Rajasthan – Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Jodhpur, the blue city of Rajasthan, so aptly named after the blue painted homes dotting the rustic landscape of Jodhpur. I for one, was very excited and was eagerly waiting to visit the Mehrangarh Fort for many reasons – this was where “The Dark Knight Rises” was filmed! Remember the epic Pit Climb scene with Christian Bale? and the sweeping shot of him standing on the edge of the pit set in front of a massive fort? Yep. That is Mehrangarh Fort, one of the best preserved and colossal forts in all of India, built by King Rao Jodha (of the Rajput clan) 400 feet above the city on a cliff structure composed of igneous rock (the cliff was declared a National Geographic Monument by the Geological Survey of India)

Mehrangarh translates into ‘fort of the Sun’ – trust me. They weren’t kidding, one must visit the fort during twilight or at dusk (as I did, breathtaking to say the least) – Click on images to expand

But it wasn’t just a fort or a military base, it also housed several palaces and was a thriving center for art and culture. Within the fort are well-preserved galleries for public display –

Elephant Howdah (seats used on Elephants)

Palanquin Gallery (typically carried by 2 – 8 persons)

Royal Rooms

View of Jodhpur from the Fort

I was also able to satisfy my fan-boy antics by doing this –

Lastly, the Flying Fox Zipline at the Fort is NOT to be missed! Extreme fun and amazing views of the fort, rocky landscape and the blue city!

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Rajasthan – Abandoned Village of Khaba, Jaisalmer

80 families, deserted an entire village over-night almost 200 years ago. No one knows why. Do I have your attention? I hope so.

This is the eerie story of the Paliwal Brahmin community, who lived in and around Kuldhara (the famous MAIN haunted abandoned village), who packed up and vanished one fine day in the face of a grave danger. Multiple stories claim that the Paliwal village chiefs of 84 villages wanted to protect the honor of their community when the local Mughal ruler wanted the hand of a Paliwal brahmin’s daughter in marriage.

I have seen abandoned houses, but villages? No. Overlooking the Khaba village is a fort (from where these pictures were taken) and surprisingly, one can find many peacocks surrounding the area.

Kabha is about 18Km from Jaisalmer, definitely a place I wouldn’t want to visit once the sun sets. What do you think?

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Rajasthan – Amer Fort, Jaipur

Amer Fort or Amber Fort is one of the 6 Hill Forts of Rajasthan that were recently included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I, one of the war chiefs of Emperor Akbar in the 16th Century, Amer Fort is known for its Hindu and Rajput styles of architecture and is one of the important tourist attractions in and around Jaipur. The Fort is in Amer town, which was once the capital of the Kacchawas, who later shifted the capital to Jaipur.

While we had less than 3 hours to cover most parts of the fort, we were able to see the Jaleb Chowk (place for soldiers to assemble), the Sheesh Mahal (a stunning mirror palace), Diwan-i-Aam (Public audience hall), Diwan-i-Khas (Private audience hall) and the magic flower fresco.

Amer Fort, Jaipur:

Amer Fort, Sheesh Mahal:

Apparently, the Queen was not allowed to sleep out in the open. And so to recreate the effect of a starry night, this mirror palace was built! One candle of light was sufficient to illuminate the entire palace, pretty amazing right?

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Ancient TamilNadu – Gingee Fort (Rajagiri)

Hello boys, I’m baaaccckkk ! I finally got to visit the extremely stunning and beautiful Gingee Fort, which is about 160Km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. My my, where do i begin? – With a brief history ofcourse!

History indicates that Gingee (Senji) was originally under the rule of Pallavas (think Mahabalipuram) (600 AD – 900 AD) and then under the Cholas (900 AD – 1103 AD) and  later to the Pandyas and Hoysalas (1104 AD – 1190 AD).

The foundations of the Gingee Fort itself were laid by the Kon Dynasty in 1190 AD, with Ananda Koan (the Konar clan is an ancient shepherd community in Tamil Nadu present to this day) building the Anandagiri (now called Rajagiri). It was later developed by the Cholas and several structures were later added over the history of the several kingdoms ruling Gingee.

The Gingee Fort Complex has 3 hillocks – Rajagiri (which we visited), Krishagiri and Chandrayandurg (closed for the public). Each hillock has its own set of structures and self-contained citadels. The fort complex covers an area of 11 sq.km with the fort walls spanning 13Km in length. Rajagiri is built at a height of 800 feet (240 m). It took us about an hour to climb the hillock through the twisting, steep convoluted steps that go around the circumference of the hillock by itself (no wonder it is a tough fort to conquer, imagine the soldiers tiring out even before reaching the summit!). The summit is connected to the outside world by a small wooden draw bridge with a chasm that is 18 metres deep!

The Rajagiri fort complex is huge and has several interesting structures – granary, gymnasium, elephant tank, prison, courtyard, kalayana mahal to name a few. It took us 2 full hours to explore the length and breadth of the lower fort before even making the actual climb (!), which took another 45 minutes – 1 hour under the hot sun. But the 360* views at each precipe and outpost during the climb makes you wonder – with no modern tools or technology, how the hell did they build such a brilliantly positioned defense structure?! The enemy can be seen from miles away on all four sides (with smaller outpost structures on surrounding smaller hillocks). I can now understand why Chhatrapati Shivaji ranked this as the most impregnable fortress in India ! Overall it was a fantastic road trip – worth all the heat and burning quadriceps! See for yourself – Click on images to enlarge

Until next time!

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Ancient TamilNadu – Alamparai Fort

I am back after a satisfying 235 Km road trip to Alamparai Fort in Kadapakkam village, almost 100 Km from Chennai (via East Coast Road). I simply loved the fort ruins and the lovely backwaters!

From what i gathered, this brick and limestone fort was built by Nawab Dost Ali Khan (Nawab of the Carnatic from 1732 – 1740). It was then gifted to the French who subsequently lost to the British (think Battle of Plassey – 1759), post which the British captured and destroyed the fort. The fort by itself was used a primary trading port by the Arcots of Nawabs and recently state archaeologists found a copper mint beneath the fort ruins along with arms and ammunition in the soldiers quarters!

The coins minted at the fort were used as official tender from Mughal era till the 19th century (apparently had great monetary value at that time) Each coin was called as an Alamparai Varagai (equal to 3 rupees) and the fort exported ghee, zari (cloth) and salt to Rome, France and other European countries. There is evidence of trade with certain South East Asian countries such as China as well.

This place is a history buff’s delight and i was certainly awe-struck imagining the soldiers and traders walking/guarding the fort in front of my eyes! This place is on the very popular ECR stretch, but is not well-known among the locals – i for one am quite happy i stumbled on this marvelous location! Each brick has a story to tell, but sadly the fort is in terrible shape – thanks to the British and the 2004 Indian Tsunami. I came to know about the copper mint only after i visited the fort, else i would have done some 200+ year old alamparai varagai hunting myself!

If you folks ever take a drive down ECR, do not miss this gem of a fort – the backwaters is amazing!

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