Akshardham, the highlight of Gandhinagar houses a beautiful Swaminarayan temple, with a theme park containing tableaux of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The village Pethapur outside Gandhinagar is known for its woodcarving and traditional textile block printing. It is a unique cultural complex. Inspired by H. D. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Akshardham is a miracle worked by the service and devotion of thousands of volunteers. The entire monument was built without the use of steel. Besides a 7 feet gold leafed idol of Lord Swaminarayan and his holy relics, there are three exhibitions on Indian Culture with light and sound shows, a multimedia show and an animatronics show. Games, rides and food refreshments are other attractions of Akshardham.
Akshardam has become an unusual attraction of Gandhinagar with the famous temple of “Swaminarayan Sect” – the richest sect in the world. It is a unique cultural complex built in memory of Lord Swaminrayan. It is a miracle worked by the service and devotion of thousands of volunteers and is an intricately carved, majestic monument of 6000 tons of pink sand stone awash with spiritual stillness.
Akshardham, created and organized by the Bochasanwasi Shri Abar Purushottam Sanstha, is a non-profit socio-religious organization with worldwide centers. The organization does not aim at the skies but at the Earth, at the individuals, to find comfort, peace, and happiness in life. The foundation stone of Akshardham, Lord Swaminarayan’s Bicentenary Memorial, was laid by Pramukh Swami Maharaj on 14th December 1979 in Gadhinagar, Gujarat.
Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlingas of lord Shiva, offering a holy pilgrimage, a beach holiday and a number of places of historic, religious or scenic importance. The temple has imposing architecture, a 50-meter high shikara tower and a pretty Nandi.
Legend has it that Somraj, the moon god, originally built the Somnath Temple out of gold. Later it was rebuilt by Ravana in silver and then again by Krishna in wood and yet again by King Bhimdev Solanki in stone in the 10th century. Mahmud of Ghazni, upon hearing the description of the temple by an Arab traveler – Al Biruni, raided the temple in 1024 AD and looted it, carrying away camel loads of jewels and gold. Somnath was destroyed six times and rebuilt on every occasion. After the 1706 AD demolition by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, it was rebuilt the seventh time in 1950 AD with the support of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel The temple was so rich that it had over 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and even 300 barbers – just to shave the heads of pilgrims.
Constantly washed by the Arabian Sea, the temples of Somnath were destroyed seven times but were rebuilt each time. The majestic monument as it stands today is a replica of the earlier construction. The present temple Maha Meru Prasad was recently rebuilt on the exact location of the original shrine in accordance with the ancient plants.
Ambagi Mandir Situated on the Arasur hill near Mount Abu, Ambaji is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Gujarat, built of the finest quality of marble. It is the principal shrine of the goddess-Amba and is recognised as one of the original Shakti Pithas. It attracts pilgrims in numbers beyond comprehension and large number of devotees assemble at this temple on the occasions of four purnima fairs held every year on the full moon day of Kartik, Chaitra, Bhadrapad and Aso. In the vicinity of Ambaji are the well-known Jain temples of Kumbhariya and Gabbar, a steep hill on the peak of which are footprints of Goddess. During the holy month of Bhadrapad, devotees trek hundreds of miles on foot to reach the temple.
Built of the finest quality of marble, this is recognised as one of the original Shakti Pithas where, according to the ancient scriptures, the heart of the Goddess Ambaji fell to earth when her body was dismembered. It is the principal shrine of the Goddess in Gujarat whose actual origins are still unknown. The fact that this temple does not have an idol is indicative of it antiquity, since the worship of images of deities became popular much later.
It is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Gujarat and is also known as Amba Bhavani or Arasuri. Arasur is the seat of Ma Ambaji. Almost all communities believe in Ambaji. It is one of the many important places of pilgrimage for Jains. The temple is very old and there is no idol in the main hall. The seat of the deity is there. The dress and ornaments are arranged in such a way that an illusion of total ‘Darshan’ is created. The atmosphere is live with the chanting of ‘Jay Ambe’. It is this Goddess whose grace enabled Rukmini to secure Krishna, as her Pati (husband). It is also believed to be the site where the tonsorial ceremony of Lord Krishna was performed. Ambaji is also a famous trade centre for forest products like honey, wax and timber. There are marble mines near Ambaji. Copper is also found among some other minerals Round the year, on every Purnima the town Ambaji celebrates a spontaneous religious fair Lok Melo as a huge gathering of devotees reach there to worship Ma Ambaji. Mighty rulers and renowned saint-singers are drawn towards her feet, since time immemorial and that made this holy kshetra one of the most visit-worthy shrines both by Sakteyas and bhaktas of every sect and brand.
