Table of contents for Chambal
- Chambal Ki Ghati — Kota Gorge through the Hadoti Belt
- Gagron Fort , Jhalawar —- Water on all Sides
After visiting the Mahadev shrines near Kota and returning back to my friends house, where we unanimously voted for Gagron Fort in Jhalawar (a part of the Hadoti region of Rajasthan) to be our next. Gagron Fort is so obscure but at the same time it is such an outstanding embodiment of great architecture in terms of design,structure and strategy coupled with the bravery and chivalry of the erstwhile Rajput Rulers and warriors.
Jhalawar, south east of Rajasthan is located on the border of Madhya Pradesh calmly situated on the tilted tableland of Malwa Plateau. It is almost 88km from Kota city.We got up early in the morning by 6.30 am,hurriedly moved out and checked for local conveyance to reach Kota Zila Dugdh Utpadak Sahakari Sangh Ltd ( Kota Dairy for short) . Sundeep suggested that if we wanted to save time it will be convenient to catch the bus from the Kota Diary avoiding Nayapura bus stand or Ghoda Chowk which is situated inside the city.
Near the Kota Dairy there is a ‘Y’ junction from where the left side of the road (NH-12) leads to Jhalawar and the right one towards Rawatbhatta in Chittorgarh district .
NH-12 starts from Jabalpur >>>>>Bhopal>Bhojpur>Aklera> Jhalawar > Kota >Bundi> Tonk>>>>>> Jaipur.
There is no rail conectivity for Jhalawar. Nearest railway station is Bhawani Mandi (25 km away from Jhalawar) on the railway track leading towards Mumbai.
After waiting for a while , a Blue Line Rajasthan Rajya Parivahan Nigam (state owned bus service) bus arrived which took us to Jhalawar in Rs.65 or 70 (per head)
The road was not so good with its usual patchwork of asphalt laid down wherever it opened up in cracks. It was a bumpy ride with rural folk sitting inside ,many tribals barging in at every stop or even at small villages . The conductor was verbally instructing the driver where to stop and move by uttering his usual Chaleye(move) and Rukeye(stop) ,as said in local parlance . Many disgruntled by his Rukiye ,like me,were vehemently saying ” क्या भेड़ बकरियों की तरह भर रहा है भाई ” . The conductor was intolerant to our protests as he was not issuing tickets to those passengers thus making quick bucks eventually denting the exchequer. Nevertheless i will not profess Anna’ism here as i believe one has to practice what he preaches. Coming back to the story again … The major places and towns between Kota and Jhalawar are enumerated below.
Kota >> Mandana >> Dara (Wildlife Sanctuary) >> Suket >> Jhalawar.
The whole landscape was very picturesque with villages mostly looking like small hamlets inhabited by tribal folks living in makeshift huts having thatched or brick tiled roofs. The terrain, occasionally bright with fields of poppies and citrus-green groves of oranges is a sight to envy. Jhalawar is the highest opium producing regions of North India with some cases of illicit trade as well in the past.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DARA NOW
Dara ,a small village on the way to Jhalawar, is famous for its sprawling wild life sanctuary. It was once a shikaar-bari (hunting abode) for the princely maharajas . Dara as termed in vernacular language means small passages cut between small hills thus lacking height.The passages of Dara can also be seen through train while travelling to Mumbai from Kota. Presently it is a protected wild life sanctuary housing many species of flora and fauna. Crossing Dara and Suket the great plateau of Malwa seems to be tilting and descending downwards to some extent as we reach Jhalawar by 9.30 am .
NOW IT IS THE TURN OF THE JHALA CAPITAL ” JHALAWAR”
It is a very small town with only 3-4 decent hotels within the city. It can come as a surprise to all the readers. Jhalawar is a former constituency of Vashundhara Rajye Schindia ,from where her political career started in the 1980’s ,the erstwhile CM of Rajasthan.
HISTORY AND ANTIQUITY
A local bard joined us who became a guide in order to meet his ends. They are known as Charans or Bhaat in Rajasthan who are known to be poets patronizing their patrons( rulers) and their ancestry. These bards ,from one generations to another pass on their knowledge to their children which they have recorded in hand written manuscripts known as pothi. I read a lot about history and love to interact with anyone having authentic resources to substantiate the events of the past. So, i took the Charan along with me.This magnificient fort is located on the banks of Ahu and Kali Sindh rivers.Both of these rivers are tributaries of Chambal river originating in Madhya Pradesh.
Kali Sindh originates in Bagli village in Dewas District.It initiates its journey at an elevation of 600 meters in the Barziri Hills near Bagli village, Madhya Pradesh. Ahu is a tributary of the river Kalisindh. It is Gagron where Ahu meets its alma mater KaliSindh river.
