By LB THAPA lately in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India, for ONTOTHEROAD.COM

After staying a few days with the family of my younger brother in Delhi, I left for Mahajan, Rajasthan where my younger brother Lt. Colonel Sudhir Thapa was posted. I walked around the Mahajan area then one day I was taken for a tank ride.

Of course, it was for the first time in my life and I was riding a tank…it was my lifetime experience.

After spending two days at Mahajan, my brother made an army jeep available to take me to Bikaner, Rajasthan.

Throughout the journey, I was accompanied by Yogesh Bhoite the driver in uniform and an army, staff photographer. The army jeep drove fast through the desert, no human settlement in sight and the road was straight. While our jeep was moving at its highest speed, I sporadically spotted several groups of deer sitting under the shade of bushes here and there.

A view of Junagarh fort from the main road. Photo: LB Thapa
Interior decoration of Junagarh Fort is breathtaking. Photo: LB Thapa
A scene of Royal court. Photo: LB Thapa
A royal horse drawn cart. Photo: LB Thapa
World War I biplane. Photo: LB Thapa
Queen’s special mirror. Photo: LB Thapa
There are too many old weapons displayed in the museum. Photo: LB Thapa
Sanjay, on left, was my host in Bikaner, Rajasthan. Photo: ONTOTHEROAD.COM

I saw foxes and jackals as well. “During the day time when sun becomes merciless, to evade scorching heat, all animals take rest under the sheds of small trees and bushes. But as soon as sun sets, these animals become active at night” said Bhoite, army driver.

It took nearly two and half-hours to reach Bikaner. When we reached Bikaner, Mr. Sanjay, by profession a lawyer and a prominent businessman in Bikaner, was waiting to receive me.

Later I came to know that my brother had asked Mr. Sanjay to take me for a Bikaner sightseeing. However, I was vastly impressed with Mr. Sanjay…he was down to earth person…very gentle and extremely frank.

Though we met for the first time, I felt as if we knew each other for a long time. I immediately felt comfortable in his company.

“There are so many interesting things in Bikaner, but Junagarh Fort is the masterpiece”, emphasized Sanjay proudly.

Before my visit to Bikaner, I had only read about Junagarh fort on internet, but I was excited because the fort was only a few yards away from me.

So, ready to visit Junagarh fort with me. How about beginning with a little history…

LITTLE HISTORY

Rao Bika had founded the city of Bikaner in 1472 then he built the fort in 1478. Later, Raja Rai Singhji, the sixth ruler of Bikaner, ruled Bikaner from 1571 to 1611. During his reign, Raja Rai Singhji completed the building task of Junagarh fort in 1594.

Raja Rai Singhji had extensively traveled during his reign. While traveling he took deep interest in art and architecture of different places. Later when he was building Junagarh fort, he used all this knowledge and experience of the art into the building of Junagarh fort.  

The Junagarh fort has rectangular layout with its length of 986m. The fort is spread over 5.28 hectare of area. The fort has 37 bastions and 7 large gates. Two are the main gates, which were especially designed to trap enemy.

ENTERING THE FORT

As soon as entering from the main gate there is a little upward narrow path, leading to the entrance gate where tickets are checked.

At present the entry fee is Rs.50/- per person for Indians, but Rs.300/- for foreigners. However, Indian students can pay only Rs.30/- whereas foreign students need to pay Rs.150/-.

Once tickets are checked by the fort staff, the entire fort is allowed to walk around. There is a fort guide as well. You don’t have to pay money for his service as it is already included in the ticket. But, I suggest you don’t join the group. The guide walks too slowly as he explains every small detail of the history. Most of the information the guide provides are already available on internet.

Therefore, the best thing is you walk yourself and take plenty of pictures. There are so many beautiful and historic things that you would like to capture in your camera. Will you believe? By the time, I completed the fort tour; I had already clicked over 500 photos…amazing, is it not?

Walking through the numerous halls within the fort, there displayed several artifacts and rare items of historical importance. I witnessed a rich stock of history, which vastly surprised me.

The entire Junagarh fort is replete with extremely beautiful stone carving in red and gold colored sandstones. In fact, a couple of years ago I had been to Alwar fort, which is also famous for stone carving on red stone among others, but the stone carvings across Junagarh fort are of higher level. For most of the interior decoration of the palaces are done in traditional Rajasthani style.

Junagarh fort has several large rooms. It is therefore every item, which belonged to different kings and their families have been displayed quite systematically. Due to large space available, new kings added more rooms as they needed instead of building a new palace.     

THE MAIN GATE TO ENTER JUNAGARH FORT

Suraj Pol is the main gate to enter Junagarh fort. The gate is facing to east, greeting the early sunlight, hence it is called Suraj (sun) gate.

Soon after entering from the main gate, two large sized red stone statues of elephants seem to welcome the visitors. The gate is built at an elevation from where musicians would play their trumpets and announce the arrival and departure of royalty.

There are other gates such as Karan gate, Daulat gate, Chand gate and Fateh gate. On the wall of Daulat gate, there are hand imprints of 41 royalties. The hand imprints in red colour were the wives of the Maharajas of Bikaner who willingly self immolated on the funeral pyres of their husbands who achieved martyrdom in the battlefield.

