The Polo Monument and Vijaynagar Forest is an ancient site. A gateway to the royalty of neighboring Rajasthan, this site was a hiding place was the rulers, concealed from enemies, citizens, angry wives, even the scorching heat of the Sun as it was tucked between the hills.
Deep inside the forest, there are ancient temples where the prayers are still offered, the lamps still lit each day. There are tribal settlements inside the forest too.
This ancient Polo city was built around the Harnav river, which is an ancient river spoken of even in the Puranas. It is believed that the place was established in the 10th century by the Parihar kings of Idar, and it was then conquered by the Rathod Rajputs of Mewar in the 15th century. The name of the place is derived from the Marwari word ‘pol’ which means ‘gate’. as it was a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. It was built between Kalaliyo (the highest peak in the area) to the east and Mamrehchi to the west. The peaks are considered to be sacred by the local tribes. Together these two mountains block off most of the sunlight that would otherwise heat up the place through the day. Surprisingly, the place was mysteriously abandoned in the ancient times, the reasons for which are not ascertained yet.
Spread over a 400 sq.m. area, the area is marked by dry mixed deciduous forest, which become really beautiful during the August to December season as the rivers run full and the greenery takes up with the monsoon. At any time of the year, Polo forest is a rich wildlife experience. The forest has over 450 species of medicinal plants, over 275 species of birds, over 30 species of mammals, and over 32 species of reptiles. There are bears, panthers, leopards, hyenas, water fowls, raptors, passerines, flying squirrels and so much more. During winters a lot of migratory birds visit the place, and during the rains, a lot of wetland birds come visit the forest.
Until recently, this area was not well-known, and saw very few visitors. The numbers have increased dramatically in the last few years, thanks to a few individuals working to promote its beauty. This increased flow comes with a price, however. It is important to remember, as visitors, to approach each destination and its inhabitants, human or otherwise, humbly, openly, and with the awareness that every interaction, no matter how slight, carries its own impact on the area whether we know it or not.
The fig trees when in fruit are good places to look out for the endangered Grey Hornbill and Brown Headed Barbet who will come to nibble. Grey Hornbills can also be found at a banyan tree near the campsite, when the tree bears the bright red fruits. On the other side of the camp, one would find woodpeckers, fruits birds, prey birds, especially sometime in the afternoon. Do ask the local staff about the same and they will guide you with it.
While camping out here, do visit the neighboring attractions – the Harnav Dam, Sharneshwar temple, Vireshwar temple, Rock garden, Idariyo ghar and Rani lake.
The best way to reach Polo Forest is by road. The Vijaynagar town is 120 km from Udaipur and 160 km from Ahmedabad. The place is accessible by the National Highway. Public transport is easily available from major bus stands like Himmatnagar, Idar, Ahmedabad, etc. The nearest airport is Ahmedabad.
The Polo camp site is a great place to stay at. It is located in the forest itself. It is owned and operated by the Gujarat State Forest Department. It has both AC and non-AC accommodation options. They also serve vegetarian food (no non-vegetarian), you would need to inform in advance for availing the food services. The accommodation offers basic amenities. Carry good hiking boots if you plan to explore the forest thoroughly. A hiking jacket or umbrella in the monsoons is a must. Also, do no forget mosquito repelling creams/gels/devices.