Gagron Fort is strategically perched on a big rock at the confluence of river Kali Sindh and Ahu surrounded by water on three sides. The fourth side is a moat i.e.., a ditch filled with water to protect the fort against any infiltration and assault. “Gadh Gagron” (गढ़ गागरोन) as popularly known in Hindi holds the distinction of being one among the few forts in the country strategically designed and constructed with Van (Forest) and Jal (Water) as its surroundings. The forest behind the river is very dense with decent Mukundarra Hills acting as a natural barrier. It was evidently very difficult to conquer this fort having such natural barriers.
One can glance the Mukundarra hills through the train while travelling to Mumbai from Kota encircling the Dara passage and the sanctuary.
The fort is constructed on a natural island which is a big rock ranging to some 2.5 km in area. The fort is said to be laid in the 7th century and completed around 13-14th century. But historically this fort was laid down by Raja Bijaldev of the Parmara dynasty in A.D 1195. As per mythology , it is said this place was known as “Galkangiri” as the mighty sage “Garg Rishi” practiced great penance and meditation here.
Historically it is said that Alaudin Khilji attacked Gagron in A.D 1300 but was defeated by Raja Jaitsi. His heir Raja Prataprao developed Gagron as one of the most prosperous centers in Malwa long before Kota,Bundi or Jaipur came into existence. Although he denounced everything and wished to attain nirvana later in his life. He abdicated the throne getting inclined towards spirituality and became famous by the name Sant Pipa holding the distinction of being one among the 12 saints of the Ramanand Sampradaiya. On his name there is a monastery in Dwarka (Gujarat) known as Pipa Math (पीपा मठ ).
Gagron was again attacked by Sultan Hoshanshah of Malwawho was the ruler of Mandu somewhere around 14th century. The then ruler of Gagron Raja Achaldas Khinchi displayed immense bravery and chivalry of the highest order eventually attaining martrydom . The Rajput warriors clad in Saffron (केसरिया ) fought until their last breath.The Rajput women of royal lineage performed “jauhar” (जौहर) ,a supreme sacrifice by immolating themselves in order to protect their chastity by not falling in the hands of the Sultan. They performed jauhar when they got to know that Sultan has defeated and killed all the Rajput warriors while entering into the fort. The Jauhar Kund is also located within the Fort Complex.
Sultan Hoshangshah was deeply moved by his martyrdom and to honor Raja Achaldas’ bravery Sultan decided not to take anything from his personal room making it as a sanctuary.
After some years Raja Palhandev, a descendant of Raja Achaladas Khinchi, occupied Gagron as a token of revenge from the Sultans of Malwa. It was again under the Rajput annexation till A.D 1532 until Sultan of Gujarat Bhahdurshah occupied it.
Subsequently moving from Mughal hands in 15th century it was finally taken over by Raja Mukund Singh of Kota in the 16th century A.D. From then Gagron was a part of the Kota province until 1948.
WHAT THE FORT HAS TO SAY ABOUT ITSELF !!!! A TETE-E-TETE
The Prachir (प्राचीर) which means the walls within which the fort is situated looks submersed in the river from one side while the other sides of the (prachir)- walls seem resting on that big rock.
The main entrance of the fort known as Pol(पोल) was guarded by digging a moat(खाई) filled with water.
The two watchtowers (Burj – बुर्ज) are cylindrical in shape,a typical feature in almost all the forts of India. On the top, at the roof of the watchtowers there are small windows in the parapets(parkota) known as mokha (मोखा) carved in the wall in order to use it for placing cannons (तोप).
The prachir(प्राचीर) i.e.., the external wall used for fortification is ornamented by parkota(परकोटा) smaller walls at the top of the prachir…. The parkota have small windows or mokha as discussed earlier,which is used to hide and place artillery to confront the enemy.
There are ramparts i.e.., walkways for the soldiers to sit and walk accordingly while guarding the fort. In the picture above one can see the parkota and the ramparts on which i’m standing.
After entering into the fort one can evidently view the influence of Turk, Sultanate,Rajput and Mughal architecture over the centuries. The fort acts as a testimony to its annexation several times by all these rulers although it originally belongs to the Jhala Rajputs.
There are small temples and mosques inside the complex in a very dilapidated condition crumbling down to its fate due to lack of restoration. At the centre of the complex there is Bheru pol guarded by Ram’Burj on its side. Ascending up 20-30 meters one enters the Suraj’Pol guarded by two long Burj at the rear end of the walls encircling the fort . The area inside the Suraj Pol is considered to be in the center of the fort complex where supplies and artilellery was stored . From the two Burj one can view the ethereal beauty of Kalisindh river and the beautiful Mukundarra hills in the background.
It is heart wrenching to see the corridors of this erstwhile superpower laid down to waste without proper care. These are not ruins but are the signs and reflection of a society which is on it’s way to the Degradation Trip failing to conserve this heritage of national eminence.
Gagron Fort will always continue to be an epitome of integrity and a wonderful architectural marvel having an endearing illustrious past.
It was time to say goodbye to Gagron and its majestic antiquity …………..
Hope this Hadoti chapter of history, architecture, mysticism and culture inspires the traveler in you.
Keep reading and travelling ……….