Ranthambore Fort: A monument to untold Valour

Ranthambore Fort: A monument to untold Valour

No visit to Ranthambore National Park is truly complete without visiting the beautiful Ranthambore fort. The safaris through the jungles are a no - brainer. Then of course, there are the early morning and evening strolls through the buffer zone!

In the unlikely event that you’ve had enough of nature, you can always visit the quaint stores in town. Village Women Craft have beautiful hand – knotted rugs, carpets, bed covers and paintings.

Udaipur to Ranthambore road trip


On 22 December, after a hearty vegetarian breakfast we left from the Bloom heritage hotel in Udaipur and headed to Ranthambore. The resort guys had set up breakfast by 0700HRS. By 0740HRS we were on the road. Avantika, our 9 – year old decided that she’d had enough of our company and hopped into Simran’s car for this leg of the journey.

In a matter of minutes we were on NH27 heading towards Chittorgarh. The road is again well – paved and a pleasure to drive on. As a result, we did much better time than the previous day. To add, traffic was uniformly sparse throughout the journey and there were no hold – ups for any reason whatsoever.

A little after a village called Salawatiya, there’s a left turn that brings you on to NH29 towards Bijola. The straight road, NH27, continues towards Kota. We followed Google maps, and took the left turn. Simran followed Google maps too and headed on straight towards Kota. As it turned out, going through Bijola is the shorter route. This decision saved us around 45 minutes compared to the route through Kota. Do bear this is mind if you ever happen to be on this route, heading from Udaipur or Chittorgarh towards Ranthambore!

Aranya Nature Resort, Ranthambore

 We’d booked three luxury tents at the Abrar Palace Resort in Ranthambore. Since then, they've changed the name to Aranya Nature Resort. The property is located in a 10 to 12 acre plantation, just off the main road leading to the Ranthambore National Park. The resort itself is located on about 3 acres of this land.

It features around 15 luxury tents and 8 to 10 deluxe rooms. The tents are very comfortable with wooden flooring and rugs to soak in the cold. Each unit is equipped with electric heaters and spacious bathrooms. I suppose they may get a tad claustrophobic during the hot summer months. However, since we were there during the winters, it was a sheer pleasure!

The resort is nestled in the midst of an Indian Gooseberry (Amla) orchard. It is about 5KMS from the Ranthambore National Park and in pretty salubrious surroundings. The tents let in plenty of sunlight. Effectively, you don't need any artificial lighting through the day. Besides, it's equipped with solar water heaters. All these do wonders for its carbon footprint. All in all, pretty responsible and impressive!

Storytelling time as we walk in the lovely gooseberry (amla) plantation that is a part of the Aranyavilas resort

Storytelling time as we walk in the lovely gooseberry (amla) plantation that is a part of the Aranyavilas resort


By the time Simran and Sanju made it, we’d already freshened up and headed for lunch. The restaurant is a large tent with deep carpets and comfortable seating all around. We had a hearty meal and headed for a much needed nap, preparing for an action – packed morning the next day.

Ranthambore Safari Booking:

 Google the online booking site for Ranthambore National Park. You will find at least 5 websites, each of which look like the official sarkari resource for booking your foray into the jungle. As it turns out, there is only ONE (obviously) official government website for a safari booking. Which is not to say that the others won’t get you a safari. It’s just that you may end up paying a little extra for the privilege.

Navigating the government site is very simple once you figure out how it works. The homepage has a plethora of information. Ignore all that and click on the button marked ‘SSO Login’ innocuously hidden somewhere in the top right hand of the navigation menu. From thereon it is a simple matter of registering with your email and mobile number and booking the safari. Smooth, safe, reasonable and reassuring – digital India at work for you!

Though we were thrilled at having booked the safari ourselves, there was a downside to it. Next morning Sanju and I had to drive to the safari booking counter at 0500HRS. The rules state that we'd have to go in person to get our Gypsy allocated. Surprisingly, this too was a pretty neat experience. Within five minutes the staff allocated us a guide and vehicle!

Ready and loaded for a jeep safari in the Ranthambore national park
All set to leave from the Aranya resort for our safari in Ranthambore National Park


The vehicle accompanied us back to the resort and waited patiently till 0600HRS, which was the scheduled time for our safari. I must add, having taken safaris at Gir, Pench, Corbett, Bandipur, Masinagudi, Thekkady and Wayanad amongst others, this was the first time we’d had a totally Atma – nirbhar digital India experience, and it was brilliant.

Inside Ranthambore National Park

 It is said that the probability of sighting a tiger in Ranthambore National Park is the highest. That is absolutely true. We were meandering through the forest, simply enjoying the sheer bliss of being out there. Just then we came across a two – year old tigress. Apparently, she was resting in the shade when we stumbled across her. Not appreciating the attention, she got up and stretched.

A tigress watches from the shade of some shrubs in the Ranthambore national park
The tigress in Ranthambore NationalPark watches before moving away to quieter climes


Before we could get over her languid pose, she walked across our path to find a shaded spot deeper into the jungles. I guess no lady likes peeping toms in her boudoir! Thankfully, her theatrics took the better part of 5 minutes. Enough time for us to marvel at her grace, style and sheer beauty!

