Imagine the name of some popular forts of Rajasthan? Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh, Ranthambhore…they have some weight in their names only. But, this is not about the names, they are really impenetrable, invincible and mighty forts of India with several layers of strong defense. Many of them are situated on a hill-top, with thick outer wall extending upto miles, some are surrounded by thick dense forests, where tigers roam freely on the approach road to the fort and some are surrounded by water bodies or rivers. Ranthambhore Fort also belongs to the category of these mighty forts of India and situated in the district of Sawai Madhopur in the Eastern Part of Rajasthan.
This fort is situated on a hill-top surrounded by the thick forest of Ranthambhore National Park. It is inducted in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the month of June, 2013 along-with five other hill forts of Rajasthan under the name “Hill Forts of Rajasthan”. This fort is a part of Ranthambhore National Park and situated at least 5 kms inside the park from the main entrance. Tourists, who visit Ranthambhore, have their interest mainly in wildlife safaris and the fort visit is not included in those safaris. But, this fort can be visited separately without any permission or any safari by hiring a private cab or own vehicle.
My Visit to The Ranthambhore Fort: I went there alone on my motorbike. The road from the main entrance to the park is not in very good condition and passes through the forest area, where Tiger and Leopard roam frequently. Along the road, there are some water-pools, neither covered nor protected by any fencing, where Mugger Crocodiles,water snakes, turtles etc live in abundance.
On this road leading to the fort, many langoors, peacocks and chitals (Spotted Deer) can be sighted frequently. The beauty of this road is that, on a given day, if you are lucky (or unlucky!) enough, a tiger or a leopard can also walk with you on the road. If you are riding solo on a motorbike like me, then you have to be extra cautious while riding through the territory of the tigers. Walking on this road is allowed, but it is highly inadvisable to walk alone on this road, and even, if you are intended, then have a group of at least 4-5 people. Anyway, half worried- half feared, I reached to the main parking area in front of the fort.
Ranthambore fort is situated in middle of Arawali hills, the landscapes makes a natural wall from all the sides and protect the fort. From outside it looked like just a wall. There is enough parking space outside the fort base. After parking my bike at a proper place, I moved towards the main entrance. There is no entry fee to enter inside the fort, but since now it is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage, INR 10 ticket price like other places should be effective here also. To reach from the main entrance to the top of the fort , you have to climb at least 600 steps, that will test your stamina for sure. As I started climbing the steps, many so-called guides started chasing, but I was in no mood to hire them and wanted to explore the fort at my own.
This fort is well strengthened by massive fortification provided with seven gateways. Climbing on the steps leading to the forts, after passing some giant gates, the first impressive structure appeared, a 32-pillared cenotaph (Battis Khambha Chhatri). It was built in the memorial of 32 years of King’s Rule. Adjacent to this, there is another half-built 32-pillared structure, that was never completed.
The fort has many lakes, small ponds, several temples, Hindu as well as Jain Temples and some palaces inside its boundary. These lakes and ponds were the main source of water, but now they are in very bad state. Many of the temples and structures are in badly ruined state and they are only a shadow of their glorious past history, surviving through many years of wars and crisis. Only 32-pillar cenotaph, Hammir Palace, and its courtyard give some idea of its old grandeur. Hammir palace was closed for renovation during my visit.
Among the many Hindu temples, scattered inside the fort boundary in its ruined state, The Trinetra Ganesha (Lord Ganesha with three eyes) Temple is the most important and most preserved temple. Dedicated to Lord Ganesha, it is a major center of faith of Hindus in Rajasthan and visited by thousands of people at the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi. Thousands of pilgrims come here to visit the temple without any fear of their life in the free territory of majestic Tiger. As per a report, some years ago a small child was taken away by a tigress on the way to the fort! Thousands of people walk on the road leading to the fort in that occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi with the fact that roadside water pools are full of mugger crocodiles and water snakes. There is no fence or wall to keep people away from those pools, but there are many sign-boards displaying danger warnings in the hope to keep people away from the pool. Still, You can just imagine the risk of walking on this road in the crowd of thousands. Anytime, anybody can enter in the pool or just fell into the pool. I hope authorities make other necessary arrangements to prevent this alongwith those danger signboards during that occasion. Faith and religion always have a priority, but it should not be at the risk of the life.
This fort is also the home of many langoors. I found them sitting in a queue along a wall near the temple. They were in the perfect discipline in the hope that somebody would offer some food to them.
The scenic beauty around the fort is amazing. Every corner of the fort offers an excellent view of surrounding Ranthambhore National Park and its water bodies. At the top of the fort, the sunset view can be breathtaking.
After spending two hours there, I came back to my guesthouse and had a yummy lunch. Later, One hour of rest and I was again ready in the afternoon for the second safari at Ranthambhore National Park.
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