Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Buddhist Caves Uperkot Junagadh City Saurashtra Gujarat India

Its one of the historical place in Junagadh.

An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built by the Mauryan Chandragupta in 319 B.C.E.. It was covered over for 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 C.E.It was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period.

The walled fortress of Uparkot, witnessed every change in the lifestyle of Junagadh from monastic Buddhism, Aryan Hinduism, pious Jainism, Islamic invasions, British colonisation, the Nawabi spendour and finally, the victory of democracy which forced the Nawab to vacate his throne after he was heavily out-voted in the elections. Like the acrpolises of ancient Greek cities, the Uparkot is built on the defences of rocky hills and the entire modern city sprawls around it. It was an important city during Mauryan rule, became the capital of the Kshtrapas after the fall of the Mauryan empire in the 2nd-4th century AD period, was rebuilt by the Chudasama Rajputs in the 9th century and finally fell to Sultan Muhamad Bhegada. In all, the fort is said to have been subjected to 16 seiges, including one which lasted 12 years over a beautiful daughter of a potter. The girl was coveted by a neighbouring prince, and came for refuge to the ruler of Junagadh, who promptly married herIn the war that followed, the chivalrous prince of Junagadh was killed in 1094 AD, and the girl committed Sati on his funereal pyre.

An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder within 2 km of Uperkot Fort. The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and date back to 250 B.C.E.. On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 C.E. by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, member of the Western Kshtrapas dynasty. Another dates from about 450 C.E. by Skandagupta,the last Gupta emperor. Old rock-cut Buddhist"caves" in this area, dating from well before 500 C.E., have stone carvings and floral work. There are also the Khapra Kodia Caves north of the fort, and the Babupyana Caves south of the fort.

The Maitraka dynasty ruled Gujarat in western India from 475 to 767 C.E. The founder of the dynasty, general Bhatarka, a military governor of Saurashtra peninsula under the Gupta empire, established himself as the independent ruler of Gujarat approximately in the last quarter of the 5th century. However, James Tod states Maitraka rule ended as early as 524 C.E..

Visitors enter the fort through a large gate. Some parts of the fort’s walls are 20m high. If, after entering the gate you turn left, you will come to Jama Masjid, which was built on top of a Hindu temple. It has 140 pillars supporting its ceiling.

Further down the road are what are believed to be old Buddhist caves, said to be 1,500 years old (dating from before 500 AD). They are carved into the rocky hill and have stone carvings and floral work. There are also the Khapra Kodia caves north of the fort, and the Babupyana caves south of the fort.

There is a huge, fifteen-foot cannon, made in Egypt in 1531. There are also two interesting large step wells (vavs) here. The 11th century Navghan Kuva has a circular stairway that descends over 50m down into the well. The Adi Chadi Vav descends down 170 steps.

In Junagadh,Inside the massive battlemented walls of the Uparkot, as opposed to other forts where you would expect to see it outside, is a huge moat, said to be around 300 ft deep which not only prevented enemies who successfully scaled the high walls from entering the citadel, but was also said to be a sort of death chamber with crocodiles for throwing convicts and captured enemy warriors. Beyond the moat, is the Buddhist cave, which goes down some 3 storeys and is dated by archaelogists to around 2nd century AD- much younger than the Baba Pyara and Khapra cave complexes-because of the delectable carvings on the 6 pillars, though it is difficult to judge if the actual excavations were earlier and the carvings done later.

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