Bikaner: The famous Junagarh Fort, one of the only few famous forts in Rajasthan that are not built on hilltop, is now gaining popularity among the prominent shooting locations in Rajasthan. Recently, a shoot was performed for the upcoming historical show in the premises of the fort where Indian television celebrities Ashish Sharma and Sonarika Bhadoria were present.
The fort was originally named ‘Chintamani’ and was renamed as Junagarh or the ‘Old Fort’ only when the royal family shifted their residence to the Lalgarh Palace in 20th century. The fort is a magnificent illustration of medieval Indian art and architecture. The fort was developed in different phases that lasted for four centuries. These series of constructions has given this splendid fort a unique composite structure.
Spread in the area of 5.28 hectares, the premises of the fort is studded with numerous palaces, pavilions and temples, several of them built in varied architectural designs. The fort that we see today is actually a new edifice that was erected outside of an older stone fort in 16th century.
So, the historical journey of Junagarh begins from this old stone fort that was built by the founder of Bikaner, Rao Bika ji in 1478. Hundred years later, during the reign of Raja Rai Singh Ji, the princely state witnessed immense prosperity and wealth and it was then, the new fort was built under the expert supervision of Raja Rai Singh who was a great patron of art and architecture. His patronage in the intricacies of architectural art is still visible in the spectacular buildings of the fort.
Though, the principal construction of the fort was done in 16th century by the Raja Rai Singh, his successors too contributed in the making of this architectural masterpiece. In mid 17th century, Karan Singh who ruled the kingdom under the suzerainty of Mughals added Karan Mahal within the premises of the fort. Later, Anup Singh built separate women quarters, Zanana Mahal in the fort and renovated Karan Mahal as Anup Mahal.
Other rulers who also made substantial changes in the constructions of the fort include Gaj Singh who built the Chandra Mahal, Surat Singh whi decorated the beautiful audience hall of Anup Mahal, Dungar Singh built the Badal Mahal with interiors showing the season of rains, and in the end, Maharaj Ganaga Singh, the only 'Non-White' member of the British Imperial War Cabinet during World War I and the founder of Shri Ganganagar, built Ganga Niwas Palace that has beautiful towers at the entrance patio.
With these many variations, the fort is bound to have a complex structure but what gives this fort an unprecedented glow of harmony is it medieval military exteriors and spectacularly luxurious interiors. The massive fort, with its 37 bastions and 7 gates looks formidable enough to justify its particularly unconquered history despite its easily accessible location. But the exquisite palace gardens, stained glass windows, intricately carved balconies and columns, inlaid patterns of polychrome glass, Italian tiles, ornate ceilings, latticed windows, paintings inlaid with precious stones, and vivid frescoes make the fort appear nothing short of a luxurious palace built for the most prosperous emperor who has nothing in world to be afraid of.
Indeed, it is the paradoxical charm of masculine and feminine architecture styles, which merges beautifully in Junagarh, that makes this fort so special among the other formidable forts and fortresses of Rajasthan.