Rising high above the city of Jodhpur is Rajasthan’s mightiest and most famous fort, Mehrangarh. Widely regarded as the finest example of Hindu military architecture the citadel rises a total of 400 feet above the city and creates an imposing profile. It covers over three square miles and its red sandstone walls are 120 feet high and 70 feet thick, extending a shear cliff to dramatic effect. The soaring ramparts afford dramatic views over the city of Jodhpur and the surrounding area. Known as the “Citadel of the Sun” (mihir is Sanskrit for sun and the sun god was the traditional chief deity of the Rathore dynasty) its colossal proportions and dramatic lines have inspired many glowing descriptions. Rudyard Kipling called it, “the work of giants.” In 1458 the 15th Rathore ruler, Rao Jodha, decided to move his capital from Mandore to a new location which he named for himself - Jodhpur. A new fortress/palace complex was begun on a hill known as Bhaurcheeria, the mountain of birds. Although the initial ramparts and palace were built by Jodha, most of the current fort dates from the 17th century. As is the case with many storied fortresses in India, legends about Mehrangarh abound. According to one story, a hermit lived on the hill and had to be moved during construction. The hermit was angered by being forced to leave his home and therefore cursed the maharaja: “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!” Even today this part of Rajasthan is prone to drought. One legend told is absolutely true. Jodha took some rather extreme measures to ensure the site would be blessed. He buried a man, Rajiya Bhambi, alive in the foundations (a common practice). In return the man’s family would be cared for by the Rathores. To this day his descendants live in an estate given them by the Maharaja.
The museum contained within the fort is one of the finest in Rajasthan, due in part to the fact that the fort is still owned and operated by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Visitors can rent excellent audio guides which have been developed with contributions by the current Maharaja and use his voice. Within the massive walls are several palaces displaying intricate carvings, frescoes, and spacious courtyards. As with other Rajasthani forts, one must negotiate a steep zigzag road that winds up through multiple gates - seven in all. The Jaipol (victory) gate commemorates a victory over Jaipur and Bikaner and the Fatehpol gate celebrates defeat of the Mughals. These gates and this citadel were not all ceremonial. Evidence that the fort was more than a showpiece are easy to spot on the second gate in the form of cannonball marks. In addition to the gates and palaces the museum contains a room of royal palanquins, including an elaborate gilded version won in a battle against Gujarat in the 18th century. There are weapons, costumes, howdahs (), musical instruments, furniture, and paintings, all of which illuminate the lives of the Rajput princes and their families. An additional fascinating feature is the existence of palm prints on the walls, just inside the Loha Gate, from the burned wives of fallen maharajas when they committed sati (ritual self-immolation). The prints are still objects of local veneration.
On Imprint Tours’ Northern India tour Mehrangarh represents one of the highlights of rugged Rajasthan. We’ll spend an entire morning exploring the fort. Additionally, we’ll have plenty of free time to explore Jodhpur below. The labyrinthine old commercial center of the city contains multiple bazaars selling fruit, vegetables, spices, sweets, silver, and handicrafts. A majority of the adobe houses have been painted blue, giving Jodhpur its moniker – the Blue City.