The Jaigarh Fort or the Victory Fort is located in Jaipur, Rajasthan. This palatial fort, a stronghold of the Kachwaha Rajput rulers, guards the neighbouring Amer Fort from an elevation of 400 metres above it. The Jaigarh Fort stands tall on “Cheel ka tilla”, i.e., Eagle’s Peak- a part of the sturdy Aravali range which naturally provides an impregnable line of defense to the city of Jaipur.
The history of the Kachwaha Dynasty is intertwined with the history of the Jaigarh Fort. The Kachwahas are a Rajput clan that trace their lineage from the Sun God, Surya. The Kachwaha rulers had declared Dausa as their capital during the 10th century CE. Later, this came to be known as Dhundhar. In the 12th century CE, considering the advantages of the natural defense line of the Aravali hills, Amer was chosen as the new capital. Amer was ruled by Meenas till 10th century CE. In the 15th century CE, Raja Man Singh I constructed and developed much of what is presently known as the Amer Fort. The fortunes of the Amer Fort and the Jaigarh Fort are indelibly interlinked. Man Singh I is credited with starting the construction of the Jaigarh Fort. However, its complete form was reached under Raja Sawai Jai Singh II. The chief architect employed by him for the construction of the fort was Vidhyadhar. Originally the Jaigarh Fort was built as a defensive structure to protect the Amer Fort. Along with large-scale fortifications, Jai Singh II also laid the foundation of a new city, Jayanagar, which eventually came to be known as Jaipur.
During the reign of the Mughals, the fort housed an impressive cannon foundry due to the availability of iron ore mines in the surrounding areas. The Jaigarh fort featured in the war of succession of the Mughal Empire between Mughal Prince Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh in the second half of the 17th century CE. The canon outpost was secured by Dara Shikoh, the heir apparent to the Mughal throne, during this period. This battle ended with Aurangzeb emerging victorious as the new Mughal Emperor of Hindustan and the execution of Dara Shikoh.
During the reign of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah (1719-1748 CE), Raja Jai Singh II was officially nominated as the qiladar of the Jaigarh fort by a firman (a royal mandate or decree).
The decline of Mughal power gave the Marathas and Pindaris access to the revenue-rich regions of Rajputana. With continuous warfare and subsequent defeats, Jaipur was struggling to maintain its majestic status. Thus, began the alliance building between the British and the princes of this royal land to deal with Maratha incursions. In 1818 CE, Sawai Jagat Singh signed a subsidiary alliance with the British East India Company. Thereafter, the princely state of Jaipur came under British supremacy. It was in 1949, after Independence, that Jaipur joined the union of states and became a part of India. Although the region sustained severe political turmoil for several centuries, the Jaigarh fort remained unconquered throughout history.
The majestic Amer fort is built in Indo-Persian style and is enclosed with enormous thick walls, built with red sandstone. Architecturally, the Jaigarh fort resembles the Amer Fort. The fort complex is 3 km long and has a width of 1 km. The fort comprises narrow and dark passages and long walkways. This opulent structure has three entry points- Awani Gate, Sagari Gate and Doongar Gate. The Awani Gate has a subterranean tunnel connecting the Amer Fort and the Jaigarh Fort. This gate was renovated recently to provide enchanting views of the Sagar Lake (an artificial lake constructed by Raja Man Singh I in the 17th century). It is claimed that water from this lake was transported to the fort in pouches which were loaded on elephant backs. The second point of entry is the Sagari Gate from which one can get a mesmerising view of the Maota lake. The Doongar Gate, now the main entrance, is a later construction built during the time of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II in 1942.
A prominent structure inside the fort complex is Aram Mandir, the resting place of the rulers. In front of the Aram Mandir is the square-shaped Aram Bagh, a 50-metre square feet garden. Divided into four equal parts, its layout is similar to that of a charbagh. The highest point in Jaigarh Fort is Diya Burj. The several watchtowers of the fort built on a raised platform, provide a panoramic view of the Pink City of Jaipur, and of Amer Fort and the thick forests of the Nahargarh fort.
The other structures built inside the fort include: the Laxmi Vilas (royal drawing room), Lalit Mandir (summer palace) and Vilas Mandir (built for hosting royal family gatherings). Within the complex is a small theatre built for royal entertainment. The Zenana built for royal women had a unique feature. The Jharokhas were placed in such a way that the cool winds of the mountains could flow in and circulate inside the residential building. Some sacred structures inside the fort complex such as Ram Harihar Temple and Kal Bhairav temple belong to 10th and 12th century CE respectively. In the northern end of the fort is the Subhat Niwas. This hall is the spot from where the king used to address his soldiers. The hall is adorned with elephant seats and houses big war drums.
Adjacent to the Subhat Niwas is the Khilbat Niwas (Diwan-i-Khas) which was used for private meetings.
This impregnable fort houses the famous Jaivana and Bajrang-vana cannons. The Jaivana cannon, the world’s largest cannon on wheels, is placed at the Doongar Gate. It was built on the orders of Raja Jai Singh II and has been used only once to test its range. It is believed that the test fire required 100 kgs of gunpowder and 50 kgs of iron and covered a distance of 35 kilometres. This resulted in a massive depression which subsequently got filled with rainwater. The barrel weighs 50 tons and its length is 20.2 feet. The barrel is adorned with carvings of trees, an elephant scroll and a pair of birds. In order to guard the cannon from extreme weather conditions, a tin shed was built. A plaque which is displayed at the entrance to the enclosure provides details on the history of the cannon, its size and its use.
Bajrang Vana was built in 1691 in the foundry. During wartime, the cannon was driven by 32 oxen to the battlefield. The cannon consists of iron sleeves which makes it quite heavy.
The armoury chamber, situated inside the fort, exhibits royal swords, guns, muskets and also a cannonball weighing 50 kilograms. The fort complex also has a museum which is located to the left of the Awani Gate and a few galleries which provide a glimpse of the regal lifestyle of the Rajput Rajas and Maharajas during medieval times. The museum houses a spittoon which can be dated back to the 15th century, a circular pack of cards, stamps of the royal families of Jaipur and many other artefacts.
The fort also houses three massive yet mysterious tanks that ensured water supply inside the fort. Impressive water harvesting structures were created in the Aravalli catchment which provided water to be stored in the tanks through a canal. Haft Tilismat-e- Amberi, an Arabic text, mentions that royal treasure belonging to the Kachwaha rulers is hidden deep inside one of these tanks. It is believed that Raja Man Singh I brought back treasure from Afghanistan and had hidden it in the water reservoirs. The water tank would remain a mystery for many centuries to come and managed to create a stir even in recent times. The hunt for its treasure, however, has not yet been a success.
The Jaigarh fort along with the Amer Fort has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 2013. One of the strongest forts in Jaipur, the Jaigarh Fort retells stories of grandeur, valour and mystery in its true essence.