Exploring my interest in arts and history at Mehrangarh Fort

My initial plan before leaving to Pushkar was to meet my cousins in Jaipur and board the bus to Manali. I was hesitant to travel solo across Rajasthan, for its association with forts and museums hardly sparked any interest in me. Being a nature lover, it did not resonate with my idea of travelling. Imagine a schoolboy asked to sacrifice his Sunday for a trip to the museum. How boring! But as a traveller, I often find that happiness lies just around the corner when least expected. This time, my cousin did not want me to run away in the mountains. Instead, he insisted me, or rather should I say, forced me to board a bus to Pushkar. Jodhpur was the second destination of the same tour. After a 5hr long journey on a local bus from Pushkar, one may find his mind commanding to rest but as I arrived at the goStops hostel, I instantly felt rejuvenated. The employee at the reception, being a travel geek himself, ended up sharing his stories while I tried to gather all the information about Jodhpur as if I was to start exploring the city right away! In such a friendly atmosphere of like-minded people, conversations flowed and bond formed easily with the staff and tourists alike. Lost in sharing the joy of travelling, the night seemed to be young and smiling at us that day.

Mehrangarh Fort
The magnificent Mehrangarh Fort stands on a rocky hill, at the height of 400 ft. It was founded by Rao Jodha in 1459.

The last night’s experience paved the way for a morning to look forward to. After entering the fort and obtaining a ticket, I excitingly put the headphones (with a remote given for the audio tour) like a crown, imagining myself as a king who is out on an inspection of the fort. My friend Nico- an Australian fellow whom I met at the hostel- and I decided to explore the city together. As the soft morning sun expanded its rays from the imposing walls of the fort to the ground, I felt terribly small and weak to comprehend my position as a king.

Mehrangarh Fort
Entrance to Mehrangarh Fort
One of the entrances to the fort.
The heavy metal gate with iron spikes on it making intrusion difficult for the enemies.

I immediately shun all my imaginations and pressed the no. 1 button on the remote. The audio guide welcomed me and introduced me to the Rathore dynasty and their glorious years of the past. It instantly teleported me to the age when the kings claimed themselves to be the descendant of God!

The audio tour further guided us to the interiors of the fort. As we marched closer to the courtyard, there were tourists dancing to the tune of the musicians who were playing traditional instruments. Many local visitors found this a good opportunity to gather around Nico and click photos with him.

He must be feeling like a celebrity. Haha!

While the audio guide described the details present in front of me, my mind kept flickering between the present and the imagery of the past. Sometimes, I was a part of the subjects enjoying the celebration in the courtyard; while on the other occasion, I was the king discussing the important strategy with the chiefs in the courtroom or resting in my “larger than size” personal chamber. The vast display of swords adorned with precious stones and ancient inscriptions, daggers, spears, guns, howdahs, etc took me to the battlefield where cavalries charged at the enemies on giant elephants and horses, and where Rathores displayed their strength and valor! I peeked into the lives of queens who traveled in closed palanquins. They were not given much freedom to engage with other men/subjects of the kingdom and lived in a separate quarter with her friends. I looked outside at the tourist crowd from the latticed windows from where the queens observed the ceremonies and royal assemblies taking place in the courtyard while remaining hidden from the public view. The architecture and the strength of the buildings, paintings of Gods from various mythologies, floral carvings on the walls and ceilings, etc piqued my curiosity to learn more about them. It made me appreciate the knowledge of architectures and artists of that time and sympathize with the efforts of laborers. My eyes popped out in awe looking at the bright colors and decorative royal rooms with stained glasses imported from other parts of the world. It was quite evident that mightier than the planning, architecture, and art was the money involved in construction!

Read: Standing through tides and times: Jaigad Fort and Karhateshwar Temple

weapons at Mehrangarh fort
Armour at the Mehrangarh fort
Palanquin for royal women.
Palanquin for men
Palanquin for men.
King's room
King's room at Mehrangarh
The assembly room for chiefs and other important members.
Mirror Palace
The Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace.
Takhat Vilas- Mehrangarh
The bed chamber of Maharaja Takhat Singh (1843-73) is decorated from ceiling to floor with paintings from Hindu Gods and Goddesses to European ladies. Even the floor is painted like a carpet!
Queen's Palace at Mehragarh
Inside one of the queen’s palaces; notice the colonnade structure and the latticed windows that were designed so that the queen could peek outside at the ongoing affairs of the courtyard.
Queen's palace- Mehrangarh Fort
Antique cradle at the queen’s palace.
The architecture of Mehragarh Fort
The courtyard
Smoking Hukka
Smoking tobacco or opium in Hukka was a symbol of royal stature.

