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Haryana   >>   People   >>   Jats   >>   Bharatpur (A kingdom of the Jats)

LohaGarh Fort Bharatpur, in Rajasthan, seems like a small town at first sight. But with its fortress, palaces, religious places and the world-famous bird sanctuary it is a beautiful place and attracts tourists, largely foreigners, in hordes. Replete with acts of chivalry and valor, the history of this township is at once interesting and awe-inspiring. About 175 km from Delhi on the Delhi-Mumbai highway, Bharatpur had been ruled by Jat rulers, the first being Badan Singh. A revolt against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by some petty Jat chieftains led to open warfare and frequent skirmishes. With the death of Aurangzeb in the early eighteenth century, Badan Singh, a Jat chieftain, carved out a kingdom of Bharatpur in 1722 and became its ruler.

Suraj Mal, his son by a favorite concubine, succeeded him and fortified it with walls of packed mud and a moat full of water surrounding it. Known as Loha Garh or Iron Fort, the inaccessible fort could withstand repeated attacks of British forces led by Lord Lake in 1805 when they laid siege for over six weeks. Having lost over 3000 soldiers, the British forces had to retreat and strike a compromise with the Bharatpur ruler. Of the two gates in the fort, one in the north is known as Ashtdhaatu (eight metalled) gate while the one facing the south is called Chowburja (four-pillared) gate.

Bharatpur Musuem Within the precincts of the fort are three palaces ?one of which, Kothi Khas, now serves as a museum while the other two, Kishori Mahal and Mahal Khas, are sadly in a dilapidated state. Archaeological finds ?intricately carved sculptures and ancient inscriptions dating back to the second century ?are on display in the museum, the entrance to which is free on Mondays. Brightly designed baths or hamams with walls and domes are some of the attractions in the palace museum.

Kishori MahalJawahar Burj and Fateh Burj, two of the eight magnificent towers within the precincts of the fort, call for special mention. While the former was built by Maharaja Suraj Mal to commemorate his victory over the Mughals, the latter was built by him to signify his victory over the British. The Jawahar Burj has a special significance for Jat rulers as the coronation ceremony was always held at this spot. The Ganga Mata Temple, the Laxman Temple and the mosque are the other places of interest in the city. A visit to Bharatpur would undoubtedly be incomplete without a visit to the world famous Keoladeo National Park, also known as Ghana Bird Sanctuary.

Known as Keoldeo because of the Keoladeo temple of Lord Shiva in the vicinity, this 29 sq km area was converted into a sanctuary by Prince Bhamji of Morvi state who had been appointed as Regent of Bharatpur towards the end of nineteenth century. Originally intended for duck shooting by Maharaja Kishan Singh, an area of 11 sq km was got filled with water from the Ajan Bundh reservoir and then drained out, leaving the low land filled with water. Bushes of babool and other thorny trees were got planted to attract varieties of birds. The first shoot was organized by the rulers of Bharatpur in 1902 in honor of Lord Curzon. Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, established a record of shooting 4273 ducks in 1938. Among the royal guests of the Bharatpur ruler were visitors from Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia and few other countries who entertained themselves with the royal game of duck shooting at the sanctuary.

The place, having been declared a bird sanctuary in 1964 largely due to the efforts of the well-known ornithologist, the late Dr Salim Ali, was closed for duck shooting from that year. As many as 400 species of birds are known to have been spotted in this sanctuary. Migratory birds from Central Asia, Tibet and Afghanistan and Siberian cranes from the Arctic, and Bar-headed Geese from China have been visiting this park annually to spend winters and breed here. Colonies of egrets, herons, pelicans, ibis, storks, spoon bills and cormorants can be spotted all over the park. One needs to be a keen birder and even a little knowledgeable about birds, if one really wants to enjoy bird watching here. Animals like spotted deer, hyenas, porcupines can also be spotted here.

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