Category Archives: Lesser Known

The unexplored & magnificent ‘Jal Durg’, Gagron Fort

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The huge bastion offers splendid views of the rivers and village around the fort

Forts & Palaces is one of the luring facts that help me narrow down my travel destination. If it is an unexplored beauty …..wow!

Hence, Jhalawar came in my travel radar for being unknown in the tourist circuit, and Gagron Fort being the undiscovered jewel. In 2013 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and we have a lot to thank for this. Prior to this the fort was neglected with over grown wild vegetation and illegal occupants. With UNESCO in the picture the fort is being restored to its splendor.

View from the fort of the bridge connecting the fort and the village

View of the bastion and the rivers from the fort’s rampart wallwalk

We had just 6-7 hrs to enjoy the hidden gems of the city and the day started at 8 am with the fort being the first destination. Located away from the city, its a wonderful example of a hill and water fort.

Isn’t it domineering?

View from the fort rampart

The making of the fort dates back to the 7th century though it saw its completion in the 14th century. It is one of the magnificent example of Rajput military hill architecture.

Gagron fort was established by King Bijaldev of the Doda / Parmara empire. As per legend, the place was also known as Galkangiri, after sage Garg Rishi who had successfully completed penance and meditation in the fort.

Wallwalk around the parapet

The trimmed wild vegetation

The fort has witnessed 2 major jauhars (‘Death over Dishonor‘ or mass self-immolation by women) and as many as 14+ battles between the Khinchi Emperors and Malwa Sultans. Some of the occupants of the fort were; Raja Achaldas Khinchi (emperor of Gagron), Sultan Hoshangshah of Malwawho (monarch of Mandu), Raja Palhandev (successor of Raja Achaladas Khinchi), Bahahdurshah (Sultan of Gujarat), Bhimkaran, Mahmud Khilji, Rana Kumbha, Emperor Akbar. Finally in 16th century, the fort came under the rule of Raja Mukund Singh of Kota. Thereafter, Gagron became a division of the Kota region until 1948.

The beautiful view and reflection of the unexplored Jal Durg

The Gagron Fort is surrounded by river Ahu, river Kali Sindh and a massive conduit or moat. Kali Sindh is the biggest river flowing in the Malwa region and joins river Chambal in its downstream. The rear of the fort is surrounded by the Mukundara hill & forest of the Vindhya range. It is one of the rare forts that is protected by van (forest) & jal (water). The fort is well known for being built without a foundation and a construction that takes support from the hills. Another interesting feature of the fort is that it has 3 ramparts instead of the usual 2.

As per historical facts, in the early years the fort was used for execution of the enemies.

One of the many pols (gate)

The fort has two outer main gates, one leading to the waters and the other to the mountains. The main pols (gates) within the fort are Ganesh Pol, Bhairav Pol, Suraj Pol.

We were the only tourists at that time and witnessed restoration work going on in full swing. I am sure there would be entry charges though it was a free walk for us then. With no guide we did our best to understand the structures within the fort, and in this case google too was not of much help.

The one on the left seems to be the Ganesh Pol (gate)

We spent a good time enjoying the vastness of and the views from the fort’s bastion……even walked on the wall-walks of the ramparts along them. The wild (now trimmed) vegetation enhanced the natural beauty of the fort’s landscape.

One of the bastions at the entrance

We had taken our car inside the fort premises though not sure if the same would be allowed once fully open to the public post restoration. This helped us move from one structure to another with ease, as the fort is massive.

Once through the bastion we moved to another structure, probably the Janaana Mahal. The structure was simple, functional and bereft of any ornamentation. Some rooms were large, well ventilated and interconnected.

View of the probable Janaana Mahal from outside

Entrance of the probable Janaana Mahal

View of the courtyard and arched shelters from the roof terrace

Well ventilated (light & air) rooms

Interconnected rooms

Courtyard surrounded by rooms and arched shelters

The fort is said to house the following; Naqqar Khana, Barood Khana, Taksaal, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam,  Madhusudan Mandir, Rang Mahal … With lack of any information about the fort and no guide it was not possible to identify them. Also, with work happening, there were certain sections which were off the visit range.

Carvings found here and there

We walked further through the probable Ganesh Pol and next to it we saw a functional temple. This route led us to another set of structure probably housing the Rang MahalDiwan-i-Aam and Diwan-i-Khas. There were two similar massive courtyards surrounded by arched shelters connected through a door. One of them also housed a small enclosure which looked liked a kitchen with tandoor and place for storage. Another one was double storied and housed a beautiful arched jharokha.

