The benign aura of Mount Abu

A scenic getaway for vacationers, Mount Abu is also a much-visited pilgrim centre and a hotspot with trekkers and adventure sports lovers, says Kiran Soni Gupta

A view of the Jaipur summer palace from the Nakki lake
A view of the Jaipur summer palace from the Nakki lake

Sunset at the Nakki lake
Sunset at the Nakki lake
— Photos by the writer

AN everlasting source of unbounded beauty and serenity lies in the Abode of Gods — Mount Abu. Part of Sirohi district, it is 29 km away from Abu Road Railway Station and 220 km from Jodhpur. Ascending the mountains covered with gigantic rocks and towering trees, the most scenic landscape awaits you. On the Rajasthan-Gujarat border, it stands atop the Aravalli range (4000 ft above sea level), receiving as many as 15 lakh tourists every year.

Mount Abu is steeped in myth, mystery, beauty, history and theology. 'Abu' literally means the son of the Himalayas. Mughal emperor Akbar was unable to tame and control over the Sirohi kingdom. Maharao Maan, the valiant ruler of Sirohi, (1562 – 1572) adopted Surtran, who bravely faced the attack of the Akbar’s hundred thousand soldiers. The prudent king Surtran took position at Achalgarh Fort in Mount Abu. The Mughal siege continued for more than six months but Akbar’s army failed to find a way up to the vantage position on the Mount, as every attempt was fiercely frustrated by Surtran’s alert and agile guerrillas.

The battle of Dattaani that followed in 1583 was one of the bloodiest in Indian history. It spelt a disastrous defeat for Akbar who never looked again at Sirohi.

Mount Abu has been home to Sage Vashishtha, who is believed to have given birth to four agnikula Rajput clans (Chauhans, Parmars, Pratihars and Solankis) to protect the earth from demons. Sirohi is also well known for Gautam Rishi’s ashram, which draws crowds in April every year.

Besides being a vacationer’s delight, Mount Abu beckons pilgrims and lovers of adventure sports. It also offers variety and diversity both in its landscape, flora and fauna, aristocratic heritage and properties catering to every pocket. The revival of polo after a gap of 37 years in Lothian Golf Club, one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, is an added attraction.

During British rule, Mount Abu was the Summer Retreat of the agent to the Governor General of Rajputana. And now every summer, the majestic Raj Bhavan dresses itself up to receive the Governor. One also cannot miss the summer houses of the erstwhile princely states of Bikaner and Jaipur which are now heritage hotels.

Another attraction of the place is the Nakki lake. Nakki is believed to be have been dug out with the help of nails (nakh) of gods to remain protected from the oppressions of Bashkali, a wicked demon. The lake, half a mile long and quarter of a mile wide, is surrounded by swaying date palms and green hills dotted with coniferous trees. One gets to see the jutting Tod Rock and the overriding beauty of the Jaipur Palace on the hillock.

Gandhi Ghat owes its origin and importance to the immersion of ashes of Mahatma Gandhi on February 12, 1948. Another addition to Abu’s heritage is the Raghunath Temple, established by the guru of Kabir and visited by Guru Nanak! Col James Todd’s Travels in the Western Rajputana gives a vivid description of this flourishing temple and all the amenities provided by the rulers of Sirohi state.

As the sun went down leaving the stars to shine, we decided to visit the observatory which was, indeed, remarkable. Located close to Gurushikir, the highest peak in the Aravalli range, it offers a commanding view as well as a good peep into the galaxy.

Crowds throng the oldest sun temple, dating back to 11th-13th century, where only the toe of Lord Shiva is worshiped. The exterior of the famous Dilwara temples belies the inner beauty of sculptures and architectural grace. Housing five Jain Svetambara temples — Vimal Vasahi, Luna Vasahi, Pithalhar, Khattar Vasahi and Mahaveer Swami each belonging to different centuries.

Mount Abu boasts of a unique eco system with abundance of herbal medicines, orchids, species of wild rose, ferns, climbers, shrubs, etc. The rich biodiversity also has some endemic, rare and threatened species like the dicliptera abuensis, ceropegia odorata and hydrilla polysperma. The fauna is equally rich — it is an ideal home for sloth bear. While inspecting the works of the forest department on the tiger trail, there was sufficient evidence of their presence around. The occasional sighting of panther, sambhar, jungle cat, wolf, hyena, wild boar, grey jungle fowl, porcupine and myriad birds (150 species) is any visitor’s delight. The recent Supreme Court judgement to maintain and preserve the fragile ecosystem has been hailed by one and all. New construction in this town has been totally banned even as there was much pressure from hoteliers and commercial establishments.

Adventure and eco tourism is best known here with multiple treks, nature camps, rock climbing and nature trails. Some of the important ones are the Tiger Path, Craig’s Path, Sunset Point, Arna-Chhipaberi, Gaumukh-Bagheri, etc. Adopting its name from the British engineer, Trevor’s tank is truly a paradise for nature lovers.

Besides being the epicentre for Brahmakumaris spread all over the globe, Mount Abu is also rated as a good educational centre. Several new efforts to rope in tourists like the development of eco-tourism site at Aaarna village, camping site on Gaumukh Road, development of new Sunrise Point at Achalgarh, and launch of a massive plantation drive would certainly add to the glory of this place.