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View of a small portion of old Sihor town from Sukhnath with one of hill ranges in the surrounding
|Nickname(s): Saraswatpur, Sinhpur, Chhote Kashi|
|Elevation||60 m (200 ft)|
|• Official||Gujarati, Hindi|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Sihor is a town, a municipality in Bhavnagar district in the Indian state of Gujarat. Placed along the river Gautami, this erstwhile capital of the Gohil Rajputs, surrounded by hills is situated about 20 km from Bhavnagar. It becomes Sihor by corrupting its name from Saraswatpur, Sinhalpur, Sinhpur, Sinhor, and, Shihor.
Regionally, Sihor is all-time famous and known for its hills, their rock pattern, Gautameshwar Mahadev & Lake, Sihor's Festivals, Navnath Pilgrimage (Navnath Yatra) of Shiva Temples, Brahma Kund, 'Sihori Rajwadi Penda' (Peda or Chocolate Cake), old town's ascends and descends, walled city and fort, narrow lanes, Nana Sahib Peshwa and the 1857 revolt, its food and delicacy, Copper-ware & Brass-ware, Pottery, snuff manufacturing factories, Rolling Mills and Industrial Plants. Known as 'Saraswatpur' during Mahabharata period and 'Sinhpur'/'Sinhalpur' after that, locally in Gujarat, it is often regarded as 'Chhote Kashi' (sub-version or model of Kashi - Varanasi - Banaras) also.
Major points of attraction in Sihor are the 12th century Brahma Kund (a stepped tank surrounded by idols of Hindu deities) - built by Raja Siddharaj Jaisinh, Gautameshwar Temple & Lake, Sihor's hills and treks, and the 17th century Vijay Vilas Palace of the Maharajahs, with fine paintings and wood carvings. Another archaeological ancient site of Saat Sheri (a mountaintop or a mound) along with some of the 9 (Nine) major Shiva temples are an important pilgrimage worth visiting. Other tourist interests in and around the town include the famous Khodiyar Mata Temple and the Sihori Mata Temple – which offers a panoramic view over Gautameshwar Lake and the whole town. The old fort of Sihor with its wall art is worth a visit.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Transportation
- 5 Some famous entities of Sihor and places to visit
- 6 Notable individuals
- 7 External links
- 8 Sihor websites
- 9 References
The name Sihor evolved from Saraswatpur, Sinhalpur, Sinhpur, Sinhor, and Shihor. Purana, rishis, sages and scholars regarded this place as Pavitra Kshetra attributed by the presence of scholarship and spirituality, such class of society and places out there.
Mythology, progression and Saraswatpur
According to Hinduism, Saraswatpur the name itself may suggest and support to the active power and significance of this place, as a place of knowledge, scholarship and spirituality while deriving from Saraswati the name of Saraswatpur should have been bestowed upon by those responsible. There are references of Saraswatpur in Purana, its references and references of lord Krishna's visits are found in Mahabharata and peculiarly in the texts related to Krishna as Krishna spent the remaining half of his life at Dvārakā / Dwarka.[clarification needed]
Another remarkable reference is Gautameshwar Temple, its Swayambhu Shivling in the cave, a proclaimed secret tunneled trek to Somnath from Gautameshwar, inscription and the legend of Gautama Maharishi, Ahalya and lord Rama. According to the legend and ancient inscription, Rishi Gautam's mention of tranquility, vibrations and holiness of this place, its old name as Saraswatpur and the detailed account of his stay, experiences and penance, are found. Even today, the Gautameshwar Mahadev Temple remains a frequently visited place for its tranquil space time, in and around Sihor and in Saurashtra / Gujarat.
Transition and quest
Sinhpur and Sinhalpur are the next to come in picture. Period between Saraswatpur and Sinhpur is not thoroughly referred or documented, and the amount of historical information of this period is in scattered form, to be more precise the period between 5000 BC-3000 BC. Denoting the west coast of India and Kathiawar peninsula, the obvious influence of Indus Civilization on this region can be mapped through further archaeological explorations and insights, and, processing existing archaeological and geological data of Sihor region along with a prime focus on study of Vallabhi and Maitraka era, exploration, survey and excavations targeting the submerged city of Vallabhi which has been critically responsible for Aryan Colonization across the continent with significance of Buddhism and Jainism during that period.