View of Ram Burj. The other prominent turret in the fort is the Dhwaj Burj.

View of the jharokha from outside

View of the jharokha from inside

Structures on the roof terrace

Massive courtyard surrounded by arched shelters and rooms/enclosures

Simple but beautiful arches (like a long leaf)

Another view of the courtyard

Sharing some interesting folk tales surrounding the jaldurg (waterfort) ….

The bed of Raja Achaldas Khinchi for some reason was never touched by any of the Muslim or Rajput rulers. As per folk tales every night the spirit Raja Achal used to come to its bed and people even heard the sound of hookah. The bed remained in its original place and unused until 1950. No one knows where it is now, though the probability of it being used & taken away by the illegal occupants is high.

An ADC once tried to take the sword of Raja Achal Khinchi out of the fort. He apparently had to abandon it on the way as it was extremely heavy. The sword now lies guarded in the Jhalawar PS.

The fort has many parrots and peacocks . These Hiraman parrots born in Ram Burj of the fort are considered to be twice in size of the normal parrots, with deeper hues and can mimic human speech very well.

That’s all that we could gauge or get to know about the fort during our visit. Hopefully with time we will have a better information about the fort and its structures.

Some structure inside the fort

The Dargah of Sufi saint Mitthe Shah is situated outside the fort. The monastery of Sant Pipa, a contemporary of Sant Kabeer is also situated nearby.

Trivia: The green cloth on the rock marks the point where Mitthe Shah alighted from the boat

The land around the fort are a vast expanse of productive alluvial plains of the river basin.

Lush green. Alluvial, fertile soil.

We spent a good time exploring the fort that is massive and far, far away from the tourist bustle. I am sure it will soon find place in the tourism circuit of Rajasthan …… till then the allure of the unexplored shall remain.

If one is okay with the on & off bad patches in the road to the fort, its a sight to behold during monsoon. The rivers are full and one can see the “Jal Durg” true to its name.

This winter do plan a trip to Bundi & Jhalawar. It’s a joy exploring the less to unexplored places, isn’t it? 😀

 

….and, if you like what you just read, do ‘like it’ & ‘share it’. Non WordPress users please ‘rate’ it to express your appreciation 🙂 Also do not forget to ‘follow the blog’ to remain updated about newer posts ❤ 

 

HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe

 

P.S. I had to do a lot of reference work to be able to identify portions of the fort complex. Unfortunately there is practically nothing about the fort structure, so I have used the word ‘probable’ & ‘maybe’ frequently. If anyone for sure knows the fort can help correct wherever erred. Though I hope the photographs will help visualize the fort & its complex!

 

 

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Unexplored Rajasthan: Jhalawar

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X: “So where are you off too this time 🙂  ”
Me: “Bundi & Jhalawar
X: “Ohhh, where is this?”
Me: “Rajasthan
X: “Rajasthan? Bundi sounds somewhat heard ….. but Jhalawar, no!! Whats there to see?

“X” here stands for people I had conversation with before my trip and to me, the conversation was not surprising. Bundi has more foreign tourists than domestic while Jhalawar does not feature on tourist map as yet ….. Its an unexplored jewel of Rajasthan.

Jhalawar, earlier known as Brijnagar & Chaoni Umedpura, is the ‘land of Jhalas’ (a clan of Chauhan Rajputs). In fact its named after its founder, Jhala Zalim Singh a dewan from Kota.

We had clubbed our Bundi trip with Jhalawar and I must confess its one of those trip I cannot stop talking about. We had taken a cab to Jhalawar (with a stop over at Kota for lunch) and that evening / night we rested. The next day we left early after breakfast and explored the small town till lunch time as our return train was in the evening.

Below is a sneak peak into what all one can do in Jhalawar. An individual post on some of them shall follow soon, one by one, so remain glued 😀

 

GAGRON FORT 

Gagron Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our first stop was the Gagron Fort — massive with awe inspiring architecture and still not in the tourist radar! In fact we were the only people (tourist) there 🙂 The UNESCO had declared it a World Heritage Site in 2013 and thereafter restoration work had begun (now almost done). Thanks to them, hopefully, we will now have the fort and Jhalawar on the tourism map. The fort is a wonderful example of a Jal Durg (Water Fort) because it is surrounded on three sides by rivers Ahu and Kali Sindh. Dargah of sufi saint Mitthe Shah is just outside the fort. Also the monastery of saint Pipa, a contemporary of saint Kabir is close by.

