Mehrangarh Fort- A Cultural and Architectural Extravaganza
Mehrangarh, known for its beautiful architecture, formidable wall, and cultural heritage, is one of the most magnificent forts in Rajasthan, India. there is no exaggeration in Rudyard Kipling describing the fort as “A Palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun”. Perched on a rocky cliff at an altitude of 400 m above the cities skyline, the fort can be seen from almost any vantage point in Jodhpur.
Mehrangarh is a Palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun – Rudyard Kipling
The rustic music of Rajasthani folk songs and the sounds of bells welcomed us as we entered the massive gates and strolled along the ramparts and alleys within the fort walls. Just when we got carried away to the erstwhile era of the Rathore reign by the charm of the fort, the strings of Ravanhatta ( an ancient bowed violin popular in India and Srilanka) brought us back to the present.
As we further explored the courtyards of the fort, we realized that the workers and caretakers of the fort were dressed in pure white Kurtis paired with the contrasting colorful turbans. We felt as if we had entered a royal ceremony. There was music and dance everywhere.
Much has been written and said about the magnificence of the Mehrangarh Fort. About the ornate red sandstone carvings of Shringar chowk, the gallery of paintings, Ornate palanquins in the Daulat Khana, intricate mirror work in Sheesh Mahal, the excuisite gold paintings of Phool Mahal, the Lavish interiors of Takhat Niwas, the Jharokhas of Jhanki Mahal and the Brahminic blue houses surrounding the fort. We would like to give all this a pass and present you some very interesting facts about the fort which aroused our curiosity.
Mehrangarh fort- the citadel of sun god derives its name from Mehr-Garh. Mehr meaning Sun and Garh meaning Fort. Sun has been the chief deity of the Rathore dynasty and it is believed that the Rathores are the descendants of the Sun. As per the pronunciation in the local language, Mehr-Garh came to be known as Mehrangarh.
The Mehrangarh Fort is built on a Malani Igneous Suite Contact which represents the last phase of igneous activity of Precambrian age in the Indian subcontinent. This unique feature has been declared a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India.
Though the fortress was originally constructed in mid 15th century by Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, it was expanded with many palaces and structures by his descendants across 500 years. Most of the fort which stands today dates back to the 17th century and was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh.
During the initial days, the city of Jodhpur was contained within the 4 walls of the fort. However, it outgrew in size within 50 years of construction of the fort as people migrated from different regions of Thar. The majestic fort is guarded by 7 gates namely Jai Pol, Loha Pol, Fateh Pol, Amrita Pol, Doodkangra Pol, Gopal Pol and Bheru Pol. The fort is perched on a vertical Cliff named Bakurcheeria which is 400m high above the skyline of Jodhpur and is spread over 5 Km. The walls of Mehrangarh are up to 36 m high and 21 m wide and protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan.
The story of the construction of the fort by Rao Jodha is quite intriguing. The foundation of the fort was laid in 1459 by Rao Jodha on a rocky hill by name Bhaurcheeria located at about 9km to the south of Mandore, the erstwhile capital of Rathores. According to a legend, to build the fort, Rao Jodha had to displace the hill’s sole human occupant, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the lord of birds. Upset at being forced to move, Cheeria Nathji cursed Rao Jodha that the fort would suffer from water scarcity. Rao Jodha managed to appease the hermit by building a house and a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit had used for meditation, though only to the extent that even today the area is plagued by a drought every 3 to 4 years.
To avert the consequences of Cheeria Nathji’s curse, Rao Jodha had a young man named Rajiya Bambi buried alive to ensure that the new fort proved propitious. In return, Rajiya Bambi was promised that his family and descendants would be looked after by the Rathores. In honor of the promise, even today Rajiya’s descendants continue to enjoy a special relationship with the Maharaja family.
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Towards the leeward side of the Bakhurcheeria hill is the Rao Jodha Desert Park consisting of the ecologically restored vegetation of arid and desert land of 72 hectares. The area surrounding the desert park encompasses many volcanic rocks and sandstone formations from about 600 million years ago. The park also has a visitors gallery, cafe, and a native plant nursery. Strolling in the park, one can see some of the local birds, butterflies, and reptiles while gaining more insights about the flora and fauna of the deserts.
One thing that sets apart Mehrangarh from the rest of the forts in Rajasthan is its patronage for folk art and traditions. Cultural and Folk performances are arranged every day in the different courtyard of the fort. It is a visual treat to see different artists dressed in the most colorful and exquisite costumes dance and perform to various Rajasthani folklores while the detailed carvings on the courtyard walls make excellent backgrounds. To believe it, you need to visit it.