Mehrangarh is one of the most magnificent and imposing forts in India, this fortress rises perpendicular to the rock, which itself rises 120 meters above Jodhpur. The jagged wall ranges in height from 6 m to 36 m, and the rock on which the fort stands was used as the building material; therefore the fort merges with its base. Still ruled by the Jodhpur royal family, Mehrangarh Fort is full of stories and legends.
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Video: Mehrangarh Fort
www.mehrangarh.org; Admission to museums adults/seniors and students, including photo and audio guide Rs. 300/250, video Rs. 200; 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Mehrangarh Fort was built in the 15th century by the Rajputs of the Rathore clan, who have always been militant toward the Mughals and other rival Rajput clans. Akbar decided it was better to get them on his side than to try to force them to accept Islam. When he married the sister of the Maharaja of Jodhpur named Jodhaa Bhai (for whom he built a huge palace at Fatehpur Sikri), there was no question of her conversion to Islam.
To get to the main entrance of Mehrangarh, the northeastern gate of Jaipol, you have to climb up 300 meters from the Hill View Guesthouse in the old town. Or you can take a ride on the winding 5 km road on an auto rickshaw (about 80 rupees). For the audio-guided tour in one of the several languages included in the ticket price, you must leave your passport, credit/debit card or 2,000 rupees as a deposit.
Near the eastern gate of the fort, you will see tombstones where soldiers fell defending the fort and cannonball marks showing the enormous effort made by the Maharaja of Jaipur to capture Princess Krishna Kumari against her will. During the battle she committed suicide. Most of all, the fort boasts a battery of intimidating looking howitzers and several guns mounted on the ramparts surrounding it.
From here you have a great view of the famous white and blue city. It is believed that blue was commonly used to paint houses belonging to the Brahmans, the priestly caste, but it is more likely that such paint was used to protect houses from termites, as it contains copper sulfate, which destroys insects.
Behind the ramparts and gates with sharp iron spikes to prevent them from being rammed by elephants is a very beautiful residential palace. Its royal identity is most evident in the balconies of the Royal Harem (zenana) equipped with screens (jali) which are thin carved stone lattices. The palace museum has a collection of colorful artifacts which give an insight into the daily life of those who lived there. There are sumptuously embroidered capes for elephants as well as cradles for babies and palanquins for ladies.
The palanquin, a stretcher shaped like a chair on a pole, was either completely covered so that the unmarried girl sitting in it was invisible, or had an opening that allowed her to see the street – and be seen by others – if the woman was married.
At the exit of Loha Pol you will see evidence of the negative side of the life of the maharajah’s wife – 15 scarlet handprints on the wall – sati – widows who, in keeping with age-old traditions, threw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres, ritually sacrificing themselves.
Behind Loha Pol is a café and the Surajpol gate, which leads to a museum. After the museum, head to the panoramic ramparts, which house an impressive array of antique artillery.
This succession of beautiful courtyards and halls with stone bars on the windows, which was formerly the fortress palace of Mehrangarh Fort, is a superb example of Rajput architecture. The carvings here are so fine that sometimes it seems as if the building were made of sandalwood rather than sandstone.
In the galleries around Shringar Chowk (Court of Anointment) is India’s finest collection of elephant riding seats and royal palanquins.
In one of the two galleries next to the Daulat Khana Chowk are textiles, paintings, manuscripts, headdresses and the curved sword of Mughal emperor Akbar; the other gallery displays weapons. On the second floor is a gallery of miniatures, including elaborate works in the tradition of the Marwar school and beautiful miniatures from the Phul Mahal (Palace of Flowers), built in the 18th century. The wall paintings of the palace, made in the 19th century, depict 36 moods of the classical raga and portraits of the monarchs. The artist spent 10 years creating them using a curious cocktail of gold leaf, glue and cow urine.
Takhat Vilas was the bedroom of Maharaja Takhat Singh (1843-1873) who had 30 wives and many concubines. Its beautiful ceiling hung with Christmas decorations. Then you enter the vast harem, whose beautiful latticed windows (through which the women could watch what was going on in the courtyards) are said to have been decorated in 250 different styles. Here you’ll find the Cradle Gallery, featuring cradles for royal babies, and the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), built in the 17th century. The Pearl Palace, built in the 17th century and adorned with magnificent colorful stained glass windows, served as the main hall for official meetings and receptions.
What dark secret of ancient Hindu traditions does the legendary Mehrangarh Fortress hold
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Once upon a time there lived a very ambitious ruler named Rao Jodha. One day he saw an incredibly majestic rocky hill. Rao decided to build on it an impregnable fortress. So Mehrangarh Fort appeared and later grew into a whole city. As the centuries passed, the mighty dynasty passed away and the fortress remained standing. Its haughty walls hold many secrets, and only eloquent frescoes break the silence, testifying to the dark past. The echo in the zines will soundly tell the legends of bygone times. The truth which the fortress keeps is more like a terrible fairy tale for the night.
