Junagadh – an erstwhile seat of Nawab in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat – is a major center of the region that is famous for saints and brave warriors. Girnar is the tallest mountain of Gujarat and is believed to be more ancient than the Himalayas. It takes ten thousand steps to climb all three of its peaks – Ambaji, Bhairavnath and Dattatreya. Ambaji is the first and represents half of the climb. From distance, it is possible to see the half-dome-like shape on one part of the mountain. Enroute to a nearby city where I had some work, I stopped by and climbed halfway to the first peak of Girnar, popularly known as Ambaji because the temple of Goddess Amba sits atop this peak.
The night when I reached Junagadh, it was pitch-dark because the next day અમાસ. The lights glowed in what seemed like a question mark, asking me how strong my resolve was to scale the five thousand steps the next day.
Except those tiny lights, everything got blended into thick black ink of opaque darkness. But the morning brought a different feel when the climb began.
.. And before we realised, the valley to our right overflowed with the light that spilled over onto the rest of the region, much like the water spilling over from a basin:
Below, the sleepy town looked like scattered lego blocks left carelessly in a heap by kids who got tired of playing:
Above lay some interesting bits – like this house perched at the top of the right hand ridge overlooking the vast slopes:
There were many climbers, but there were many residents as well. The steps were lined by shops and the sides were littered by trash. Bereft of it, people pushed on. Some rested a while. ‘Are you returning?’ I asked. ‘No, we are on our way up’, they said.
Elsewhere, as my cousin pointed out, the piles of stones stored untold stories of બાધા and its fulfilment:
The rock of Girnar looked beaten and weathered because of numerous holed bored into it by winds through the centuries. What all would those eyes have witnessed?
Enroute we see ancient temples developed by Vastupal – the precursor to Palitana.
Ambaji peak was not farther off from this point, and we returned from the first peak. Four hours up, two hours down. I took longer – seven hours in all. Took a toll on my legs, but in the afternoon I went to Bordevi with an enthusiastic nature lover. The forest there was strange – it looked clear yet thick.
The growth of trees did not look wild. Rather, it seemed to beckon the visitor to explore without fear:
An ઔષધિ grows on Girnar, which can make you invisible for three hours – said someone, quoting a saadhu living in Girnar forest. Well, I am not sure of that, but how does it matter whether I am sure or not?
I had time only for knocking at the door of Girnar and touching feet of this ancient mountain. In my mind, I sought permission for more, closer encounters and left.