FORTS OF INDIA (Rajasthan)
TO the rulers of states in Rajasthan, which literally means the Land of Kings and who claimed to be offsprings of the sun, moon or some such phenomenon, freedom was the most precious possession for which they considered no price, no sacrifice big enough. They could not compromise when any demand from their opponents clashed with their sense of self respect. Protection, under the prevailing conditions, required of thern to shield their chivalry with strongholds. This explains the large number of forts in Rajasthan and also how a specific type of architecture of forts developed there. The regions of Rajasthan fort- wise had their own speciality. In Mewar, for instance, forts were planned and built to serve defensive needs primarily, while those in Amber and Marwar concentrated on presenting striking appearance.
Some of the forts had massive stone walls running round precipitous hills, which had within palaces, temples, provisions, houses and tanks. Some of these hill forts, for instance, Taragarh, Alwar, Jaipur served as outposts. The frontier forts of Kumbhalgarh and Gogund commanded passes and provided relief when the capitals had to be abandoned to avoid unnecessary annihilation. Bhainsoragarh, Mandalgarh, Indergarh had their contributions to make. Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Bundi were other forts that witnessed battles and sieges.
Not every fort could be taken up for this work. This was perhaps not necessary also, for the forts discussed are more representative in character and honestly speaking those not finding place here should not be deemed to be in any way inferior for their romance, chivalry and bravery.
'SONAR QUILA' or the golden fort produced by the eminent film-maker Satyajit Ray introduces the monument to resolve a mystery that appeals to the heart of young audiences. The Jaisalmer Fort which is his 'Sonar Quila' in fact does appear golden in hue and It is this, besides its architecture, that attracts visitors to this eight-centuries old fort.
The foundation of Jaisalmer was laid by Rawal Jaisal in 1156. Tod narrates how the town and the fort came to be built, Jaisal conspired with the Sultan of Gaur to dispossess his nephew Bhojdev from his territory Lodorva. In this he succeeded but he soon realised that Lodorva was not safe and that he should find some secure spot to locate his capital. While he was out in search of such a place on a rocky ridge, he met a hermit named Eesul who on learning of his purpose read to him an inscribed prophecy :
'Oh Prince of Jidoo-Vansa 1 come into this land, and on this mountain's top erect a triangular castle. Lodorva is destroyed, but only five coss therefrom is Jesanoh, a site of twice its strength.
Prince, whose name is Jesul, who will be of Yadu race abandon Lodorpoora ; here erect thy dwelling.' The Jaisalmer Fort is 1500 feet long and 750 feet wide at its greatest diameter and stands on a hill that overlooks the town from a height of about 250 feet from the surrounding country side. The base of the fort is surrounded by a wall of solid blocks of stone, about 15 feet above which the hill projects ramparts, forming a double line of defence. The bastions of the fort are in the fprm of half towers supporting battlements. These thus form a complete chain of defence about 30 feet above the hill.
The fort is approached by an entrance on the townside which has four gates but not all of them were cannon- mounted.Of special interest in the fort are Maharawal's palace, temples and an imposing hill crowned by huge umbrellas of metal mounted on a stone shaft. Whereas the exteriors are so effective, the interior of the buildings has small appartments. The houses, built of stone and mortar, have beautiful fronts carved of yellow limestone which is easily chiselled.
The next important event of Jaisalmer Fort occurred in 1276 when its king Jetsi, apprehending an attack by the Sultan of Delhi, prepared the fort for defence. He laid in immense stores of grain and deposited stones all round to hurl on the besiegers. All the aged, infirm and ladies were removed to safety in the desert and the country for many miles around the capital was laid waste. The 56 bastions were manned by 3700 soldiers. The Rawal with his sons and warriors remained in the castle while his grandsons Deoraj and Hamir formed an army to fight against the enemy from without.
The Sultan's army laid siege for more than eight years. Finally the invaders destroyed the castle. Bhatis continued possession of the fort but they had no means for its repair. In 1306, for his bravery, Doodoo was elected as Rawal when they ejected the flathors who were trying to settle at Jaisalmer. He started repairing the fort.
Just before Babur's invasion, the dependencies of Jaisalmer extended on the north to the Garah river, west to the Indus and on the east and west they were bounded by the kingdoms of Bikaner and Marwar. The Rawals could not withstand the aggressive designs of the Mughuls and in 1570 Rawal Har Rai submitted to Emperor Akbar and also gave him his daughter in marriage.