A person’s lifetime may seem small to travel and behold all the sights offered by the colossal country we live in. With no dearth of palaces, forts, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, lakes, beaches, historical monuments, and landmarks; India has it all. A multi-faceted land that intrigues nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and those who care to learn more about its rich historical past. But most of us lead our whole lives unaware of the heart-warming spectacles in our country. We do love posting pictures of our international travel haunts yet we underestimate the fanfare we can generate when sharing scenic discoveries of our indigenous sites. Seldom do we take pride in the beauty and complexity of our nation, unaware that very few countries can claim to have a diverse landscape and inclusive heritage like that of India. Sustainable tourism and all things preferably ‘local’ has garnered fair attention in every industry, so it’s time we as responsible travellers relearn and discover the best of India.
Rajasthan Forts near Ranakpur
India’s gigantic forts have stood the test of time through centuries; the dramatic twists and winding turns on the journey to these forts are only a preface of their upending history. With a thousand forts in the country and the majority of which lie in Rajasthan, these historical landmarks are steeped in tales of Rajputana bravado and sacrifices. Among these majestic hill forts near Ranakpur – the largest one is Chittorgarh Fort; the oldest one is Jaisalmer Fort about 800 years old; the smallest one is Madan Mahal in Jabalpur; maximum tourist footfall is seen in Amber Fort and lastly, Alwar’s Bhangarh Fort comprises of spine-chilling ruins that aren’t for the faint-hearted. Reportedly, these are the best places to visit in Rajasthan for thrill and adventure. The top three in our list are those hill forts of Rajasthan that have earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag for being examples of Rajputana military prowess and mettle in hill architecture.
However, in these Covid-times to consciously follow social distancing, we have prepared a list of easily accessible and less crowded Rajasthan forts near Ranakpur . Get out there and explore our curated top 5 Forts, within 250km of places to visit in Ranakpur.
1. Kumbhalgarh fort
Location: Rajsamand district, Rajasthan
Distance: Delhi 530km; Jaipur 344km; Udaipur 84km; Ranakpur 50km
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm
Less than 90 minutes away from Ranakpur’s pleasant vales lies India’s version of the Great Wall, which was an impregnable fortress during the Rajputana reign. Apart from being one of the highest forts in Rajasthan at approx. 3600ft; Kumbhalgarh is known for its steep climb, 36km length, and 15 metres thick walls that have proudly withstood intimidation from many enemies. Built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century, this massive fort has received the UNESCO Heritage tag in 2013 along with 5 other hill forts of Rajasthan. Famous as the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, it is also popular for its breathtaking views from the 19th century-built Badal Mahal that crowns the apex of this structure. From the top, it offers endless views of the Aravallis in all directions including the Ranakpur-Kumbhalgarh reserve forest belt. Far from the arid Thar desert and blessed with pleasant weather all year round, it is listed among the must-visit places to visit in Ranakpur. An integral part of the Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary that it dwells in, it is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.
Though it no longer houses all the 360 temples that it used to have, there are 2 ancient Jain temples near the Fort’s entrance and an impressive Shiva temple that houses a tall Shiv ling said to be worshipped by Rana Kumbha. Never a fixed residence or capital, it was used as a safe hide-out or refuge when an enemy attacked the Mewar capital. Every evening the fort is lit offering a magnanimous image of its lost but not forgotten glory. Annually, a 3-day festival is held here in December to celebrate its founder with light and sound shows, turban tying competitions, heritage walks, and tug of war among other activities. Kumbhalgarh has secured a slot among the best places to visit in Rajasthan. Kumbhalgarh has a far more dramatic aura and enchanting views; earning it the number one spot on our list.