Vedic, Buddhist and Maitraka periods
Periodic excavations and findings, along with few existing ruins and monuments, already ask for thorough validation of their age. Eventually a large portion of Bhavnagar district falling under tectonically unstable zone, possibility of a major natural calamity in form of earthquake, tsunami or volcanic eruption can not be ruled out too. And therefore, the relics and old Vedic civilization may have been a matter of disappearance especially when the Vallabhi and Maitraka dynasty struggled to exist further, either a natural calamity or attacks by barbarians and/or later the known and frequent attacks by Mongols and Turks have to be the reasons behind the diminishing of a flourishing era of this region.
Sihor is considered to be a prominent Buddhist circuit from about 5th-6th Centuries BC through Maitraka dynasty (till 8th century). Geologists are of opinion that rocks and the pattern of Sihor hills are unique and the age of this region would be older than that of Himalayas mountain range. The hill range is often observed as an outcome of volcanic activity.
While efforts from historians and scholars for validating the research on Vijaya of Sri Lanka and his origin for his voyage to Ceylon in 543BC, the kingdom and dominance of Sinhapur need a greater attention. Its significance and mentions come out evident since early Vedic Period and Gupta empire through Maitraka dynasty during the peak of Vallabhi with its significance as Sinhapur, it should be the period post 6th century, the name Sinhapur would have transformed into Shihor / Sihor.
Lions the identity and, Sinhpur to Sihor
However, the presence of Lions in this region (Sihor hills) from olden times to very much till mid of 20th Century and therefore the gradual social transformation of this piece of civilization into Sinhpur or Sinhalpur may be understandable where the lion is called as 'Sinh' or 'Sinha' in a Sanskrit variant. Adding to the aesthetics of Sinhpur, King Sinhavarma is equally regarded for the Saraswatpur became Sinhpur. There is one more research task in asking toward bridging Sinhpur and Sinhalpur as both of these names have existed, either concurrently or at different points of time.
Over the time with varying pronunciations and dialects, it has been found corrupting itself as Sinhor - Shihor and finally Sihor. Interesting to note while Sinhpur becomes Sihor in a few thousand years and lions are returning again to the Sihor hills gradually since last couple of decades and increasing off late, as in the year of 2011.
Prince Vijaya, Sinhala, and the Sri Lanka and Buddhism
The first king of Sri Lanka, Vijaya the Conqueror, may have been born in ancient Sihor as a prince before being ousted and banished from the region. Other sources however claim he was from Bengal, but after some rectification and cross-verification of all research works covering, Buddhism, Pali/Sanskrit Language, many linguistic-traditional references and connections, Vallabhi, Vijaya's documented route, Geo-political evidences and, documentation & references post Vijaya's settlement in Sri Lanka, all these almost establish that he hailed from Sihor. Period somewhere 600-500BCE through Maitraka dynasty in Vallabhi represents the peak of Buddhism along with Jainism in the region of Sihor and Vallabhi where the rulers were following Vedas and Hinduism but these philosophies co-existed and rather flourished, to the extent, to cross the shores and borders across Indian sub-continent.
This is how, Sihor offers some exciting chapters of its connection with Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka's early history and Sinhala people/culture. Sihor while significantly claiming the credits, as Prince Vijaya (later known as Vijaya of Sri Lanka ) exiled from Sihor settled in Lanka, reaching there via sea-route and became medium for introduction of Aryan/Vedic culture and Buddhism in Lanka. This thriving, periodically accomplished research and ancient, popular story is often termed as "Lanka Ni Laadi Ne Ghogha No Var" meaning "Bride of Lanka and the Groom from Ghogha in local culture and literature since very old times. There are couple of films also made on this subject as the title itself and there are few songs woven in folklore depicting the story of Prince Vijay and his succeeding march to Lanka. Ghogha, an all-weather port near Sihor-Bhavnagar, from where prince Vijay set off with his army to Lanka, after he was exiled by his father King Sinhavarma / Sinhabahu from Sinhpur. But Mahavamsa, chronicle of Sri Lankan history has settled that Prince Vijaya, son of King sinhabahu was from Sinhapura of Kalinga, which is identified with Singhpur near Jajpur of Odisha state. All Sri Lankans firmly believe Mahavamsa and hence truth of origin of Prince Vijaya, i.e. Kalinga.They are proud of Kalinga origin.Hence Prince Vijaya has been conclusively established is of Kalinga/Odisha Origin.