Read all about my visit here

 

CHANDRABHAGA TEMPLES

The ornate Chandrabhaga Temples

The 7th century Chandrabhaga temples, on the banks of river Chandrabhaga, are under ASI but there are barely any tourist / visitors here. The temples are an example of beautiful sculptures, carved pillars, bulbous domes and chisel work. The most famous of them is the temple of Sitalesvara Mahadeva (not under ASI) and being taken care by a pujari (priest) family for generations now.

 

SURYA (SUN) TEMPLE, JHALRAPATAN

Sun Temple

This 10th century Sun Temple or Padma Nabha Mandir, situated in the heart of Jhalrapatan, is famous for its shikhara (peak of a temple) which is 96 ft from the ground, its marvelous architecture and sculptures. The main idol under worship is of god Padmnabh or Vishnu.

 

HERBAL GARDEN, JHALRAPATAN

Peaceful, green, educative Herbal Garden

This place is green and offers lots of tree shades 🙂 A stroll in the garden may not hurt but you can give it a skip. The garden would interest people with serious orientation for botany & Ayurveda.

 

RTDC GAVDI TALAB

RTDC Gavdi Talab

Jhalawar does not have many options to stay. We found this property to be the best deal especially the open spaces and the fantastic views of sunrise and sunset. The manager of the RTDC was very helpful and guided us well. He also helped us arrange a cab for touring the town and finally a drop to the station. The rooms are basic but decent. The food freshly cooked, simple but good. I really hope the property sees boom time with more tourists opting for a trip to Jhalawar.

Just a glimpse of the beautiful sunset we enjoyed at RTDC Gavdi Talab

 

These are the few main places we could manage in half a day! If you plan a longer stay you can also visit Shantinatha Jain temple, Jhalawar fort, Government Museum, Navlakha fort, Dwarkadhish temple, Bhawani Natyashala and the Buddhist caves of Kolvi.

This winter do plan a long weekend trip to Bundi – Kota – Jhalawar . A trip seeped in history and unexplored grandeur of Rajasthan! Read about my Bundi trip here

 

….and, if you like what you just read, do ‘like it’ & ‘share it’. Non WordPress users please ‘rate’ it to express your appreciation 🙂 Also do not forget to ‘follow the blog’ to remain updated about newer posts ❤ 

 

HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe

Visit to the Bhimlat Prehistoric Rock Painting Site @Bundi

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I had never been to a rock / cave shelter before (and read somewhere that how some are not easy to reach) so was a little apprehensive about its accessibility and my physical fitness 😀  I kept telling my husband that he might have to go down into the ravine cave without me. Ultimately we left it for the final moment to decide, amen!

Rock Art / Cave Painting is a vast specialized subject and every now and then newer theories emerge basis on going research and studies. I had to do a lot of study and references before penning it down in the best possible way 🙂

Hence, before we go to the Bhimlat rock art,  we will try and understand cave rock paintings briefly as a layman so that its easier for us to relate to them.

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Cave paintings are painted drawings on cave walls or ceilings primarily of prehistoric origin. The rock art is prehistoric man-made markings on natural stone. Both belong to the wider Parietal art, the archaeological term for artwork done on cave walls or large blocks of stone. Its interesting to note that paintings / drawings were the oldest art forms used by human beings to express themselves with cave wall as the canvas.

Why did prehistoric people draw these pictures?

  • They may be beautifying their homes
  • They may be keeping a visual record of their day-to-day life (like modern day diary)
  • They may be educating their people / children through these paintings
  • They may be communicating with each other through these drawings
  • They may be Shamanic art or expressions. There is a school of firm believers that the artwork of the caves are depictions of what our ancestors witnessed in their visions. The shamanistic element in the cave decorations is getting even more widely (though not universally) accepted

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What are a few salient features of such paintings?

