MOUNT ABU in the territory of Sirohi in Rajputana, is about fifty miles N.N.E. from Siddhpur. Though usually regarded as part of the Aravali range, it is completely detached from that chain on all sides, and raises from the great plain of Mârwâr like an island from the level ocean. The ascent of this noble granite mountain is steep on all sides, and at the top it is surrounded by a wall of granite enclosing a plateau of considerable extent and largely covered with hills. The highest of these is Guru Śikhar, on the northern part of the plateau, which attains a height of 5,650 feet above the sea level.
In the thirteenth century Mount Abu was held by the Parmârs of Chandravati—vassals of the old Hindu kings of Gujarat. This Chandravati, a little to the south-east of Abu—once a splendid capital—is now only indicated by the many mounds of ruined temples and palaces that mark its site. The Muhammadan Sultans of Ahmedabad first, the Thakurs of Girwar more recently, and up to the present day the head men to whom the Sirohi Râo grants charge of the village, have carried away and burnt to lime its marble slabs, columns, and statues, and still continue to do so, until but few fragments are left except such as are covered by débris.
Abu. the ancient Arbuda, is usually ascended from Anâdrâ, on the south-west side, by a good road, but of steep ascent, rising about 3.000 feet in three miles. The first point reached on attaining the plateau — here from 3,900 to 4,000 feet above the sea level — is the little lake, of fairy beauty, called NAKHI TALAO — vulgarly translated the ‘Nail Lake,’ but more appropriately the ‘Gem Lake.’ Fifty years ago Tod described it as “about four hundred yards in length.” and “the counterpart of the lake three miles above Andernach on the Rhine.” “It is,” he writes, “surrounded by rocks, wooded to the margin, while the waterfowls skim its surface unheeding and unheeded by man; for on this sacred hill, neither the fowlers gun nor fisher's net is known; ‘Thou shalt not kill’ being the supreme command, and the penalty of disobedience, death.”1 But great changes have taken place on Abu since 1822. The Governor-General's Agent for Rajputana spends the hot season and monsoon on Abu; it is a sanatarium for European troops, with extensive barracks; and the late Sir Henry Lawrence founded there one of his schools for the children of European soldiers. And, though the station and camp are only rented from the Dcora Râo of Sirohi, the presence of so many Europeans on the hill has led to marked changes in the aspect of the scene around the Nakhi Talâo. It is still a charming lakelet, the walk round which affords the visitor a continually varying panorama of exquisite beauty. A bănd, or dam, has recently been built across the gorge at the west end where the overflow runs off, in order to increase the depth of the water, fears having been entertained that it might run dry or nearly so, should an exceptionally light monsoon occur.2
There are several small islands with trees on them scattered about the Talâo, but they are almost submerged. A path has been made all round it, and it must be confessed that the straight lines of this, on the north-west side, somewhat mar the picturesqueness of some points of the view. Considerably above the lake on the south side is a path, known as Bailey's Walk — so named from the present magistrate, who made it — and which extends from the station at the east end of the lake to ‘Sunset Point,’ crossing over one of the higher peaks which overhang the lake. From the western parts of this Walk, on the one hand, the scene is over the spurs of Abu, and the vast plains of Mârwâr, and on the other we have a very fine view (given in the Photograph) across the lake to the north-east, where are seen the large blocks of barracks, and further to the east the Residency, and to the right of it the Office of the Governor-General's Agent; whilst under, and still further to the right, lie scattered the houses of the station.