Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meherangarh Fort 01 - The Curse of a Hermit (Jodhpur)

Jodhpur, Rajasthan -

Finally I was walking through one of the entrance gates, roving through imposing thick walls (118 feet hight and 69 feet wide) that stood on a rocky hill once known as Bhaurcheeria, the “mountain of birds”. But the land itself was said to be cursed – by the hill’s sole occupant, a hermit named Cheeria Nathji, a “lord of the birds”, who was displaced when Jodha (the 15th Rathore ruler) decided to build a fort on top of the hill. “May your citadel suffer a scarcity of water!” bedamned Cheeria. To appease Cheeria, Jodha built him a temple and a house within the fort near the hermit’s meditation spot (a cave).

Reversing the curse was a tricky predicament. Jodha turned to superstition and buried a man alive in the fort’s foundations. His name was Rajiya Bhambi, a Meghwal (a weaving caste living primarily in northwest India) who was promised that the Rathore clan would look after Rajiya’s family. Fair deal? To this day, his descendants still live in Raj’s Bagh, a property bequeathed by the Rathores. Despite this, drought still cloaks over the fortress every 3 to 4 years.

I bought my 250 rupee ticket and leisurely made my way inside, excited and in awe. I kept looking up as multilevel towers of extreme beauty greeted me with their labyrinthine, almost convoluted design. There was a lot of history flashing before me, considering the foundation was built on May 12, 1459. This was Rajasthan’s largest fort and has never been taken in the last 500 years. To be walking amidst structures that witnessed so much pomp, pageantry and wars was a humbling experience.

To be honest about it, I expected a huge palace inside, but what greeted me was a contained city within the fortress, with expansive courtyards; dusty, earthy grounds; sandstone-constructed walls that rose several levels above. It’s easy to get lost in its maze of rooms like I did. At some point, I found myself returning to the same room 5 times, it felt like getting lost again at Richmond upon Thames’ sprawling Hampton Court Palace’s garden maze.

The fort boasts of seven gates, which include Jaipol (meaning 'victory'), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fatehpol (which also means 'victory') gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of the Mughals.

Aside from these gates, the more interesting parts are the Period Rooms which we’ll get into in our succeeding posts. These were themed rooms with specific eye-popping designs. Galleries in the museum include Elephant’s howdahs (a kind of two-compartment wooden seat, mostly covered with gold and silver embossed sheets, which were fastened on to the elephant's back). Royalties rode on them as a means of transport.

It is hard not to be in awe of such grandeur and pageantry. It’s even harder to stop myself from clicking the shutter of my camera, who cared if I’ve had so much redundant shots. Many rooms require that you refrain from flash photography. There were uniformed men guarding some parts of the complex, most of them in turbans. It’s easy to strain your neck from the upward gazes you’d have to endure while on the ground, then suddenly find yourself on higher ground, gazing at the expanse of the Blue City.

Jodhpur has this chimeral quality that takes you to some mystical netherworld. I was in a dream.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Up next: Period Rooms of Meherangarh Fort


Ola said...

This architecure is always amaizing me with the detailed decorations! How much efford must be put in it!

eye in the sky said...

And considering the year it was founded - 1459, it should be a tremendous effort all around.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

I completely loved your pictures and the story!

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, Sidd. These places have so many great stories worth writing about.