2. Mehrangarh Fort
Location: Fort Rd, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342006
Distance: Delhi 625km; Jaipur 356km; Udaipur 261km; Ranakpur 166km Timings: 9 am to 5.30 pm
1459 is the commemorative year when the chief of the Rathore clan, Rao Jodha, founded Jodhpur as the capital of Marwar and also built this massive hill fort in Rajasthan. The name Mehrangarh is an attribution to the sun-deity that was worshipped by the clan. Originally, the hill was home to a hermit called Cheeria Nathji (lord of the birds) but after Rao Jodha’s insistence for him to abandon the hill, the sage cursed that the fort would face scarcity of water. Though, after much resistance, he gave in and as legend says the foundation stone was laid by the local warrior saint, Karni Mata. Yet to nullify the curse, a man willingly sacrificed himself; his grave is marked inside the fort where he was buried alive. Ghostly lore about this magnificent citadel ignites a child-like thrill to explore it. The best thing about this stronghold is that it has never been conquered, though the gharanas of Jaipur and Bikaner tried their best; this led to Maharaja Man Singh christening one of the seven gates, Jaypol or Victory Gate. Another gate, Fatehpol, celebrated the victory of Maharaja Ajit Singh over the Mughals.
Mehrangarh Fort is the epicentre of Jodhpur city and occupies about 5km of the hill on which it stands. An eerie ambience endows it as one of the spookiest places to visit in Rajasthan. Fantastic in size, the fort is about 100ft tall which led to Rudyard Kipling exclaiming that it was the ‘work of giants’. The fort is home to several finely crafted palaces like the Moti Mahal, Sheesha Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sileh Khana, and Daulat Khana. The museum houses an opulent and impressive collection of royal household wares, musical instruments, costumes, canons, armours, and palanquins. Just beyond the main threshold, musicians perform daily for the tourists that visit this fort and museum; you can visit the restaurants and craft bazaars held here. Annually, the World Sacred Spirit Festival in February and Rajasthan International Folk Festival in December is held here; both are highly recommended for those who love soul-stirring folk music.
3. Chittorgarh Fort
Location: Chittor Fort Rd, Chittorgarh, Rajasthan 312001
Distance: Delhi: 578km; Jaipur 310km; Ranakpur 197km; Udaipur 110km
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm
A name synonymous with gallantry, fearless daring, and ritual sacrifices; Chittorgarh is the largest fort in India. It was established in the 7th century by the local Maurya or Mori clan (not the imperial Mauryas). As time flew by, it became an outstanding part of the 84 forts of Mewar, of which 32 were built under Rana Kumbha. Designated as the Eye of Mewar because the shape of the fort resembles a fish or an eye. It was the erstwhile capital of the same, situated on a rocky plateau it is only approachable via a snaky ascent of 1km from the plains. A 13km perimeter wall and a 45° hill climb made it inaccessible to enemies; its 7 edified gates protected the approx. 700 acres of the fort at a height of 590ft. Home to 65 historic structures, of which 4 are palace complexes namely Rana Kumbha Mahal, Rani Padmini’s Mahal, Ratan Singh Palace, and Fateh Prakash Mahal which was transformed into a museum in 1968. Centuries ago half the fort was primarily constituted of 84 water bodies but now only about 22 survive in the form of ponds, wells, and step wells; well-fed by natural catchment and rains they can store up to 4 billion litres of water. Among the 19 temples and 4 memorials are Vijay Stambh and Kirti Stambh two tall towers lit every evening, of which the latter is a Jain memorial; Meera Bai Temple, to commemorate one of the early precursors of the Bhakti Movement; Kumbha Shyama Temple, built for Princess Meera to worship Lord Krishna; Kalika Mata Temple, to honour the warrior goddess; and ancient Jain temples like Sattees Deri and Shringar Chauri, known for their intricate carvings and workmanship.
This UNESCO Heritage Site offers sublime views from its hilltop and is also known for its dismal past. Present-day this enormous fort’s many structures lie in ruins after it was ransacked by Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. Visitors pay respect at the Jauhar cellars, where a petrifying silence salutes the sacrifice of women, young and old, who self-immolated themselves. Annually, a Jauhar Mela is held here in February to honour Rani Padmini whose first act of Jauhar in the fort foiled Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji’s plans after he killed her Rajput husband.
