Polo Forest is home to a number of temples and ruins that date as far back as 1500 years. The dry mixed, deciduous forest is located near Abhapur Village in Gujarat, India. The forest is spread over an area of 99,000 acres.
The ruins were a town established by the Parihar kings of Idar (a Rajput clan) around the Harnav River in the 10th century. The name is derived from pol, the Marwari word for gate, as it served as a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. It came under the Idar state after being conquered by the Rathores of Marwar. The town was situated between two high hills, Kalaliyo and Mamrehchi, which blocked the sunlight that reached the town for most of the day. This is one of the motivating factors for its abandonment by the locals.
The ruins in the forest of Hindu and Jain temples that date as far back as the 15th century are restored and maintained by the state’s archaeology department. These temples include Sharneshwar Shiva temple, Sadevant Savlinga na Dera, Surya Mandir, and Lakhena na Dera.
In 1955, the ruins were reintroduced to the society by a group of pilgrims led by Shri Fatehchand Motichand Vahkharia on their way back to a town in Gujarat. After a challenging 28 days, they camped on the outskirts of a forest a couple of kilometres from Idar. They encountered local tribes such as Bhils, who dwelt in the nearby forests. Archaryashris noted that the beautiful temples were mostly unaffected by time, but their exteriors weathered over time.
The forest that hosts the ruins is also home to flora and fauna, some of which are endangered and others unique to the forest. These include 450 species of plants, 275 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, and 32 species of reptiles.
Eco-tourism is highly encouraged and regulated by the zonal master plan for each protected area while consulting with different government departments. Various sites, including the Polo forest, are shortlisted for development for eco-tourism.
Eco-tourism is a form of low-impact tourism with little impact on the environment and the local culture. The form practised involves the local community and is spear-headed by the same members. It can find a middle ground between the uses of resources for local consumption and those dedicated to promoting trade. Tourism should have a minimal environmental effect, and locally available resources should sustain the trade scale.
The preservation of the site has created alternative sources of income for the locals; these jobs include tour guides, tradesmen and dedicated staff for the preservation of the site and the temple ruins.
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- Shah, A. (2020) The lost jain temples of Abhapuri (Polo Forest), The lost Jain temples of Abhapuri (Polo Forest). Blogger. Available at: https://www.storiesbyarpit.com/2018/05/the-lost-jain-temples-of-abhapur.html (Accessed: March 6, 2023).
- Shah, R. (no date) Polo Forest – a historical, Heritage & Adventurous hill station of Gujarat, Tripoto. Tripotohttps://www.tripoto.com/. Available at: https://www.tripoto.com/gujarat/trips/polo-forest-a-historical-heritage-adventurous-hill-station-of-gujarat-5f5cc2e4b3e1b (Accessed: March 6, 2023).
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