|MEHRANGARH FORT (JODHPUR FORT)
Mehrangarh Fort, located in Jodhpur city in Rajasthan state is one of the largest forts in India.
The fort is situated on a lofty height, 400 feet (122 m) above the city, and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces, which are known for their intricate carvings and sprawling courtyards. A meandering road leads to and from the city below. Battle scars of cannon ball hits by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. To the left of the fort is the chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot defending the Mehrangarh fort.
There are seven gates, which include Jayapol meaning victory built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol also meaning victory gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of Mughals. The palm imprints still attract devotional attention and are covered by vermilion paste and paper-thin silver foil.
The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the finest museums in Rajasthan and certainly the best laid out. In the palanquin section of the fort museum, you can see an interesting collection of old royal palanquins including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin, which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period rooms.
In 1458, Rao Jodha (1438-1488), one of Ranmal's 24 sons became the fifteenth Rathore ruler. One year after his accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the safer location of Jodhpur as the one thousand years old Mandore fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient security.
The foundation of the fort was laid on May 12, 1459 by Jodha on a rocky hill 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) to the south of Mandore. This hill was known as Bhaurcheeria, the mountain of birds. According to legend to build the fort he had to displace the hill's sole human occupant, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the lord of birds. Upset at being forced to move Cheeria Nathji cursed Rao Jodha with "Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!". Rao Jodha managed to appease the hermit by building a house and a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit had used for meditation, though only to the extent that even today the area is plagued by a drought every 3 to 4 years.
Jodha then took an extreme measure to ensure that the new site proved propitious; he buried a man called Rajiya Bhambi (a Meghwal) alive in the foundations. Rajiya was promised that in return his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day his descendants still live in Raj Bagh, Rajiya's Garden, an estate bequeathed them by Jodha.
Mehrangarh (etymology: 'Mihir' (Sanskrit) -sun or Sun-deity; 'garh' (Sanskrit)-fort; i.e.'Sun-fort'; according to Rajasthani language pronunciation conventions,'Mihirgarh' has changed to 'Mehrangarh'; the Sun-deity has been the chief deity of the Rathore dynasty. Though the fortress was originally started in 1459 by Rao Jodha, founder of Jodhpur, most of the fort which stands today dates from the period of Jaswant Singh (1638–78). The fort is located at the centre of the city spreading over 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) atop a 125-metre (410 ft) high hill. Its walls, which are up to 36 metres (118 ft) high and 21 metres (69 ft) wide, protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan.
Entry to the fort is gained though a series of seven gates. The most famous of the gates are: - Jai Pol ("Gate of Victory"), built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 to celebrate his victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner - Fateh Pol, built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals in 1707 - Dedh Kamgra Pol, which still bears the scars of bombardment by cannonballs; - Loha Pol, which is the final gate into the main part of the fort complex. Immediately to the left are the handprints (sati marks) of the ranis who in 1843 immolated themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband, Maharaja Man Singh.
Within the fort, several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces are found. Of these, Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, and Daulat Khana are notable. One also finds the fort museum comprising several palaces. This museum houses an exquisite collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes and furniture. The ramparts of the fort are home to not only several excellently preserved old cannon (including the famous Kilkila) but also offer a breath-taking view of the city.