The little-visited town of JUNAGADH (or Junagarh) is an intriguing small city with a striking skyline of domes and minarets. Its lively bazaars, Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, mosques, Victorian Gothic-style archways and faded mansions – plus the magnificent Jain temples on Mount Girnar – make it well worth exploring.

From the fourth century BC to the death of Ashoka (c.232 BC), Junagadh was the Gujarat’s capital under the Buddhist Mauryas. The brief reigns of the Kshatrapas and the Guptas came to an end when the town passed into the hands of the Hindu Chudasanas, who in turn lost out to Muslim invaders. Muslim sovereignty lasted until Independence when, although the nawab of Junagadh planned to unite with Pakistan, local pressure ensured that the city became part of the Indian Union. Because of the sanctity of Mount Girnar, 4km away, the Shivratri Mela (Feb/March) assumes particular importance in Junagadh, when thousands of saffron-clad sadhus set up camp here. Fireworks, processions, chanting, chillum-smoking and demonstrations of body-torturing ascetic practices run for at least five days and nights. Every November, up to a million people take part in the Parikrama, a three-day 36km walk around the base of Mount Girnar and the surrounding hills.

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