Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mt. Girnar

Mt. Girnar

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Mt. Girnar

The highest point in Gujarat, Mt. Girnar has for centuries been one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the state and indeed in all of Western India, with 866 Hindu and Jain temples spread over the 5 summits. The base of the mountain, known as Girnar Taleti, is just 4 km east of the center of Junagadh. A hike up the mountain is best started early in the morning, with the mind of a pilgrim. Each step upward should itself encompass the entirety of the journey, rather than be seen as another effort towards one’s goal of reaching the top

The steps begin at Domdar Kund, near the Damodar and Baldvji temples. The 15th-century poet Narsinh Mehta used to bathe here, and supposedly composed most of his morning hymns, the prabhatiya, here. As you ascend the stone path that connects the temples along the 5 summits, you will pass temples of many different sects of Hinduism. The Bhavnath temple, early on, is dedicated to Shiva, where the “naked sadhus” come to celebrate Shivaratri. After 4000 steps up, 800 steps before the first summit, you reach a plateau with a Jain temple complex. Among these temples, which date from the 12th to 16th centuries, is the site where Neminath, the 22nd tirthankar of Jainism, died after 700 years of ascetic meditation. 2000 steps further on, the temple of Amba Mata (the Mother Goddess) is visited by Hindus, Jains, and newlyweds seeking blessings for a happy marriage. These last 2000 steps are intimidating but well worth the trip for the spectacular panoramic views from the summit. Then the stone trail continues, 1000 steps down and 1000 steps back up, to reach the other summits. The last of which houses a temple to Kalika, where the Aghora ascetics smear themselves with funeral ashes

Though people will offer to carry you up the stairs (for a hefty price), the real experience of Girnar is to be found in walking. Pilgrimage is not about arriving, but about traveling. Start early in the morning, carry plenty of water, and stop for rest often during the hot hours of the day, and your climb of Mt. Girnar will be fruitful.

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