Junagadh braces for mountain climbing contest

By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS

Junagadh (Gujarat), Jan. 6, 2008 | The Girnar hill, home to several shrines held sacred by Hindus and Jains, will host an annual competition next month that will see school and college students scurry up and down 2,200 steps on its slopes.

The event Feb 3 is being organised by the Gujarat government’s Sports, Youth Services and Cultural Activities Department and the Junagadh district administration.

The competition is open to all students in schools and colleges. The participants are categorised into 14-18 years and 19-35 years. The men in the former category have to traverse 2,200 steps uphill and downhill in a span of one hour and 15 minutes. The time limit for women in the same category is two hours. The criterion for the older category of candidates of both genders is the same.

Girnar Hill, around 300 km from Ahmedabad, has around 10,000 stone steps to climb before one finally reaches the ultimate peak of Dattatreya.

Those desiring to participate in the event can contact Devkumar Ambaliya at 9825261871 or at 0285630490. Ambaliya is a Junagarh official and he had set a record in climbing the Girnar hill around 1979 that was unbeaten for almost 20 years.

This Girnar competition was started in 1971 by a local newspaper, Phoolchab, as a way to mark its golden jubilee. The newspaper held the event until 1979 before handing it over to the Junagadh civic administration.

Mount Girnar is sacred to Hindus and Jains. It also attracts people with its charm of the nearby Gir forest that is home to Asiatic lions. The Girnar forest too has 35 lions.

Many ‘sadhaks’ or ascetics had laid their lives to rest on the mountain, most notably, the fourth Jain tirthankar Neminath, adding to its sanctity.

The mount is home to a beautiful Jain temple complex on a small plateau, followed by the Ambaji Mata temple situated on one of the peaks.

Then there are steps rising and descending to the Gorakhnath shrine. There is also a spot venerated as the place of the Pir, sacred to Muslims.

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