Polo forest, also known as Vijaynagar forest is a dry mixed deciduous forest near Abhapur village in Vijaynagar Taluka, Sabarkantha district, Gujarat, India. It is located at the foothills of the Aravalli range and on the banks of perennial Harnav river, spread over the area of 400 sq. km, It is home to more than 450 species of medicinal plants, around 275 of birds, 30 of mammals, and 32 of reptiles.
Polo Forest in Gujarat is still a largely unexplored and house some of the oldest Hindus temples in Gujarat. The best time to visit is during or right after the monsoon, when the places turns bright green. Its located near a place called Idar which will be your base as Polo forests have no hotels or guest houses where you could stay.
Polo the name is derived from pol, the Marwari word for “gate,” signifying its status as a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. Its quick accessibility from the cities like Ahmadabad (160 kms) and Udaipur(120 kms) makes it a perfect weekend getaway to the people around.
The Polo Forest area was a part of a vast territory and Vijaynagar was the capital 600 years back. The ancient city was a pilgrimage for the Jains and Shivadharmi people of the area. The jungle have 4 sculptured gates made of local sedimentary rocks in each direction. Development of the city was done along the river banks of Harnav. The temples were destroyed by the Mughals and now are the heritage sites.
The jungles are rich with many wild animals like leopards and bears. Spiders and pythons are also found in the dense jungle area. In tress, here are more than 600 types. Many species of water birds and crabs are also found in the river and reservoir. The area is sanctuary and being maintained by the Dholwani range forest department. The government has also established a campsite with a view to provide nature education and develop the site as tourism place.
Best Time to visit Polo Forest:
As it is surrounded by mountains and forest, this place starts getting pleasant from monsoon season and is lush green between the months of September and December especially if you want to trek here. But the rich wildlife here can be experienced at any time of the year. I would prefer planning after monsoon season to winter and will recommend avoiding in summer.
Sight-seeing spots in Polo Forest:
This place is rich in beautiful flora and fauna and has an amazing dam site at the Harnav River. You can explore the dam site which is nicely developed and maintained in Polo forest area. There is also a Shiv temple at Sharneshwar, a Jain temple, a Surya Mandir and Lakhena temple nearby which I visited during my two trips there. All these places are located close to each other and can be easily covered in a day’s duration.
Sharaneshwar Shiva temple:
The 15th-century Sharaneshwar temple dedicated to Shiva is located in Abhapur. It is a two-storeyed temple with fortified wall around it having gates in east and west. It has a nandi-mandapa in front and pradakshina (ambulatory) around the central shrine. The carvings on exterior walls include double jangha adorned with images of Yama, Bhairava, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, Parvati, Indrani, Ganesha; social life scenes; bands of humans, elephants, swans and plants. There are ruins of some minor temples nearby. There is temple of four-handed Chamunda nearby.
Lakhena na Dera
These 15th-century Jain temples are also located in Abhapur.
Jain Temple 1
This sandstone temple had well carved ceiling and perforated stone screens in the mandapa which have various natural and geometric patterns. The trika-mandapa connects two mandapas at different levels. On the lintel of the doorframe of the sanctum, there is an image of Jain Tirthankara Parshwanatha with his attendant deity Padmavati on sides.
Jain Temple 2
Built in bricks and marble, it was a tri-angi (tri-element) temple having sanctum, antarala and mandapa which can be identified from its surviving plinth. It also has Parshwanatha on its lintel of the doorframe of the sanctum. Adorned with Kirtimukha motifs, the threshold has images of Kubera on its both ends.
Jain Temple 3
Similar to temple 2 in layout, it is also tri-element temple but with more ornamentation. Built in bricks and sandstone, this Nagara style temple has Indra as a guardian in the surviving doorframe of the mandapa. On its exterior walls, it has images of Chakreshwari, Padmavati and Ambika associated with Jain Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, Parshwanatha and Neminatha respectively. It also has niches without images.
Trayatan Shiva temple (Temple with Kund)
The east-facing sandstone Shiva temple located in Abhapur has only sanctum and mandapa surviving. The exterior walls are adorned with divinities, Apsaras and Vyala. There is a sanndstone Kund (water tank) in northwest of the temple. It has steps in the right angles to the sides which become parallel when reach bottom. There are two ruined minor temples probably dedicated to Lakshminarayan and Shakti nearby.
The west-facing sandstone temple dedicated Shiva and Shakti is dated 15th century. It is a chaturangi (four-elements) temple having sanctum, antarala, mandapa and pravesh-chawki. On the exterior walls, there are sculptures of Indra and Indrani, Shiva and Parvati as well as Brahma and Brahmani. On the doorframe and elsewhere, there are sculptures of Surya, the solar deity, and Suryani. Other sculptures include Ganesha, Apsaras, darpankanya (girl holding a mirror), ascetics and animals.
The Government of Gujarat organises Polo Festival every year.
How to reach Polo Forest:
Polo forest is located at a distance of 150 km from Ahmedabad, 70 km from Himmatnagar in Gujarat and 120 km from Udaipur, Rajasthan. The route from Ahmedabad to Polo forest is nicely maintained and you would hardly take 3 hours to reach there by road especially if you have a private vehicle.
Places to Stay in Polo Forest
My first trip to polo forest was organized by the Photography Club Ahmedabad and it was a single day trip. We stayed at Vijay vilas owned by successor of Maharaja Vijay Wardhan Singh of Vijaynagar. As far as I know, the place is still operated and improved a lot in last couple of years. If you are economical place to stay at Polo forest, I strongly recommend Polo Camp Site.
If you are planning for a day trip from Ahmedabad, leave early around 5AM and leave from Polo forest before evening.
If you are staying overnight then get a torch, mosquito repellent and candles here. I don’t have more information about tent stay and would not recommend one if you are travelling with family. Better you book your stay in advance for a safer side.
Things To be Carried:
- Original Identity ProofPersonal Clothing
- Bedding Materials
- Sports Shoes & Socks
- Rain CoatCap & Goggles
- Water Bottle, Spoon & Mug/Glass
- Power Bank, Torch, Camera & Chargers
- Personal Medication
This is a beautiful spot for riverside camping but you would have to plan an overnight trip for that. Do indulge in camp firing here and it would be a good idea to stay awake during the night and gaze at the stars. For trekking and night stay, you must require proper instruments and local guidance as this place does not have any reserve area or moderation. I would recommend getting proper guidance from local and then plan any adventure activities in forest area.
This place is heaven for the nature lovers and those who like to click pictures would leave from here with both hands full.