Rajasthan is home to many majestic forts. Six of its hill forts – Jaisalmer, Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar and Jaipur are UNESCO world heritage sites and bear testimony to the power of the Rajput kingdoms that flourished in the region for several centuries.
UNESCO says the forts provided safety and security to the population and the rulers developed urban centres within the fortified walls, supporting trade, learning, music and the arts.
These forts also had ingenious large water harvesting structures that cleverly conserved water in a water-scarce region and are in use even today.
But apart from these recognised forts, there are scores of forgotten forts in the state. One such imposing fort is the Bhatner fort located in the Hanumangarh district of north Rajasthan, on the banks of the Ghaggar River.
It is also known as the Hanumangarh fort because, in 1805, Bikaner ruler Soorat Singh won the fort from the Bhati rulers. Since the day was a Tuesday, which is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the fort was named Hanumangarh.
Built with limestone and bricks, the fort is one of the strongest in India.
This fort withstood scores of invasions due to its strategic location on the Delhi-Multan route and acted as a strong barrier against marauding armies of invaders from Central Asia.
Due to its location, the fort came under the occupation of various kings, from Taimur, Akbar, Prithviraj to Qutbuddin Aibak, Sher Khan and Rao Jaitasi of the Rathore clan.
In 1001 CE, Mahmud Ghaznavi had seized the fort. In the 13th century, slave dynasty ruler Balban’s cousin Sher Khan ruled the fort. In 1398, the fort was under Taimur Lane. In 1527, Rao Jaitasi of the Rathore clan established suzerainty over the fort. Finally, in 1805, it went under the occupation of Bikaner.
In the 14th century, Sher Khan is said to have carried out some reconstruction in the fort to fortify its pillars and give it a strong defence system. In fact, Sher Khan is buried in the fort.
The fort has 52 bastions and is spread over 52 bighas of land. Though the fort is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which has carried out repairs, it remains dilapidated.
The fort is built over a site from which Painted Grey Ware (circa 1100-1800 BCE) and Rang Mahal ware (1st to 3rd century CE) have been excavated. Archaeologists have also found punch-marked and Malava coins at the site, attesting to its ancient past. Excavations reveal that the fort was prosperous from the 2nd to the 4th centuries. More pictures of Bhatner Fort here:
(Urvashi Dev Rawal is a Jaipur-based journalist specialising in development, gender, and political reporting)