Having spent a few days exploring the city of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, it was time to explore some of the sites that lie outside of the city on a number of day excursions. First on my list was Gohad Fort, located 45km north-east of Gwalior on the route to Bhind.
I’ve failed to find much in the way of documentation about the fort, all the information that follows (which seem to concur with each other) has been gleaned from a handful of websites. This blog will be light on text and heavy with photography :-).
It’s safe to say that Gohad Fort is well and truly off the tourist trail. Having found the guard to unlock the gates and let me in, I had the entire fort to myself for over two hours. I definitely got the sense that hardly anyone ever comes here.
There is no signage in the fort to help you interpret the ruins, there’s not even any paths to speak of. It’s as if the last person left the fort some 300 years ago and since then the entire place has been forgotten about. Some of the areas I would think are actually quite dangerous now to explore, but there’s nothing preventing you from doing so.
Everywhere you look there is evidence of just how spectacular this fort must once have been; the carvings, plaster work and scale of some some of these buildings is impressive even in their dilapidated state.
I confess I do actually really enjoy visiting sites like this, having an entire fort to explore by yourself is (by western standards) pretty unusual, and the imagination can run riot trying to figure out what these buildings were for and how it must have been like to live here.
It is documented that the following buildings reside within the fort complex; Navin Mahal, Khās Mahal, Shish Mahal, Sāt-Bhānwar, Deoghar, Khās Darbār, Ām Darbār, Bhandār Grih and Rāni Bāgh. There are also the temples of Rāma Jānaki, Laxman, Rādhā Krirshna, Shiva and Markandeshwar. You are all welcome to try and place the photograph to the building…
According to William Cook and Alexander Cunningham, the people of the Jat caste from a village near Agra (Bamrauli) settled the town of Gohad in 1505, and subsequently developed the area into an important Jat stronghold.
The fort itself was founded by the Jat ruler Singhandev II shortly after 1505, but the majority of the construction was undertaken by Maharaja Bhim Singh Rana, Maharaja Chhatra Singh Rana and Kirat Singh Rana. It is considered the most important of the 350 forts and defensive structures that were built in the region around Gohad to protect their people.
As is the case with every fort that is built, exactly where it is placed in the landscape is key. In this case, Gohad Fort was built by a prominent bend in the river Vaisali, and the river was augmented (excavated and reshaped) further to ultimately provide an excellent first line of defense around half of the circular fort.
The rampart extends for 5km around the fort, and has seven gates that were named after the settlements the trackways would lead to; Itayli, Barthara, Gohadi, Birkhari, Kathwan, Kharaua and Saraswati.
I sometimes wonder if places like this are a missed opportunity for Indian tourism. Gwalior is vastly underrated and overlooked in my opinion with regards to tourism, and whilst it receives quite a lot of visitors due to its close proximity to Agra, there’s no real emphasis on the heritage locations both within the city and in the surrounding countryside. I guess as always it all boils down to budgets and resources.
Since visiting Gohad Fort I have discovered that in 2017 it was certified by UNESCO in their “Honorable List”, and a fund of 7,000,000 rupees (£77,500 or $101,200) was donated to help with the restoration of the fort and its gates. This is encouraging news, and may explain some activity I witnessed outside the main fort.
Opposite the entrance to the fort is a large structure that does appear to be of similar age to some of the buildings inside the fort. It must be some sort of palace, but I don’t know the name of it and google maps doesn’t give any clues. Renovation work is currently underway on this structure, so perhaps this will eventually extend to the fort proper in due course.
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