Rao Jodha's Fort is now a museum

It is said that it was on the advice of a sadhu that the young Rao Jodha shifted his stronghold from 'Mandore' to the steep rock face on which the Fort now stands. Built in 1459, the fort was known as Chintamani in its early days. As time passed the blue and white-washed city of Jodhpur spread below and its name was changed to Mehrangarh.

The near-impregnable height of this rock – traditionally the lair of eagles – must have been one of Rao Jodha's primary considerations, in building his new Fort. Poised on a hill beyond the blue and white-washed city of Jodhpur and standing high above the plains on this isolated rock, the Fort covers an area 460 metres in length and 230 metres in width, with walls that vary in height from 6 to 36 metres. Fort Mehrangarh is now considered one of India's best-kept Museums and has a steady stream of visitors. And though the climb up to the Fort is extremely steep, many prefer to walk rather than drive up, as vehicles are allowed only as far as the first gate.

There are two main entrance gates to the Fort – 'Fateh Pol' built by Maharaja Ajit Singh when he recaptured the Fort from the Mughals in 1707 and 'Jai Pol' in 1808, by Maharaja Man Singh – the latter being the entrance more commonly used today. However, in the style of major forts, there are five other subsidiary gates.

A short climb to the 'Suraj Pol' or 'Sun Gate', leads to the courtyard where the white marble 'Coronation Seat' of all the rulers of Marwar stands in solitary splendor, including Rao Jodha, have been crowned here. The courtyard leads to the 'Moti Mahal' or Pearl Palace, with its white colonnaded interiors, gilded mirror-work ceilings, and colourful glass panes. The sunlight filtering in through these panes, throws rainbow colours on the white walls of the 'Diwan-i-Aam'. A Mughal style throne is displayed here, dating back to the time of Emperor Shah Jahan and is said to have been presented to the young Maharaja Ajit Singh, by Emperor Aurangzeb. The inner courtyard is part of the 'Zenana' or ladies wing and is said to have been built by Raja Sur Singh between 1595 and 1611. Here red sandstone filligree screens, rise on either side covering balconies and windows – ensuring that royal ladies could observe all court activities.

On the next level is another courtyard, leading to the ornate sleeping chambers of the rulers. Known as the 'Khwabga Mahal' (Palace of Dreams), the ruling monarch's bedchamber has a sandalwood ceiling, and ornately painted walls.

Displayed in the Sardar Vilas are carved, inlaid and painted doors and windows from various parts of the fort, while at Umaid Vilas, one can see a rare collection of Jodhpur miniatures. These include rare paintings of former rulers, in which the colours and gold embellishment are still as fresh as on the day they were painted. The 'Shish Mahal' or Hall of Mirrors, an indispensable part of all palaces and forts of Rajasthan, makes its appearance here as well. The walls of this splendid room, in addition to the thousands of concave mirrors imbedded all over, also has some beautifully rendered paintings of the Gods of the Hindu Pantheon.

Ajit Vilas is where one sees ancient costumes, including some fine 'Chogas' in Benares silk and others with Kashmiri weaves and gold embroidery.

At the 'Daulat Khana', an enormous Mughal tent made of red and gold silk brocade covers the entire ceiling. It is said to have belonged to Emperor Shah Jahan, and captured from his son Emperor Aurangzeb, by Maharaja Jaswant Singh I. Below this silken canopy, are displayed decorative items of every day usage at the royal palaces.

The armoury that one enters next, displays weapons of historical significance. Lending credence to the legends of the martial traits of the rulers of Marwar, is Rao Jodha's sword weighing over three and a half kilograms. The oldest sword on display, however, is said to have belonged to a famous ancestor of the Mughals – Tamerlane.

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