The road to paradise has never been easy, and this
one is no exception. Bumping along an uneven road, hitting your head
against the smooth roof of a deluxe bus you need to close your eyes
and revive the temptations of your destination. Conjure up the
lushness of Mount Abu, which all tourist guides announce is the
paradise of Rajasthan.
The little pamphlet gushes that Mount Abu, the only
hill station in Rajasthan, offers you the best of all possible
worlds, with more scenic beauty, more architecture and archaeology in
the form of the famous Dilwara caves, the chief centre for the
Brahmakumaris, and a generous peppering of temples which shows that
the place is exceptionally favoured by the gods. Abu has been an
important place of penance for the sages.
As the anticipation of the approaching destination
heightens one doesnt mind the shaking bus quite that much and
as we turn the final curve into the city, greeted by large hoardings
of different hotels, all promising better deals than the other,
Rajasthans little jewel puts its best foot forward. The shops
on both sides of the road are glitteringly alive, as late as 10 p.m.
on a winter night and the residents of Mount Abu mob you in welcome.
Well not exactly the residents it turns out, they are all touts for
hotels but they make you feel welcome. In case it is a winter trip
that you are planning, one can just arrive in Abu, at any time of the
night or day, employ a wheelbarrow, which will take your luggage all
over Abu for five rupees while you check out a place to stay. This
is, in fact the best time to visit if the cold does not bother you
too much (it is usually warmer than a Delhi winter). All hotels are
available at half rates and the best of rooms can be yours for
anything from Rs. 75/- to Rs. 250/-.
Abu in summer is definitely a retreat from the heat
of the plains. A summer visit requires careful planning, and rooms
should be booked at least two months in advance. Everything, from
hotels to restaurants, to transport is at double the rates, and
beware of the new monster the Marutis, in every colour which
cover the landscape and race pugnaciously around the hills. Yet, the
little township is well prepared to handle tourists. Tourist buses
show you around the places of interest twice a day and the bus guide
provides a background, history and of course his own interpretations
on everything you visit. Information is also available from a tourist
guide office, but even without guidance there are certain places that
simply cannot be missed on a visit to Abu.
The Dilwara Jain temples for instance, have been
compared to the Taj Mahal for their sheer elegance and beauty in
marble. Built between the 11th and 13th
century, these temples are ll the more exceptional because the marble
to build these was brought all the way from Makrana and the best
workmen and craftsmen employed to ensure the finest quality of
sculpture. Intricate carvings decorate each portion of these temples
which are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. Millions of rupees
were spent on the carvings, architecture and décor of the
temples and the workmen were rewarded in silver and gold equivalent
to the amount of marble brought in.
Of the five temples Vimal Vasahi Lun Vasahi,
Shri Risha Lhdeo, Shri Parshvanath and Shri Mhavir Swami, the first
two are the most famous. One estimate states that a sum of Rs. 1.2
billion was spent on Lun Vasahi itself. This temple was built by two
brothers Vastupal and Tejpal, ministers in the court of Raja
Varadnawarkar, a ruler of Mount abu. They belonged to Neminath
Bhagwan, the 22nd Tirthankara.
Outside the main door of this temple are two statues
called Devranis and Jethanis goklas respectively,
and are backed by stories of competitive jealousy of the two wives of
these brothers. Another striking feature of the temple is the marble
dome in the porch which is made up of a cluster of half open lotuses,
which appear to be almost transparent.
The Vimal Vasahi temple is older and is also known
to be the first Jain temple and is deicated to the first Jain
Tirthankara. Built in 1031, by Bhim Deva, the first Solanki ruler of
Mount abu, the temple is constructed in pure marble, with plain
exteriors. However, its interiors are richly sculpted and house some
fine examples of the accomplishment of artist in those times.