Before reaching the royal chambers, there is a gate called Tripolia gate (triple gateway). Beside this gate is a Har Mandir. It was the temple where only Royal families were allowed to worship.

Near the temple, there is a large pavilion around and a water pool built in the center…the pool is built in Carrara Italian marble.

Maharaja Karan Singh used to hold public audience at Karan Mahal. The tradition was continued by his successors until 20th century.

GREAT PALACES IN THE JUNAGARH FORT

Junagarh fort is renowned for its remarkable palaces. There are seven most popular palaces of great historical importance. The visitors to Junagarh fort must not miss anyone of these palaces, as they are extremely beautiful and historical.

KARAN MAHAL

It was actually built as Public Audience Hall. This palace was built by Maharaja Karan Singh in c. 1680 after registering a thumping victory over the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The palace has several gardens, which augment the aesthetic beauty of the palace.

The palace has glass windows and the woodcarvings on columns are done beautifully. Stone carvings on red stone are awesome. Later Raja Anup Singh and Surat Singh did use inlaid polychrome glass and intricate mirror pattern. Most of the wooden frames were painted with red and gold paints.

A beautifully painted Royal Throne is placed in the coronation chamber. This throne is the cynosure of all visitors.

PHOOL MAHAL

Phool Mahal is also called Flower palace. This palace is the oldest among other parts of the palace. The palace was built by king Raja Rai Singh of Bikaner. He ruled Bikaner from 1571 to 1668.  

ANUP MAHAL

Anup Mahal is a tall structure. It was served as an administrative headquarters. This multi-storey building is known for its ornate wooden ceilings with inlaid mirrors, Italian tiles and lattice windows and balconies. Anup Mahal is therefore considered as one of the most beautiful palaces in Bikaner.

CHANDRA MAHAL

Chandra Mahal (palace) has large rooms where kept precious objects like gold plated deities, precious stones, paintings etc.

Another interesting thing about Chandra Mahal is the placement of mirrors. Those mirrors are placed in such a way that the Maharaja could see anyone before entering his bedroom.  

GANGA MAHAL

Ganga Mahal is a large hall, which was built in the 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh. He ruled Bikaner from 1887 to 1943. Now this hall has been converted into a museum. A large collection of weaponries has been displaced in this museum.

The interesting part of this museum is that there is a World War I biplane. Among the visitors, the biplane is the center of attraction.

BADAL MAHAL

Badal Mahal or Cloud palace is better known for its paintings of Shekhawati chief paying respects to the Maharaja of Bikaner. The people in the paintings are seen standing on nails and swords. This way they wanted to prove their respects and allegiance towards the Maharaja.

BIKANERI HAVELIES

Some of the Bikaner havelies are located inside the fort while others are located out of the fort area. These havelies are famous for their architectural style. These architectural designs are of master class. Many historians opine that Bikaneri Havelies are the pride of Bikaner. 

VISITING TO THE JUNAGARH FORT MUSEUM

The Junagarh Fort Museum is located inside the Junagarh fort itself. This museum came into existence in 1961 by Maharaja Dr. Karni Singh ji. The whole arrangement was made possible under the control of Maharaja Rai Singh ji Trust.

The museum has several galleries and each gallery is devoted to one unique thing of great historical value.

Soon after entering the museum, the first gallery is devoted to Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts. The next gallery has accommodated small size paintings. These paintings are small but they have been meticulously painted by using several color combinations.  

Expensive jewels are displayed in the adjoining gallery. In a separate gallery there displayed royal costumes. Due to proper care and maintenance, those costumes still look quite new and the colors have not faded.

There is a small gallery where displayed royal orders by different kings of Bikaner. At the end of this gallery where displayed several idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

There is a large gallery where colorful palanquins, which were used by the royal families, have been displayed. Many of those palanquins have been painted with bright colors. The clothes used to cover palanquins are also in bright colors. Those palanquins, which were painted with bright colors, still look anew and fresh. There is no sign of discolor neither palanquin wood nor royal clothes. 

A large collection of weapons has been displayed in many galleries. These weapons had been used by the Maharajas of Bikaner to defend the fort. Small and large size canons and modern guns have also been displayed in a grandiose manner.

MAHARAJA RAI SINGH TRUST

The Royal family of Bikaner has established the museum with the purpose of displaying the rich wealth of the Maharajas of Bikaner.

Yet another noble purpose of establishing this museum is to provide easy access to the rich history of Bikaner to scholars and researchers.

The museum is opened from 10 am to 4.30 pm in all days.

Dear readers of ONTOTHEROAD.COM, I hope you liked this article. If you are also planning to visit Bikaner to see Junagarh fort then you are welcome to ask me any question. I will be glad to answer your questions.

Meanwhile, I will be glad if you make your valuable comment about this article. Your comment will be appreciated.                         

Thank you very much for reading this article. I hope you liked this article. I will be glad if you take little time and make a comment about this article. Your comment is highly appreciated.

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Lately the blogger was in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India.

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