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History of Mount Abu

The 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).

Mount 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 city.

It 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.

It 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.

The 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.

These 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.

   
 
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National Informatics Centre, District Unit Sirohi
 
email - rajsir@nic.in