Residents of the area will tell you that a visit to
Abu cannot be complete without obtaining the blessings of Arbuda
Devi, the goddess after whom Abu is said to have been named. Arbuda
Devi is stationed some 200 steps above the road, in a series of caves
on top of a mountain. Along with Arbuda Devi are the statues of her
Guru Shikhar, the highest peak of Mount Abu, is also
perhaps the most beautiful. There is a certain serenity about the
temple built atop this peak. The temple might just have stepped out
of a fairy tale, with only a small portion in pink jutting out of an
otherwise plain white chalk building.
Inside is a shrine of Datta-traya, an incarnation of
Lord Vishu. Outside the temple, a little distance from its door is a
huge brass bell, which stands sentinel overlooking the lush greenness
of Mount Abu. A costume photographer displays dresses and invites
tourists to pose with temple as a backdrop.
Another temple worth visiting is the Brahmakhadd, a
Shiva temple with a difference. Here the deity is not the
traditional lingam but a pit into which Lord Shiva is said to
have put his foot. Legend has it that the spot goes deep into the
earth until it touches water. Outside this temple there is a statue
of Goddess Parvati, and a large statue of Nandi which still bears
marks of destruction wrought by invading armies.
In the heart of the town, at one end of the Mall is
Nakki Lake which has an interesting history. It is said that it was
drawn by the finger nails (nakk) of a sage, Balam Rasia, in response
to the demands of the stepmother of the girl he wished to marry. The
girl, a princess, and a daughter of the then King of Abu, was also in
love with the sage, but because of the evil stepmother the affair
ended in tragedy, and has been immortalized in a temple of the
Kunwari Kanya, alongside which stands a statue of her lover.
The lake too, has survived to tell the tale.
Picturesquely set, with the hills rising all around it, the lake has
several islets to which you can hire boats. An interesting facet are
the many rock formations around the lake. They have been named Toad
Rock, Nun Rock, Nandi Rock and Camel Rock because of their
resemblance to these figures. The road appears to be looking
broodingly down towards the lake, as if contemplating jumping in.
Nun Rock is a large smooth rock as it supposedly looks a woman with a
veil. The climb up to these rocks, through the wooded forests is a
beautiful one, with each of the rocks on the way making unique
formations, fissures and shapes.
There are rumours that you might run into a bear on
your way up, but the climb is well worth the risk! And one can take
courage from the fact that none of the travelers in the last few
years have encountered the animal.
Like all other hill stations, Abu too, has its horse
rides, honeymoon and sunset points. Sunset point here is definitely
worthy a visit. An entire hill has been carved into several layers,
top to bottom, and as the sun begins to lower itself in the sky, the
entire hill is crowded with people covered in the golden glow of the
Apart from the sight seeing, which in itself is
delightful, Abu is a gourmets paradise. Its cosmopolitan
cuisine offers a wide variety of food Maharashtrian dishes,
Mount abui, Rajasthani, south Indian, Punjabi, Chinese or Continental.
Abu shopkeepers and restaurant owners take special pride in keeping
their shops shining clean, and also make a special effort to please
their customers. Its good plea to try out a different
restaurant, and a different meal everyday, but one should not leave
Abu without treeing the pao bhaji, at Hot Spot, a fast
food restaurant, and the Rajasthani thali at the Jodhpur
VISITING MOUNT ABU
Mount Abu is Rajasthans only hill station. It
is 187 kilometres away from Ahmedabad in Mount abu.
There are direct trains to Abu Road Station (27
kilometres away from Mount Abu) from Delhi, Jodhpur and Agra. A fast
train takes four hours between Ahmedabad in Mount abu and Abu Road.
Regular buses connect Abu Road to Mount Abu. The journey takes
about an hour. Taxis and jeeps are also available to take you to
Mount Abu. Direct buses also connect Mount Abu with Udaipur and
Buses ply regularly from Mount Abu to Dilwara and Acgakgarg, Taxis
are easily available for any destination. A unique form of transport
is the baby prams.
Rajasthan Emporium is located on Raj Bhawan Road. There are
several jewellery shops on the road leading to the lake.