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Trekking Opportunities in Gujarat : Polo Monument and Vijayanagar Forest

Polo Forest is a haven for Eco-friendly nature lovers and the adventurous. Polo-one of the most ancient historical sites in Gujarat, is also unique for its picturesque surroundings, Forest & Mills serving as refuge for fascinating flora & fauna. It is a Bird Watcher’s Delight being a sanctuary for over 200 species of Rare Birds. It also is an abode for Jungle fowl and a host of other species which are yet grimly holding on to this last habitat, thoroughly adorned by flowing rivulets and an unsullied lake. The area is surrounded with archeologically important Shiv Temple at Sarneshwar, Sadevant Savlings Deras, Surya Mandir, Lakhena Temple, Jain derasar, the ancient Polo Jain Nagri.polo-forest-vijaynagarThe Polo Camp site is located in Vijayanagar taluka of Sabarkantha districts and is near to Vanaj Forest area, Harnav River and Damsite. It is 150 km from Ahmedabad and 70 km from Himatnagar. Presently at Polo Campsite, Nature Education Camps, Wild Life training and seminars are organized.

The ancient Polo city, a gateway to Rajasthan, was once used as a hiding place for rulers, concealed from enemies, citizens, angry wives, even from the sun, tucked between sacred hills on the east and west. It was built around the river Harnav, an ancient water body spoken of in the Puranas. It is believed to have been established in the 10th century by the Parihar kings of Idar, and was then conquered in the 15th century by the Rathod Rajputs of Marwar.  The name is derived from pol, the Mapolo_vijyanaga_jaintemple_vijaynagarrwari word for “gate,” signifying its status as a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. It was built between Kalaliyo in the east, the highest peak in the area, and Mamrehchi in the west, considered sacred by the local adivasis.  Together they block sunlight for most of the day, which might provide an explanation for the otherwise mysterious abandonment of the ancient city.

The 400 square km area of dry mixed deciduous forest is most lush between September and December after the monsoon rains when the rivers are full, but at any time of the year it provides a rich wildlife experience. There are more than 450 species of medicinal plants, around 275 of birds, 30 of mammals, and 32 of reptiles. There are bears, panthers, leopards, hyenas, water fowl, raptors, passerines, and flying squirrels (mostly heard, rarely seen), all living under a canopy of diverse plants and trees. During winter, all manner of migratory birds occupy the forest; during the rainy season there are wetland birds

The life of the adivasi settlements are still rooted to the forest, and they sure can teach us a lesson or two in listening to the deep hum of the world that envelops these scattered whispers of human constructions.The fig trees, when in fruit, are good places to look out for the endangered Grey Hornbill and Brown-headed Barbet who will come to nibble. Grey Hornbills can also be found at a Banyan tree near the campsite, when it is out with its bright red fruit. On another tree on the other side of the camp look for woodpeckers, and fruit birds and prey birds at the top, especially during a particular half hour in the afternoon (the exact time of which changes).

Until recently, this area was not well-known, and saw very few visitors. The numbers have increasedpolo-forest2 dramatically in the last few years, thanks to a few individuals working to promote its beauty and the following activities:

  • Trekking on jungle trails alongside the pristine lake and rivulets
  • Climbing mountains over 800 meters height.
  • Exploring 1500 year old ruins
  • Star gazing at night
  • Bird watching, morning short walk in the natural greenery
  • Herbal outings, river swimming

This increased flow comes with a price, however. It is important to remember, as visitors, to approach each destination and its inhabitants, human or otherwise, humbly, openly, and with the awareness that every interaction, no matter how slight, carries its own impact on the area whether we know it or not.