  • They are the greatest wealth the primitive humans have left behind
  • The paintings are mostly around social activities such as hunting and group activities – dancing, day to day activity depiction. So one can say they emphasize community and the importance of group activities.
  • Animal figures are more prevalent than human figures stating the significant role of animals in the life people of those time. Early man was of a nomadic nature which meant moving from place to place in search of food thus they had to secure themselves from predator animals. At the same time animals were their main source of food besides wild fruits/ plants (agriculture was not a part of their lifestyle yet)
  • Colors used are mainly white, yellow, orange, red, ochre, purple, brown, green and black. White and red being the most used. These colors were made from various rock stone like red from haematite (known in India as Geru); green from chalcedony stone;  white in all probability from limestone. The stone must have been ground into a powder and mixed with water and some sticky substance like animal fat, gum or resin from trees. Brushes would have been from twigs
  • At many rock painting sites there are layers of paintings one on top of the other. Either they were redrawn or people from different area, generation, time inhabited the same place
  • These prehistoric paintings help us to understand about early human beings — their lifestyle, food habits, daily activities and thought process
  • Caves were used for ceremonial or magical rituals, which reflects in the art. It also might explain how religion originated

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Understanding the Prehistoric Ages
The drawings / paintings belong to 7 historical periods namely Period I or Upper Palaeolithic/Stone Age; Period II or Mesolithic; and Period III or Chalcolithic and thereafter Period IV & V  of the Early historic and Period VI & VIl of the Medieval. Our focus will be on Prehistoric era art or rock paintings of Period I-III.  (Also please remember that stone age is divided into 3 phases — lower, middle and upper Palaeolithic age. Rock art came into existence only during the upper phase)

Upper Palaeolithic or Stone Age

  • In this phase of the stone age we get the first sign of artistic expressions
  • The three main art forms were cave painting, rock engraving and miniature figurative carvings
  • The drawings were mainly of human figures, their activities, some geometric designs & symbols
  • Paintings were in dark red of huge animal figures like bison, tiger, elephant, rhino and boar beside stick-like human figures
  • It also marks the acceptance of rituals and ceremonies which was shamanistic in nature

Mesolithic Age

  • Is the transitional age between the ice affected hunter/gatherer culture of the Upper Paleolithic and the farming culture of the Neolithic
  • Largest number of paintings belongs to this period
  • Though the subjects in paintings increased the size became smaller
  • Hunting scenes predominate along with images of trap / snares they used to catch animals. Hunters are seen in groups armed with barbed spears, pointed sticks, arrows and bows. In some drawings animals are chasing men and in others they are being chased by hunters.
  • It is characterized by more advanced hunter-gathering, fishing and rudimentary forms of cultivation.
  • Many rock/cave sites in India belong to this period

Chalcolithic or Copper Age

  • The Copper age art begins
  • Paintings of this period reveal the communication between the cave dwellers with settled communities
  • Pottery and metal tools find a place in the drawings. Painted pottery is a mark of the Chalcolithic period.

 

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Understanding Shamanism

  • A shaman is a person who can connect/communicate with the “spirit” world
  • They gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world in a trance state
  • Most shamans get dreams or visions that convey certain messages in form of symbol and images
  • There is a growing belief that a high percentage of rock art is of a shamanic origin i.e. shamanic experiences led to the sudden development of art, symbolic thinking, and early civilization


About Bhimlat rock painting

While planning the trip I looked up for these cave rock paintings (a fellow travel blogger had mentioned them) and it lead me to Om Prakash Sharma, popularly known as Kukki. The Bhimlat site is just one of the 100+ rock art sites, discovered in the Bundi-Bhilwara-Tonk area of Rajasthan, by this simple 8th Std dropout Bundi resident.

Mr Sharma has, perhaps, also discovered the longest rock painting stretch of 35 kms. Commendable. right!

All this has been done by him without any support or funding. The driving force being an inexplicable “mad passion“or “fitoor” or “junoon“.  The rock paintings discovered by him are from different ages like mesolithic, chalcolithic, metal ages and even prehistoric. The exact period / age of these paintings can only be accurately deciphered once excavation is carried out and carbon dating is done. As of now, it is said that some belong to an era more than 15000 years ago. These rock paintings are mainly found in hilltops, cavities in rocks and small caves along the Chambal river.

Coming back to the Bhimlat rock painting, we were on this long informative walk through the dry plateau forest area of Bhimlat bordered by deep rocky canyons. We stopped to see a demonstration on making of different colors from different stones; making of a brush to paint and making of images like those found in rock painting.

We continued our walk and then halted at a spot, which could be easily missed by any passer by. There was a pile of branches / twigs lying on what seemed the edge of the plateau. To our surprise, Mr. Sharma started to remove them to reveal a rocky opening to the ‘site’. It took me sometime to gather my strength to get down that opening. Once I did it, all was fine  …. the rock shelter in the 200+ ft deep seemed pretty adventurous and interesting.