Dakor is a temple town dedicated to Lord Krishna, about 50 kms. from Vadodara. The temple with a striking image of Lord Krishna is the temple of Ranchodare, belonging to the golden period of Dwarks. The temple houses a tank containing several species of turtles regularly fed by the pilgrims. Originally known as DankaPur, it is here that the Lord Shri Dwarkadhishji migrated to get away from the increasingly decadent temple priests of Dwarka. It is said that a devotee brought the image from Dwarka and installed it in Dakor. On the silvery night of the full moon in October-November, a fair is held in the temple compound attracting thousands of pilgrims.
Ranchor is the name given to Lord Krishna when he fled from the battlefield in Mathura while fighting against Jarasandha and his army. Ranchor means “one who gives up the battlefield.” This Deity was installed and worshiped in Dwarka up to 800 years. This present temple was built in 1772. The Deity of Sri Ranchorji is similar to the Deity of Dwarkadish in Dwarka, both being made from black stone. This is Gujarat’s most beloved Krishna Deity. After the death of Kamsa, the soldiers of Kalayavana and Jarasandha besieged Mathura. At that time, Krishna fled from the city and thus the name Ranchor. In order to prevent a further massacre of soldiers and to attend to other business, Lord Krishna left the battlefield. He had to attend to another task mentioned in a confidential letter sent by Rukmini, his future wife.
In its earlier phases as pilgrimage center in Gujarat, Dakor, was famous for the Danknath temple, a place of shiva worship. In the later phases it developed into a Vaishnavite center with the growing fame of Ranchorji temple. Today this place is known not only as a pilgrimage center but also a trading center where one can get the articles related to puja, and other rituals. The small shrine of the original temple is now encased in a large temple complex, which has grown up around it. The actual temple is set on a high platform in a complex, set in the style of medieval temples from the region. The form of Lord Ranchorji is that of the Lord Vishnu with four arms. He bears the conch, lotus, discus and the mace in his hands. Every morning at 6:45 am Mangala-arati is held, and Ranchorji is dressed and decorated in public. The temple is closed in the early afternoon. Ranchorji is fond of moga laddus. Saffron-flavored milk is offered in the morning.
The Sun Temple (dedicated to the Sun God) of Modhera is one of the finest examples of Indian temple architecture, built in 1026 A.D. It has spectacular carvings, fine architecture and traditional erotic sculpture. Modhera, sometimes called Mundera is situated on the banks of the River Pushpavati about 25 kms. from Mehsana The beautiful and partially ruined Sun Temple of Modhera was built by King Bhimdev I of the Solanki Rajput clan and bears some resemblance to the later, and far better known, Sun Temple of Konark in Orissa. It was designed so, that the dawn Sun shone on the image of Surya, the sun god, at the time of the equinoxes. The main hall and shrine are reached through a pillared porch and the temple exterior is intricately and delicately carved. As with the Temple of Somnath, this fine temple was ruined by Muhammad of Ghazni. Every inch of the edifice, both inside and outside is magnificently carved with Gods and Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers.
This is an ancient township, traceable to the Puranic age, when it was known as Dharmaranya. These Puranas mention that after defeating Ravana, Lord Rama asked Muni Vasistha to show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself from the sin of ‘Brahma-hatya’ (the sin of killing a Brahmin.) Muni Vasistha showed him a Dharmaranya, which was near the modern town of Modhera. It is believed that Lord Rama performed here a sacrifice to purify himself of the sin of having killed a Brahmin – Ravana, the king of Lanka. Rama built “Modherak” which subsequently came to be called “Modhera”. It became a pilgrimage centre for hordes of people who thronged to the place to pay homage to Surya.
The building work was commissioned to the Silvat stonemasons who had the ability to make the hardest stone take on the quality of the delicate woodcarvings. Within the main grounds, the Surya Kund is an extraordinary baoli containing over 100 shrines. Shrines to Ganesh, Vishnu and an incarnation of Shiva surround the tank on three sides while the main temple completes the rectangle and displays 52 intricately carved pillars depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The outer facades have a string of friezes and above that is the mandovara with excellent carvings of gods and goddesses. Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a hall with pillars and arches and the walls have 12 niches showing showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month. The outer walls are filled with sculptures of Surya and other gods. Unlike Konark, which rests on 12 wheels of a chariot, Modhera has built on the petals of a lotus, which runs the whole length of the temple. Elsewhere in the complex, there are extensive panels of erotic sculpture. The first view of the sun temple is breathtaking, with the pillared portico of the sabhamandap (assembly hall) reflected in the massive tank. Covered with lavish sculptural decoration, these pillars are examples of the perfect craftsmanship of the Solanki artisan. These pillars are geometrically arranged to create an octagonal space at the centre of the hall used quite frequently for ritualistic dance performances. The sabhamandap is a small independent structure. The four entrances have ornamental toranas (decorative hangings over the entrance), which have a marvelous quality of intricate and precision craftsmanship. At the centre of the hall is the walnut shaped ceiling, with its numerous folds of floral girdles, upheld by two aisles of pillars arranged on diagonals of the square plan. Even at its dimly lit height, the astounding splendor of stone craft shines brightly. It is a visual delight to stand under the 23 feet high ceiling.
Girnar (also known as “Girnar Hill”) is a collection of mountains in the Junagadh District of Gujarat, India. The tallest of these rises to 945 meters (3600 feet), the highest peak in Gujarat. The five peaks of Girnar are topped by 866 intricately carved stone temples. A sturdy stone path — a pilgrimage route for both Hindus and Jains — climbs from peak to peak. It is claimed that there are exactly 9,999 steps from the trailhead to the last temple on the highest peak, but the actual number is roughly 8,000.
Every year, a race is held, running from the base of the mountain to the peak and back. The locals in nearby Junagadh insist that the fastest-ever time was 42.36 minutes. However, most people take 5-8 hours to climb the mountain.
In the Hindu religion, the legend is that climbing Girnar barefooted earns one a place in Heaven. There is one holy stone; it is said that if a person attempts suicide from that stone then he becomes a part of Heaven.
Girnar is one of the holiest places in Gujarat, situated near Junagadh at a distance of 327 from Ahmedabad. It is a holy place and an important pilgrimage for both Hindus and Jains. There are a number of temples located here, which have converted it into a township of temples. Amidst the lush green Gir Forest, the mountain range serves as the hub of religious activity. Apart from this, there is a mosque attracting many Muslim pilgrims to the place. This has made Girnar a perfect example of unity in diversity in India.
The summit has been an important religious place since the 3rd century. Girnar temples present a true blend of art, religion and devotion. The sculptural art used in these temples is outstanding. They have stood the test the time and the cruelty of various invaders. Despite that, the art forms of the temples still retain their magnificence. The Jain temples at Girnar attract devotees of both Shwetambar and Digambar sects of Jainism. The Neminath Temple is the main attraction of Girnar. It was built during 1128 AD to 1159 AD.
According to Jain religious beliefs, Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar became an ascetic after he saw the slaughter of animals for food on his wedding. He renounced all worldly pleasures and came to Mount Girnar to attain salvation. Here, Bhagwan Neminath reached the highest state of enlightenment, Keval Gyan and Moksha, after great austerities. His bride-to-be also followed his path and founded the ‘Sandhvi Sangh’, the organization of women ascetics. The rectangular Neminath temple is the greatest temple here.
It has an idol of Lord Neminath in black granite with jeweled eyes. There are quadrangle courtyards, corridors and other shrines. The pillars are adorned with intricate carvings of Jain Tirthankars. The ceilings bear carvings and sculptures of Dancing Goddesses. Apart from this, there is the Mallinath temple, which is dedicated to the 19th Tirthankar. It was constructed by Vastupal and Tejpal. Neminath in 1231 AD. The Lord is shown in blue color here. The Rishabhadev Temple, situated nearby, is in golden color.
Ashoka’s Rock Edicts
Ashoka’s Rock Edicts are located on the route to the Mount Girnar hill. This rock edict is a huge boulder that is housed in a small roadside building. On the rock edicts the fourteen Edicts of Emperor Ashoka are inscribed. The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and belongs to 250 BC. On the same rock the inscriptions in the Sanskrit language are also inscribed. The Ashoka’s Rock Edicts incorporate moral lectures. The emperor Ashoka began the stone written history of Junagadh on this boulder. His 14 edicts in Pali states that he, the Beloved of the Gods, looks after all his subjects.
Damodar Kund is a holy water reservoir that marks the ascent to the Girnar temples. It is surrounded by a well-built ghat. It is believed that here Lord Krishna placed a flower garland around the neck of the great poet and saint Narsinh Mehta.
It is a beautiful excursion from Ahmedabad with the historic fortress on a mountain, the holy Hindu and Jain temples on the pinnacle and the medieval Islamic citadel of Champaner in the plains. It also offers fine hilly sceneries, lakes, the picturesque cable car ride and opportunities for trekking and rock climbing. It is about 190 kms from Ahmedabad, situated in the Halol on Panchmahal district, having historical connection with the Chavda and Chauhan King’s Era. The hills of Pavagadh rise in three stages from Champaner. The plateau at an altitude of 1471 fits is known as Machi Haveli. The two points on the hill are named after goddess Bhadrakali and Mahakali. Considering the natural beauty and fresh atmosphere, the Gujarat government has developed Pavagadh as a hill resort. It is also the birthplace of a famous musician Baiju, who preceded Tansen.
Pavagadh is one of the biggest attractions in the Dynamic State of Gujarat, which attracts lakhs of pilgrims and tourists every year and tops the list of educational institutions excursion programs. Champaner has rich rare and little known history. It goes back to early Stone Age on the basis of pre-historic stone tools recovered from the area. The entire area is declared as protected area by the Archeological survey of India. On the hilltop, is located the ancient famous temple of Mahakali. The right toe of Goddess Kalika fell here. Goddess Kali visited by Hindus and on the roof of the building is a Mazar of a Peer, visited by Muslim devotees.