Rajasthan is known for its palaces and forts. Rajput kings were known for building forts to protect its people and cities. Most of the forts are situated on a hill which made it difficult for enemy to attack. The interior for the fort has different areas like the court, separate quarters for men and women, courtyard where different festivals were celebrated.
Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India. The foundation of the fort was laid in 1459. The fort is situated 400 feet above the city. Like most of the forts it has really thick walls. The fort is located at the centre of the city spreading over 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) atop a 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 through 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.
Now some history –
The earlier capital of the Rathore rulers was Mandore which was not considered really safe and so, Rao Jodha moved the capital from Mandore to a place 9 Km 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 “Raja Ram Meghwal” alive in the foundations. “Raja Ram Meghwal” was promised that in return his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day his descendants still live in Raj Bagh, “Raja Ram Meghwal’s” Garden, an estate bequeathed them by Jodha.
The name Mehrangarh comes from ‘Mihir’ which means sun and ‘Garh’ which means fort. Since the main deity of the Rathore kings was Sun God and so the fort is named after the Sun God.
There is a temple of a Goddess in the fort. The Chamunda Mataji was Rao Jodha’s favorite goddess, he brought her idol from the old capital of Mandore in 1460 and installed her in Mehrangarh (Maa Chamunda was the kul devi of Parihar rulers of Mandore). She remains the Maharaja’s and the Royal Family’s Isht Devi or adopted goddess and is worshipped by most of Jodhpur’s citizens as well. Crowds throng Mehrangarh during the Dussehra celebrations.