Junagarh Fort is a sturdy structure built on a plain surface which is bordered by the mighty Thar Desert from one side and the malevolent Aravalli Range from the other – this is a statement which is thoroughly precise and true as per geographical facts, and yet is the most misleading sentence for any reader. Any reader could be easily tempted to anticipate on what could one expect from a stone building built across the arid lands, since it is generally unusual in Northern and North-western India to build forts in any area other than mountains. But I bet on this fort in particular, that it has more in store for you than what is actually expected. Let us get to know more about this Pre-Independent edifice in this write-up.
Almost a century had elapsed then, since Maharaja Rao Bika established the city of Bikaner in the year 1472, and Bikaner was now in the hands of its sixth Rajputana ruler, Raja Rai Singh Ji. His reign extended for about forty years (1571 – 1611) and it was the period when the mughals imbursed their suzerainty over the Indian Kings. Rai Singh Ji too accepted their supremacy and even earned the prestigious position of an army general in the court of Emperor Akbar and his successor Jahangir. The dominance he showcased in the wars to conquer more than half of the Mewar Kingdom won him many laurels and rewards from the Mughal Emperors in the form of lands (jagirs) in Gujarat and Burhanpur.
It was out of the humongous returns he realised from these lands, Raja Rai Singh invested in the architectural marvel, which is now called as the Junagarh Fort. The fort’s official foundation ceremony was held on February 17, 1589 and attained completion on January 17, 1594. As a matter of fact, The Junagarh Fort was initially named as Chintamani and later obtained the name Junagarh, meaning ‘the Old Fort’. This fort also enjoyed the artistic additions of the 16 successive generations following Rai Singh Ji. The fort stands as a blend of art and passion fighting against time and odds.
The Fort Complex was built under the supervision of Karan Chand who was the Prime Minister during Raja Rai Singh’s regime. As history reveals, this fort sustained various attacks laid by several kings and princes and proved its mettle except for a lone one-day occupation by Kamran Mirza, the second son of Emperor Babur who won over Bikaner in 1534 when it was ruled by Rao Jait Singh. Spread over 5.28 hectares of land, the fort prevails as a physical disposition of artistic and architectural splendour. A series of robust walls line the perimeter of the fort which extends outwards to a dreadful 25 feet deep moat. The moat played the security role diluting the enemies from attacking in wholesome. The Karan Parole of the fort can be reached through any of the four entrance gates and the Chandra Parole through the two gates.
The fort depicts the sort of relationship the Rajputs maintained with other clans and classes of people they came across in their historic sojourns. The stucco and wall paintings talk about Mughal influence whereas the mosaic-stone inlays and lattice works talk about the Gujarati lineage. The elegant glass works, rare lacquer and classic wooden ceilings speak volumes of the Rajput activities of that era. Junagarh Fort is a must visit on a tour to Bikaner reflecting the fact that Architecture is a display of time and measure of people.