Ambaji, 185km from Ahmedabad, is a temple city that attracts millions of worshippers each year. Legend has it that the heart of Shiva’s consort Sati fell here. This makes it one of the 51 Shakti Peethas and therefore a key pilgrimage centre.
There are two main temples in Ambaji. Inside the town is the Arasuri Ambaji temple, named after the Arasur mountains all around the town. Worship has taken place here ever since pre-Vedic times. The temple contains no statue or image; the main object of worship is the Shree Visa Yantra inscribed on a gilded marble plaque in a niche in the inner sanctum
A yantra is a mystical diagram that is believed to have spiritual or magical powers. Yantras are used in the Tantric tradition of Hinduism. Among other symbols, yantras commonly feature geometric shapes such as squares, triangles and circles, or flower patterns.
The other temple, the original seat of the goddess, is on Gabbar Hill, 4.5kmfrom the Arasuri Ambaji temple. You can reach it by climbing 999 steps, or by cable car. On the flat hilltop is a small niche in which a lamp is kept permenantly lit.
It is said that the goddess’s footprints can be seen under the temple’s bodhi tree. This sanctuary is a Shakti Peetha, said to be the one where the goddess’s heart fell.
A circumambulation path (called a parikrama), has been organised round Gabbar hill, with reproductions of all 51 Shakti Peethas set up along the way.
Going down the hill, stop for a moment to taste a chhach or chhas, a drink typical of Gujarat, refreshing and digestive at the same time, based on milk sprinkled with cumin seeds.