One of the most exotic places along the Narmada River is Junaraj, located in the Satpura Range, in the catchment area of Karjan Dam. This reservoir project is built on the Karjan River, a left-bank tributary of the sacrosanct Rewa River and surrounded by the dense forests of Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Junaraj is the old capital of the Gohil Rajputs of the princely state of Rajpipla. Prince Chaukrana (Chokrana), a descendant of the Parmar Rajput family of Ujjain left his princely state and travelled west towards the Satpura Range where he founded a new kingdom. In 1340, Kumar Shri Samarsinhji, younger son of Thakur Mokhadaji Ranoji Gohil, ruler of Ghogha was adopted by his maternal grandfather Chokrana Parmar who now ruled over Rajpipla from his fort on Devchhatra Hill, high up in the Satpura Range.
Kumar Shri Samarsinhji, on ascending the throne took the name of Rana Shri Arjunsinhji Mokhadaji Sahib and firmly established the rule of the Gohil Rajputs in Rajpipla. Rajpipla faced many invasions from the Gujarat Sultanate as well as from Akbar of the Mughals. The Gohil Rajputs along with the Marathas also defeated Aurangzeb, signalling the beginning of the end of the Mughal dominance in India.
Junaraj was made the capital of the Rajpipla State somewhere in the 15th century. The weakening Mughal dominion saw Maharana Jeetsinhji wresting back Nandod taluka from the Mughals in 1730. He shifted his capital to Nandod, now known as Rajpipla town, in the plains on the bank of the Karjan River.
Junaraj has only remnants of the old fort and the ancient Neelkantheswar Mahadev Temple which gets completely submerged in the rainy season. The entire village is surrounded by thick woods and serene waters of the Karjan River.
There is not much information available about the Neelkantheswar Mahadev Temple but one can assume that the Gohil Rajputs built this temple when they had established their reign here. The Shiva Temple still stands along with smaller temples forming a picture-perfect postcard.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)