Mehrangarh Fort is one of the most famous forts of Rajasthan. It is owned by the descendants of the erstwhile royals who have set an example in effectively managing the heritage structure. It was constructed by Rao Jodha, a Rathore Rajput in 1459, after moving from Mandore (8 km north of Jodhpur). This mighty fort, straddling a lone hill, encases elegant palaces and intimidating battlements. Ajit Singh, a descendant of Rao Jodha drove Mughals out after Aurangzeb’s death and had added considerably to this fort. Here are the interesting facts about the fort:
Interesting Facts of Mehrangarh Fort
The foundation of Mehrangarh fort was laid in 1459
Rao Jodha, of Rathore clan, had founded Jodhpur when he shifted his capital here from Mandore (8 km north). He began the construction of this fort in 1459 and the subsequent rulers kept adding to it for 500 years that followed. Most of what we see today was built in between the mid-17th and mid-19th centuries.
This fort would have been one of the most impregnable structures in Rajasthan
Mehrangarh straddles on the top of a lone hill amidst the plains and its towering walls seem to be protruding out of the hill itself. The palace apartments are encased within the towering walls, which are up to 36 m high and 21 m wide. The fort along with the old city below was guarded by a 9.5 km long wall bolstered with 101 bastions. There were seven defensive gates to be crossed to enter the palaces; today one of them is missing. The ramp leading up through the defensive gates is quite steep and has sudden twists and turns; this was done to hinder the movement of enemy’s elephants.
The work of angels, fairies, and giants – Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling, writing in 1899, described Mehrangarh as: “one of the grandest sights in India….the work of angels, fairies and giants”. There are reasons he had said this. Looking at this fort, its bastions and battlements, it is easy to understand that the structure would have been erected by the warrior kings. Given this fact, one would picture the palaces inside to be reflecting the might of the fort and the kings. But, on the contrary, the palaces are intricately sculpted and some of them are profusely decorated. It is this contradiction between the inner and outer appearance that would have prompted Rudyard Kipling to make this statement.
There was a phase when the rulers of Mehrangarh had an alliance with the Mughals
Just like several other Rajput rulers, the rulers living here had entered into an agreement with Akbar – the Mughal emperor. By doing so, they could restore their rule. Rao Udai Singh had received the title of Raja from Akbar and his son Sawai Raja Sur Singh conquered Gujarat and parts of Deccan for the emperor.
There was also a phase when Mughals took over Mehrangarh
Maharaja Jaswant Singh had supported Shah Jahan in the Mughal struggle for accession. This had turned him against Aurangzeb who eventually took over the kingdom and operated it through a governor. It was only after his death that Ajit Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, could succeed his father.
The ousting of Mughals led to the expansion of the fort
The ousting of Mughals not only proved to be a boon for the rulers but also for this majestic edifice. Had it not have happened, Mehrangarh wouldn’t have been what it is. After driving the Mughals out and succeeding the throne, Ajit Singh added substantially to the fort.
The royal family eventually grew out of this fort
During the colonial era, the Mughal power had ended and the infighting amongst Rajput rulers had stopped. Also there was no threat from the other kingdoms of India. Hence, royal family could come out of the fortified buildings. By 1943, Umaid Bhawan was ready to house the rulers and Mehrangarh was vacated. But today again the fort is populated with the influx of visitors from across the globe.
Mehrangarh Fort has set an example in being visitor-friendly
Mehrangarh is now a private property of the royals of Jodhpur and is managed in an exemplary fashion. The entire fort is kept spic and span and there are enough security personnel to maintain the order. There is an eatery, café and a restaurant in the fort. For the visitors with unfit legs, there is an elevator service which cuts off the need to climb up the ramp. Nevertheless it is an enchanting experience to climb on your own and it just takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the palaces from the main gate.
This fort hosts Rajasthan International Folk Festival
Rajasthan International Folk Festival is organized by Jodhpur RIFF (www.jodhpurriff.org) which is a not-for-profit partnership between Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation. Held every year, this event is aimed at promoting traditional folk music and arts. This event has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “People’s Platform for Creativity and Sustainable development”. It is patronized by the royal descendants of Jodhpur and Mick Jagger of “The Rolling Stones”. Mehrangarh also plays host to the World Sufi Spirit Festival every year in February.
There is a zipline running above the fort.
A company called Flying Fox manages this network of six zipwires, sliding on which you can take bird’s-eye view of the fort. The longest wire offers stunning views of the Blue City below the fort. Instructors are provided for guidance and trips are conducted at stipulated times which can be found on their website. Flying Fox is situated right inside the fort in the Chokelao Garden.
Following is a good introductory video of Mehrangarh:
And if you want to dig deeper, this is the video for you: