Friday, December 8, 2023

Tourism      Monuments      Forts      Rajasthan     Jodhpur    

Mehrangargh Fort

Place : Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Significance : One of the largest forts in India
Best Season : October to February
Timings : 9am to 1pm and 2to 5pm. (closed for lunch 12.30 to 2.30 pm), Photography allowed.
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The massive Mehrangargh Fort is situated about 5km from Jodhpur Town, the former capital of the Marwar state, on the steep hill hidatoonk, at an altitude of about 125 metres. The red sandstone fort dominating the city has the appearance of an elegant peacock and so is also known as Moradwaj Garh. The fort spread over an area of 5 sq. km, was originally started by Rao Jodha in 1459 A.D., the founder of the capital city of the Rathores (a Rajput clan) but the major part of the fort which stands today dates from the period of Maharaja Jaswant Singh (1638 -78).

It is said that its unsuspecting architect was ordered buried alive so that he could not reveal its secrets. The enormous Fort stands high above the plains with walls up to 36m high and 21m wide. On Jaswant Singh's death in 1678, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb occupied the fort, bringing the first major period of fort extension to an end. Meherangarh came back under the Rajput control of Jaswant Singh's posthumous son Ajith Singh after the death of Aurangazeb.

This fort was run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur for over 500 years until he changed his residence to Umaid Bhavan Palace when it was completed in 1943. Today the complex is maintained as a museum, and houses 18 different  apartments, each full of carefully displayed antiquities, rare books and manuscripts. The museum displays collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs (saddles), royal cradles, weapons, musical instruments, paintings, costumes, ivory and wood antique furniture, a tent etc.

The employees in the palace, dressed in traditional Jodhpuri dress with shield, hookah welcome the tourists and offer information related to the various rooms in the palaces, adding some folklore, legends and royal stories in their friendly dialogue.

In the fort are magnificent palaces, courtyards and other buildings such as Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, Rani Bas, Top Khana, Vichala Mahal, Sringar Chauki and Daulat Khana. Carved panels and porches, maze of interlocking palace interiors, inner marble courtyards, audience halls, exquisite latticed zenana ( women's quarters) chambers, elaborately adorned walls and windows are worth seeing. The palaces in this fort have their own peculiar style, with narrow staircases, serving as the only means of access to the royal rooms within. The beauty and the grandeur of numerous palaces in the fort evoke the glorious past of the Rajput era.

The entrance is through a zigzag pathway up the west side originally fortified by seven gateways, each a short turn to the next, which provide a series of locks along the main access to the fort. Enroute to the fort is 'Jaswant Thada' the distinctive marble memorial of Jaswant Singh II. The main gate or the Fateh Gate is heavy, spiked and still has cannon ball hit marks. Then comes the smaller Gopal gate and the Bhairon Gate, with large guardrooms. The gates include  Jayapol, built by Maharaja Man Singh. The fourth, Toati Gate, is no more. Dodhkangra Gate stands over a sharp turn in the path. The Amarti Gate, has a long passageway with guardrooms on the sides. The Loha Gate or Iron Gate is the last gate at the final turn into the fort and there are 15  handprints of royal satis, the wives of Maharaja Man Singh who threw themselves upon his funeral pyre in 1843. They are usually covered in red powder. 

The ramp from the Loha gate leads up to the Suraj Pol, which opens onto the Shringar Choki Chowk (courtyard) which is the main entrance to the museum. The royal coronation ceremony of the crown prince was performed here, the only place in the fort constructed of white marble. The upper storeys around the courtyard were part of the zenana from where the royal ladies could look down on the activities in the courtyard. Jhanki Mahal (Glimpse palace) in the north has a long passage flanked by a further narrow gallery from which balconies (Jarokhas) with beautifully intricate jali screens and surmounted by the distinctive Bengali style eaves project over the courtyard. It houses a rich collection of royal cradles. The cradles are decorated with gilt mirrors and figures of fairies, elephant and birds. On the south of Shringar Chowk is a good collection of palanquins and elephant saddles made of pure silver. The Mahadole palanquin made of wood decorated with gold leaf was taken from Bahadur Shah, Begda of Malwa.

There is another courtyard Daulat Khana Chowk and around it, starting on the far right (extreme north) is the Sileh Khana (armoury) with a remarkable collection of Indian weapons which include swords and daggers decorated with calligraphy among others. Above the armoury is the Phool Mahal(Flower Palace), one of the most impressive apartments of the museum built by Abhai Singh (1724-49)with stone jali screens, Belgian stained glass windows and portraits of former Jodhpur rulers as well as murals of 36 musical modes. On the ceiling is fabulous gold work and paintings of different incarnations of Vishnu. The Jodhpur coat of arms is above the couch. 

Toward the left of the Sileh Khana is the Umaid Vilas with an excellent collection of Rajasthani miniatures. Next to it is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror palace) with mirror work built by Ajith Singh. The next apartment to the south is Sardar Vilas above which is the Takhat Vilas, built by Takhat Singh (1843-73). Takhat Vilas, has wall paintings of Krishna Lila and dancing girls and its ceiling has strong wooden beams and Belgian Christmas tree balls. Ajit Vilas exhibits musical instruments and the royal costumes. Next to it to the south are Khabka and Chandan Mahals (sleeping quarters) and a prayer room around the Khabka chowk or courtyard.

Then comes the Moti Mahal Chowk to the north, east and south of which is the Moti Vilas and to the west the Moti Mahal (Pearl palace). These apartments around the courtyard also has jali screens through which women could watch the proceedings below. Moti Mahal located in the women's section of the fort has waist level niches around the walls for oil lamps and a mirrored ceiling. The reflection of the lighted lamps in the mirrored ceiling would have been breathtaking. Just outside the room, there is beautifully carved 19th century woodwork.

The Maan Vilas displays Rathore armoury and the Tent room displays the royal red velvet tent elaborately embroidered with silk golden thread, belonging to Shah Jahan used in the Imperial Mughal campaigns. The Jewel House has a wonderful collection of jewelry. 

At the southern end of the fort, old canons are placed on the ramparts over a sheer drop of 37m. There is an excellent view of the city from here. There is a Chamunda temple dedicated to Durga nearby. The approach path to the fort is quite steep. There are rickshaws available for hire or there is an elevator that will take you to the top.