Fort with weird history

Nahargarh Fort, which was recently in news, has witnessed strange happenings in the past too

Updated - December 11, 2017 03:43 pm IST

Published - December 11, 2017 02:55 pm IST



After the American Jesuit fathers came from Jaipur in 1960 and opened a branch of St Xavier’s School in the erstwhile Cecil Hotel in the Civil Lines, their love for Jaipur continued and after two years a picnic was organized to Nahargarh there. The fort was a gift in 1734 to the new capital of Rajputana by Sawai Jai Singh II, a great friend of Mohammad Shah Rangila (1719-1748) the Mughal Emperor who allowed him to build his Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Sawai Jai Singh, besides being an astronomer was also a great builder who was attracted by the Red Fort and the older Agra Fort, one built by Shah Jahan and the other by Akbar. But he wanted his fort to be more impregnable and so he built it atop a steep hill. The staff (staying in Ludlow Castle Road) and students of Delhi’s St Xavier’s who went to see it 55 years ago were amazed to observe the fort’s ambience at a time when there was no talk of Padmavati.

They were told that it was actually named Sudarshangarh but the name was changed to Nahargarh to pacify the spirit of Nahar Singh Bhomia which created obstructions in its construction A temple dedicated to him was also built in the fort. Yet Tiger Fort (because of the presence of tigers), as it translates into English, has been the scene of some strange events, the latest one being of the gem polisher Chetan Kumar Saini, whose body was found hanging there in a mystery that is yet to be solved. Whether it was suicide or murder, God knows. But it’s is not the only incident of this type that has occurred within the precincts of the old fort. Lt-Col Altaf David, who would have been a hundred years old now, once disclosed that his grandfather had told him two tales dating back to the times of Sawai Ram Singh II (1835-1880) and Sawai Madho Singh II (1880-1922), when also some weird incidents were reported from there.

Col David lived in retirement in the Civil Lines area of Delhi although he originally belonged to Ajmer, where his sibling, Prof Goodwin Iqbal David (Guddan Sahib) died some years ago, though he was active most of the time as a luminary of the English Department of St John’s College, Agra.

Light in the gloom

To come back to Col David’s tales, during Sawai Ram Singh’s time a goldsmith who had become half-blind and was forsaken by his family, stumbled up one day on Nahargarh. Lost in thought, he sat alone on a boulder till night fell and he started feeling scared in the darkness. Hurriedly trying to retrace his steps, he saw a light in the gloom. On approaching it he found a group of fairies dancing in a circle. He was mesmerized at the sight and tried to sneak away, when the fairies accosted him and asked him why he was loitering around in the desolate place all alone. The goldsmith told his tale of woe and the fairies, taking pity on him, taught him how to make gold leaf by blowing bubbles in the air. They also saw him safely down the fort early in the morning.

The goldsmith went back to his family and taught his sons the art of making gold leaf. As a result the family prospered again but a rival goldsmith heard the tale of how the old man had learnt the secret art and decided to venture into Nahargarh one night. Whether he met the fairies or not is not known but his badly mauled body was found on the ramparts of the fort. There are two flaws in the story : whether fairies actually exist and whether gold leaf was not made before early 19th Century? But the sum and substance of it is that while one goldsmith prospered after a visit to Nahargarh the other lost his life because of his greed. Believe it or not, but Col David was convinced that his grandfather’s story was not unture, although he agreed that the greedy goldsmith might have been mauled by some wild animal.

The tale of Sawai Madho Singh’s time is different. According to it, a Meena woman, who had been chased out of the house by her husband as she had given birth to only girls (five of them), climbed up to Nahargarh and was raped and killed by badmashes, who had found her asleep late at night and took advantage of the situation. The woman’s body was discovered hanging from a tree and led to quite a sensation, with the Maharaja ordering the sentries of the place, from among the 1,500 guarding the forts of Jaipur, to ensure that such incidents did not take place in future.

The latest incident in Nahargarh lends credence to the belief that it’s not just an old fort but a medieval structure that is the focus of strange happenings from time to time. Something like what Major James Alexander had also once emphasized, citing an incident of his youth when he met a woman in tribal dress near Nahargarh while benighted during a shikar trip. It was a moonlit night and he was astounded when the mysterious woman asked him to marry her and no one else or he would regret it. But he did marry a girl from Agra, though he nearly died when as a Captain he led a regiment of Jaipur troops during the Third Afghan War at the time of Sawai Madho Singh II in 1919. The staff and students of St Xavier’s returned to Delhi quite bewildered by the trip.

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