On a day trip out of Gwalior heading to Narwar Fort I came across what seemed to be an interesting location pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The route I had taken out of Gwalior was on the AH47 heading south-west, just prior to it becoming National Highway 46 at Mohana I turned left and headed cross-country on reasonable roads until I reached a cluster of buildings and temples alongside a whitewashed fort. I was compelled to stop and explore a little more.
At first the entire place appeared to be completely deserted, but before long a small group of people, including a priest, came out of the fort to greet me. I’m guessing it’s rather unusual to have foreign visitors passing through, and they seemed very happy for me to wonder about before inviting me into the fort for some tea.
The fort appeared to be almost completely abandoned, and deceptively large. I was given a quick tour of some of the rooms, including a former kitchen with an oven set into the floor
We then scaled a series of precarious stairs to take in the views from the top of the fort walls. From here you could get a decent view of the structures directly opposite on the other side of the road. Thanks to google maps I now know that there’s a Shiv temple there, and what appeared to be another fort complex in a very ruinous state, perhaps a fort that pre-dates the one I was exploring.
The focal point within the fort was the Ram Janki Temple, very much still in use and very well maintained. It’s times like this that I can become quite frustrated around the language barrier, my Hindi is almost non-existent and I so wanted to learn more about the place and the history of the fort and associated buildings. What I could glean from what was quite a difficult exchange of questions and answers leaves me not knowing much at all, and sadly there’s very little I have managed to add from subsequent google searches.
The head priest’s name I believe to be Raj Kumer Das Mahent, I think he lives in the fort along with a Sadhu, who was happy to be photographed after I had asked permission to do so.
From what I could decipher from our attempts to communicate, Ranighati was the birthplace of Raja Nala from the Mahabharata. He was the son of Veerasena , and who ruled over a kingdom known as Nishadha which is identified with the current day district of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. His appearance in the Mahabharata appears to be focused mainly on his marriage to princess Damayanti, but is also known for his skill with horses and for his culinary expertise.
Raja Nala’s capital from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata was called Nalapura until the 12th century, which is believed to be present day Narwar (the place I was en-route to).
This is as far as my fact-finding has taken me regarding Ranighati. I would welcome any of my readers who may have more information to please add them to the comments below this post. I know nothing about the history of the fort itself, and despite some quite concerted efforts going through old ASI publications from the 19th century, this place does not appear to get any mentions.
Having taken some tea and making a donation to the temple, it was time to head on to Narwar Fort. On the way out my new friends were keen to show me some ancient looking shields that were hung on the wall, which apparently were made from rhinoceros skin.
Rhinoceros hasn’t roamed Madhya Pradesh for a very long time, but I don’t know exactly when they became extinct in the region.
Although my stop at Ranighati was less than an hour, the memory of that place has more clarity than almost anywhere else I visited during my last six weeks in India. Although I would dearly like to know more about Ranighati, it’s the utter randomness of the experience coupled with the incredibly friendly people that probably contributes to the experience being so well retained. It’s moments like this that make India such a compelling place to visit.
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