Ranthambhore is amongst the earliest forts of India. As per some records, it is not only one of the oldest but also one of the most famous forts in Rajasthan. It is situated within the Ranthambhore National Park, which is amongst the most popular travel destinations in Rajasthan. The path within the sanctuary meanders through the thickly wooded hills, the drive is scenic and soothing. If luck is on your side, you can also spot an animal along the way.
Ranthambhore Fort is 1500 ft above sea level and is 500 ft tall. Its ramparts are 7 km long and are bolstered with semi-circular bastions. The view of the surrounding hills and the forests from the ramparts is unforgettable. The large expanse of land within the fort encloses the remains of royal quarters, chambers, pavilions, and shrines. A few temples, a cenotaph, and a mosque have remained in good condition. The land inside the fort is also dotted with several spring-fed ponds. These ponds were the sources of water during the sieges.
This ridgetop fort was one of the most invincible forts in its heyday. It was nearly impossible to to barge into it prior to the discovery of gunpowder. This is the only fort in India which had a natural protection of the thick forests all around. So, the enemy had to deal first with the poisonous and carnivorous creatures in the forest. The second line of defense was the height of the fort as it straddled a crag. The ramparts were built right at the edges of the rocks.
A Short History of the Fort
It is hard to trace the exact time of the origin of this fort. Different records suggest different times. Still we can safely assume that in the mid 10th-century the fort was with the Chauhan clan. The most significant ruler of the fort was Hamir Dev Chauhan who ruled here around the second half of the 13th century. For most of the time, till the end of the 13th century, the fort was with the Chauhans. But defeat of Hamir Dev in the war with Alauddin Khilji spelled doom for Ranthambhore Fort. It was subjected to attacks from different dynasties, the rulers kept changing. Destruction became the order of the day which is obvious from the plight of the structures within the fort.
Buildings of Faith in the Fort
There are many temples within the fort and some of them are functional. The temple of Lord Ganesha has become a popular pilgrimage. One unique thing about this temple is that a postman comes here everyday to deliver the posts to the elephant-headed god. This posts are in fact the wedding invitations from the believers. They consider it a good omen to send the invitation to the lord. There is also a Shiva temple and a Jain temple in the fort. Both are a short walk from the Ganesha Temple. During their stints Muslim rulers built mosques here, the remains of which can be seen.
Fort turned into a game reserve
The fort lost its remaining glory after it was captured by Akbar in the 16th century. He eventually gifted it to the rulers of Amer. Later on the capital was shifted from Amer to Jaipur, hence Ranthambhore came under the control of Jaipur. By this time the mighty and unique fort was turned into a hunting ground for the Jaipur Royals. After independence it came under the state of Rajasthan. Today it finds itself sitting mute within the sanctuary of Ranthambhore. The gloom is palpable in each and every wall of the fort. The ruins try to tell the tale of the sufferings the people in the fort would have to endure during the unending attacks.
World Heritage Site
UNESCO included several hilltop forts of Rajasthan in its list of World Heritage Sites in 2013. Ranthambhore Fort is one of them.
How to reach the fort?
The nearest railway stations is Sawai Madhopur which is about 162 km from Jaipur. The fort is 13 km from the station. The last 6 km stretch is on a path meandering through the forested hills of Ranthambhore Sanctuary.
From the entrance at the base of the fort, there is a climb of 150-200 steps. The inclination isn’t very steep but still some amount of fitness is required. The Ganesha Temple in the fort attracts many pilgrims everyday. So, solitude would be a far-fetched expectation. You’ve got to be ready to climb along with the rustic locals.
Where to stay?
There are many budget guesthouses in Sawai Madhopur. And the road to Ranthambhore from Sawai Madhopur is dotted with many mid-range and luxury resorts.