The FORT of GAGRON : A UNESCO Heritage Site in Rajasthan

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The Fort of Gagron is situated in Jhalawar district of Rajasthan, about 85 km from Kota. It is one of the six Hill Forts of Rajasthan (others being Ranathambore, Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer, Chittor, Amer) to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2013 . Gagron was earlier known as Dodagarh and then Dhulargarh .

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It is a Jaldurg- a hill and a water fort. Three sides of the fort face rivers Ahu and Kalisindh , while the towers on the fourth side are embedded into the Mukundarrah  hills which provide it with natural  foundation (hence no external foundation). Even the fourth side was surrounded by a moat in medieval times, rendering the fort inaccessible. Beyond the moat were thick forests of Mukundarrah. The walls of the fort have three ramparts in place of the usual two . Cylindrical towers were used to keep watch.

The fort is currently undergoing  conservation work. Water management system, Madhusudan temple, smaller and larger living quarters , baroodkhana (armoury) have now been repaired .There is an entry fee of Rs 50 for Indian tourists, which the locals very much resent  considering that this used to be a desolate lovers’ paradise till few years back .The fort does not attract many tourists from afar because of lukewarm promotion by Rajasthan tourism, but is worth a visit for those who want to study fort architecture.

But for all the beautiful views that the Fort of Gagron offers, and there are a plethora of them, what shall remain with me is the feeling of emptiness and immense sadness that gripped me at the sight of a vast Jauhar Kund .Leftist historians and feminists might harshly judge the queens and thousands (maybe hundreds) of their attendants and commoners who performed Jauhar – the ritual self-sacrifice by jumping into flames to avoid falling into sexual slavery of marauders from alien cultures-  but then how does ever reason with compulsive contrarians ?

Some historians do mention mass immolations by a couple of tribes as a measure of protection  against Alexander’s invasion , but the fact remains that almost all of the  instances of jauhar by women  in the medieval period occurred as measure of protection against rapacious Islamic invaders . Some notoriety these Islamic hoards must have enjoyed  ! One must realise that these women made conscious choices to embrace such horrific fates rather than bear the ignominy of  religious conversions  and  physical tortures . Gagron witnessed  two instances of jauhars, the second of which is recorded and widely reported .

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In 1423, King Achal Das Khinchi died after fighting valiantly against Hushang Shah of Malwa. The kund area which is the site of this tragic event bears deathly silence and stands as testimony to the persecution that Hindus have faced in the past millennium in their own lands.

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The fort witnessed fourteen wars and two jauhars. Although some part of the fort has been around since 8th cent. AD, major construction was carried out by Dod-Parmar Rajput King Bijaldev in 12th cent. The Parmars and then the Khinchi Rajputs controlled the fort between 12th-15th cent. AD.

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Monastery of Saint Pipa (Raja Pratap Rao who renounced his kingdom in 1368) who was contemporary of Kabir and one of the 12 disciples of Ramananda , stands  at the confluence of Ahu and Kalisindh, and is visible from the Fort. There is also a Dargah of Mitthe Shah (Hameeruddin Chishti)  at the fort’s entrance, where an annual Urs (fair) is held.

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Alauddin Khalji laid seize to the fort but failed to conquer it. Gagron was the site of a famous battle  in 1519 in which  Ranga Sanga of Mewar defeated  Mahmud Khalji of Malwa, but restored the latter’s kingdom to him. In 1532, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat snatched the fort from Mewar’s Vikramaditya . It was here that he befriended Hiraman parrot who used to speak in human tongue. Humayun snatched the fort and the parrot  from Bahadur Shah. But the parrot embarrassed a traitorous ex-loyalist of Bahadur Shah, by screaming ‘gaddar,gaddar’ when he came to meet Humayun. Later the fort passed into Sher Shah Suri’s and subsequently in Akbar’s hands. Finally, Aurangzeb  bestowed it upon Raja Mukund Singh of Kota in 17th cent., the House of which  held sway over Gagron till 1948.

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