Every historic monument has a story to tell. A mystery hidden in history. The bricks and stones make up a structure as much as the incidents and people that bind together its making. Jaipur is a city with overwhelming history. Rich with overflowing heritage, it houses some of the world’s most exotic and old structures. Perched high atop intimidating hills, the hill forts of Jaipur have a personality of their own. Let us explore the story behind one of the most famous fort hills of Jaipur – Nahargarh.
Standing on the edge of the famous Aravalli hills, Nahargarh overlooks the Pink city of Jaipur with a calm grandeur. It stands solid amidst whistling winds that surround it almost throughout the year. Since the time of its inception in the 1730s, Nahargarh has played a major role in the history of its kingdom.
The Royal Strategy: Major constructions of the fort were completed in the year 1734. Its construction was commissioned and overlooked by the founder of Jaipur himself, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The location of this fort was highly strategic. It was constructed on the summit of the ridge above the city, making it a very difficult fort to penetrate by enemy forces. Both the height and the location were complimented with fortification walls that spread out on both sides over the neighbouring hills. These walls served a dual purpose. Not only did they create a defensive boundary, they also added to the strategic connectivity of Nahargarh by connecting it to the fort of Jaigarh in Amer. This made sure that even during the time of a siege, neither fort would run out of supplies easily.
The Abode of Tigers: When the fort was built, it was first named ‘Sudarshangarh’. Its primary purpose was to serve as a hunting retreat for the royalty. Eventually, it was named ‘Nahargarh’ which literally means ‘The Abode of Tigers’, perhaps because of its affiliation with hunting.
The Haunting Spirit: Another story behind the naming of this fort is one that is much more popular among the locals. They say that ‘Nahar’ in ‘Nahargarh’ stands for a person called Nahar Singh Bhomia. As the account goes, the spirit of Nahar Singh Bhomia haunted the fort, and created problems during the construction of the fort. As a result, it became increasingly difficult for Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II to get his fort completed. To solve this problem, many Pundits were consulted, and it was advised that a temple be built in the name of the spirit. Following this advice, a temple was built remembering Bhomia, which finally pacified his spirit and allowed the completion of this huge structure.
The Expensive Modifications: The fort was further extended during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh in 1868. Later on under the rule of Sawai Madho Singh, during the period between 1883 and 1892, a number of palaces were built at Nahargarh that cost a whopping three and a half lakhs at the time. These included the ‘Madhavendra Bhavan’, which had a number of luxurious suites for the queens with a suite for the king at the head of the structure. These rooms were linked with corridors that still contain some very delicate and beautiful frescoes from the bygone era.
The Time Teller: A lesser known account in the history of Nahargarh is its contribution in telling the time of the State of Jaipur. Up until April 1944 the Jaipur State authority used to measure the official time using the ‘Samrat Yantra’ at the Jantar Mantar Time Observatory. Since it was derived from the Sun, it was known as solar time. This solar time was then communicated to the masses through a gun shot at Nahargarh fort as a time signal that was heard in the broader area of the city.
The Safest Fort: Throughout its history, Nahargarh was famously known as the safest fort in the kingdom. Yet, ironically, it never came under direct attack from the enemies. Rather, it became a safe abode for many royal personnel, including the British. During the time of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, many Europeans in the region were taken to Nahargarh for their safety. These included the British Resident’s wife, who was moved to the fort by the then king of Jaipur, Sawai Ram Singh.
Today, this colossal structure stands silent in the land of free India. Now it serves the people as a heritage site offering a beautifully panoramic view of the city. But the essence of history still resides in every brick, stone and wall of Nahargarh, even as it approaches the completion of three hundred years.