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Celebrating a silent witness of the past

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Ranthambhor Fort with a tiger in the foreground.
Ranthambhor Fort with a tiger in the foreground.

Special Correspondent

A book by historian-theatre person Ranbir Sinh introduces Ranthambhor to readers

JAIPUR: Celebrating the invincible fort of Ranthambhor (also spelt Ranthambhore) is a new book encapsulating, for the first time, the architectural glory of the mighty 10 {+t} {+h} Century citadel along with its hoary history, the lore of the Rajput rulers, the Khiljis, the Mughals and Hammir, the bravest of all the brave warriors who defended it with his life.

Considered to be one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan, a State dotted with forts and palaces, Ranthambhor is more often identified with the now better known national park with the same name.

The book, “Ranthambhor the Impregnable Fort”, is an attempt by its historian-theatre person author Ranbir Sinh to introduce it to the general readers without missing the “political and social interconnections of the society in changing times”.

“The forts are silent witnesses of the glorious past. It is the duty of the historians to give words to the high walls, to the magnificent gates, to the coexisting temples and mosques, to the palaces, to the drums and clashing of the swords, so that the historic tales come true to the present generations for them to feel proud and emulate the deeds of the brave and love for the nation,” notes Mr. Sinh who delved into various sources including Sanskrit texts and the khyat and Raso, the bardic literature of Rajasthan and inscription records for preparing the 144-page book.

Unique fort

The Ranthambhor fort, built at a height of 1578 feet above the sea level on the Aravalli mountains now falling in the district of Sawai Madhopur is one mile long and has about the same breadth. It is surrounded by lofty hills and four deep valleys and has 84 narrow passages. The area occupied by the outer fortification of the fort is 24 miles. Ranthambhor is “Giridurga”, categorised by Manu Samhita as the best among the six types of forts. Amir Khusrau described its lofty walls as “even the eagles could not fly (over)”.

“The towering personality of the fort used to hover over the sanctuary. It was then that I visited the fort and was impressed by the magnificence of it and the stories of brave Hammir…” notes the late Maharani Gayatri Devi in a preface she wrote for the book a few years before her demise. The former Queen Mother had a great fascination for the fort and in a fitting tribute Mr. Sinh has dedicated the book to her.

“I have been emotionally attached to the fort of Ranthambhor. The late Maharaja and I used to visit Sawai Madhopur on our shooting excursions and camp there for a few days. We had visitors (there) from all over the world. Among them were Queen Elizabeth, Duke of Edinburgh, Lord and Lady Mountbatten and many other friends,” Gayatri Devi writes.

All of them were not in Ranthambhor for game hunting. As conservationist Harsh Vardhan, who has contributed a chapter to the book, notes, and a visit by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1974 in his capacity as the president of World Wildlife Fund–International marked the start of the tiger conservation programme, Project Tiger, in India.

Mystery persists

Despite the book, the mystery over the founder as well as the exact time period the fort was built continues.

“There is no definite evidence as to who the person was and when Ranthambhor was made… The annals of Chauhans also mentions that after the battle of Terrain in A.D. 1193 Hariraj ousted Govindraj from Ajmer, who went to Ranthambhor and started living there, and thus he was the first of the dynasty of Chauhans of Ranthambhor,” the author notes, surmising that the fort was probably built by Prithvi Raj I, who was the greatest ruler of the Chauhans of Sapaldaksh.


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