January 25, 2020 : The Road to Sasan Gir Via Junagadh Highlights the Circle of Life
We have a long drive today to the southern part of the State and Sasan Gir National Park. But as always when traveling anywhere in India, there is never a boring moment with the 360 degree Cinemascope-quality images surrounding you. Our early start has us passing Mount Girnar as the day dawns.
The Girnar mountain ranges are considered to be sacred. It is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus and Jains.
Freshly dyed cloth dries in a field along the road.
In the foothills of the Girnar Mountains is the town of Junagadh which amazes us with varied and beautiful architecture. Here is the clock tower in the city center.
A school in Junagadh.
The gate into the historic center with a huge mausoleum, the Mahabat Maqbara, seen on the right. The mausoleum is the tomb of Nawab Mahabat Khanji II, the sixth Nawab of Junagadh. It was completed in 1892 and has Islamic styled domes (see detailed image at the top of this entry) and European style columns.
The mausoleum is locked up tight, but we can catch a glimpse of some of the tombs inside through the gate.
Beside the Nawab’s mausoleum is another one built for his vizier, Bahar-ud–din. It resembles the Taj Mahal and has four minarets with beautiful spiral staircases.
Of course we can’t resist a group photo on this ornate staircase, even though it is crumbling and in a terrible state of disrepair.
On the other side of the Nawab’s Mausoleum is a beautiful mosque, the most recognized structure in Junagadh. Jama Masjid was built in 1423 by Ahmedabad’s founder Ahmed Shah I.
One of the most interesting historical sites in Junagadh is the Ashoka Rock Edicts. It is a large boulder inscribed with Buddhist edicts dating from about 250 BC. The inscriptions tell about the philosophy of Ashoka: respect for all religions, developing a positive attitude, kindness to everyone and resistance to greed and animal sacrifice.
One of the most moving visits we make today is to a site where cremations are performed. As we approach, we pass this representation of the circle of life.
We notice a group of men sitting and waiting respectfully. They come over to talk with us as we pass. They are here to pay respects at the final rites for their friend who has died.
The structure where cremations are done. We see that one is in progress and approach silently and respectfully.
This man explains that his 19-year-old cousin died unexpectedly last night. They believe he had a heart attack.
The family gives me permission to enter the cremation site. The heat from the flames is overpowering. I say a silent prayer for the dead youth being consumed by the flames.
Soberly, we continue our journey. We are reminded that life goes on: there are places to go and errands to run, . . .
the cattle still need to be herded and fed, . . .
shopkeepers will continue to buy and sell their produce, . . .
and children will come into the world to be taught the mysteries and cycles of this amazing life we all share.
We reach our safari resort where this evening members of the Siddi ethnic group, whose ancestors were East Africans brought to India as slaves on Abyssinian ships, perform tribal dances and set the mood for possible lion sightings on safari tomorrow.