Tigress crosses across a safari track in the Ranthambore national park
Finally, she walks away to find some peace and quiet


Ranthambore Fort 

We were back at the Abrar palace by 1100HRS. The resort guys had put up a sumptuous brunch. The menu comprised of Mooli parathas, omelettes, Puri Bhaaji and fresh fruits. Naturally, we followed the meal with a brief siesta. By 1400HRS we put up the rear seats in the Pajero and headed towards the Ranthambore fort

The Chamanas (Chauhan's) built the fort between the 10th and 11th century. The date varies, depending on who you ask. Its grisly history came to a head in the 13th century. This was when the scourge of India, that blight on human history, Alauddin Khilji got into a conflict with Hammira, the then ruler from the Chahaman Royal family.

If the Devgiri / Daulatabad fort appears impregnable, the Ranthambore fort takes things up by a couple of notches. The drive to the fortress main is on a narrow cobbled road. This is surrounded by dense jungles on one side and the forbidding ramparts of the fort on the other. You twist and wind up the hilly thoroughfare to get to the entrance of the fortress, from where it is all on foot. The walls are now in a sorry state of disrepair that begs the question – why the hell can the much vaunted ASI not fix this?

Stairway leading into the Ranthambore fort
The stairways are designed to make it difficult for elephants to launch an all - out frontal attack


The structure is beautiful in a forbidding way, built of blackened stone. You walk up winding stairs, crossing numerous gates, each of which promises to have been a citadel in itself in protecting the fort. Each turn of the stairs gives breath – taking glimpses of the forest below. This view alone is worth the effort of trudging up to the fort. Adding to the charm of the walk up is the running commentary by the guide, “See here, last week I found a tigress relaxing after a kill at 6 in the morning!” he announced, eliciting excited squeals from the kids and disbelieving grunts from us adults.

History of Ranthambore Fort

 Walking up, our guide narrated how the fort has never been conquered, save by treachery. As the tale goes, Alauddin Khilji’s army under General Ulugh Khan was returning after a campaign in Gujarat. For unknown reasons, a few of the Mongol forces in his army mutinied. While this mutiny was put down, two of their generals, Muhammad Shah and Garbharuka escaped. They came to Hammira seeking asylum, which he graciously granted. Mind, these were ‘neo – Muslim’ Mongols, who had probably converted to curry royal favour more than anything else. Moving on, Alauddin Khilji asked Hammira to either send the asylum – seekers back to him or kill them. Hammira in true Rajput tradition, asked him to take a long walk and not return. Ever.

This set off a saga of one Khilji general after the other trying to besiege Ranthambore fort. Each of them was either killed or sent packing with their tails between their legs. Apparently, Hammira’s defense were so strong and his army so fierce, that the Khilji forces didn’t even manage to get close to fort, let alone besiege it. Finally, Khilji sent Ulugh Khan himself, ostensibly with a message. Ulugh being a messenger, Hammira allowed him and his forces within vicinity of the fort, which ended up being his undoing. Ulugh had no intent to broker a peace and this was merely a ruse for him to get within striking distance of the fort. Nevertheless, this proved a pointless exercise, for no matter what he tried, he couldn’t break through the defenses.

Khilji Takes Charge

Eventually, Khilji himself deigned to descend on the fort to try and get through. He didn’t meet with much success either and had to suffer heavy losses. Realizing there was no other way, he asked Hammira to send an emissary to broker a truce. The ever – trusting Hammira sent his trusted lackey, General Ratipal to negotiate on his behalf. Of course, Khilji had no intention of brokering anything. He promptly promised Ratipal the sun and the moon if he turned traitor. Actually, he promised him governorship of Ranthambore if he helped him defeat Hammira. Ratipal, the pathetic excuse for a Rajput, readily agreed. One fine evening, he and Ranmall, another general that he had managed to turn, rode out the fort gates with the bulk of their forces.

Left with no army to speak off, and dwindling food stores, Hammira decided to go out in a blaze of fury, attacking the Khilji forces. With his brothers (the ones left), sons and whatever handful of forces he had, he fell on the Khilji forces on a Kamikaze – like attack. The Mongol generals killed their wives and children and joined Hammira in this blitzkrieg, while the women in the fort committed jauhar. Thus ended the tragic and heroic tale of the siege of Ranthambore. Once again, Khilji managed to defeat yet another brave though unsuspecting Indian ruler through treachery. If it’s any consolation, after he had taken the fort, Khilji promptly had Ratipal and Ranmall put to death. His reasoning was that if these blokes couldn’t be loyal to their own ‘kaafir’ king, it was unlikely they’d remain loyal to him. Sound thinking and just desserts.

Ranthambore Fort today

We spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the magnificent fort. Monkeys and peacocks now overrun the grounds. Somehow, this adds to the beauty of the place. The guide showed us the tank where the women committed jauhar. This sent a shiver down our spine.

Posing before the tank where the brave women of Ranthambore fort committed Jauhar, preferring a watery grave over a life of slavery
Posing before the tank where the brave women of Ranthambore fort committed Jauhar, preferring a watery grave over a life of slavery

There's also a lake, where supposedly Hammira has dumped all his wealth. He did this so Khilji couldn’t lay his hands on it. Indira Gandhi probably had the lake searched though, so don’t waste your time if you have any thoughts of looking for lost treasure!

If you go to Ranthambore National Park, a visit to the fort is certainly worth it. It was dark by the time we returned. We were thoroughly tired, in a happy sort of way. The satisfaction you get after a day well spent! Sanju and the kids played Uno, post which we wound up after an early dinner, eager to head to our next destination come the morn.

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Sisodiya dynasty of Rana Pratap never ceded control of their fort till the British rule

Ashish Velar

Ashish Velar

The fort was later on conquered by Akbar I think

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