10,000 steps to Redemption: Girnar Hill, Gujarat
Situated at the far end of the ancient town of Junagadh is the holy hill of Girnar. Hiking the Grinar Hill is one of the most reputed excursion sites in the town of Junagadh in Gujarat. It is about 3672 feet high and topped by a number of Jain temples.
Girnar Hill is located about 25 km away from Kaiwa Chowk—the main four way junction. The best way of getting to the foot of the Girnar Hill is to take a tuk-tuk (an eight seat sharing vehicle). These tuk-tuks start ferrying pilgrims to the foot of the hill from as early as 4am. The other option is to hire a private auto-rickshaw; rates are quoted as per the times of the day.
To reach the peak of the Girnar Hill one has to climb 10,000 steps from the foot of the hill. At the foot of the hill there are many stalls and shops that sell prayer offerings, sweets are sold and also bamboo sticks that people can buy or hire to aid them in walking the 10,000 steps. It is advisable to take a bamboo stick along the way as it becomes a life saver especially when one reaches the higher end of the climb.
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Just after crossing the main entrance there is a small quadrangle that has a pulley in the centre surrounded by many rope chairs. People who find it hard to climb generally avail of this service. People have to pay for the rope chair service based on their weight hence the pulley weighing system is there. There is an official board that has the weight and price ratio mentioned on it to avoid people from getting cheated.
As the climb begins there are plenty of stalls selling water and other refreshments along the way. The cost of all these products sold in these stalls keeps rising as one climbs higher since all these products are carried physically by the stall owners and their workers. There are no stalls after 7000 steps so it is advisable to pick up all the required amenities at the stalls that are there prior to it along the steps.
The steps of the climb were initially paved by pilgrims walking this path it was only later on that the stone slab steps were made hence many of the steps are uneven and not of equal length. After every thousand steps there is an indicator in yellow on the steps notifying the steps completed.
There are also plenty of monkeys that are found all along the hill it is advisable not to feed these monkeys since they create a nuances by attacking people who are walking while they are eating. After every 2500 steps there are small dome shaped Dharamshalas along the way where pilgrims can take some rest if needed. These are free resting spots but provide service only on a first come first service basis.
The temples that first come by are located at 7000 steps and are the five temples of Jainism. Of these five temples, the biggest as well as the oldest one was established to pay homage to the 22nd Jain Tirthankar. The temple meant for the worship of Amba Mata is also quite popular. Photography is strictly prohibited in the temple complex but as one ascends higher one will get a splendid view of the all the temples and also the view of the land below is simply breath-taking.
Most of the pilgrims don’t go beyond this point. They spend their time on a flat terrace that is created overlooking the adjoining Girnar Hills. On this terrace there are plenty of stalls selling fruits, water and soft drinks.
A further 3000 steps climb ahead leads to the final temple which is situated on the peak of the hill. Only about 10 – 15% of the pilgrims that start the climb actually reach up to this temple. The area below this temple is home to many Agori Sadus (naked sadus).
Innumerable people visit the place on the occasion of Bhavnath Fair. This fair is held between the months of January and February every year. The Bhavnath Fair is celebrated with a lot of music and dance programs. According to popular local belief, it is Lord Krishna who first celebrated this fair to give a warm welcome to Arjuna. All along the 10,000 steps there are plenty of small temples, prayer symbols and donation boxes for visitors to contribute to.
The walk to the peak of Girnar should always be attempted early in the morning well before sunrise since the weather is pleasant and the climb is much easier. Climbing the 10,000 steps is no easy task and takes a fit person about 4 to 5 hours to complete. It is advisable to avoid taking long rest breaks since after a long break the climb gets harder.
The devotees of Hinduism and Jainism frequently visit these temples as they are considered very sacred. For others the Girnar Hills are a must visit for the breath-taking view of the scenery and the architecture of the temples in addition to the challenging climb.
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