Visiting the Mehrangarh Fort helped me understand the idea of true Royalty which is a combination of wealth, health and knowledge, tradition and devotion, scientific and logical analysis, art and nature; which seems to be missing in our modern culture as it fails to maintain such a perfect balance.

People at mehrangarh
A guard sitting in traditional attire so as to give a glimpse of the past.
People at mehrangarh
Playing music on a traditional instrument called ‘Ravanahatha’

After spending a major part of the day at the fort, I repented at the thought of not touring across Rajasthan. I am grateful to my cousin who helped me unveil my preconceived opinion and explore the places with an open heart. “Never shall such bizarre thought cross my mind again!”, I affirmed mentally.

Mehrangarh Fort
The fort overlooking the blue city of Jodhpur.

In the growing travel age, where all of us are aware of the wonderful quotes and ideologies of travel, it is here that I realized the true meaning of a traveller. A good traveller is not the one who sticks to a travel niche and keeps ticking off the places from his checklist. A good traveller is an opportunist, who challenges his own perceptions and is ever hungry for new experiences. After all, it is the experience that one relishes about the place and not the place itself. Isn’t it?

Author: Hariom PrabhakarSingh

Finding solace in travel and writing.

12 thoughts

  1. Enjoyed it Hariom! Especially you stepping in the shoes of the king and pretending to feel like the king. And, traveling is not about ticking check boxes, is also something I learnt lately. I have traveled always but now I travel very differently and the experiences I gather are altogether different. You are that kind of traveler I’d love to travel with.
    Great writing style and love your play of words 🙂

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  2. BTW, I expected to read more on how you discovered that in order to enjoy traveling alone, you needn’t be with nature. Palaces and architecture can do the trick too. To tell you the truth I haven’t yet traveled solo in the real sense. I mean I’ve been solo but in company of people – maybe people who are strangers. Not quite sure if I will enjoy being alone given the kind of gregarious person I am. Well, I have to try at least to find out.

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    1. First of all, thank you so much for your genuine review and suggestion. This will definitely help me grow as a writer. I’ll try to be more specific here if I was not able to be clear in my post. Let us try to understand this from scratch. I travel because I look forward to new experiences
      and this is easily achieved when I’m surrounded by nature. Why? Because if I’m not enjoying the company of friends ( which happens most of the time because their main aim is to get high and be merry. Not that I’m a saint but in most of the cases, they always look for comfort, end up spending lot of money and never in the mood to walk few miles or explore a new place), I focus more on the photography and natural beauty of the place. If a similar landscape doesn’t motivate me, I focus more on the adventure that helps me to come with new stories. If I feel alone, I try to strike up a conversation with locals. In short, I always have something good to tell you (or at least have a story to narrate) about my visit to such kind of places. Though, the overall experience might not be as interesting (As I write this, I realize that it is simply due to my love for nature that I’m always able to find a way). But in this experiment, my focus to crave for new experience fades gradually as I have found a loophole to always look for something interesting from the trip. You can say, it has become my comfort zone. Now, I’m not really looking for experiences but confident enough to derive a story to tell you and also to myself, that would help relive those memories when I’d like to remember about it in future. Hence, the goal loses its value.
      Now, why was I hesitant to visit forts and palaces? Because first, I was not interested in facts and history. Second, there are not really many angles from which I can look at the fort and describe my experience. What if I don’t even understand arts and architecture? Obviously, I’m not the one who like saying- “Oh, forts and palaces were really great! I can’t even explain.. you have to see it yourself.”

      Hence, touring across Rajasthan helped me revive my aim of knowing new things first, before forming an opinion. Traveling is primarily about the experiences; it has always been that way (for me). Experiences are not restricted to only nature. Experiences can be good or bad. Experiences help to expand our own horizons. then why should we be afraid of new experiences? It helps us to learn and grow so much. That’s important.

      Phew! I hope this makes sense.

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  3. Well, your writing that out definitely helped. I now get what you meant. I think I am with you here as this is exactly I feel and this is what I meant when I said I travel differently. You helped me articulate that – indeed even I look for those stories and that is why minute details catch my attention now. It wasn’t like this before. I was quite superficial. Now, I go ahead and ask questions, am much more observant. I love to interact with local people, their ways of life and so on. All these energize me a lot and add to my drive and passion for travel. Those experiences are my memories that help me connect with that place.
    And, true one must be able to step out of one’s comfort zone. I have a huge advantage in this respect. I am very impulsive by nature and that has worked in my advantage with respect to travel. The only regret I sometimes have is that I should have started long back, I mean thinking this way and traveling this way.
    Thank you so much for your detailed response.
    Keep traveling and sharing your stories with us 🙂

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