Banaskantha is the district of the Indian state of Gujarat.The administrative headquarters of the district is at Palanpur which is also its largest city. It was named after the “West Banas River”.
Palanpur city is circled by hillocks in the close vicinity of Aravali Mountains. It derives its name from Palansi Chauhans who inhabited the city in 14th century. Ambaji is an important temple town with millions of devotees visiting the Ambaji temple every year in banaskantha district.
There is a Kirti Stambh and a Rajmahal, the old palace of the Nawab, now used for govt. offices. Outside Mira Gate, there are two Dargahs, one of the poet Anwar Kazi and the other of Saint Mursheed, worshipped by Muslims. An ancient stepwell `Mithi Vav’ is the best-preserved architectural monument with seven galleries on the wall on either side.
The inner sanctum of the temple has silver-plated doors. There is a gokh, or niche, in the wall on which is fixed a old-plated marble inscription of the Viso Yantra, a Vedic text on sacred geometry, which is the main focus of worship. There is no idol of the goddess, perhaps because the temple is so ancient that it predates idol-worship, but the priests decorate the upper portion of the gokh in such a way that it looks like an idol of a goddess from a distance. The ecstatic festival of Navratri is celebrated all over Gujarat in reverence of Ambaji, by dancing garba around the Holy Mother. On these nine nights the Nayak and Bhojok communities also perform bhavai theater.This is the principal shrine of a goddess who has been worshiped since the pre-Vedic period. She is often referred to as Arasuri Amba, named for the location of the temple in the Arasur hills, near the source of the Saraswati river at the south-western end of the Aravali mountain range. The red flag above the small temple dances welcomingly in the wind. Made of white marble with gold cones, the temple was originally built by Nagar Brahmins. There is a main entrance in the front and only a small side-door, because it is believed that Mataji (another name for Ambaji) has forbidden the addition of any other door. The temple is surrounded by an open square called chachar chowk where ceremonial sacrifices called havans are performed.
There are six other temples in Ambaji: Varahi Mata, Ambikeshwar Mahadev and Ganapati temples are in the chachar chowk, open square, surrounding the temple, while Khodiyar Mata, Ajaya Mata and Hanumanji temples are in the village.
The hill is very steep and difficult to climb. There are 300 stone steps at the foot of the hill after which the pilgrims have to climb through a narrow dangerous track. On the flat top of the hill there is a small niche facing the temple of Ambaji, in which a well-protected lamp is kept constantly burning, and can be seen from the main Ambaji temple at night. There are footprints of the Goddess under a pipal tree, which are worshipped.Gabbar (or Gabbargadh), a small hillock about four km to the west of Ambaji village, is believed to have been the original seat of the goddess, the site of Krishna’s tonsorial ceremony (ritual head-shaving), and the abode of the divine Mahishasur-Mardini.
In Poshina you find the Darbargadh Poshina, once a palace, and now a welcoming heritage hotel, with huge gateways, a massive dome, numerous pillars and arches, a pleasant courtyard, gardens, lawns and terraces, owned by the descendants of the Chalukyas, whose empire spread through much of Gujarat and Central India in the 12th century. You also find old Jain sandstone temples of Parshvanath and Neminath and an old Shiva temple. Poshina is host to the famous Chitra-Vichitra fair, at the nearby Gunbhakhari village, a couple of weeks after Holi.About 18 kms from Ambaji in Sabarkantha district, Poshina takes one back to the simple beauty of traditional village life, populated by a captivating m?lange of colorful tribal communities of the Garasias, Bhils and the pastoral Rabaris. Poshina is home to a tribal shrine where you find the staggering scene of thousands of terracotta horses standing in rows as offerings to the local goddess. Nearby villages have similar horses carved in reverence to her divinity. A visit to the homes of the potters who make these striking horses is an excellent glimpse into tribal culture.
Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Ambaji
Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary is situated in the Banaskantha district, 45 kms. from Palanpur. Declared as Wildlife Sanctuary in May 1978, this 180.66 sq.km. forest tract of Jessore hill and adjoining areas is endowed with several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The forests of the sanctuary play an important role in conservation of depleting Aravali ecosystem. This area act as a buffer and separates the desert ecosystem from the dry deciduous type of ecosystem. The tree clad terrain helps in arresting the process of desertification and advancement of Thar desert.
ocated in the folds of Arravali hills. Jessore hill is the second highest peak in Gujarat. The sanctuary is known more for the endangered Sloth Bear. The other important faunal species are leopards, Rhesus macaque, Indian civet cat, porcupine, fox, striped, hyena, wild boar etc. The multistoried forest provides a suitable habitat for variety of birds ranging from land birds to water birds. As per the IUCN classification many rare and endangered species of birds are also found in this sanctuary. The reptiles include snakes, tortoises and lizards of various types. The rarest Indian Python is observed beyond Muni ji ki kutia.
Balaram Mahadev Temple
The sacred temple of Balram Mahadev is situated about 12 kms from in Banaskantha district. The palaces of the Nawab and Hindu Temples are also worth seeing. The palace is in a neo-Classical Baroque style, with arcades and classical columns. It has now been taken over by a private entrepreneur, and opened as a resort. The huge gardens, their contours clearly defined, have been landscaped to blend exotic plants, bridges and ramps for easy access into the original Nawabi design. The entrance pathway is lit by lampposts resembling parabadis, the traditional bird feeding posts of Gujarat. The place has been painted in a gracious creamy tone, and glass has been added to protect the interiors from dust. Interiors have been newly appointed, as the original furniture was stolen, with modern handcrafted pieces, and western style bathrooms, televisions, telephones and refrigerators have been added to the rooms for the modern traveller.
A feature of the property is the swimming pool, fed by a natural rock spring, half-way up the bluff, on which the palace sits facing the river Balaram, with the overflow dripping into the river below. The new owners have created an artificial cascade from the rock spring to the pool to replace the previous trickle. An old wall has been extended to house a modern gymnasium. The cellars of the palace, with brick lined arches, once contained the finest of wines, but are now an indoor games centre for children. The forests that once provided the family and their guests with game are now a sanctuary for bear, panther and other wildlife.
Balaram Palace Resort
This place once used to be a resting place for the Lohani Nawab of the Palanpur region. The place which used to be a hunting retreat once has now been converted into a palace resort. The palace was originally built by the 29th ruler of Palanpur in between the year 1922 to 1936. The unique architectural style of the palace represents a unique combination of Baroque and Neo-Classical style of ancient architecture. The resort covers a total land area of 542 sq km within the region of the Aravallis and the Balaram Ambaji Reserve Forest area. Located at the tip of the northern Gujarat area the palace nearly borders the area of Rajasthan. This palace is surrounded by lush green forest and flowerbeds consisting of different varieties of wild flowers.
Palanpur is famous for its relation to Jainism. Great Jain saint Jagadguru Shri Hirsurishwarji was born in this city. His house is located just opposite to Mota Dehrasar. Even the famous Jain saint Acharya Shri Somsundarsurishwarji was born in this city, which was the main inspiration behind world famous Jain Temple of Ranakpur, which is known for its crafting. There are many other Jain temples here. Among these are The Pallaviya Parshwanath Temple (Mota Dehrasar) was built by King Prahaladan (Founder of Palanpur city). This place comes under 108 Parshwanth Temples, which gets special attention from the devotees of Jainism. This temple recently witnessed the recovery of some idols which added to its fame.
Located within the Aravalli mountain range, the Kedarnath Mahadev is located about 35 km from the region of Palanpur and about 8 km from the highway road of Iqbalgadh. Located at a height of 1500 m above sea level on the Jasore peak, the temple is dedicated Lord Shiva and belongs to the Mahabharata period. The temple of Vishweshwar Mahadev is also located nearby where the annual fair is held on the special occasion of Shivratri.
Pallaviya Parshwanath Temple (Motu Derasar)
Also popular by the name of Motu Derasar, the Pallaviya Parshwanath temple is one of the important religious places located in Palanpur constructed by King Prahladan. This temple dedicated to Lord Parshwanath, is the only place in the region where idol of King Prahladan is instilled. The temple was renovated and rebuilt several times due to the numerous attacks that occurred here, evident from the history. As per the ancient legend and the stories the natives believe is, this temples was built by King Prahlada as a remedy for his ewvil deeds and to cure himself from acute illness he was suffering. After the temple was completed, the king used the holy water and was cured instantly.
How to get there
By Rail: Palanpur
By Road: Connected With All Major City Of Gujarat
By Air: Ahmedabad (145 km), Udaipur (207 km), Vadodara (254 km)
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