Junagadh

Junagadh is the headquarters of Junagadh district in the Indian state of Gujarat. The city is the 7th largest in Gujarat, located at the foot of the Girnar hills, 355 km south west of state capital Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. Literally translated, Junagadh means “Old Fort”. An alternate etymology gives the name as coming from “Yonagadh”, literally “City of the Yona (Greeks),” referring to the ancient inhabitants of the city under the Indo-Greek Kingdom. It is also known as “Sorath”, the name of the earlier Princely State of Junagadh. After a brief struggle between India and Pakistan, Junagadh joined India on 9 November 1947. It was a part of Saurashtra state and later Bombay state. In 1960, after the Maha Gujarat movement, it became part of newly formed Gujarat state.

An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built during the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta in 319 BCE The fort remained in use until the 6th century, when it was abandoned for some 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 CE. The fort was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period. One unsuccessful siege lasted twelve years.

There is an inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka on a large boulder within 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) of Uperkot Fort. The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in a language similar to Pali and date back to 250 BCE. On the same rock there are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 CE by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, a member of the Western Kshatrapas dynasty. Another inscription dates from about 450 CE and refers to Skandagupta, the last Gupta emperor. Old rock-cut Buddhist “caves” in this area, dating from well before 500 CE, 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.

Junagadh State was founded in 1730. In 1807 it became a British protectorate. The East India Company took control of the state by 1818, but the Saurashtra area never came under the direct administration of British India. Instead, the British divided the territory into more than one hundred princely states, which remained in existence until 1947. The present old town, developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, is one of the former princely states which were outside but under the suzerainty of British India.

The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Junagadh was constructed on land presented by Jinabhai (Hemantsingh) Darbar of Panchala, and dedicated on 1 May 1828. Swaminarayan appointed Gunatitanand Swami as the first mahant (religious and administrative head of temple), who served in this role and preached there for over 40 years.

Junagadh has a tropical wet and dry climate, with three distinct seasons observed, a mild winter from November to February, a hot summer from March to June, and a monsoon from July to October. The Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Cambay are also influential factors affecting the climate and weather of Junagadh. Junagadh faces adverse climatic conditions in the summer months with the temperature ranging from 28° Celsius to 38° Celsius. In the winter months, the temperature ranges from 10° Celsius to 25° Celsius. The city is drained by the south-west monsoon from June to September. It records a rainfall of 1000 to 1200 mm annually. Various factors such as its close proximity to the sea influence the weather of Junagadh. The latent winds from the sea affect the climatic conditions in the region. Highest rainfall in a calendar year was recorded back in 1983 and it was 2800 mm.

Due to its mountainous region and forest reserves, Junagadh lacks major industries or plants. However main earning sectors for Junagadh are mineral-based cement industry, agriculture-based industry and power sector. Presence of huge reserves of limestone makes the cement industry a thriving industrial sector. Major crops produced in the district are wheat, oil seeds, cotton, mango, banana, onion and brinjal. Total production of oilseeds in Junagadh in 2006-07 was 4,64,400 MT which was the highest in the state. Junagadh is the largest producer of groundnut and garlic in the state contributing 26% and 34% to total production respectively. Junagadh has Asia’s largest ground nut research laboratory. Mango and onions are produced in large quantities in the district.

Junagadh is connected to Rajkot and Ahemadabad by National Highway NH8D which also connects Junagadh to Veraval and Somnath. Junagadh city Bypass on NH8D obviates the need for through vehicles to enter the city. In the south, Junagadh is connected to Bilkha and Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary. Kalwo river runs through Junagadh; Ferguson bridge is built over it to connect the two parts of the city. A bridge is also constructed on river Sonrakh in the northern outskirts of the city. Mount Girnar is connected with Junagadh by road. Rickshaws are generally preferred as mode of transportation.

Junagadh has a zoo named Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden known as Sakkarbaug Zoo established in 1863 in the area of around 200 hectares. The zoo provides purebred Asiatic lions for the Indian and the international endangered species captive breeding program for the critically endangered species. Currently, it is the only zoo in the country to hold African cheetahs. The zoo also has museum of natural history.

Junagadh has witnessed rules of many famous dynasties like Babi Nawabs, Vilabhis, Kshatraps, Mauryas, Chudasamas, Gujarat Sultans and several others. It has also seen major religious upsurges. All these have greatly influenced the architectural developments of Junagadh.

Schools in Junagadh are either “municipal schools” (run by the JMC) or private schools (run by trusts or individuals), which in some cases receive financial aid from the government. The schools are either affiliated with Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board, Central Board of Secondary Education or International General Certificate of Secondary Education. English or Gujarati is the predominant language of instruction. The government run public schools lack many facilities, but are the only option for poorer residents who cannot afford the more expensive private schools.

Junagadh has many colleges named Bahauddin Govt. Arts & Science College, Commerce and law college, Matru Kesarben college for B.Ed, Civil Hospital School of Nursing. Junagadh is also home to the Junagadh Agricultural University which offers courses in Agriculture Engineering, Fishery science and Agricultural Science. N.R. Vekariya college of Business Management Studies, Noble Engineering College, Vivek Bharti Trust Degree Pharmacy college, Junagadh Veterinary college are some of the other colleges.