It was the story of 1974. The intelligence agencies of many countries were engaged in the surveillance of a big event in India. They knew that something big was happening in India, but except a small group of people behind that secret project, nobody had a single clue. Then, a big bang occurred in the Great Desert of Western Rajasthan, just few miles away from the international boundary between India and Pakistan. The blast was big enough to shook the intelligence around the world and with that big bang, India stood in the row of handful countries equipped with the Nuclear Power. Lord Buddha smiled in Pokhran finally. Yes, a testing programme of the world’s most destructive weapon were named as Smiling Buddha, after the person who spread the message of truth and non-violence across the world.
In 1998, India again conducted another nuclear tests at the same site in Pokhran.
But, I am not here to analyse the nuclear mission of India. I am going to talk about my journey to that small city of Pokhran. Pokharn, it was the other name, that was benefited from the nuclear blast, and became an integral part of our books of History and Geography. The nuclear blast made this small city very famous around the world, however, as a tourist, nobody cares about these facts. General public is not allowed to visit at the site of nuclear blast, lies in the vast desert, near the village Khetolai on Jaisalmer-Bikaner Highway, about 40 kms away from Pokhran. I was also not intended to visit Pokhran at all. As per the original plan of my trip, I was supposed to return Delhi from Jaisalmer. But, after visiting Jaisalmer and around, I still had 3 days approved leaves from the office. I decided to utilise those 3 days in Jodhpur and Ajmer, before returning back to Delhi.
I left Jaisalmer in the morning and moved towards Jodhpur via Pokhran. Just before Pokhran, the luggage carrier of my motorcycle teared apart from one side and it became necessary to weld that portion. I reached Pokhran by 11 AM and found a welding shop. The carrier was teared near the seat of the bike, so it was very difficult to weld that without removing the seat. They tried to remove the seat, but wasn’t able to remove that. Avenger is still a big bike for the mechanics in small cities of Rajasthan. After half an hour of hard effort, they fixed the carrier at right place without burning the seat.
During the conversation with some local boys at the welding shop, I was informed that Pokharan Fort is also a good place to visit. Whole day was still left to reach Jodhpur and there was no hurry, so I decided to make a quick to visit to the fort of Pokhran.
Pokhran Fort: Pokhran means “the place of five mirages.” It was situated on the traditional silk route between South East Asia and Middle East Asia and was an important trade centre during those days. Balagarh (original name of the fort) was the Seat of Chief of the Champawats, a sub-clan of Rathores of the state of Marwar-Jodhpur. Constructed in 14th century, this fort doesn’t match the grandeur or sheer size of the neighbouring forts in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur or Bikaner, but it provides a rare glimpse of the old history of Pokhran.
Entry Ticket: Pokhran Fort is a private property. The entry fee for the fort premises is INR 20 for everyone. A separate ticket of INR 50 for still camera and additional ticket of INR 50 for video camera is required.
The fort premises is divided into two parts these days. One part is open for the general public, where you can visit a museum, small temples and old cannons mounted on the fort wall. The museum has a good collection of the armouries, clothes, handicrafts and local artefacts belonging to the Thakur family of Pokhran. However, in the lack of proper maintenance, the museum section normally remains deserted and no description is available for the displayed exhibits. All exhibits are displayed inside the glassy enclosures, but there are lot of dust over them.
Majority of the people visiting this fort are the devotees of Baba Ramdev ( A very sacred saint of Rajasthan , not the Yoga Guru), who stop here for a break in Pokhran, while going to or coming from the temple of Baba in Ramdevra. Motivated by their religious spirit, people throw lot of money, their photographs and the visiting cards inside the museum enclosures from the narrow slot of the glasses. Due to these unwanted items inside the museum exhibitions, the whole museum looks very chaotic and sadly, there is no arrangement to prevent the people doing so.
There are lot of temples inside the fort. Raghunath Temple was closed during my visit, but a small temple was open on the first floor.
One side on the roof of the fort, some cannons are mounted overlooking the Pokhran city. This is a nice spot to get the panoramic view of Pokhran city.
Other part of the fort is converted into a heritage hotel, run by the Thakur family itself. Since, it was situated on the main highway between Bikaner-Jaisalmer, Jaisalmer-Jodhpur and Bikaner-Jodhpur, some tourists find it a good place to break their journey and spend some moments in the quiet ambience of this city.
Pokhran fort looks like any other small fort in India. Many of these small forts are in neglected state, however, Pokhran fort is in good hand, who takes care of this heritage properly. They can pay more attention towards the museum section of this fort. Heritage hotel wing of the fort is impressive and a nice place to stay. After enjoying a short time inside the fort, I moved out and proceeded on the main highway to continue my journey towards Jodhpur.