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Review: Mount Abu



Rajasthan's Only Hill Station

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2341 reviews

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  • Nov 2009
  • Husband

58 people found this review helpful

We caught the overnight train from Delhi to Abu Road where we were picked up by our driver for the rest of the week.

Abu Road is a large settlement that grew up round the station. The main street seemed to be mainly fast food cafes. The road leaves the plains and and began the long climb up to Mt Abu through woodland with small red shrines to Hanuman (Monkey God) along the road and views down into river valley. There were large groups of langur monkeys along the road waiting to be fed by tourists. As soon as we stopped the car to take a photo they were climbing over the roof and across the bonnet.

There is a small charge payable to enter Mount Abu. This is popular with Indian honeymoon couples but gets few foreign visitors. It is built on the shores of Nakki Lake, a large artificial expanse of water surrounded by hills, parks, rock formations, all of which have names and many tourist shops. Honeymoon couples were dressing up in traditional dress to have their photographs taken. The park beside the lake was busy with children selling nuts, a small magician (who was excellent and well worth his tip), saffron and perfume sellers and a person selling an exudate from rocks which was supposed to promote vigour….

We wandered through the market area with stalls selling many different sorts of fruit and vegetables, all good quality, fast food stalls (including an omelette stall), hardware, grocery, clothes, tailors, quilt makers, material, shirts…. The streets were very narrow and winding. Too narrow for cars but there were motor bikes racing up and dawn as well as goats roaming freely.

Many princes and rulers had summer houses at Mount Abu and some are now heritage hotels. We were booked into the Palace Hotel, which was a 19thC building and originally the summer palace of the Maharajas of Bikaner. It was a splendid red sandstone building with jali screens shielding the windows of the main building. It has been a hotel since 1962 and has an air of faded grandeur. There is a tennis court in the grounds and tea is served on the lawn. (See separate review.)

The main reason people visit Mount Abu is for the for the DILWARA TEMPLES This is a complex of five marble temples surrounded by a high white wall and approached through tourist stalls and post card sellers. It is closed to non Jains in the morning and gets very busy in the afternoon when coach loads of Indian tourists arrive. Shoes have to be left outside and these were carefully places on a shelf for us. You are not allowed to wear any leather in the temples, so no leather belts, wallets etc. The temples are a sacred pilgrimage place of the Jains and no photographs are allowed inside. Small books of pictures can be bought for a few rupees from vendors outside the temples.

The Vimal Vasahi Adinatha Temple is the earliest being built in 1021 and is the most important. It was a very plain building outside of white granite. By the entrance is a small porch with a row marble elephants. Elephants were used to bring the marble blocks from quarries 25km away. Inside there is a courtyard with a central shrine with an image of the deity. Around the inside of the wall are numerous small shrines, each with a carved deity. The thing which really does stop you in our tracks are the beautifully carved columns and ceilings around the inside of the walls. Every available space is covered with carvings flowers, gods, elephants, and animals. There are lotus flowers carved on the ceilings and decorative arches between the columns.

We went into the Luna Vashi Temple which was smaller and built about 1230. The marble and carvings were of lesser quality and it gets fewer visitors.

The Pittalhar or Parshvanatha Temple was started in the 15thC but is unfinished. There were fewer carvings and marble was very poor quality and more like limestone.

We also visited Achalgar, a short drive from Mount Abu beyond the Dilwara Temples. It was a pleasant drive through date palms, eucalyptus groves, fields with stone walls and round stone enclosures containing wells. Cows everywhere, even foraging on rubbish heaps.

ACHALGARH is a bustling market area with a selection tourist shops. It is built at the base of a 14thC fortress. We walked up the main street and through the massive stone gateway to the fortress. There were small stone houses along road, many now derelict. We could see remains fort on skyline above, reached by an increasingly rough and steep track. All the local children were asking ‘ball pen’. Apparently this has replaced the request for money. Tourists are increasingly refusing to give money but the request for a penis much more effective as it sounds as if the child is keen to learn. Tourists don’t have spare pens so often give money so the child can buy a pen.

Main attraction are the 1452 ACHLESHWAR MAHADEY TEMPLE which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The site is supposed to have been built on the toe of Lord Shiva. Again there is a wall with courtyard inside. In a corner is the earliest temple on the site which was 8thC and is now being restored. In the centre is the main temple with carving of Shiva and bronze cobra. Workmen were busy recarving decorations on the main temple. Around the inside of the walls were small individual shines.

Our pictures of Mount Abu can be found here.

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