Junagadh is mostly known as a base station for visitors to Gir National Park or for pilgrims who make the trek up Mount Girnar – 9,999 steps to complex of 866 Jain and Hindu temples scattered across five peaks. We arrived at the pilgrimage’s base in late afternoon. Climbing Palitana’s 3,800 steps took Dad and I the better part of a day so we decided this time to pay homage from below and explore the Taleti instead. The scene was the opposite of Palitana’s crush. A few pilgrims loitered about, some getting foot rubs from the masseurs who plied their trade en route. But the dholi-wallahs were gone, their dholis stacked alongside a billboard in Gujarati that advertised dholi fees by kilogram. The more you weighed, the more you paid. This seemed totally fair considering the rather hefty people we saw being carried in Palitana.
Junagadh itself is divided into an old and new town, the older part located mountainside and called “Uparkot.” We visited the old fort/mosque, just down from the temples at Girnar. The fort, which is thought to be 2,300 years old is today little more than walls and ceiling; the sculptures of animals and people carved into pillars are largely worn down by time.
We also visited Adi-kadi Vav, a well built in the 15th century that is carved out of rock down 120 stairs. Legend has it that after the well was found to be dry, the royal priest said that water would only be found if two unmarried girls were sacrificed. Adi and Kadi were chosen and so the well is named after them. Visitors hang colored cloths and bangles on a tree nearby in their memory.
I most enjoyed the part we almost skipped. On paper, the Mahabat Maqbara seemed like another old building left to disintegrate. Built by Bahadur Kanji as a tomb for his predecessor, Mahabat Khan, it is a surprisingly well-kept example of Indo-Islamic architecture. I walked up the spire of this onion-domed tomb taking pictures for longer than I would have expected.