This is the fourth in the series of posts on our visit to Polo Forest. See the earlier three posts on the Heritage Palace, Vijaynagar, the natural beauty around the forest and the ancient Shiva Temples here.
Exploring along a not very clean path at the back of the Shiva Panchayatan-2 we discovered a wonder of wonders! It convinced us of the callous way in which we allow our heritage sites to crumble to ruins. It turned out to be a complex of ancient Jain Temples taken over by strangler banyan trees and other smaller trees and shrubs! The Angkor Wat of Gujarat! Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world, a complex of Buddhist Temples. The temple complex had faced extreme damage and deterioration with overgrowth of strangler trees, war and theft. It was restored and the Archeological Survey of India also helped in the restoration between 1986 and 1992. Angkor Wat is definitely on my list of ‘sites to visit’ around the world.
To come back to our find in Polo Forest, Vijaynagar, the Jain Temples, 1, 2, 3, 4, Antarsuba. It was the most amazing and also sad site. These were the last remains of a large complex of Jain Temples. The rusted plaque said that there was nothing remaining of Temples 1 and 3. It seemed to us that if nothing was done to restore this complex, very soon nothing would remain of the existing temples 2 and 4 which were being strangled by the banyan trees. We entered what we thought was the main temple, perhaps Temple 4.
It was a huge complex, littered and run over by a huge banyan tree, many large and small shrubs. It was beautiful as well as a sad site. We moved on down the path to what we think was the ruins of Temple 2. The entrances to this temple were almost covered and we had to pick our way through thorny bushes, broken plastic bottles and trash to enter the temple complex through separate entry points. There was a broken statue of a Jain saint, the only one we found, unclear if it depicted Lord Mahavir.
It was indeed an amazing site. Gujarat state should develop these sites and use this cluster of Shiva and Jain temples in Polo Forest, Vijaynagar, as a tourist attraction. The Archeological Survey of India could be convinced to restore this heritage site. There was another complex of Jain temples inside the Polo Forest, near the Polo Beach. It was closed apparently for restoration. Hopefully that complex is as intricate as this one and will be restored soon. Perhaps that Jain temple was not so choked with strangler trees and easier to restore. Restored or not, this Jain temple complex is a must see!
Next site we visited was another discovery. It was a hide out of Maharana Pratap and his famous horse Chetak Ghoda after he was defeated in the battle of Haldighati. But for that follow me to the next, fifth and final blog post of our amazing visit to Polo Forest.