The hills of Junaraj beckon on an early summer evening

Impromptu excursions can be delightful. And so it was on this early summer evening of 31st March. It turned into a memorable family picnic up in the western Satpuras by the waters of the River Karjan at the mediaeval capital of our Gohil Rajput dynasty of Rajpipla.

In the 1980s when a dam was built across the Karjan, it seemed that Junaraj would be lost forever as the waters would reach the fort, and the village, temples and mosque. Already submerged was the legendary Lal Darwaza, well nigh impregnable for invaders, as one began the ascent along the river valley with an enchanting waterfall by the side. The old road was already washed away.

As it turned out, during the monsoons the waters of the dam did reach the lower part of the fort and covered the top of the temples, but did not flood the village which stood on higher ground at the back. The villagers who had been re-settled elsewhere, decided to return to their former homes. The lovely unspoilt village of Junaraj came back to life. But it was possible to go up there only by boat, a journey of an hour from the dam.

Gradually, a new road bereft of tar, was built. Now one could wind one’s way up, albeit in the first gear and the second in a sturdy jeep. So, over the last four or five years it has been a delight to go up to Junaraj every now and then, and enjoy a few hours in the lap of nature, taking in the history and the geography, and reflecting on what life must have been over three centuries for our ancestors, and the people, in this enchanting region.

 

It was a lovely drive up on 31st March in a World War II jeep, with its trailer carrying our supplies for the evening, and contemporary Mahindra XUV 500 and Ford Fiesta. As we enjoyed the twilight hour by the ruins of the 15th century fort, the hills and the waters, a paraglider decided to spring a surprise on us out of nowhere.

As darkness fell and the full moon rose over the hill yonder, with a few solar lights peeking through, the silence was broken only by our chit chat and laughter. The peace and tranquillity, away from hustle-bustle of modern life, was an experience that could be felt better than it can ever be described.

 

The drive back in the darkness was equally a thrill, rekindling memories of a time gone by. As the dirt track lit up with the headlights of our vehicles, we could again and again see the lights across Karjan dam, in the distance below, as the path took right hand bends by the river. Close to midnight we were on the other side of the hill, from where we got a bird’s eye view of the illumination in the newer parts of Rajpipla.

 

It was another memorable adventure with family and friends, and the simple folk of Junaraj. Not for nothing is Rajpipla said to be ‘seven steps from heaven’. The countdown has already begun for the next outing in another part of this expanse bountifully blessed by nature.

(Indra Vikram Singh, descendant of the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla and Gohil Rajput dynasty, can be contacted on emails singh_iv@hotmail.com and teddy.rajpipla@gmail.com).

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