What was the deal with Rajasthan Kings’ fixation of enjoying balcony view? In Rajasthan, every hill has a fort sitting on it. Just like in Mandu, MP where there was a competition of erecting forts and palaces on this limited real estate of a plateau; in Rajasthan there probably was a wild scramble to grab hill points to build forts from where the kings could enjoy unhindered view of the plains below. Or maybe the Forest Ministry auctioned off the hill tops and unsurprisingly the kings outbid everyone else. The lesser mortals were left to fend themselves against the wrath of marauding armies in the plains below while the kings above took their time shutting off their palace gates.
And if it was not a hilltop, then it was sitting on the top balconies of Hawa Mahal shooting breeze and looking down at the street action below. But the seat had to be on the top!
Nahargarh Fort is perched on a hill overlooking the city of Jaipur. Best time to go there is early in the morning. It is a pleasant half hour drive from downtown city. There is a lush forest on both sides of the winding road. Drive slow to take in the greenery and sounds of the forest. People can be seen jogging and cycling. Birds chirp and peacocks give out their shrill cries when they see you approaching.
Before hitting the actual fort make a left, park your vehicle and walk to the baoli area. The area gained popularity when Rang De Basanti was shot here. In the movie, the actors stood backwards on the edge of the baoli, downing beers and trying not to fall back into the water thirty feet below. As a tribute to the beer downing protagonists of the movie, people come here for beer sessions. Broken bottle shards and other general trash are a rich testimony to Indian tradition of taking good care of our past. I have seen this story repeated everywhere – Daulatabad Fort, Jhansi Fort or Mandu. Just like the animals in the wild, we also mark our territories by urinating and scratching names on walls and as a bonus we also leave behind every conceivable type of debris. Don’t try what Aamir Khan did in the movie. The film unit probably filled the baoli with fresh water. The water is putrid and filled with tossed bottles.
The rampart walls just beyond the baoli are in good shape but wonderfully defaced. There is a walkway along the walls. And just beyond the parapet is the balcony like view. The entire city of Jaipur lies sprawled on your feet. Just sit on the walls, gaze at the city below, take in the fresh monsoon air and not think about the impending office trip.
Now, you can drive to the Fort gate. The Fort is surprisingly well maintained. The walls have been freshly whitewashed in yellow. There was gully cricket match going on in the courtyard. We were early for the terrace top cafeteria to be opened. I am sure an evening sitting on the terrace enjoying the shimmering city lights below would be as incredible.
Coming to the peacock connection, something equally incredible happened on the way down. I wanted to catch a peacock dancing in the wild with its plume unfurled in all its regal glory on a perfect monsoon morning. So far, I found the peacocks quite shy. Initially I was just trying to shoot a peacock with feathers. The moment they saw me, they would scamper away. I gave up after chasing them several times and getting scratched by the thorny desert bushes. And this is when we were driving back that we sighted this peacock strut its stuff. This time I was literally in a ditch hoping the peacock would not see me. It was truly spectacular. I think a dancing peacock is one of the most beautiful sights. When nature provides you with such a moment it is difficult to decide whether you just want to watch spellbound or catch the spectacle on the camera. I tried doing both.
The dance has a method to it. The steps are quite elaborate: the blue-green plumage is unfurled revealing the feathered eyes, the peacock circles the spot, a vibration goes up and down the feathers, the feathers catch the light to appear iridescent and shimmering, while the air fills up with this incredible vibrant show of energy, colours and sound.
Apparently, the dancing worked as a fawning peahen approached the peacock soon after, happy that it was courting so much attention. I have new respect for the wildlife photographers who sit in the bushes fighting mosquitoes and aching necks for that one perfect shot.
All in all, the visit was a great couple of hours before getting back to real life.
Getting There: Naharagarh Fort is about 10 kms from downtown city. Come for the morning fresh air or dinner on the terrace.