Fascinating Junagarh Fort of Bikaner, Rajasthan - 02

Junagarh fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan.  themaharajaexpress.org/blog

Junagarh fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan www.alamy.com/

Please refer to my early post on the Junagarh  Fort of Bikaner, Rajasthan (http://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2020/06/fascinating-junagarh-fort-of-bikaner.html).   

Within the confines of impressive  Junagarh fort, there lies an assortment of various palaces, court yards, balconies,  lattice stone windows, temples, etc offering us a chance to go  back on the days of the glorious rule of the Rathor Clan and their spectacular  style of living. The ingenious handling of the construction materials red stones and quality marble stones  in the  various buildings imparts  a fascinating look  to them.  The temple and palaces are well preserved despite the passage of time. The rare blending of decorative features in the fort, a military complex designed for the purpose of defense and security is unique. The entire fort in Bikaner, Rajasthan is set in a picturesque environment on a small hill in the midst of the Thar desert.   
Junagarh fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan.  www.agefotostock.com/

The layout of this massive fort is rectangular  with a peripheral length of 1,078 yards (986 m). The fort walls are  quite strong - 14.5 feet (4.4 m) wide and 40 feet (12 m) in height. Accessing such a tall fort is not easy  and further the enemy movements can be easily observed from the watch towers  built in strategic places. Being  massive, it covers  an area of 63,119 square yards (5.28 ha)   surrounded by a moat which was 20–25 feet (6.1–7.6 m) deep with a base width of 15 feet (4.6 m) and top width of 30 feet (9.1 m).
Presently, the moat does not exist, rather non-functional. With a view to retarding  any enemy attack, the fort is provided with 7 big  strong gates, besides 37 bastions (locally known as ‘burj’).   Early Ruler  Rao Bika built a stone fort  that was abandoned later  and  ruler Maharajah Rai Singh  built the new fort outside the ruins of the old fort. The purpose of the new fort that was built in 1594 after a few years of construction work, was to provide additional security to the rulers. Rajasthan was quite vulnerable to raids from the NW Muslim rulers  of Iran and  Afghanistan  and also from the Delhi Muslim rulers. 
Junagarh-fort-bikaner-rajasthan.  medium.com
Within the seven sturdy gates, there are palaces, Mahals (halls) women quarters (Zanana), etc including Hindu and Jain temples, the earliest is dated to 16th century.   When it comes to interior parts of the palaces,  they are  carefully  decorated and painted in traditional Rajasthani style.  An interesting aspect of this fort is the palaces have many  large rooms more than needed. This being due to the fact the rulers did not want to use the rooms  already used by their predecessors.  Mind you, starting from the 16th century,  this fort represents 16 successive generations of rulers who ruled the kingdom well using this place as a seat of power.  The overall features are considered to be comparable to that of  Louis’s France or of Imperial Russia". As for the style of  architecture, you can see a blend of many types, Mogul, Rajasthani, British and European. Maharajah Ganga Singh, the ruler with British influence revived the Rajsthani  design and incorporated local architecture in his buildings.  It is a ''paradoxical mix of  medieval military architecture and beautiful interior decoration".

Among the 7 gates to the fort Karan Pol or Parole  is the entry gate. However, presently the east facing Suraj Pol or Sun gate is the entry gate. Unlike  the other gates, this is made of golden or yellow  sand stones and the specialty is  morning Sun's rays fall on the gate which is considered a sign of good omen, implying positivity when the ruler goes out through the gate on a mission or any other assignment. Another distinctive feature of the gate is to prevent ramming of the doors by elephants  during  raids by the enemies; the strong  doors are provided with  iron spikes and studs. Two  stone statues of  elephants with mahout are placed on either side of the gate as sentinel. Only through this gate the royalty with their retinue arrive and depart and each time the trumpet will be played  from the gallery in the gate. Like the Sun gate, Karen Gate doors are impregnated with iron spikes and studs  to avoid   ramming by the war elephants. The other gates are  Daulat Pol, Chand Pol (provided with a double gates) and Fateh Pol; They provide access to certain parts of the fort.  

Between the main gate and the palace, there is a  space in the shape of a quadrangle  that houses  a large pavilion with a water pool made of quality marble -  Carrara Italian marble. The Karan Mahal, where public audience was held in the Diwan-i-Am by Karan Singh (1631–39) and his successors till the 20th century is in this space.   And this is followed by another gate called  the Tripolia gate (triple gateway). Only through this gate, the  royal chambers  can be accessed. The  royal family's temple Har Mandir  is next to the gate.   Besides,  there are many Havelies located both within and outside the fort in the Bikaner city's by lanes and they distinctive Bikaneri architectural style.

Anup Mahal,Junagarh Fort, Bikaner. en.wikipedia.org

As for the Daulat Pol (gate), there  are  41 hand imprints  seen on the wall in red color representing the wives of the rulers of Bikaner  and other royal women - a poignant reminder of the Sati (self-immolation), they committed on the funeral pyres of their husbands who died in battle against  the Muslim ruler. They would rather die than be  concubines in the harem of a Muslim ruler. 
Karan Mahal,Junagarh Fort, Bikaner.   en.wikipedia.org
Among the mahals (halls) in the Junagarh fort, the most beautiful  one is Karan Mahal (Public Audience Hall) built by Karan Singh in c.1680 .  It marks his victory over Mogul ruler Aurangzeb, the most impulsive and aggressive  Muslim ruler. Provided with stained glass windows, poly chrome glass, mirror  designs,  nicely carved balconies, fine stone screens /windows with a broad garden,   this hall is quite known for architectural niceties displaying the  aesthetics of the royalty.  Phool Mahal ("Flower Palace"), being the the oldest part of the palace,  was built by king Raja Rai Singh who ruled between 1571-1668.

Anup Mahal,Junagarh Fort, Bikaner. . en.wikipedia.org

Anup Mahal, a multi-story structure,  was meant for administrative puposes.  It has ornate wooden ceilings with inlaid mirrors, Italian tiles, and fine lattice windows and balconies.  The  gold leaf paintings in some places  are impressive. Yet another grand structure.
Chandra Mahal,  as the name suggests, has  some richly decorated rooms with  gold plated deities and paintings inlaid with precious stones.  Ganga Mahal is  a 20th century  addition by  Ganga Singh,  who ruled  for 56 long  years from 1887 to 1943. He  had good relationship with the British and was a great builder. The large durbar hall known as the Ganga Singh Hall now  houses the museum.  On display here are   war weaponry, etc  and also a World War I airplane (biplane).   Badal Mahal (The weather palace), an extension of  the Anup Mahal  has  several paintings of Maharajah, and  rare photos of people standing on nails, wood, swords and saws  (a sort of testing human endurance based on faith).  The walls carry fine  fresco paintings of the Hindu god Krishna and his consort Radha amidst the rain clouds. This fort is one of the splendid forts in India steeped in history spanning several centuries starting from the 16th century.