4. Sajjan Garh Fort
Location: Sajjangarh Rd, Eklavya Colony, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001
Distance: Delhi 670km; Jaipur 401km; Ranakpur 90km
Timings: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Imagine, a meandering uphill road in the pastoral countryside and at the summit is a pale white fort isolated from the world below, basking in the best of heaven and earth. This is Sajjangarh, credited as being the only monsoon palace in India. It is surrounded by the lush green Aravallis for as far as the eye can see. Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar dynasty had it built as a monsoon haunt in the late 19th century. Offering enticing views, it was built to be one among the monsoon clouds, a retreat to revel in the rainy season. Of all the beautiful places to visit in Rajasthan, this hill fort is a serene and singular wonder among the usual lake palaces and forts of Udaipur. Its native name translates as ‘Fort of the Good People.’ Come here to savour food at an outdoor restaurant, the perfect way to absorb unpolluted oxygen along with sunshine vitamins. A quick tour can be done in 30 minutes, but why miss the cool breeze and the ravishing sunset view this hill fort is famous for!
A seasonal residence cum hunting lodge for the Mewar king, it was never intended for fortification and battles. Leisurely escapades have marked it as unique from the other hill forts in Rajasthan. At night, the palace is lit up, shining like a gem in nature’s lap. This is a smaller fort-palace that was donated by the royal family to the government. Thus, unlike the City Palace in Udaipur that is an exceedingly popular and well-maintained private undertaking by the royal family, this hilltop picturesque property is underutilised. With a minimal entry fee for Indians, there is no museum and sound show here despite it being 138 years old. The untapped and boundless potential of this milky-white fortress deserves to be showcased in the hands of a cultured connoisseur. Nature lovers would agree that the view from here is a guaranteed head-turner, unlike any other. Well-connected via state highways, it is often recommended among the best places to visit in Ranakpur as it is a mere two-hour car ride from the beautiful valley. Do explore the zoological Sajjangarh Biodiversity Park situated below the fort, a must-visit for children to learn about the diverse species of animals kept here.
5. Taragarh Fort, Ajmer
Location: Taragarh Hill, Ajmer
Distance: Delhi 415km; Udaipur 265km; Ranakpur 229km; Jaipur 146km;
Timings: 8 am to 7 pm
A historically relevant hill fort of Rajasthan, that was established by the Chauhan dynasty ruler, Ajaypal in 1113A.D. Its name means ‘Star Fort’; as one of the oldest forts in the country, it is a hidden gem among the best places to visit in Rajasthan. Its last Hindu ruler, the legendary Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Qutub-Uddin of Mohammed Gauri’s army which led to the abandonment of this impressive bastion. The Mughals implemented this structure as a watch-tower and military base to further protect their assets and mark territory in the Rajputana state. With archaeological importance, it traces an everlasting impression of the Rajputana and Mughal architecture which can be seen in its gateways, jharokhas, and carvings. After the Mughals, it was passed down as a sanatorium for British soldiers during imperial rule and was sadly further dismantled under Lord William Bentick’s orders. Comprising six gates and sixteen bastions, the fortress now lies ravaged by time. Sitting at a pinnacle of 1300ft, only a steep trek supported access to this fort in the earlier days; now a narrow winding road connects it to the city. This hill fort’s remnants offer a commanding view of the Nag Pahari Aravalli hills. It is also the resting place of Hazrat Miran Saheb Ki Dargah, a former governor of the fort who sacrificed himself during an attack.
When explorings things to see near Taragarh, do not miss the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, the Sufi saint’s miracles known worldwide; Mayo College also known as Eton of the East, whose main building is built with the same marble used in the Taj Mahal, the only difference being it’s unpolished; Adhai-din-ka-Jhopra, folk tales suggest the place was built in two-and-a-half days; and lastly, Soni Ji ki Nasiya or Swarna Nagri in Ajmer Jain Temple, a priceless miniature rendition of the first Tirthankar’s life and his city centre made entirely of gold, all this housed in a large atrium.
Outgrowing dynasties and races, these ingenious marvels might only be a speck in the sands of time but their prestige is unmatched, evoking awe and umpteen desires each time one lays eyes on them.