Mount Abu is known as a Gujarati and Rajasthani weekend, holiday and Honeymoon destination. Being situated close to the Gujurati border (Gujurat is a dry state), it’s a popular place to come for a boozy weekend, so there are a plethora of bottle shops, or liquor stores in and around the town. Conversely, it’s also a deeply spiritual place with importance for Hindus and Jains.
It is the only hill station in Rajasthan, and huddles among the rocks on a 1,220m high, 20km long plateau at the far southwestern end of the Aravalli hills. It is built around Nakki lake and is surrounded by forested hills. The English chose this as their summer retreat in Rajasthan and Maharaja’s built summer palaces here.
Mount Abu got its name from Arbuda, a great cobra. Once upon a time, Nandi, Shiva’s Bull (vehicle), plunged into the lake. The gods were requested for assistance. They sent Arbuda, a cobra carrying a rock on his head, which he dropped into the lake, dispersing its water and saving Nandi. Thus the place came to be called as Mount Arbud and was later reduced to Mount Abu.
Nakki lake, around which the town is situated, is an artificial lake and legend says that it was dug from the earth by the gods, using their fingernails (‘nakh’ means nail) when they were feeling thirsty. The lake is the central focus of the town’s sights, and has something of a carnival atmosphere, especially in the busy season when you can rent a boat, ride ponies, shop for tacky souvenirs and have photos taken in traditional Rajasthani costumes.
Mount Abu was (and still is) a holy retreat for many sages and seers and philosophers. Legend has it that sage Vashishtha performed the most sacred rites here – a yagna for the purification of the ancient fighting caste, the Kshatriyas. It is believed that from the sacred fire were born the Agnikula (fire dynasty) Rajputs.
There are various important temples and organisations to be found in Mount Abu. The most beautiful of all Jain Temple Complexes in North India are the Dilwara Temples, consisting of five marble Jain temples. Breathtakingly intricate detail makes this a must-see, even for the most jaded temple-goers. The temples were built between 11th & 13th century, and are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras (prophets). It is said that the artisans were paid in gold, equivalent in weight to the marble dust they produced!
For Hindu’s, the fascinating Adhar Devi Temples are up a hillside reached by 360 steps. The temple is built inside a natural cleft in the rock. On the way are wonderful views and you might even see the local rock-climbing group scaling some of the cliffs.
Mount Abu is also the headquarters of the Brahma Kumari Spiritual University. They settled here in 1950 after moving from Karachi in Pakistan.
There are loads of wonderful hikes and treks, including to the highest peak – Guru Shikhar situated at 1722m – if you’re on the adventurous side, but there are still bears in them their hills, so don’t go without a guide.
Visit Mt Abu on our Essence of India – Women Only Tour