Located a top 150 m high hill, the impressive Mehrangarh Fort overshadows
the other attraction of Jodhpur. The name Mehrangarh itself means 'majestic fort' and as such tourists visiting this fort are mighty delighted with its grandeur. The fort was initially built in the year 1459 by the founder of the city, Rao Jodha after he shifted his capital here from Mandore. However, much of what stands today date back to the 17th century, a time when Jaswant Singh held the reins of Jodhpur.
As with many other forts and palaces of Rajasthan, Mehrangarh too, encloses within its heart a legend that took birth during its construction. It is believed that to build a fort, a sage had to be forced out from the hill. Enraged, this sage cursed that the construction of the fort will see severe problems relating to water availability. To ward off the ramifications of this curse, a man offered to bury himself alive in the foundation of the fort.
Today, this story has little credibility amongst tourists, though what is quiet obvious is that Mehrangarh Fort reminds them of the royal past of the Rajput. It is a legacy of the courageous denizens who once inhabited the fort.
The fort, which has 36 metre high and 21 metre wide walls is entered after crossing seven gates. Jayapol or the main gate is the starting point. The gate was built by Maharaja Man Singh, who ruled Jodhpur in the first part of the 19th century, to commemorate his victory over the army of Jaipur and Bikaner. Fatehpol is another victory gate built by Maharaja Ajit Singh in 1708 to mark his victory over the Mughals. Out of other six gates, there is one more that is a victory gate, Lohpol. The Iron Gate preserves the handprints of the wives of Maharaja Man Singh who threw themselves in the sacred fire of their husband's pyre. The hand prints are considered extremely pious and have grown into a revered symbol. A number of devotees smear it with red powder and silver to show their respect for the royal ladies who preferred death to humiliation.
The area within the fort is covered with beautiful palaces and spacious courtyards. The palaces, like the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and Sukh Mahal (Pleasure Palace), today serve as a museum. Entered through the Suraj Pol, the museum exhibits a wide range of collections - elephant carriages, maharaja's palanquin, covered palanquins for ladies, lethal weapons, small canons and paintings. The palaces themselves have an undeniable charm. For instance, the Moti Mahal has five alcoves along the west wall. Other small alcoves on the walls were meant to hold oil lamps. The ceilings are radiant with glass tiles and gold paints. Phool Mahal was the palace where traditional dance performances regaled the audience. The gold plated ceiling has images of various Maharajas of Jodhpur around it. The paintings that adorn the walls of the palace are the work of a single artist who, unfortunately died before completing his work. The regality of this palace is enhanced more so because of the stained glasses that seem to preserve the glitter of the gold platings.
The Umaid Mahal shines beautifully with glass tiles and the private chamber of Maharaja Thakhat Singh near Zhanki Mahal glows with lac paintings. The Zhanki Mahal, itself houses the cradles of the infant princes of Thakhat Singh. The Zenana Mahal is not far behind in beauty and displays magnificent latticework screens with over 150 designs. Other palaces like the Rang Mahal, Chandan Mahal and Throne Room are also delightful.
Apart from the palaces, there are one cenotaph and one temple worth visiting. The cenotaph, Chhatri of Kirit Singh Sodha, is situated to the right beyond the main entrance. The cenotaphs pays tribute to the valorous soldier, Kirit Singh, who laid down his life defending his land from the army of Jaipur. The Chamunda Devi Temple is located at the southern end of the fort and displays Durga in her furious mood.
A walk on the ramparts at this end provides some really eye catching views of the old city. Numerous houses painted in blue colour instantly draw the attention of the tourists. In the earlier time, only Brahmins could get their house painted in blue, however, today more and more people use this colour to ward off the monotony of the desert region. It is also believed that the colour blue spreads freshness in the house and as such highly useful.