Nana Sahib Peshwa, India's 1857 revolt and after that
A critical fact and secret remains intact, that is Nana Sahib's remnants in Sihor. Undocumented material also suggests Nana Sahib would keep changing his location between Sihor and interior Shatrunjaya Hills around Palitana periodically. However, references, mentions and evidences of Nana Sahib's consistent stay in Sihor have been more dominant and documented in regional records and articles at regular intervals since many decades, for he spent his rest of the life in Sihor, initially as a sage. There were some active freedom fighters and volunteers from Sihor during British rule, and one of them, had he been associated with Nana Sahib is often anticipated to have facilitated Nana Sahib's hideout and his group's safe passage to Sihor during early 60s (1860s), while he would leave Nepal and striving to settle out against British aggression in North India and Kanpur which became evident post 1857.
Sihor was a place still quiet, serene, surrounded by hills, with difficult passages and forests stretching up to Girnar range. Religiously to interview the land and region of Kathiawar or the Saurashtra (region), this province often known for its nobility, bravery, sacrifice and spirituality, the place of Sihor in Bhavnagar, Kathiawar, its dormant hills and the jungle surrounding the town may have been a better option and success for Nana Sahib and his allies to settle out there post 1857 revolt and after leaving Nepal. Also with the fact Sihor and its people had continuing connections with Mumbai and various parts of now Maharashtra, which in turn seemed to have helped Nana Sahib to keep a regular touch with few his allies down in Mumbai and Maharashtra. This may be seen from the correspondence, people who kept coming to meet him in Sihor.
As per the records of Sihor history, Nana Sahib died in 1909 in Sihor, but curiosity, facts and revelations had started emerging peculiarly post 1947 across the region (Sihor) and Saurashtra, with some official efforts starting toward the 70s (1970s). Subsequently, opening of more links, correspondence, his writings, a few empirical archives, documents with the then state of Bhavnagar, few his rare photographs, some events, altogether a reasonable span of his stay of 45 years in Sihor, and Nana Sahib's local as well as national allies & revolutionaries found reference, nearly to establish without efforts in an unbiased manner, the most probable account of disappearance of this historical figure. Most critically when all these secrets were rather for keeping them as secret and not for the claims, either to prove a personality as Nana Sahib or reveal if it was Sihor which was marked by Nana Sahib's remainder of life, which almost carried along for 45–46 years.
Among the locals, very interesting piece of history referring the remainder, Nana Sahib's life in Sihor, his character, his thoughts and deeds, his subtle nature and identity, his local and general involvement, all these conveyed by those who were close to him directly or indirectly in Sihor, periodically got published in the region. Adding to that, some steps and initiatives taken by him, and the belongings & remnants, these all when acknowledged and realized later, post 1947, eventually to acknowledge they were just Nana Sahib, are all a serious subject of learning and retrospection. This account poses re-evaluation of an incomplete task, a structured approach and serious initiative in asking for the state government of Gujarat and the Central Government, India.
Presently, there is a house signified to Nana Sahib in old town of Sihor, remnants and materials, an old tomb as a tribute to him by the locals, a few existing connections/references and recently a recreational park named after Nana Sahib Peshwa in Sihor.
Sihor is a Chunval village, about twelve miles north of Viramgam, where, in 1825, were the well-marked remains of an old city. The line of walls could be clearly traced, bricks much larger than those now in use were found, and many bracelets and other ornaments were often dug up. Like Kangavati and Patan, Sihor is, about 300 years ago, said to have been overwhelmed in a storm of dust and sand from the Rann of Kutch. A ruined temple of a Mata bears the date Samvat 1625 (1569).
Sihor is located at  It has an average elevation of 60 metres (196 feet)..
As of 2001[update] India census, Sihor had a population of 46,943. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Sihor has an average literacy rate of 66%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 74%, and female literacy is 58%. In Sihor, 14% of the population is under 6 years of age.
The nearest airport to Sihor is Bhavnagar Airport which has direct flights to Mumbai.
Sihor is connected to major parts of Saurashtra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and rest of India by rail. As a Railway Junction in Bhavnagar Division, Sihor got the first rail access (Metre gauge) in form of Bhavnagar State Railway in year 1880 after the Princely state of Bhavnagar became the first in the province and third (after Baroda and Hyderabad) in the country to construct their own railway line. There is direct connection from Sihor to Rajkot, Junagadh, Somnath, Okha, Dwarka, Palitana, Botad, Mahuva, Ahmedabad, Surendranagar, Surat, Mumbai, Kakinada,Kochuveli and many intermediate stations, and the line has been converted into Broad gauge now.
By Road, Sihor is connected with all major cities of Gujarat with some direct routes connecting Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, and with another access to Saurashtra's coastal route via Bhavnagar and access to Vadodara, Mumbai and South India via Dholera Highway. These routes extend and connect to distant places and big centers of Saurashtra and Gujarat.
