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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Raisen Fort

Once a friend of Irish origin, Tom Baker,  from England,  happened to visit Bhopal. It was immediately after winter. Days were becoming warmer but evenings were pleasant. Friends here, proposed to take him for sightseeing to Sanchi, one of the World Heritage sites closer to Bhopal. After breakfast, we four of us, embarked upon our journey by a car driven by me. In those days the journey to Sanchi used to be horrible because of bad roads. On reaching Sanchi we took our foreign friend around the Buddhist monuments and in the process we ourselves acted as his guide. In between we also had our lunch at a restaurant preceded by chilled beer. Incidentally our friend was a teetotaler, an exception in his family.  

The steps leading up the hill
By 4.30 PM we decided to return back after visiting the local museum. For the return trip we decided upon a different route to avoid the trauma. We decided to proceed to Raisen and then to Bhopal.  Although it meant traversing around 35 kms extra. This was quite acceptable in anticipation of better road conditions ahead. The distance from Sanchi to Raisen which was around 20 kilometers had to be covered on a road which was not much better than what we had seen. However, we were at Raisen around 5.00 PM  travelling by the western side of a hill on which  ruins of a grand fort stood. This fort has always attracted me while passing through the Eastern side of the hill. Whenever we desired to have a look at that we were told that there is no motor able road leading to the fort and that it would be strenuous to climb the hill. Further some stray incidents of waylaying the visitors was also reported.  Tom, our guest also spotted the fort and was keen to know about it. Encouraged with that we decided to give a try this time. From the eastern side there was a road leading to the foot of the hill but it was full of rubble. Driving very slowly with bumps and jerks, we could manage to reach the point beyond which we were to take the dilapidated steps leading to the fort.

Mr. Devdas rested after crossing this door
We noticed some people coming down along with some tools and implements and perceived them as being masons. We conversed with them and learnt that some work was being carried out at the top. They also assured us that the place was quite safe except for some reptiles running around. We drew solace and built up courage to proceed with the climb. On reaching a turn where a huge ruined gate stood, one of our friend Mr. Devdas, expressed his inability to go any further stating that his limbs wont carry his weight. He was a little heavy built. We could only sympathize and leave him behind asking him to rest there itself.
A canopy at the entrance

The large Courtyard

The Pool
The town beneath the fort
A building with a dome in ruins
Age old Cannons
Inscription found on a wall of the Fort
When we finally entered the fort, there was wilderness all around. There was thick under growth of vegetation and wild long grass. A large court yard surrounded by many buildings with domes could be seen. All of them seems to have been taken over by thousands of bats whose chirpings could be heard from a long distance. A beautiful large pool (known as Bawadi in vernacular), though in a bad shape was in the foreground. We did not dare to explore the buildings except the one which was at the eastern edge known as Baradari. This structure was relatively in good shape and provided a breathtaking eastern view. We could even see our car parked down the hill. Adjacent to that there seemed to be a tomb in an enclosure whose doors were closed. In our assessment the structures standing there combining Hindu and Muslim styles of architectures were really beautiful . If only some restoration work is carried out, it could become a major attraction for tourists visiting Sanchi. This ruined edifice is of great historical interest as we would see from what follows. As it was getting dark, we had no option but to leave the place and climb down. On our way back, our friend Mr. Devdas was complaining that he came all the way up but could not locate us and returned because of darkness engulfing. However, we discounted his stance.

Raisen town was established by Rai Singh, a Hindu ruler in 1143 AD followed by the construction of a fort on the hill top during that period. However, remnants of an earlier fortification datable to the 6th century AD have also been encountered. In 1485 during the rule of Gayasuddin Ghouri, mosques, madrasas and several buildings were got constructed at Raisen. Another name which deserves mention is that of one Silhadi (Shiladitya) who had sway in the northern part of Malwa. He was a Tomar Rajput Chieftain. He along with the army of Rana Sanga of Mewar helped Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujrat to annexe Malwa Sultanate in 1531 AD. As promised by  Bahadur Shah,Ujjain and Sarangpur were to go to Silhadi.   realizing that it would make Silhadi too powerful to control, Bahadur Shah instead  ordered Silhadi to handover Raisen fort and all his territory in Malwa and relocate to the town of Baroda. Bahadur Shah seemed to have learned his lessons from the fate of Silhadi’s previous allies. When Silhadi refused to agree to these terms, Sultan Bahadur Shah promptly took him in captivity and along with him proceeded to Raisen fort, which was being held by Silhadi’s brother Lakshman Rai. Ostensible cause of this expedition was given as to free some Muslim women in the household of Silhadi. 

Sultan’s army could not make any headway against the Raisen fort even after many months of sieze. Silhadi, however,  persuaded  Bahadur Shah to send him inside the fort so that he could convince his brother to vacate it. This was agreed to and Silhadi went inside. In an emotional family meeting, the two brothers weighed their options. Situation in the fort was hopeless because of dwindling food supplies. Durgavati, Silhadi’s wife who was also besieged in the fort, forcefully pleaded for Jauhar and Saka, a traditional Rajput victory-or-death stand. Martyrdom was decided upon. It can also be said that they had no other real choice. Nobody could realistically believe that Bahadur Shah really wanted to rehabilitate them in Baroda. In all probability he planned to put all of them  to sword as soon as they came out of the fort.
Rani Durgavati (not to be misconstrued as the Gond Rani), taking her daughter-in-law (daughter of Rana Sanga) and her two children by the hand jumped into the Chita, a fire-pit dug for the purpose. Seven hundred other women followed her in the Chita. Silhadi and Lakshman then armed themselves and died as consecrated warriors in a fight with sultan’s army at the foot of the fort. This happened in 1532 AD. During 1543 Sher Shah Suri attacked the fort and captured it from one Puranmal in whose custody it was. From 1760 onwards the fort remained with the Nawabs of Bhopal.

See through a broken dome
The Shiva Temple
The grill gate of the temple
We learn that the palaces in the fort are named as Badal Mahal, Rohini Mahal, Itradaan Mahal and Hawa Mahal but at the time of our visit there was no way to identify them. There is temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, of the 12th century, which opens its doors once a year i.e.on  Shivratri day. Devotees coming on other days usually tie a piece of cloth on the grill gate for fulfillment of their wishes. The hill also abound in rock shelters with paintings done by the cave dwellers. Although the fort is presently under the ASI, not much has been done for restoration of the palaces. Some domes have collapsed and one can see the blue sky as could be seen from the photograph here. We learn that an approach road has either been constructed or is under construction. If the reports emanating from the Ministry of Culture are to be believed, the State Government has decided to develop the fort as a tourist attraction. The MP Tourism Development Corporation is collaborating in this initiative.