HILL STATIONS IN GUJARAT
The state of Gujarat is located in the western part of India with the Rann of Kutch on the north western side, the Arabian Sea on the west, Maharashtra in the south and the states of Madhya Pradesh in the east and Pakistan and Rajasthan on the north east. The name of Gujarat was derived from the tribes, ‘Gujjars’ who dominated the area as early as in the 700s and 800s.
Gujarat is also known as the ‘Jewel of the West’ as culture, traditions, history and heritage commingles with the different religions like Hindus, Muslims and European cultures. The state has become a major tourist destination. There are places like Dwaraka, Somnath, Pavagadh, Ambaji, Bhadreshwar, Shamlaji and Taranga that are religious and have stories connected to the ancient books. There are monuments and archaeological finds in Patan, Siddhpur Ghumli, Lothal, Modhera, Ahmedabad, Dhaboi and Vadnagar. Legend states that Lord Rama had visited some of these places and stayed in the forests during his period of exile. The traces of the Indus Valley civilization have been found on the banks of Sabarmathi and Mahi rivers. Traces of the Harappan civilization have been found in places like Lothal, Rampur and Amri. The state has witnessed the invasion of many dynasties like the Maurya Dynasty, the Shungas, the Sakas, the Maitraka Dynasty (which had been recorded by the great Chinese traveler Huien Tsang in 640 AD), Chawura, Solanki, Bhagilah, Vaghela (the last Hindu Dynasty to rule) and then came Alauddin Khilji in 1297. The first Muslim Sultanate under Zafar Khan Muzzaffar was established in Gujarat. The Mughal Empire held the place in 1576 until Chhatrapathi Shivaji took over the reins of the state in mid 18th century. The British established the East India Company in Surat in the year 1614 by starting a factory because of the access from the sea. The company took over most of Gujarat from the then Marathas in the Second Anglo – Maratha war. The state of Gujarat witnessed many anti-British movements like the Salt Sathyagriha and the sathyagrihas in Kheda, Bardoli and Borsad.
There are many hills in Gujarat and the government has extended its powers to develop tourism in all places. The major hill stations in Gujarat are:
- 1. SAPUTARA
At an altitude of 1000 metres, it is located in the centre of Dangs District. The hill station is perched on a plateau of the Sahyadiri range of mountains. Saputara means ‘the abode of serpents’. There is a temple for the serpents on the banks of River Sarpagana where the tribals worship during Holi. The climate is salubrious and pleasant and the view, magnificent. The forest cover with thick pines and other rich vegetations are a sight worth the trip. The legend states that Lord Rama spent 11 years of his exile in this forest.
During summer the temperature does not exceed 280 C. The area has many tribal villages and during festivals, the place is decorated and tribal dances are performed.
Saputara is a planned hill station with all modern amenities like hotels, parks, play grounds, swimming pools, a boat club, theatres and a museum. Saputara is 160 kms. away from Surat.
- 2. WILSON HILLS
Wilson Hills is located in the Valsad district at an altitude of 750 metres. It is the nearest hill station for the people at Surat. The hill station is very close to the Pangabari Wild Life Sanctuary, which is heavily forested. Wilson Hills has the reputation of being the only hill station in the world where the sea is visible. Because of its altitude, the hill station is always cooler than the areas around. There are five points from which viewing of the areas around are wonderful. They are: 1. Marble Chatri, which is the most important one dedicated to Lord Wilson, 2. Sunrise Point, 3. Sunset Point 4. Steep Valley Point and 5. Ozone Point.
The name Wilson was given to the place in honour of Lord Wilson who was the Governor of Bombay from 1923 to 1928, by the last king of Dharampur, Vijai Devji. Lord Wilson was surprised with the beauty of the place and had combined with the Maharajah to develop the place. Unfortunately the project failed to take off. There is a memorial in the name of Lord Wilson and Vijai Devji. In 2003, another entrepreneur, with the permission of the Gujarat Government took up the project of building a resort and developing the hill station.
- 3. WAGHAI HILLS
Located 160 kms. from Surat, at an altitude of 1000 metres above sea level, Waghai is yet another tourist spot. The best time to visit these hills is from April to July. There is a ropeway in this place. The place is good for picnics. However, permission is required to visit this place. The Unnai Mata Hot springs are just 19 kms. from Waghai. There is a Shiva temple near the springs.
- 4. MAHAL HILL
This hill is about 60 kms. from Saputara near the Purna Wild Life sanctuary. The rivers Purna and Gira flow through the forest and the combination of the trees and the river gives a pleasant effect. There are bamboo glades and a wonderful picnic spot. Apart from the Sanctuary, the Girmal Falls is also in the neighbourhood. The nearest airport is in Mumbai. Waghai and Bilimora are the nearest railway stations. Ahmedabad is 409 kms and Waghai is 51 kms. away by road. There are many buses that ply on these routes.
- 5. GIRNAR
This is a collection of mountains in the district of Junagadh. The tallest of these mountains is at a height of 945 metres. These mountains are religiously important to the Jains. The first peak in Girnar has a series of Shwetambara and Digambara temple. The Jain pilgrims say that there are 9999 steps right from the beginning to the last temple in this series. But there are only approximately 8000 steps in all. The Shwetambara temples are comparatively newer though they have more exquisite carvings etched.
Ahmedabad has the nearest International airport. Domestic flights are also available from this city. There is a major railway station in Ahmedabad. By road, Gujarat is connected to Delhi by a wonderful road.