“The splendours of a Palace that might have been built by Titans and coloured by the morning sun.”
This is how Rudyard Kipling described Mehrangarh fort when he visited Jodhpur in 1888, probably Rajasthan’s grandest and most visitor friendly fort.
Mehrangarh Fort also has one of the most imposing fortifications to be found anywhere in the world, the mammoth structure built high up on a hill dominates the landscape with 36m walls that tower over the busy city below.
It’s places like this that make me thankful SD cards are so cheap to buy these days. Pouring over the hundreds of photos I took in and around Mehrangarh fort, it’s clear that writing a single blog is not going to be enough to do this place justice.
So my account of Mehrangarh fort will be in two parts :
- Part 1 – The Exterior (this post). This will document what can be seen of the fort without entering the palace complex itself. Just as with Udaipur City Palace, there’s a lot you can see of the exterior of the fort without having to pay an entrance fee, and I spent a good couple of hours doing just that on the first day I arrived in Jodhpur, leaving a visit proper until the following day.
- Part 2 – The Interior. This will document what can be seen and experienced with your entry ticket.
There are two entrances to the fort, the primary one being at the NE extent of the fort which has a large car park and is how almost everyone approaches the fort. This will take you right by Jaswant Thada shortly before the car park which well worth a visit.
The second entrance is to the SW from the old city, if you’re staying in that part of Jodhpur it’s a much quieter approach, more on that later.
From the car park you walk along a board, paved pathway through seven pols (gates), always climbing uphill. The walls and architecture of the fort are incredibly impressive as you get up close to them for the first time.
Rao Jodha, the fifteenth chief of the Rathore clan, is credited with the origin of Jodhpur in India. He founded Jodhpur (previously known as Marwar) in 1459 , and just one year after his accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the safer location of Jodhpur. The one thousand year old Mandore fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient security, and so Mehrangarh fort was constricted.
On the way passing through these gates there are couple of points of interest.
Before reaching Loha Pol look out for a red stone slab set into the wall. When Rao Jodha decided that Bhaurcheeria Hill should be the location for his fort, a saint by the name Cheeria Nathji was forced to move off the hill where he had lived all his life.
In response, the saint cursed Rao Jodha’s kingdom that it would always face drought. Rao Jodha established a new home and temple for him near the old city, but regardless the saint kept the curse in place. He then suggested that to appease the curse, a human sacrifice should be performed.
And so here is where it is said Raja Ram Meghwal was buried alive in the foundations of the fort. In return for his sacrifice, Raja Ram Meghwal was promised his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day his descendants still live in Raj Bagh, Raja Ram Meghwal’s Garden, an estate bequeathed to them by Jodha.
The walls around Jai Pol (Victory Gate) are scarred by marks made by cannon balls during a failed attempt by Jaipur forces to capture the fort in 1808. Sadly, these I failed to photograph !
Loha Pol, the final gate you pass under, houses wall plaques bearing the handprints in relief of women – wives, concubines and servants, who committed sati on the death of a maharaja. It is said that 6 queens and 58 concubines immolated themselves on Ajit Singh’s funeral pyre in 1724.
A little further along from Loha Pol is where you enter the interior of the fort proper. But that’s for another time, instead I continued on my exploration of the exterior of the palaces and courtyards, which in themselves are simply stunning.
There is no shortage of pretty balconies with intricate jali screens carved out of the pink, and sometimes yellow, sandstone.
Continuing on, I ended up on the eastern side of the fort walking along the massive walls housing numerous cannons and impressive views over the city of Jodhpur and Umaid Bhawan Palace.
Although the walls are tall, there are places where you can squeeze your camera through gaps to get that shot of the walls and city far down below.
After a short time you will reach the Chamunda Mataji Temple.
The Chamunda Mataji was Rao Jodha’s favorite goddess. He brought her idol from the old capital of Mandore in 1460 and installed her in Mehrangarh. She remains the Maharaja’s and the Royal Family’s Isht Devi or adopted goddess and is worshipped by most of Jodhpur’s citizens as well.
Sadly it is here on 30th September 2008 that human stampede occurred in which 249 people were killed and more than 400 injured. About 25,000 Hindu pilgrims were visiting the temple to mark the first day of the nine day long Navratri festival.
From here your only option is to turn around and head back, past the wonderful architecture that will be even more abundant when the palace interior is explored.
If you’re staying in the old city, there is an alternative gate to the SW that’s a shortcut. Note that entry if not permitted before 9am, and you need to be through this gate and exited the fort proper by 6pm.
It’s a pleasant alternative route to the fort, and removed from all the crowds using the car park by the main gate. If you are reaching Mehrangarh fort on foot from the old city, this would be my preferred route.
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Categories: India, Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Fort - The Exterior, Rajasthan
These photos show that the golden hours are definitely worth waiting for, and lighting and the contrast are perfect.
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