When was the last time a building stopped you in your tracks?
Your eyes widened trying to take it all in and your mouth fell open in awe?
Mehrangarh Fort did that to me in November 2017!
As we weaved through the busy Jodhpur streets in our tuk tuks our attention was firmly fixed on avoiding a crash with the next taxi, pedestrian or oxen. It was only as we careened around a corner, precariously balanced on less wheels than should normally be on the ground, that the street broadened and we were spellbound by what lay ahead of us.
Mehrangarh Fort sits proudly and prominently on top of a steep mountain surrounded by sheer cliffs, providing additional deterrence to any would-be invaders. From a distance it was hard to get an idea of the scale of the Fort until, as we edged each kilometre closer, it loomed larger and larger, and finally towered over us.
The little tuk tuks struggled to make it up the steep streets so heavily laden with Western tourists. Engines laboured and blew masses of acrid, blue smoke. Time to don the face mask once again. Finally, after much juddering and straining, the little tuk-tuk-that-could pulled into the car park at the base of the Fort, and we tumbled out to join the throng of Indian people also paying tribute to their history and heritage.
Construction of the Mehrangarh Fort commenced in 1459. It was founded by Rao Jodha (hence Jodh-pur i.e. Jodh’s town) the 15th. It was home to the Rathore Dynasty who ruled the region from the 13th to 20th centuries. Now that is some stamina!
With my mouth agape, I pulled on the audio guide headset and headed along the steep wide paths towards the entrance. I have to admit that my brain was struggling to process both the size and the beauty of the Fort, and that was just the outside! I hadn’t even made it through the massive front gates.
In my ignorance, I thought a fort was just that, a fort i.e. a military fortification. I was soon to learn that forts in India are also sumptuous palaces with gardens and gilt, not the austere and martial establishments I had in mind.
As I walked up the cobbled streets I imagined exhausted armies trooping back bedraggled from yet another battle, or invading armies with elephants leading the charge. Ingeniously the path is designed to include a sharp right hand turn before entering the gigantic iron-studded gates. That corner directs you under a large arch, just perfect for slowing marauding armies and equally perfect for raining boiling oil down upon man and beast. Those times were not for the faint of heart.
The further I climbed, the more ornate and elaborate the construction became. It is hard to describe the beauty of the golden stone work, the swathes of intricate carving and endless ornamentation. If we tried to design something like that in Australia it would look like we had vomited rainbows, but in India it just works!
Everywhere I turned was a magnificent sight and as I progressed through the Palace section of the Fort, I kept thinking ‘it could not get better than this’, but it did!
From room to room, the decoration became more brilliantly coloured, more ornate and more sumptuous. Parts of the Palace have been converted to a museum, so not only are you dazzled by the art and design of the palace itself, you also learn about the history of the region, the Rathore Dynasty, about arms and other military equipment, costumes and various ‘palanquins’, and carriages used to ride elephants.
The Maharajah no longer lives in the Fort and has built himself a comfortable weekender of 347 rooms in another part of the city. Yes, I guess it would get annoying having all us commoner tourists trooping in and out every day lowering the tone of the place.
All too soon it was time to go and we had to meet up back at the palace gates. We were only allowed 90minutes to explore, and that definitely wasn’t long enough. As we gathered at the gates we were swamped by more children wanting ‘selfie, selfie, selfie’ before we could finally break away.
With the Fort towering above me, I turned to take in the view over Jodhpur. The many blue-painted buildings for the Brahmin caste, give the city its nickname, ‘The Blue City’. Over time the blues have faded to cover the whole spectrum of sun-bleached and dusty hues, from fresh deep indigo to chalky blues that blend in with the sky.
We snaked our way down the hundreds of steep, smooth steps, leading us into a warren of narrow, twisting streets which makes up the heart of old Jodhpur.
Before the town swallowed us up, I turned and gazed back up at the Fort, now silhouetted in the late afternoon light. How clever is man to design and build something so magnificent and so durable?
Are we building things like this today?
What: Entrance fees are R600 (about AUD$12.00), which includes use of an audio guide. Please note that many of these historical sites require you to leave some sort of security such as cash or your passport, before they will hire out the audio guides. Have your passport handy.
Where: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.
When: Open seven days from 900am to 500pm.
Why: To experience another Indian engineering wonder.
How: By car, taxi, tuk tuk or minivan. Limited parking is available from R10-R100.
Who: Recommended for people with a reasonable level of fitness as there are many steep walk ways and stairs. An elevator is available for R100 (return) to take you from the entrance up into the Fort.
Related Posts: To find out about another engineering wonder, have a look at my post about the Abhaneri Stepwells.
Related Blogs: For an Indian perspective on the Fort, check out what the Indian Vagabond has to say.
Read About It: Don’t forget your Lonely Planet Rajasthan, available from Book Depository