Abode of gods

Perched at 1,200 metres above sea level in the Aravali ranges, the quaint little hill station in Rajasthan is a repository of some of the finest temples in India, writes Nutan Sehgal 

Set against the backdrop of hills, Nakki lake lies in the heart of Mount Abu
Set against the backdrop of hills, Nakki lake lies in the heart of Mount Abu

FEW sights can be more riveting than a placid blue lake, set against the backdrop of hills. Mount Abu has many picture postcard views. This green oasis in the desert state of Rajasthan has an old-world charm about it and attracts niche vacationers, who prefer holidaying far from the maddening crowds.

The Dilwara temples are masterfully carved in marble and dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras; (and right) an inside view of one of the temples
The Dilwara temples are masterfully carved in marble and dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras; (and right) an inside view of one of the temples

Perched at 1200 metres on the southern tip of the Aravali range, this quaint little hill station has a stunning natural beauty, which is enhanced by coniferous trees, gushing waterfalls, lakes, gigantic boulders and thick green perennial forests.

One of the oldest hill stations of India, Mount Abu finds mention in the ancient Pauranas as Arbudaranya (which translated means the forest of Arbu). Legend has it that this was the home of Saptrishi Vashshistha, Rajguru of the Suryavansh (solar system).

Mount Abu can be reached from Delhi within five hours if you take a flight to Udaipur 185 km from the hill station and then a three-hour taxi or a bus ride. The road runs through the gentle slopes of conifer forests, with the pristine beauty of the Aravalis in the backdrop. Trees like the Flame of the Forest and lush green shrubs make the area look like a giant garden. The breathtaking scenery stretches as far as the eye can see. This was once the favourite resort of the British, who found it a serene getaway from the burning heat of the desert.

At the heart of Mount Abu is the Nakki Lake, which, according to legend, was dug out by gods using their nails or nakhs. Which explains why it is called Nakki and worshipped by the locals. One can take a romantic boatride on this lake followed by a leisurely walk in the resplendent market around the lake.

In the southwest of the lake is the famed Sunset Point of Mount Abu, which, as the name suggests, provides a stunning view of the setting sun. This is also the place to buy knick-knacks and trinkets.

The other attractions close by include the Honeymoon Point that offers great views of the valley below, especially in the evenings with villages marked by twinkling lights. A 5-km meandering trek from here leads to Bayley’s Walk, which is a beautiful nature trail. In fact, there are a number of trails like Craig’s Walk and Tiger Trail, which can keep you on your toes.

The main attractions of Mount Abu lie on the outskirts of the town. The picturesque Trevor’s Tank is a great tourist attraction because of its natural beauty. The tank houses a number of alligators and a variety of birds. And the nearby Wildlife Sanctuary is a great destination for those who like the idea of eco-tourism.

Dilwara Jain temples

However, it is spirituality that brings a number of tourists to Mount Abu. Over the past 10 centuries the hill station has seen the growth of some of the most spectacular temples of India. The Dilwara Jain temples are the centrepiece of this hill station. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries these five temples are masterfully carved in marble and dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras.

Considered the most beautiful Jain temples in the world, they are exquisite specimens of the Nagara style of marble architecture. Their beauty has been often compared to the Taj Mahal though many consider them superior in their stone carvings and intricate design. Surrounded by thickly wooded hills, these temples exude immense tranquillity and are shining examples of India’s ancient religious culture..

Spiritual quest

Though Dilwara is the best-known temple complex, spirituality pervades all over Mount Abu and the devout would seldom be disappointed. There are several other temples that the devout can visit. The Gaumukh temple, too, is a great tourist attraction as a natural spring flows through the mouth of a sculpted head of a cow. Then there is the Adhar Devi temple, chiselled out of a huge rock and one has to climb 365 stairs to reach the temple. Undoubtedly, the view from the top is breath taking.

Another great spiritual attraction is Spiritual University and museum of the Brahma Kumaris. It is a place for those seeking peace and solace. This neo-Hindu sect promotes meditation and yoga and propagates equality among all religions. Anyone can go and attend meditation and yoga lessons that are imparted free of cost as the university receives generous donations from all over the world.

Indeed, Mount Abu is steeped in spirituality and natural beauty. Here you will find yourself surrounded by lakes, water bodies and greenery. Stand atop Guru Shikhar, Mount Abu’s highest peak and you will be greeted by an eerie silence broken only by the whistling winds. Truly, this hill resort nestling in the Aravali ranges is an abode of the gods. — NF