As a popular approach for local and regional transport, people prefer road over rail as the mode of transportation to reach the town quickly. Private public transport is also available frequently to access nearby centers.
This mode of transport was in frequent use when Ghogha and few other ports were used to travel by sea to reach distant coastal places and regions of India and foreign countries in olden times. However, a Ferry service between Bhavnagar and Surat started in the 1990s remained operational for some time. This served specifically Surat bound travelers from the region a good option.
At present, a proposed project which is already under development with the initiative of Gujarat Government and Gujarat Maritime Board, is going to resume this ferry service which will connect Bhavnagar to Bharuch - Surat and therefore, a large number of travelers to-and-from Sihor will have this option available again during 2011-12. This will reduce the travel-distance and save the time between Bhavnagar/Southern Saurashtra and Surat/Mumbai/South India at least by 6–7 hours.
Some famous entities of Sihor and places to visit
- Sihori Mata Mandir (Kuldevi(Goddess) of 'Jani' and 'Audichya' Brahmins and regarded as Nagardevi(Goddess) as well)
- At least 20 prominent Hill ranges surrounding Sihor, locally called as "Dungar" each (entire range which boast of flora, fauna, herbs, minerals and metals.)
- Gautmeshwar Lake, Kund & Mandir (Pre historic, references of Lord Rama, Gautam Rishi, Ahalya and later with stay of Nanasaheb Peshwa (Nana Sahib) nearby this place)
- Cave/Tunnel (Gufa) to Girnar and Somnath (Pre historic and an example of engineering brilliance, now sealed)
- Small Trails & Treks, and wildlife in the surrounding hills (Lions, Leopards, Panthers inhabited this region since pre-historic times)
- Navnath Mahadevs (Nine main Shivayalas - Shiva Temples, some temples and their surrounding area needing serious conservation)
- Hanuman Dhara (a rare example of community and collective efforts)
- Brahma Kund (a stepped tank surrounded by idols of Hindudeities)
- Vijay Vilas Palace
- Monghiba and Koyaram Bapu Ni Jagya
- Panch Pir (Five Dargahs/Mosques of Pir/Fakir/Saints, such as Gareebshah Pir)
- Darbargarh & Paintings
- Sihor Fort, Wall and Darwajas in various directions (ancient, needing serious attention-revival)
- Saat Sheri (Pre-historic monument)
- Surka Gate (Surka No Delo) (ancient, needing revival)
- Mukteshwar mandir
- Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Jodnath Mahadev Temple Campus
What more explorable
- Some ancient trade/business practices, such as Copper, Brass, Bronze, Steel utensils, pottery, snuff and horticulture, etc.
- Architecture, lanes, temples of old Sihor, houses and town planning
- Archaeological Exploration and insights into almost under-surface pre-historic civilization
- Rocky mountain range/hills of Sihor and their unique rock pattern
- Remnants of Nana Sahib Peshwa, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, its legacy and some rare facts
- Secret Tunneled Trek from Sihor to Girnar - Somnath (pre historic)
- Ancient Gateway, Trek to Shatrunjaya Hills from Old Sihor (Hills), the trek overlapped and covered now, although its idea and view of Shatrunjaya Hills can be had during clear weather
- Iron & Steel Rolling Mills
- Delicious and fresh food/fruits/vegetables, Laddu, Sihori-Rajwadi Penda, Namkins(Farsan) and taste of Sihor
- Sihor's typically easy, simple, leisure, introvert, hard-shelled, slow-medium paced lifestyle
- Festivals, Festivities and 'Mela' of Sihor, especially during the month of Shraavan
The Navnath Pilgrimage covers some ancient to very ancient Shiva temples of Sihor. These temples are built and/or renovated between 1000 AD - 1600 AD. This pilgrimage is believed to have more significance when undertaken in the month of Shraavan according to Hindu Calendar. There are faith and devotion attached among people in the region. However, devotees generally don't miss a chance to undertake this brief pilgrimage anytime during the year. Making this pilgrimage by foot is basically preferred and celebrated since old times, and those who are in hurry take up vehicle to cover it.
