It’s only 10 in the morning, but it felt like 3 pm. The Sun was too fierce. However, it wasn’t something unexpected when you’re anywhere in Rajasthan; until winter sets in. We’re almost two hours late by our expected arrival time. Previous night’s journey was very tiring and we couldn’t wake up until it’s 8 in the morning. But then, we’re right there at the entrance gate to the Ranthambore National Park that takes you to 1 to 5 zones of the famed tiger reserve—home to approximately 63 tigers in its 10 different zones.
The forest guard at the entrance gate left me baffled when he asked for the pollution paper of my car to allow our entry into the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. I had forgotten to carry my car papers. I gently told him that I was going back to hotel to bring all necessary papers including pollution certificate. But, he was kind to me. He took down all details and asked me to go inside the forest. I turned on the ignition and entered the forest in a dead slow speed.
There’re several things around the Ranthambore National Park that I would like to bring to your notice. The main entrance gate to the tiger reserve is near Sherpur Village in Sawai Madhopur District of Rajasthan, India. The metalled road used by city dwellers, villagers and tourists run along the forest; however a huge wall separates the two from each other. Inside the wall lies dense, green forest and area outside of it, is dominated by hemleted settlements, big and small resorts on dirt roads, and here and there small patches of thorny vegetation. I had never seen this kind of clear demarcation in any jungle before. Here it seemed that there wasn’t any fringe area between the settlement and the jungle. However, it’s logical to erect the wall between the two since Ranthambore is known for the man-animal conflict for long; despite the fact that the forest department has tried its best to avoid this situation.
We moved ahead slowly on the cobbled road. The climb wasn’t unnoticeable. And the forest was immensely green and beautiful. I had a strong urge to get down from the car, but when you’re in a tiger reserve, there’s always a threat. Although residents of nearby villages don’t pay heed to these government directives, and freely use this cobbled road on foot to pay obeisance to Trinetra Ganesh who resides in the Fort. The Lord Ganesh Temple attracts hundred thousands of visitors on the occasion of Bhadrapad Sudi Chaturthi every year.
A seasonal stream runs along the cobbled road that leads to the Ranthambore Fort. Several small check dams on the stream that restricted its continuous flow housed river crocodiles. Despite strict warnings a few of tourists got down from their vehicles, and were trying to spot crocodiles in small reservoirs.
After 10-minutes drive in dead slow speed, we arrived at the foot of once impregnable Ranthambore Fort. We hired a guide since it would have been difficult to get to know all things in such a massive fort. The guide Ram Avatar Mali was going to be with us for the next few hours in our journey to the splendid history of the fort.
Ranthambore Fort is set atop a hill above 481 meters from mean sea level and spread over an area of 4 sq km near Sawai Madhopur Town in Rajasthan. In 2013, the fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan. It’s not clear who exactly started its construction, but according the Amber Development & Management Authority, its construction began in the mid-10th century during the reign of Sapaldaksha of the Chauhan Dynasty. The fort is famous around Sawai Madhopur and in Rajasthan for its Chauhan Ruler Raja Hammir Dev and self-immolation by over 6000 women of the fort after his defeat against the Sultanate period sultan Ala ud din Khilji.
One has to cross three gates to enter into the fort. The first one is Naulakha Gate. These gates were designed in such a way that elephants couldn’t be used to force them open. The second and the third gates are in 90° angle to each other; so once the second gate is opened it conceals the third one. And right in front of the second gate, there’s the fourth gate that opens into a deep trench. Perhaps that’s done to deceive the enemy. You can spot signs and symbols of different dynasties including Mughals that ruled here. There’re several buildings of which only a few have survived the ravages of wars and time.
The 32-pillared Chhatri and Hammir’s court was our first stop. Its architecture offers a peek into the grandeur of its past. Inside the Chhatri there’s a beautiful Shiva Temple and a Shiva Linga. Today, this entire area of the 32-pillared Chhatri is ruled by a gang of langurs. But they seem to be peace-loving and don’t bother tourists.
Trinetra Ganesha Temple is the main attraction of the fort. It is believed that King Hammer built the temple in 1300 AD during the war against Ala ud din Khilji. Here Lord Ganesh is with his entire family—two wives, Riddhi and Sidhhi, and two sons, Subh and Labh. Everyday Lord Ganesh receives over thousands of invitation cards and letters from devotees all around the word. Every letter is opened and placed in front of the idol of Lord Ganesha. If you’ve any auspicious function at your home you may also send an invite to the Lord!! There is also a Jain Temple dedicated to Lord Sumatinath and Lord Sambhavanath.
We moved from Trinetra Ganesh Temple to Badal Mahal which was meant for the entertainment of kings and queens. Once it’s walls were highly ornated with glass-work and precious stones, but there‘s nothing left today. We climbed up to its rooftop that offers mesmerizing view of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
Need to know
- You don’t need any kind of permit to visit Ranthambore Fort. You just have to show up your vehicle’s pollution paper if you’re going in your own vehicle.
- There is no entry fee to see & visit the fort.
- Taking a guide is advisable. It’s a massive fort and you won’t be able to see everything without a guide. He will also tell you a few things which are not mentioned in any blog / book. There’re 50 guides. Guide Fee is INR 450 only (As on September 2017).
- There is ample parking space in front of the Fort. Car parking charge is INR 20 only (As on September 2017).
- Start early to avoid sun. You cannot go inside the forest after 5 pm. And you’ll have to exit the forest area before 6.30 pm. It remains open throughout the year.
- If possible carry a binocular. You can spot several wild animals from the top of Badal Mahal that offers spectacular view of the two lakes in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.