Every fort has a story behind it. How about exploring some of the unique forts of Eastern Rajasthan and chasing the stories yourself? I had similar thoughts on my mind during the last road trip across Rajasthan. I often see hordes of tourists clicking pictures of forts one after another without knowing the story behind them. You might have heard of these forts, but I bring forth some unique aspects to make your journey even more worthwhile. So, hop into your car, drive along the beautiful countryside of Rajasthan and visit one fort at a time.
1. Bhangarh Fort, Bhangarh
Bhangarh Fort always falls in the list of most haunted places in India and in the world. It lies around Bhangarh village at the foot of Aravalli Hills and next to Sariska wildlife sanctuary. The place is an incredible mix of rustic countryside and dark folk tales from the past. This 17th century fort was abandoned more than 150 years ago when the village folk migrated overnight. ASI (Architectural Survey of India) has forbidden entry to this fort before sunrise and after sunset. Interactions with the locals gave me an insight into their experiences. Some of them admitted to having experienced heightened emotions and unusual temperature drops in certain areas of this fort. Gopinath Temple and Ganesh Temple are located in the vicinity.
2. Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh
This mighty fort in Mewar region can take you almost three days to cover on foot, especially when you take photography seriously. Mewar region of Rajasthan is rich in its biodiversity as well as artwork and history. It also serves as home to many warrior clans and princely states. Chittorgarh fort belonged to Maharana Pratap, one of the most popular warriors of the clan. As my guide took me deep inside the fort, I wondered how this place silently bears testimony to the bygone era. Some of the places I recommend visiting in Chittorgarh fort are Mirabai temple, Rani Padmini Palace, and Kirti Stambh – all of which made me recall my history lessons from school. Kirti Stambh clearly stands out as my favourite. This 22-metre tower, known as “Tower of fame”, was built by a Jain merchant and dedicated to Lord Adinath. The tower had carvings of naked figures of different Tirthankars and Jain Pantheon in state of meditation. Don’t miss the splendid view of Chittorgarh city from seventh floor of Kirti Stambh.
3. Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur
Perched on top of “Hill of the Eagle”, the aerial view of Jaipur city, Amber fort and Lake Maota is mesmerising. Unlike other forts which have artillery storage as well as palaces for the royalty, this fort was made exclusively to store weapons. One of the most dominating pieces in the collection of artillery was the Jaivana cannon. It was built in 1720 and is the world’s third largest cannon on wheels. While taking a walk around the Jaigarh Fort, I noticed the unique ways the people in those days used to adopt for water harvesting.
4. Kumbalgarh Fort, Kumbalgarh
Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajsamand district is a unique and lesser known fort offering bird’s eye view of Mewar’s rocky terrain around it. This is the most formidable fort of Rajasthan built by Maharana Kumbha. It is also the birth place of Maharana Pratap. The winding road leading to the fort with hairpin bends makes the journey absolutely splendid. A walk in this fort is visually rewarding as well as physically exhausting. Packing a water bottle and some food is recommended before you decide on exploring the fort on foot. The 36 km of thick wall built at almost 1100 m above sea level was sufficient to repel the combined armies of Mughal Empire, Raja Udai Singh and Raja Man Singh of Amber. Hence, this fort was used as a refuge by Mewar Empire. Kumbhalgarh fort is surrounded by 13 beautiful mountain peaks of Aravalli mountain range, which is rich in wildlife and exotic birds. Important sights inside the fort are Badal Mahal, Kumbha Palace, Jain Temples, and splendid water reservoirs. Did you know that the wall of Kumbhalgarh Fort is second longest in the world after Great Wall of China?
5. Taragarh Fort, Bundi
This is one of the lesser known forts of the Yellow City – Bundi. Unlike other forts which are well maintained by the government, this is a rundown fort, which gives it a more rustic and authentic look. The Taragarh Fort is the only one where you will find elephants carved in stone over the entrance to its palace. It exudes the features of Rajput architecture with heavy Mughal influence. It is said that if the Kingdoms of Bundi, Chittorgarh and Jaipur were united, they could have easily averted Mughal invasion. One of the unique features of Bundi fort is its Chitrashala (school of art). It has fine examples of wall murals depicting stories of Lord Krishna, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Brahma. The paintings also seem to narrate stories from daily life of Bundi royalty.