Wednesday January 29, 2020

A Visit to The Magnificent Junagarh Fort, Bikaner

Junagarh Fort, Bikaner is one of Rajasthan's few forts, which are not built on a hilltop, the modern city has grown and developed around the fort

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Junagadh, fort, Bikaner, Travel, Historic
Junagarh Fort, Bikaner. Wikimedia Commons

It was my second visit to Bikaner and the magnificent Junagarh Fort drew me like a magnet. A visit to the fort takes at least an hour and a half, for there is much to see. Junagarh Fort is one of Rajasthan’s few forts, which are not built on a hilltop. The modern city of Bikaner has grown and developed around the fort.

Before the present Junagarh Fort was built, an old stone fort existed in the city. The exisiting fort was built in 1478 by Rao Bika, who established Bikaner in 1472. As the second son of Maharaja Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, Bika knew he had no chance of inheriting his father’s territory or the title of Maharaja. So he decided to create his own kingdom and conquered large arid lands in the northern region of Rajasthan, to set up his own domain. The history of Bikaner and the fort within thus starts with Bika.

The fort was built in an area then known as ‘Jungladesh’. Historical records reveal that despite repeated attacks by enemies to capture the fort, it was not taken, except for a lone one-day occupation by Kamran Mirza, the second son of the Mughal Emperor Babar, who attacked Bikaner in 1534. Bikaner was then ruled by Rao Jait Singh.

Junagadh, fort, Bikaner, Travel, Historic
Interiors of Junagarh Fort, Bikaner. Wikimedia Commons

It was however, only about 100 years later, that Bikaner’s fortunes flourished under Raja Rai Singhji, its sixth ruler, who ruled from 1571 to 1611. He accepted the suzerainty of the Mughals and held a high position of an army general in the court of Emperor Akbar and his son Emperor Jehangir. It was during this period that Raja Rai Singh decided to build a new fort.

The Junagarh fort is built on plain land and the formal foundation ceremony was held on 17 February 1589. The fort complex was built over 5.28 hectares of land, under the supervision of Karan Chand, the prime minister of Raja Rai Singh. The construction of the walls and the moat began in 1589 and the fort was completed on 17 January 1594.

Raja Rai Singh was artistic inclined and had a sound knowledge of architecture — acquired from sojourns to several countries. This knowledge is reflected in the numerous structures that he built in the Junagarh fort. The fort is thus considered an outstanding example of architecture and a unique centre of art.

Its large precinct is studded with palaces, temples and pavilions — buildings that depict a combination of culture, through a mix of architectural styles. The exquisitely carved exterior in red sandstone and the interior palaces and chambers in carved marble, make the fort a delight.

Junagadh, fort, Bikaner, Travel, Historic
Interior of the Junagarh Fort‎, Bikaner. Wikimedia Commons

Polished plaster with raised moulding, and gilded and painted walls and ceilings all come together to create the incomparable Karan Mahal and Anup Mahal. Anup Mahal, which served as the Diwan-i -Khas, has been mentioned as the most ornate coronation chamber in Asia. While typically Rajasthani elements like coloured glass and mirrors are used to embellish the ornate Crescent Room, the more recent decorative elements at the fort include the unusual choice of China tiles of the famous ‘Willow Pattern’ on the balconies and walls.

Another interesting part of the palace is Maharaja Lal Singh’s Music Room, with the monarch’s musical instruments still preserved exactly the way he had last played them. The walls of the room are painted with blue and white clouds, interspersed with flashes of orange lightning, while the niches in the walls depict monsoon ‘ragas’ in traditional Rajasthani miniature style.

Ganga Singh, who ruled from 1887 to 1943, built the Ganga Niwas Palace, which has towers at the entrance. This palace was designed by the famous architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. Ganga Singh’s contribution to the building activity in Junagarh involved separate halls for public and private audience in the Ganga Mahal and a durbar hall for formal functions. The hall, where he held his Golden Jubilee as a ruler of Bikaner, is now a museum.

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Ganga Singh also built Lalgarh Palace, named so after his father. It was also designed by Samuel Swinton Jacob and was located north of the Junagarh Fort. He shifted to this new palace in 1902 and the royal family still occupies a part of the palace.

Ganga Singh was a favourite of the British Raj and earned the title of Knight Commander of the Star of India. He represented the country at the Imperial First World War Conferences, but passed away in 1943 before the war was won by the allies. (IANS)

Next Story

Precautions You Need to Take To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Precautions you need to take while travelling

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Coronavirus
Passengers arriving from a China Southern Airlines flight from Changsha in China are screened for the new type of coronavirus. VOA

BY GOKUL BHAGABATI

With the novel coronavirus leading to over 100 fatalities in China, people need to be extra cautious while making their travel plans, be it an international conference abroad or a vacation.

While several organisations have started putting restrictions on the travel of their employees to China, there could still arise the need for you to travel to other countries. As the infection from the virus is spreading to other destinations as well, it would be better for travellers to be cautious.

“As there is no vaccinations available to prevent the spread of this virus, it is advisable to take certain precautions to prevent nCov (novel coronavirus),” Suranjeet Chatterjee, Senior Consultant in the Internal Medicine Department of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi, told IANS.

Coronavirus
Students line up to sanitize their hands to avoid the contact of coronavirus. VOA

“Wash your hands often with soap and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, observe good personal hygiene and avoid contact with people with possible symptoms and avoid travel to areas where coronavirus infection has been reported,” Chatterjee said.

Experts in population mapping at the University of Southampton in Britain have identified cities and provinces within China, and cities and countries worldwide, which are at high-risk from the spread of the 2019-nCoV.

Bangkok (Thailand) is currently the city most at risk from a global spread of the virus – based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive there from the worst affected cities in mainland China, according to a report by the university’s WorldPop team.

Hong Kong is second on the list, followed by Taipei. Sydney (12), New York (16) and London (19) are among the 30 other major international cities ranked in the research.

The most ‘at-risk’ countries or regions worldwide are Thailand (1), Japan (2) and Hong Kong (3). The US is placed 6th on the list, Australia 10th and the UK 17th.

Within China, the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing were all identified as high-risk by the researchers, along with the Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Henan.

While much is yet to be known about the novel coronavirus in China’s Wuhan city, human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. Early studies have revealed that the virus can cause severe respiratory illness.

Coronavirus
Passengers wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus arrive at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea. VOA

“So far, the main clinical signs and symptoms reported in this outbreak include fever, difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing bilateral lung infiltrates. As of 27 January 2020, human-to-human transmission has been confirmed largely in Wuhan city, but also some other places in China and internationally,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“With the information currently available for the novel coronavirus, WHO advises that measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions on international traffic,” said the statement from WHO.

Talking of the precautions that one needs to take, Vaibhav Rohatgi, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Jaypee Hospital, Noida, said, “First of all if possible travel to China at this time should be avoided, unless it is very important.”

“For safety measures, wear masks, avoid crowded places, maintain basic hygiene and keep sanitising your hands, and avoid direct hand contact with eyes and nose.

“People with weak immunity are more prone to the risk of getting this infection, hence opt for healthy cooked food. This new coronavirus strain is rapidly spreading now in China and only prevention is the best cure,” Rohatgi said.

The WHO has advised that you should avoid travel if you have fever and cough.

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“If you choose to wear a face mask, be sure to cover mouth and nose – avoid touching mask once it is on. Immediately discard single-use mask after every use and wash hands after removing masks,” said the advisory.

“Eat only well-cooked food, avoid spitting in public, avoid close contact and travel with animals that are sick,” it said, adding that if you become sick while travelling, it is important to seek medical care early. (IANS)