- Rajnath Mahadev (in the old town)
- Ramnath Mahadev (toward hills)
- Sukhnath Mahadev (close to Saat Sheri)
- Bhavnath Mahadev (en route Brahma Kund)
- Kamnath Mahadev (at Brahma Kund)
- Jodnath Mahadev & Shre Shirdi Sai Baba Temple (in the opposite direction of Brahma Kund)
- Bhootnath Mahadev (adjoining crematorium along the Gautami river)
- Dharnath Mahadev (opposite Bhootnath)
- Bhimnath Mahadev (opposite Pragateshwar or Pragatnath Mahadev)
The following places/temples fall on the way, or off the track. Some are close and a few are distant from the Navnath route. Depending on the capacity and convenience, many devotees still pay a visit to following.
- Brahma Kund (there are two approaches to Brahma Kund, one from Old Sihor road and one from Kansara Bazar)
- Hanuman Dhara and Radha Krishna Temple (not far from Brahma Kund)
- Gautmeshwar Mahadev (very ancient site)
- Vishwanath Mahadev (near Gautam Kund)
- Pragatnath Mahadev (close to Bus Depot)
- Monghibha Ni Jagya (off Pragatnath Road)
- Panchmukha Mahadev (while entering the old town, a little before main gate 'Delo')
Other significant places
- Thakur Dwara
- Mahalakshmi Temple
- Mahakali Temple
- Dada Vav & Harihar Bapu / Darshan Das Bapu Ashram
- Originally a place with historical stepped well, which is now reclaimed and leveled up. There is no 'Vav' now. It had a dedicated section for Yoga and Library with some rare publications and books on Yoga, Meditation, Spirituality, Indian Philosophy, Ayurveda, Psychology, History, etc. This place has been named as 'Dada Vav' after Prince Dadbha Gohil. The 'Dada Ni Vav' remained a unique center of yoga and spiritual activities during the tenure of Swami U. N. Darshandasji, who was a scholar and very knowledgeable Sanyasi. Simultaneously it also served itself as Udasin Sant Kutir to the disciples of one of the Akharas and to Chandravanshi Sadhus till the early 1990s.
- Vaishnav Haveli
- Gareebshah Pir
- Todashah Pir
- Yaqeenshah Pir
- Gebanshah Pir
- Ghoomadshah Pir
- Aanandkunj Ashram - Shri Dharmadas Bapu
- Mukteshwar Mandir
- Ramdev Pir Mandir
- Tarshingda Khodiyar Mata Mandir
- Saagwadi (Agriculture & Farms)
- mata devi mandir
- Rokadiya Hanuman Mandir
There are a number of people and lineages among few communities in Sihor who have been noble, notable and philanthropic, who contributed not only to the land and people of Sihor, but also marked the significance of good deeds, development, community, spiritualism, bravery and socialism beyond horizons. Where the facts and data could be extracted and validated focusing just past 600–700 years, there is an elaborate list of some of the great souls who are worth a great value with lasting impact on people's minds, let alone the revolutionary Nana Sahib Peshwa who made Sihor his home for rest of his life, post 1857 revolt. The list may include all noble Gohil rulers and some rare personalities of Kapols, Brahmins (along with natives - Janis, Pandyas, Daves), Brahmabhatts, Kansaras, Modh - merchant community, Jains, Patels, and many others who helped Sihor to retain its original glory to a good extent against the currents of time.
The Bhutas of Sihor Shri Mehraj Jitho Mehta has also been one of them. They were a successful merchant and trader from the city of Sihor. He lived with his family in Sihor from the year 1420 to 1480. Shri Mehraj Jitho Mehta built a Shiva Temple & Water Lake in Loliana near Vallabhipur. The descendants of Laxmidas, son of Shri Mehraj Mehta, are known as "Bhuta". Bhuta family (Kapol Vania/Baniya)has donated significant amount of money for the development of various institutions in and around Sihor. The Bhutas initially stayed at Sihor but later moved to other villages in Bhavanagar district. The descendant of Laxmidas Bhuta was Harji Bhuta. He moved to the town of Bhumbhali in Gujarat. Harji Bhuta helped many people in Sihor and he also took large number of people for religious pilgrimage.
"Shirdi Sai Baba Temple" Constructed & presented to the city by notable individual of Sihor, Shri Batukrai Manishankar Pandya son of Shri Manishankar Gaurishankar Pandya (a learned scholar of Sanskrit) at Jodnath Mahadev Temple premises campus. This holy temple opened for pilgrims on 14 December 1978 for devotees of Shree Shirdi Saibaba who can easily visit the holy temple in the area of Saurashtra.
- Major source for Sihor Wiki through:  http://www.sihor.net/
- Monghiba Ni Jagya - Sihor | Saint Shree Jinaram Bapu
- Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency: Ahmedabad (Public Domain text). Government Central Press. 1879. p. 353.
- Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Sihor
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.