After meeting the royals of Ranthambore National Park it was time to visit the royal residence. Although the royals we met were from different family and this residence belonged to a completely different family. It was the royal residence of the Chauhan dynasty from the 12th century. Built on a hill within the forest surrounded by rough terrain, Ranthambore fort was considered as one of the impregnable forts of the period.
In present-day, the aged monument lies within the outer bounds of the Ranthambore National Park, giving it a different aura of its own. Here history and nature are entwined in a wonderful topography giving the visitors a wonderful opportunity to indulge in both. There is no proper evidence to suggest the exact period of construction of the hill fort but it is believed to have started during the 10th century and continued for a few centuries after that.
During the reign of Prithviraja I of the Chahamana dynasty (Chauhan), Ransthambapura (as it was known at the time) became an important site of Jainism. Although being a Shivaite he showed interest in Jainism and generously donated for the construction of Jain temples. Prithviraja III, better known as Prithviraj Chauhan was one of the prominent rulers of this fort.
After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192, from the Ghurid dynasty under its ruler Muhammad of Ghor, the fort came under its first Muslim rule. Though Govindaraja IV, the son of Prithviraj III accepted the sovereignty of the Muslim rulers and controlled the region as the subordinate of the Ghurid dynasty.
The fort came under the Delhi Sultanate of Iltutmish in 1226 and later Chauhans recaptured it. The fort kept changing hands from the Muslim rulers to Chauhans and back a couple of time before coming under the rule of Hamiradeva, the last of the Chauhan kings. His kingdom comprised of many regions surrounding Ranthambore. He subjugated many of his neighbouring Hindu rulers and also initially defeated the Khiljis under Jalaluddin Khilji.
It was when he offered refuge to the Mongol rebels of the Delhi sultanate that gained the wrath of Jalaluddin’s successor Alauddin Khilji. Ranthambore was invaded and was laid under siege for sometime before Hamiradeva being defeated and finally killed by the Khiljis.
Then the fort of Ranthambore passed on many hands – from various kings of Mewar to Hada Rajputs of Bundi to Mughal Emperor Akbar to finally come under the Kachwaha Maharajas of Jaipur who held friendly relation with the Mughals.
With this briefing on the history of Ranthambore, I will now take you to the fort which has the famous Trinetra Ganesh Temple within. There are many other temples within the premises like the Shiva temple, Ramlalaji temple, Annapurna temple and Kali temple. There is also a Jain temple dedicated to Sumatinath, the 5th Tirthankara and a mosque within.
The fort occupying an area of around 4km stands on the top of a hill and is guarded by massive fortification. In present-day many of the palaces, cenotaphs, tanks and other monuments within its rampart and bastion are in ruins. While most of the pavilions and palaces are in ruins the places of worships are intact with deities being worshipped on a regular basis following every ritual.
After our three consecutive safaris, (read my previous post on Ranthambore National Park safari) we had an afternoon to explore the Ranthambore fort. It happened to be a Wednesday, the sacred day of Lord Ganesh as per the locals. There were a lot of vehicles gathered at the entrance of the forest gate, probably they were not allowed within the forest premises and all had to park their vehicles outside.
Some chose to walk to the fort and then climb to the temple while others chose to hire forest vehicles to reach the fort gate. We hired a vehicle from our hotel that took us to the fort, that was a gypsy and looked similar to the forest vehicles and they might have some internal settings to allow these vehicles within without any hassle.
As expected there were a lot of people mostly locals to visit the fort or rather visit the Trinetra Ganesh temple. We started our climb with the crowd and shockingly none were in their masks in this COVID situation. The higher we climbed the better was the view. The Jogi Mahal, Padam Talao and the magnificent surrounding view were worth the climb in the scorching sun.
People were seen feeding the Grey Langurs with garlands (that they brought for the puja rituals), chickpeas and even Ladoos. The langurs seemed to be choosy and health-conscious as they preferred the fresh flowers over all other offerings, while Ladoos were the least favourite.
We walked through the network of roads scattered with the ruins of various monuments and temples. At one place people were seen building rock piles and the place was lined up with hundreds of such tiny piles. On enquiring the reason, they said it is done with the faith to have a good home in the next birth. It sounded amusing to us but faith has no bounds.
We reached the Trinetra Ganpati Temple at the far end of the top of the fort. Devotees were seen performing various rituals before entering the temple, some even carried sacks full of grains of the new harvest from their farms. Some emptied half of their sack in a container in front of the temple while others generously spread the grains on the floor of the temple and surrounding.
On our way back we visited the Kankalimata temple, the Jain temple and the mosque. We gradually climbed down the fort while the langurs kept feeding on their choicest of human offerings. The fort offered an astounding view of the surrounding forest and the lakes and also enriched us with the history of siege, power and battle. It was an afternoon very well spent after the successful safaris within the forest.
We had a few hours of daylight before retiring to our stay for the last night in Ranthambore. We wisely decided to shop in the store cum factory in the neighbourhood run by organisations supporting rural women to earn their livelihood by selling their handicrafts. We purchased some amazing ‘Godhris’, Dupattas, bags and other souvenirs to bring a happy ending to our Ranthambore journey.