A popular story goes: The young Jai Singh when first attended the Mughal court as Raja of Amer, his daring courage and quick-witted bantering appeased the anger of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and earned him that appellation. Aurangzeb was annoyed with Amer family because of the action of Jai Singh’s immediate predecessors, the Kachchwahas who had long and close royal ties with the Mughals since the time of Akbar.
When Aurangzeb met Jay Singh he took a tight hold of his hands and asked wrathfully, ‘your grandfather and father’s actions have harmed the empire. They were traitors to me. What sort of treatment do you expect from me?’
Jai Singh replied: ‘At the time of marriage, among my people, a man takes hold of one hand of his bride and promise to look after her for the rest of his life. Your Majesty has taken hold of me with hands. Why should I worry now about the treatment Your Majesty intends for me?’ The bold answer of young Jai Singh amused the emperor who immediately conferred the title of Sawai which means one and quarter.
Now Jai Singh II was elevated as one and quarter time better than his peers. Soon he was titled by the Mughals ‘Mirza Raja Sawai Jai Singh II’. By the middle of the 18th century Jai Singh was among the most influential rulers of India. His views carried with not just the Mughal court but also in Hyderabad and Peshwa courts in Poona and Satara.
But it does not mean his life was mostly peaceful. There was threat from the Marathas. In 1727 CE, he built Jaipur, India’s first planned city. By 1734 CE, Jai Singh had anticipated the need of proper defense for the city by building a chain of fort walls all along the crest of the Aravali surrounding the new capital. The most prominent of these is Nahargarh Fort.
Nahargarh Fort is the closest among three forts of Jaipur, the other two being Jaigarh and Amer Forts. Jaigarh today forms as an impressive northern backdrop of the city of Jaipur. It once formed a strong defense for the city though it was never attacked. Its fortification is connected with Jaigarh.
A popular story goes: Naharsingh Bhomia, an ancestor of Jai Singh did not like the idea of a fort constructed on the hill as his spirit resided there and did not want to be distracted. So whatever was built during the day, he would pull it down in the night. The great priest of the royal family was called upon to pacify the spirit by promising to erect a temple within fort in his memory.
The fort was supposed to be named Sudarshangarh, but was called Nahargarh to acknowledge the help of the spirit of Naharsingh Bhomia.
The palatial structures of today’s Nahargarh is however attributed to the legacy of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh of 1880s, who had transformed the humble fort walls to a rainy retreat. The palace called Mahendra Bhavan is filled with frescoes depicting royal scenes, floral motifs and geometric patterns. This was mostly used as harem for the royal women. There was also a mardana for the enjoyment of prince and king.
The architecture of the fort is essentially Rajput in character but there are sporadic European influences seen at arched windows and doors.
The Rajasthan book of Lonely Planet series refers to the sunset of Nahargarh as the second most beautiful experience in Rajasthan and this reference had brought me to Nahargarh fort. But I was unfortunate; because of the monsoon I had to return unsatisfied against the gray sky’s shadow. However, the view of Jaipur city was spectacular in all direction from the fort.
The crowd here was also limited when compared to what you see at City Palace or Hawa Mahal or even Amer Fort.