â€œTucked away in a forest, there are secrets to be revealed…An ancient city, a gateway to Rajasthan. A hiding place for rulers, concealed from enemies, citizens, angry wives, even from the sun, tucked between sacred hills on the east and west. And the mystery of abandonment, decay.
Ancient temples, some still performing their pujas deep within this dense jungle, itself the larger temple, the trees themselves the gods.
Adivasi settlements, their lives rooted in their connection to the forest, from whom you might learn to listen to the deep hum of the world that envelops these scattered whispers of human constructions…â€
– That is what the Gujarat Government website has to say about the Polo forest & the ancient temples within.
The site continues to say that : â€œThe ancient Polo city was built around the river Harnav, an ancient water body spoken of in the Puranas. It is believed to have been established in the 10th century by the Parihar kings of Idar, and was then conquered in the 15th century by the Rathod Rajputs of Marwar.
The name is derived from pol, the Marwari word for “gate,” signifying its status as a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. It was built between Kalaliyo in the east, the highest peak in the area, and Mamrehchi in the west, considered sacred by the local adivasis. Together they block sunlight for most of the day, which might provide an explanation for the otherwise mysterious abandonment of the ancient city.
The 400 square km area of dry mixed deciduous forest is most lush between September and December after the monsoon rains when the rivers are full, but at any time of the year it provides a rich wildlife experience. There are more than 450 species of medicinal plants, around 275 of birds, 30 of mammals, and 32 of reptiles.
There are bears, panthers, leopards, hyenas, water fowl, raptors, passerines, and flying squirrels (mostly heard, rarely seen), all living under a canopy of diverse plants and trees. During winter, all manner of migratory birds occupy the forest; during the rainy season there are wetland birds.â€
Coming back to the MCC trip, this was the â€˜famousâ€™ jungle walk trip. It will remain an unforgettable experience for more reasons than oneâ€¦ first of all there was the long long long drive in the Innovas. Then one of the drivers was running a high fever, so our own Amit Chaturvedi took over the wheel for the rest of the trip.
We also got caught up in a traffic jam on the highway and took an alternate route to avoid the jamâ€¦ while asking around for directions, we were warned about tribals attacking travellers with bow and arrows. And then there was the hunt for the invisible riverâ€¦
How to reach by road:
Vijaynagar, the nearest town from where the Polo ruins are accessible, is 120 km from Udaipur and 160 km from Ahmedabad, and is accessible by the National Highway 8.
Overall, it was a good tripâ€¦ and finding old ruins in the jungle was something out of an Indiana Jones movie [almost 😉 ]
First a few pix of the ruinsâ€¦ to set the tone.
Started from campus at around 1.30pm on the 30th of October 2010.
After a couple of hours, stopped for a chai breakâ€¦
Took the turn towards Idarâ€¦
And kept on goingâ€¦
By around 6.30pm we were quite tired and nowhere near our destination.
At around 7.00pm, we got caught in the traffic jam on the highway and decided to turn back to take the alternate route. It was around this time that the other Innovaâ€™s driver mentioned about his fever and Amit had taken over the wheel.
Thanks to the diversion into the new route, nobody know the way to Ambaji and the car ahead stopped to ask for directionsâ€¦ only to find an over-enthu crowd offering all sorts of advice; including the great news that we would probably be attacked by tribals 😉
And along the way, we kept stopping every few hundred feetâ€¦ to find a river of some sort. Donâ€™t ask me why, thatâ€™s a looonnnggg story for some other day 🙂
Ambaji temple. Stopped for a quick darshanâ€¦
And then visited a jain ashramâ€¦
This car was apparently used by the Guruji to travel around India to give discourses. It is now preserved inside a Plexiglas domeâ€¦
Sanjay, Vinod, Amit, Sudhir, Sharad, Abhinav, Vandana, Bhavinâ€¦
Late dinner at Ambajiâ€¦
And a chai to while away the timeâ€¦
After driving around for a few more around, we arrived at point close to the ruins. It was a little past 2.00am and time for the jungle walk.
The forest guard who had been expecting us gave a small tour of the ruinsâ€¦
I have never seen a circular opening in the roof of any temple till dateâ€¦ probably they intended to build a dome and never got around to completing it.
And yesâ€¦ there were bats. Hundreds of them were flying in and out of the templesâ€¦
A tunnel which was built as an escape route for the king in case of an attackâ€¦
Well, we continued on with the jungle walk part of the tripâ€¦ I completed mine in a little bit of a hurry to spend some time around the ruins. Unfortunately we could not wait till sunriseâ€¦ had to take a few pics with long exposure and we left the place at around 5.00amâ€¦ and it was a long drive back to campus.
* The sepia pix in the beginning of the post are courtesy the net.