Ambaji Temple, Banaskantha
This is the principal shrine of a goddess who has been worshiped since the pre-Vedic period. She is often referred to as Arasuri Amba, named for the location of the temple in the Arasur hills, near the source of the Saraswati river at the south-western end of the Aravali mountain range.
The red flag above the small temple dances welcomingly in the wind. Made of white marble with gold cones, the temple was originally built by Nagar Brahmins. There is a main entrance in the front and only a small side-door, because it is believed that Mataji (another name for Ambaji) has forbidden the addition of any other door. The temple is surrounded by an open square called chachar chowk where ceremonial sacrifices called havans are performed.
The inner sanctum of the temple has silver-plated doors. There is a gokh, or niche, in the wall on which is fixed a old-plated marble inscription of the Viso Yantra, a Vedic text on sacred geometry, which is the main focus of worship. There is no idol of the goddess, perhaps because the temple is so ancient that it predates idol-worship, but the priests decorate the upper portion of the gokh in such a way that it looks like an idol of a goddess from a distance.
Be sure to look across the temple (i.e. with your back facing the goddess) at the other temple on the Gabbar, considered the original abode of the goddess. At a short distance from the Ambaji temple is a large rectangular kund, with steps on all its four sides, called Mansarovar.
The ecstatic festival of Navratri is celebrated all over Gujarat in reverence of Ambaji, by dancing garba around the Holy Mother. On these nine nights the Nayak and Bhojok communities also perform bhavai theater.
Ambaji temple is open all days of the week, 07:00 am to 11:30 am, 12:30 pm to 04:30 pm and 06:30 pm to 09:00 pm
There are six other temples in Ambaji: Varahi Mata, Ambikeshwar Mahadev and Ganapati temples are in the chachar chowk, open square, surrounding the temple, while Khodiyar Mata, Ajaya Mata and Hanumanji temples are in the village.