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THE HILL FORTS OF JAIPUR: THE FIREPOWER OF JAIGARH

HILL FORTS OF JAIPUR

Among the great hill forts of Jaipur is Jaigarh, a quintessential fortress situated at the ‘Cheel Ka Teela’ or ‘Hill of Eagles’. Standing at the edge of a peak of the Aravalli range, it overlooks the Amber Fort and the Maota Lake. Jaigarh was completed by Jai Singh ll in 1726 to serve the primary purpose of a defensive structure. But there is much more to this fortress than meets the eye. Let’s go on a journey to discover the underlying history and fantastic facts related to Jaigarh.

Victory Fort: The fort has a mindboggling span of about 3 kilometers in length along the north-south direction with a width of about 1 kilometer. It was named ‘Jai’ garh, which also means ‘victory’ in honor of the king Sawai Jai Singh ll. The King was also responsible for the establishment of the city of Jaipur.

Material Used: To create a fort that could endure strong cannon fire and other enemy hits, the Jaigarh fort was fortified with thick walls of red sandstone along the outer boundary. The fact that most of the ramparts still stand today is a testament to its strength.

Cannon Foundry: The cannon foundry that was situated at Jaigarh before the fort’s formal completion has the rare history of being one of the world’s biggest and most powerful cannon foundries. During the time of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor, the cannon manufacturing center established at Jaigarh became famous for manufacturing artillery of great firepower. This happened as a result of abundant iron ore available in mines in the vicinity of the fort. The genius of architectural design at the time was the crucial factor.

Architectural Genius: The fort consisted of a massive wind tunnel designed for the purpose of creating powerful cannons. It sucked in the air from high mountains into its furnace. This helped in creating very high temperatures of up to 1300° Celsius. This heated air enabled the melting of hard metals at high temperatures. The liquid molten metal would then fill into a reservoir chamber, from here it would be transferred into the cannon mold in the casting pit.

The efficiency of this cannon foundry enabled the manufacture of massive cannons of up to 16 feet in length. Also, such huge cannons would be prepared in a single day! Another marvel of Rajput engineering installed here was a huge mechanical device with a precision gear system. At the time it was pulled by four pairs of oxen, and once operational it would be used in making the cannon barrels hollow.

The Mughal War: In 1658, the battle between the two Mughal brothers, Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh turned into an ugly war. At the time, Dara Shikoh managed to secure the cannon outpost of Jaigarh fort. While this gave him a high hand in the war, Aurangzeb’s army was larger in number and managed to capture and finally execute Dara Shikoh. Later on, the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah appointed Sawai Jai Singh ll as the official Mughal “Qiladar” or warden of the fort. It was Sawai Jai Singh ll who ultimately forged the most dangerous weapon of all by utilizing the foundry – The Jaivana Cannon.

World’s Biggest Cannon: Known at the time of its creation for being the “world’s largest cannon on wheels”, the Jaivana Cannon was a matter of great pride for the Rajputs. It was manufactured in 1720 at the famous Jaigarh cannon foundry. This cannon was never fired in any war, because the Rajputs at Amber had friendly relations with the Mughals. According to legend, it was only fired once with a 100 kilogram charge of gunpowder was used and the fired cannonball of 50 kg covered a mindboggling distance of 35 kilometers.

The barrel dimensions are 20.19 foot in length, with a diameter of 11 inches, and it weighs a heavy 50 tons. The cannon sports various artistic decorations with carvings of trees, a pair of ducks and an elephant scroll. The Jaivana was a weapon of massive destruction and deadly efficiency. It could be turned around at an angle of 360° to fire in any direction from the same spot.

The Hidden treasure: Among the long history of Jaigarh, there was also the story of a lost treasure. To meet the water demand of the fort, water was transported through a canal on the west side across a distance of 4 kms, and this water was then stored in three underground tanks below the main courtyard. The biggest tank among these had a capacity of 6 million gallons of water. As per rumours, these huge tanks of water were used to stack a treasure that once belonged to the Kachwaha rulers of Amber. A search for this treasure had been ordered during the emergency period by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Income Tax Authorities carried out this search in the fort buildings using metal detectors between 1975-77. No find has ever been reported.

Nonetheless, the rich heritage of Jaigarh and its place in world history are no less than a treasure itself. Today, Jaipur is thronged by thousands of tourists and locals each year who come to rediscover the charm, the magnificence, and the royalty of the Jaigarh fort.