History of the fortress
Rao Jodha was a descendant of the all-powerful Gurjar-Pratihar dynasty. They ruled northern India. The Persian conquerors forced them to migrate to Marwar. The new domain was a very secluded high rocky hill, surrounded only by the hot sands of the desert. There was no better place for an impregnable fortress. Besides, the place was very close to the caravan route that led from Delhi to Gujarat. It is not surprising that Mehrangarh Fort eventually turned into a very prosperous and rich city named after the ruler – Jodhpur.
The name of the fortress comes from two Sanskrit words, mihir (sun) and garsh (fortress). The dynasty worshipped Surya, the sun deity in Hinduism, since ancient times. In this light it becomes clear why Rao Jodha named his brainchild the Fortress of the Sun. There was also a dark legend, which is actually true. While laying the foundation of his dream fortress, the ruler faced the opposition of a local hermit who was revered as a saint. His name was Chidiyawale Baba, for he loved to feed and care for birds. He was extremely angry at what was going on and cursed the fort being erected, saying: “May your abode be tormented with thirst forever!”
The Maharaja became frightened, fell at the saint’s feet, and begged him to reverse the curse. He said it was no longer within his power. There is only one way: a human sacrifice must be made. A living man must be cast into the wall of the fort. A noble man named Rajaram Meghwal volunteered from the ruler’s retinue. He was buried here alive in 1459. Inside the fort there is a sandstone memorial with his name, date of burial and all other details carved on it.
The fortress was invaded many times in future centuries. First by other Hindus, then by Arabs, by Mughals. The fort was rebuilt, mosques grew instead of temples. Then Mehrangarh Fort was conquered again by the Hindus. Instead of mosques, Hindu temples were once again erected. Another renovation befell these walls in the 19th century. The maharajahs were no longer willing to live in the fortress, preferring the more comfortable palaces. In the 20th century a municipal museum was opened here.
A grim tradition.
Sati is an outdated ancient Hindu tradition. According to it, widows were burned alive on the funeral pyre along with the body of their dead spouse. Hundreds of wives and concubines were thrown into the flames of hell in the name of this barbaric tradition. It was not until the British Empire came to power that this law was abolished in 1829. Only this custom was so ingrained in Hindu society that despite the prohibition everything continued as before.
It was not until 1987 that the Indian Parliament passed the Prevention of Sati Act. The practice of voluntarily or forcibly burning or burying a widow alive was replaced by some other ceremony. A charitable trust could be set up, a temple could be built, or some ceremonial religious event could be held.
Hands of Sati
The silent walls of Mehrangarh fortress contain a great number of sati stories. For example, in 1731, six wives and 58 concubines of Maharaja Ajit Singh were killed in an act of sati. But one incident was forever immortalized here in 1843. There are seven gates in the structure, and the innermost of these gates is called the Loha Pol or Iron Gate. Fifteen tiny palm prints still remain on them. They were left after the death of Maharaja Man Singh. Called sati hands, they were left by the Maharaja’s wives who jumped into the funeral pyre after decorating the crimson wall as a monument.
Just imagine: dozens of women dressed in all their best, wedding attire. They carry oil lamps and press their cinnabar-covered hands against the wall before throwing themselves into the embrace of fiery death. Who were these women? What was going on in their heads at that moment? Were they wives, concubines, slaves? Did they go willingly or were they thrown into the fire by force? Was it mass hysteria? All of these questions are difficult to answer today. Or people are simply unwilling to accept them.
The Curse of Mehrangarh.
The history of the fort was turbulent and bloody from the beginning. In this light, rumors that the place is cursed are not surprising. They look especially convincing against the backdrop of a series of ghastly incidents that have occurred here constantly. The Maharaja of Rao Ganga died here under the influence of opium. Tourists often slip and fall from the huge berm, crashing to their deaths. The monument does not welcome fans of extreme selfies. The most egregious incident happened in 2008 when hundreds of people died in a stampede at the Chamunda Devi temple on the fort.
Mehrangarh Fort’s dark past continues to lure tourists from all over the world, no matter what. Proud and impregnable, it steadfastly keeps all its secrets, which are so eager to unravel the curious. The richest arsenals and majestic galleries still dazzle with royal luxury. The spirit of a former, gloomy and at the same time resplendent era hangs here. The most striking impression of the citadel is undoubtedly the hands of the sati. The legendary Hindu tradition in all its hellish splendor.
Stately looking at its surroundings, the silent fortress continues to silently keep all its dark secrets.
There are many places in India that are both beguiling and frightening at the same time. It is infinitely beautiful nature and ancient history, which has its roots deep in the ages. It’s a crime to visit India without visiting some of its most famous mystical sites! Read our article about 15 mystical and alluring places in India that even the uninitiated should see at least once.