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In the rock shelter we had the first experience of seeing prehistoric rock art! The gyaan shared above will now help you all decode / understand the paintingsI have numbered some drawings to ease figuring it out basis the description shared (some drawings are now very light so may not be easily recognizable)

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Om Prakash Sharma (Kukki) with one of his many discoveries, the Bhimlat Rock Painting site

Kukkiji shared with us the interesting way he discovered this shelter way back in 2003. He kept seeing this place in his dreams and one fine day he went back again to this spot. There was nothing visible on the rocks but something about the dream did not let him give up. He took water from a bottle he and his friend were carrying and tried cleaning a portion of the rock. Lo and behold it revealed some drawings which at that point neither understood!

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This drawing shows two Neelgai /Asian antelope (Drawing 1&2) back to back. A leg of one of the antelopes (Drawing 2) is caught in a mesh/trap (Drawing 3). The Hunter in a joyous mood (Drawing 4)

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In Drawing 1, a tall man (maybe of an African origin basis height) is seen along with a humped bull. Drawing 2 is of a fishing net. In Drawing 3 we can see people in clothes probably dancing. Drawing 4 (three of them) are those of daggers. This might be the Chalcolithic stage and thereafter (ref clothing, metal daggers etc)

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In this set Drawing 1 depicts a probable hunting scene or depiction of art of hunting. There is a man with bow and arrow along with a man with lasso trying to hunt an animal. There is another man trying to scare off an animal.

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Another aspect about the man with the bow an arrow (Drawing 2), as shared by Mr Sharma, is that he is scared as his legs are shaking. Drawing 1 throws a light on the practice of shamanism by the prehistoric man. The image is probably of a shaman holding a staff /spear, a bow-arrow and a bag that may be having ritual ingredients / magic potion.

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This painting is the clearest. Drawing 3 is of a dead / hunted animal which both the people (drawing 2) and tigress (drawing 1) want to eat. Their pose may be interpreted in two ways – one, they are dancing with joy after the hunt which means food; two, trying to scare off the tigress who has come to eat the hunted animal  Again note the height and body structure of the woman right in front of the tigress. She is probably of an African origin. Another thing that reflects in drawing 2, is a couple of human figures perhaps wearing some animal skin over their shoulder. Drawing 5 shows the huntsmen probably chasing the tigress to kill her.

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Drawing of a spotted deer

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Probable drawing of a bovine (tail portion is clear) using white colour

This experience not only introduced me to rock art but also enriched my knowledge about it. I hope to see more such sites in India belonging to different era !

Om Prakash ji is doing his bit to keep the place safe from human interference (remember camouflaging of the entrance shared earlier?) so that the drawings remain intact for a longer time. Unfortunately, owing to its easy accessibility more often than not one can see signs of people visiting and shamanism being practiced. If you refer to the bovine figure in white, the rock roof is covered in soot. We found the remains of bonfire and earthen diyas there. While talking about his rock paintings on the whole, he shared that some paintings are clear as they are well sheltered naturally and safe from human interference. Then there are some that are pretty faded and you may need to strain your eyes to see them. This is because the natural vegetation coverage is no longer there and there is proof of people visiting these shelters as its accessible.

Important to note is, though these sites have been shared / visited and documented with the relevant organizations there is still no conservation being done.

Kukkiji has been awarded by, the then President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil for his contribution in discovering more than 76 rock painting sites. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is said to have given him the status of an ‘honorary archaeologist‘ for all his pursuits and priceless discoveries.

He has also been recognized by National Center for the Arts, New Delhi & World Rock Art Society from France for his work. His findings / discoveries are documented by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, the Indian Rock Art and Research Centre, Nasik, and the State Archaeological Department, Jaipur. There are numerous coverage of his rock paintings shelters in the print media. In fact, it is said that the well known rock painting expert, Mr Ervin Neumayer from Austria, had verified the sites at Bundi.

 

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Read more about my Bundi Trip…..

The Hidden Jewel of Rajasthan, Blue City Bundi!
Stay @Bundi Haveli –Traditional yet contemporary
Crumbling heritage : Bundi’s Taragarh Fort

 

 

….and, if you like what you just read, do ‘like it’ & ‘share it’. Non WordPress users please ‘rate’ it to express your appreciation 🙂 Also do not forget to ‘follow the blog’ to remain updated about newer posts ❤ 


HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe