Searching for a weekend getaway from Ahmedabad, I chanced upon a place -Polo forest- barely 150 Kms from the city. The fact that not many people from Ahmedabad knew about it made me even more curious. Most people have reviewed that it can only be visited for a day trip. However, on deeper research, I came across Chirag Shah who lives about 15 Kms from there and runs a travel company called Polo Safari- that takes people on day trips and gets them places to stay. A young lad in his early twenties, Chirag chanced upon this profession when he realized that the regular tour guides were just hoodwinking the tourists by giving them wrong information about this ancient forgotten city- now rediscovered.
Established close to the 4th century AD and curiously abandoned by the 15th century AD, Polo gets its name from pol (Rajasthani for ‘gate’), being a literal gateway between the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Shrouded in nearly a millennium of mystery, Polo is fabled to have been an ideal refuge for kings and crooks alike. 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. At some point, there was a carnage that gave the place a bad reputation of being jinxed and it was deserted thereafter. Since then the jungles and the hills around prevented bigger human settlements. As recently as a year ago, a couple of resorts and camping sites have sprung up, making it habitable.
We rode a Harley from Ahmedabad to Polo, via Himmatnagar and Idar- a very peaceful drive with good roads. Throughout we were warned of the adivasis at night, hence we ensured that we rode during the day. The rains are the best time to be in this forest, but be prepared for continuous rains and low visibility. There have been frequent sightings of bears and other wild animals. The actual forest is a dense but pleasant place with few hawkers vending basic eatables. We trekked an easy route to the Mango point and came down another route to the ancient Jain temples.
The first one was Lakhena’s jain temples, built by Lakha Vanjara in the 11th Century. This temple’s unique architecture reflects unque religious influence from Jainism, Hinduism and Islam. It also has a secret 45 Km long tunnel which goes right up to the town Idar and was used in ancient times as an emergency escape route.
The Shiva temple – Sharneshwar- was apparently built in the 4th Century and was later mutilated by Allauddin Khilji. It is the only temple there where Puja is still performed. The Nandi is uniquely placed above the height of Shiva on a pillar.
There is also a deserted Sun temple and a replica of the Angkor Wat from Cambodia. Besides the heritage importance, this place is a hidden paradise with beautiful landscapes and waterbodies. Drenched for almost 6 hours every day didn’t dent the enthusiasm in this heavenly place hidden amongst nature. The villagers are very friendly and the food is great. The ride back truly gave a feeling of driving back from the jungle to a concrete jungle.