History of Mount Abu
history of Mount Abu is as diverse as the city itself. It
was once a part of the Chauhan kingdom of Rajasthan and served
as a summer resort for the Rajput kings of the region. After
that, it was leased by the British government from the then
Maharaja of Sirohi for use as the headquarter of the resident
to Rajputana (another name for Rajasthan).
Abu was the home of many saints and sages in the old days.
Legend has it that all the 330 million gods and goddesses
of the Hindu pantheon used to visit this holy mountain. It
is also the place where the great saint Vashishth lived and
performed a yagna (sacrificial worship on a fire pit) to create
four Agnikula (four clans of fire) to protect the earth from
demons. The yagna was supposed to have been performed near
a natural spring, which emerged from a rock shaped like a
cow's head. According to another legend, once sage Vashishth's
cow Nandini was trapped in a deep gorge and could not free
herself. The sage appealed to Lord Shiva for assistance. The
Lord sent Saraswati, the divine stream, to help flood the
gorge so that the cow could float up. Vashishth then decided
to ensure that such mishaps did not occur in future. He asked
the youngest son of Himalaya, the king of mountains to fill
the chasm permanently. This he did with the assistance of
Arbud, the mighty snake. This spot came to be known as Mount
Arbud and was later changed to its present form - Mount Abu.
This place is held in reverence by Jains as well since Jain
scriptures record that Lord Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankar
(spiritual leader), also visited Mount Abu and blessed the
was here that an elderly mystic, Balam Rashiya, fell in love
with a nubile teenager. The parents of the adolescent girl
were bothered by the unreasonable demand of the sage. They
soon devised a plan, according to which they placed a condition
in front of the aging spiritualist. They told him to dig a
lake with his fingernails, before sunup, failing which he
would not get the hand of their daughter as his bride. The
aging guru accepted the stipulation and earnestly went to
work to win over his bride. Seeing the sage succeeding in
his mission, the parents went to the gods, beseeching them
to save their daughter from becoming the bride of a very old
maharishi. The gods betrayed the sage by imitating a cock,
which crowed too early to announce the daybreak. The sage
was heartbroken, thinking that he had failed in his stipulated
mission and would not have his much adored teenager as his
wife. In the divine process the love lake Nakki was born.
is in the old scripture, Mount Abu is named after the mythical
snake Arbuda. It has been described as the most sacred place
on earth. According to Padma Purana one night’s stay at Mount
Abu has the blessing equivalent to the charity of giving one
thousand cows. It was considered the abode of great saints
and Gods. Mount Abu finds mention in the Puranas, like Skund
Purana, Upanishads, and Mahabharata and in the travelogues
of Magasthanese, Col. Todd and many others. It was here that
the four, fiery Rajput clans were born from the fire of Havana
performed by the sage, Rishi Vashishta. The place was plagued
by incessant tremors. Once again Lord Shiva came to its rescue.
He pressed his big toe at the sacred Achalgarh to steady the
mountain. Likewise, the peak of Mount Abu came to be known
as Guru Shikhar after the guru of the Devas, Dattatreya Muni.
Similarly, Gaumukh, the Vashishta Ashram, became famous as
the precincts of the sacrosanct fire, which gave birth to
the four Rajput Agnikula clans.
Historically this mountain terrain has been the sanctuary
for regional warriors. It was because of this strategic topography
that the invaders could never defeat the local rulers. As
the attackers would attack, the local warriors would climb
the familiar mountain ranges and from the top would assault
the aggressors and force them to retreat. Accurate historical
information is not available on the early history of Mount
Abu; only mythology. We learn of the Bhillas and the Nagas
who, according to legend, lived here in ancient times. The
latter worshipped the Godess Durga, which points to the existence
of a fertility cult, traces of which remain even in historic
times. After this we come across the name of the first kings.
First ruler, Dhumraja, established the Parmar (The slayer
of the enemy-the name given by the sage Vasistha) dynasty
in 916 AD. They were the important rulers of the region. They
were the tribute paying vassals of the powerful Solankis (who
influenced the architecture of the region, whose examples
are the older Delwara temples) of Gujarat, the neighboring
state of Rajasthan. After a fierce war between the two, Bimal
Shah of the Solankis was filled with penitence and desired
penance. He met a Jain hermit who told him that there was
no such thing as penance for a willful sin, yet he could make
his life better by constructing temples to lessen his guilt.
He soon went about to construct Dilwara temples, the exquisite
poems in marble. The two tycoon brothers, Tej Pal and Vastu
Pal, who were then considered to be the biggest builders in
the country, ably helped him. If there was something like
a record book like the Guinness then they would have been
included in it.
conquest of Mount Abu in 1311 by Rao Lumba of Deora-Chauhan
dynasty brought to an end the reign of the Parmars and also
marked the decline of Mount Abu. He shifted the capitol city
to Chandravati in the plains. After the destruction of Chandravati
in 1405, Rao Shasmal made Sirohi his headquarters.
mountains are the oldest ranges in India, as old as water
and as fresh as thirst. Their contemporaries are the Appalachians
of North America, together with which they constitute the
oldest mountain systems in the world. They are older than
the Nilgiries; they are older than the Himalayas yet they
exult eternal youth. Mount Abu is the highest peak between
the Vindhias and the Himalayas. It is the proud abode of the
verdant, salubrious forests, habited by leopards, wild boars,
Sambhars, monkeys, porcupines, snakes, civet cats, hares,
bears and many exotic birds, highly praised by the great,
renowned Indian ornithologist Mr. Salim Ali, after whom there
is an observation tower in the jungles. With the passage of
time Mount Abu was declared a sanctuary and a very big area,
the Trevor’s tank, too was demarcated, named after the British
officer Mr. Trevor; just like the beautiful walk, the Bailey’s
walk, was named after another British officer Mr. Bailey.
It was left for the British to rediscover Mount Abu. Col.
Todd was surveying the then Rajputana state and now the Rajasthan
state and stumbled upon Mount Abu. His master, the Resident,
the local representative of the British Viceroy in India,
selected Mount Abu, as the summer capital of Rajputana state.
This made Mount Abu an important destination for the royals
of Rajputana. They made their palaces and the ‘Vakalat Houses’
for their lawyers, who accompanied them to plead their cases
in the court of the Resident. Many of theses royal edifices
have been converted into heritage hotels or prestigious schools
or army or paramilitary cantonments.
After the Second World War there was rapid growth in tourism
in Mount Abu. The single bus service from the railroad, Abu
road, known in the olden days as Kharadi, was gradually increased
in frequency and the number of the vehicles plying too swelled.
By 1954 Mount Abu was merged with Rajasthan from Bombay province.
By the eighties, tourism multiplied in geometrical progression,
crossing the 1.2 million mark per year by late eighties.