sad story of its present day neglect.The light plays tricks and I imagine soft footfalls,the swish of fabric and the gentle murmurs of conversations.
The adjacent residence of the Nawabs of Junagadh has been, most unimaginatively, converted into the District Courts….a death warrant for any heritage building knowing the track record of the government in taking care of its offices! This building would be a wonderful candidate for turning into a heritage hotel….Neemrana guys are you listening?
An interesting nugget from history: When the newly formed state of Pakistan and India were entangled in a tussle over the acceeding of Junagadh to Pakistan/India, the Nawab and his family fled to Pakistan taking due care to empty the treasury of absolutely everything before their departure.It was the then Dewan of Junagadh,Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto,father of the more famous( and unfortunate) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who invited the Government of India to intervene by writing a letter to the Regional Commissioner of the state of Saurashtra.
Read the details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junagadh