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Junagarh Fort Of Museum

JunagarhFort at Bikaner is one of the most brilliant testamentsof ancient architecture in Rajasthan.While most forts of Rajasthan lie on hill tops, this one is placed in the heart of the city. Bikaner city has dwelled around the fort and it has now become a major spot of attraction for tourists and locals. The fort was earlier called ChintamaniFort and later renamed as Junagarh meaning old fort after the royal ruling family shifted to the comparatively new fort,Lalgarh Palace. Though JunagarhFort had been attacked number of times but it could never be conquered. The fort is an impressive structure with huge bastions, gates, defensive systems and look up towers.

Raja RaisinghJiused the revenues from the Deccan and half of Marwar to raise this fort. Being a contemporary to Mughal Emperor Akbar, Raja Rai Singh was a favourite and held a very high position in Mughal court. As a reward he was granted the states of Gujarat and Burhanpur by the Emperor. For a long time he travelled far off places to get a vision of architecture and ideas about the construction of this fort. This is clearly evident in its architectural styles used in building the fort.

The initial reflections of the fort are of the Rajput styles of the 16th century. As the rulers were a close part of the Mughals, they adopted decorative styles of the Mughals. The carvings on the walls and lattice work showcase the Gujarati art form. The junagarh fort reflects one of the finest lacquer works which has still not faded.

Made during the time of Maharaja Dungar Singh (1872-87), this fort depicts a partially western style. The third invincible architecture style was during the reign of Maharaja Ganga Singh(1887-1943), which was marked by construction of a new throne Vikram Vilas in 1936.

This fort is built on an enormous area of 5.28 hectares covering temples, palaces for queens and kings, relaxing rooms and balconies. The fort is surrounded by garden areas and guard rooms for workers.

History

Raja Rai Singh Jibuilt the fort on a plain with an elevation of 230 m. Its foundation was laid in 1589 and the construction reached completion five years later in 1594.The later rulers modified and added palaces as well as courts to the existing structure. Karan Singh ruled from 1631-1639 and built the Karan Mahal. Anupsingh(1669-98) made additions to the fort by adding new palaces and ZananaMahal.He also renovated Karan Mahal by converting it into the Diwane-a-Aam.

GajsinghJi(1746-1787) made the Chandra Mahal. After him came Surat Singh who ruled from 1787-1828 and decorated the audience hall with glass work and handmade paintings. BadalMahal was built by Dungar Singh ji. The room was so named because it has walls painted with cool blue clouds and a water cooler constructed intelligently to provide water streams and air during the scorching dry days of Rajasthan. The whole room gave the effect of rains during summers.

Ganga Singh Jibuilt Ganga Niwas(1828-1943) with towers at the front entrance. A much loved veteran of the British, he served as a member of the Imperial war cabinet.  He died in 1943before fortunes of World War II were decided. He got himself a new palace designed by Swinton as his residence and named it after his father as Lalgarh Palace in 1902. The royal family still resides in one part of LalBaghPalace and the rest of the part is converted into a heritage hotel.

Architecture

Sixteen consecutive rulers have added to the beautification and enforcements of this incredible fort by positively contributing to its glory. Each ruler added different styles and laid one of the strongest foundations during their reign.

The fort has a quadrangular boundary of 1078 yards with a reinforcement of a 14.50 wide and 14 feet high wall. The fortified wall has 37 bastions and two entrances. A karan parolestands on the east side and chand parole on the west. Karan parole has four gates and chand parole has two gates. These gates are again fixed firmly with sharp iron spiky grills to avoid entering of enemy elephants.

The gate used for entry presently is suraj parole, which is on the east side and is made out of yellow stone whereas other gates have made in red stone. To the right of karan parole is daulat parole which has hand imprints of the queens who committed sati after their kings died fighting in the war. On the entrance gate are temples worshipped by a large number of local people till today.

The fort premises holds seven gates, nine temples, barracks for soldiers, a jail, the armour and horse stables and the garden area. The second storey has 15 palaces, eight in the third palace, 11in the fourth palace and 5 in the fifth palace.

Almost all rulers made palaces for themselves named Karan Mahal, AnupMahal, Ganga Mahal, PhoolMahal, Chandra Mahal and BadalMahal. Apart from the main design and architecture of the fort it has been decorated extensively with Italian hand painted tiles on the windows but the pattern of the window style is purely Mughal with typical jharokas (balcony). The swing or jhoola placed in phoolmahal is entirely carved out of wood is an outstanding work of craftsmanship. There are hand weaved carpets and some of them are woven in gold. Sheesh mahal is another attraction where it has been decorated entirely with pieces of colourful glasses. The throne of the king has also been kept for the visitors sightseeing.

Museum

Junagarh Fort museum run by the Raja RaiSinghJitrust had been established in the year 1961 by Maharaja Karni SinghJi. One of the museums is inside the fort and enumerable artefacts have been incorporated for the visitors to peak into the royal lives. There are not only decorative artefacts such as god idols, miniature paintings, royal costumes, silver and gold jewels, manuscripts and weapons but also the major attraction of the museum is the display the palkhis(royal transport for the queen) and an aeroplane.  Also they have displayed various pictures of the ancient times when the royal family was at the peak of its glory. The fort office is at the entrance and a free guide can tour you around with information regarding the fort and its inhabitants.

Another museum lies in the premises of this museum which also has royal artefacts, crockery, carpets and paintings from the golden era. The museum office has books written on various rulers of Bikaner and how each one of them contributed to the present scenario.

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