Jodhpur fort, also known as Mehrangarh, was built upon a massive hill in Jodhpur (obviously). The founder of the fort was a man named Rao Jodha, and there is a story that he buried a man in the foundations of the fort ….. ALIVE! This is how it goes: The Maharaja (king) of Jodhpur wanted to build the fort on a hill, so they set to work. Unfortunately for them, there was an old hermit on the hill who cursed them to have a shortage of water. Rao Jodha asked for a volunteer to sacrifice himself to the (Hindi) gods, and a man named Rajiya Bambi stepped forward. He was buried alive (in exchange for his family’s protection) to ensure that nobody would have a water shortage. A temple was also built there to care for the hermit and to meditate.
We visited Mehrangarh, and let me tell you, it was spectacular! There were cannonball marks on the wall from when the Mughals attacked, and handprints from women who did Sati. Sati was a terrible thing. When the king died, his wives and his concubines would basically all kill themselves. First they would have lots and lots of opium (which wasn’t illegal back then), and then she would dance around with many garlands of flowers around her neck, singing. Finally they would put their hand prints on the wall and go and sit calmly on the funeral pyre while being burned to death. Also, if an army was advancing and it looked like they were going to win, or the wives heard that their leaders had not won the battle, they would all kill themselves. Their code of honor meant ‘Victory or Death’, and it was very important. Once, when a queen found out that her husband has not won a battle, she did not kill herself, but she refused to let the Maharaja back inside the gates of the fort. Luckily, none of this happens anymore!
The hands of the women who committed sati
There are many huge gates in the fort, all built by different rulers. There’s Jai Pol, Dodh Kangra Pol, Imnitia Pol and the Joha Pol. There are sharp turns before the gates, so elephants couldn’t charge and bash them down. In the Jodhpur fort, you can see many things that belong to the royal family (who still live in Jodhpur, in a palace across the city). We saw everything from giant elephant carriages (called howdahs) to very finely detailed miniature paintings. I really wanted to get an elephant and an elephant carriage to ride around Texas. I probably wouldn’t go anywhere very fast though : ) In the museum there are also old cannons, old knives, and the platform and seat where each Maharaja is crowned to this day. The Maharaja who is in power now was crowned when he was 6 years old because his father was killed in a plane crash.
Steep hill, sharp curves, and then these spikes! Poor charging elephants…
In the fort we also saw very finely decorated rooms, and the kings and queen’s palaces. The queens, and the concubines all had to keep purdah in the past, so all their rooms were away from the men. They could watch what was going on in the palace from behind screens, where they could see out, but no-one could see in.
Queen’s palace, with purdah screens
If you ever go to Jodhpur, go to Mehrangarh fort. It’s the top site and probably the best fort you will ever go to. P.S., the audio guides are free and are also really good – you learn a lot and hear the royal family of Jodhpur talk about the past and what they are doing today.
A just-married couple about to process through the fort