Marwar was a principality in Thar desert, established by Rathore rajputs in 14th century. A huge number of forts and palaces were built by the Rathore rulers but Many of those were already in existance in this region before the rise of Rathores. Naga rulers built Mandore and Nagaur forts. Pratiharas built Jalore fort. Chouhans constructed the fort of Siwana. The forts at Mehrangarh, Kuchawan, Bhadrajun, Malkot, Phalodi, Bhopalgarh, Rohat, Sojat, Bali, Jaitaran, Agewa, Kilon, Auwa, Pokhran etc. were built by Rathores. All these forts were good examples of military architecture.
Early rajputs have their own style of constructing the palacial buildings but With the coming of the Muslims into power in this area, architecture of this land also assumed Indo-Islamic character finding expression in forts, citadels and palaces. Though their builders were Hindus, they liberally borrowed the structural features from Muslim buildings. No doubt, the builders in Marwar started following the Muslim features in their creations; yet the architectural art was essentially Hindu in spirit till the early years of the fifteenth century. Slowly and gradually, in the subsequent three to four centuries this art in Marwar came under the influence of Pathan and Mughal art. The Pathan and Mughal influences led to the assimilation in the field of architecture. The chief characteristic of this new style was the mystic spirit of unreality, especially in the fairy-like aspect of the cool white marble, with its glittering incrustations of mother-of-pearl and precious stones.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur borrowed Aurangzeb's Baroque Style when he built the pink city of Jaipur as a new capital for his kingdom and he was soon followed by the States of Jodhpur and Udaipur. Therefore, the Baroque-Mughal style got itself blended with the Rocco style. The Chief characteristic of this late Rajasthan architecture is its 'musicality'- the structure of the buildings is almost lost behind the rich play of forms, of light and shadow and of colours.
Forts of Marwar Region
In India, maximum forts are situated in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. There are 656 forts in Maharashtra, 330forts in Madhya Pradesh and 250in Rajasthan. In ancient and medieval period, the popular and shorter route from Delhi to Somnath was via Marwar. So invaders like Mahmood Ghazni, Muhammad Gouri, Kutub-ud-din Aibak, Ala-ud-din Khilzi etc. when attacked Gujrat or Somnath, they adopted this route. Military strategy dictated that fortifications be raised on an elevated spot. So rulers of this area built a strong chain of forts and fortresses. The prominent forts were- Nagaur, Kuchawan, Maroth and Malkot (Nagaur distrct), Mehrangarh, Phalodi and Bhopalgarh (Jodhpur district), Rohtas, Nadole and Bali (pali district), Sonalgarh, Bhadrajun, Ratanpur, Lohiyana and Sancore (Jalore district), Siwana (Barmer district), Pokran (Jaisalmer district). Many of these forts, like Ratanpur and Sanchore forts were completely diminished by enemies. Umarkot was also a prominent fort of Marwar principality but East India Company took over its management and in 1947, this fort was transferrsd to Pakistan. These forts were used for the safety of not only royal families but the public also. A Large number of soldiers and artillery were kept here for whole year. When Marwar state had a treaty of subsidiary alliance with East India Company and later on when aircrafts came into existence, the forts did not remain safe. So the construction of the forts and fortresses was stopped and the royal families started building their palaces and havelis in outer areas.
Forts of Ancient period
Mandore Fort :
This town was in existance in the 4th century A.D. Some names of individuals are engraved in two or three places near the cave of Nahadrao in characters of early Gupta period. According to a stone inscription of V.S. 894, Mandore was originally ruled by Naga rulers. Later on Gupta rulers conquered this fort and they also did some constructions in the campus of the fort. There was a fort when the town was taken into possession by the Pratiharas in the 6th century A.D. Bhogbhatta, Kakka, Rajjil and Dadda, the four sons of Pratihar Harishchandra constructed a wall around it. The place is of great historical interest from having been the capital of the Parihars till 1381 A.D., when it was wrested from them by Rao Chunda, and subsequently the seat of government of the Rathore Rajputs till 1459 A.D., when Mehranghrh fort and Jodhpur city were founded. The fort of Mandore was built by a Buddhist architect but now in ruins, contains a low and dark pillared chamber, in which is found the sculptured effigy of Nahar Rao, a famous Parihar chief. The two inscriptions of the time of Kakkuk brother of Bahuk from Ghatiyala (twenty miles north of Jodhpur) reveal that the son of Pratihar ruler Harishchandra built the boundary wall at Mandore after possession over it. Nag Bhalta built a temple of Nahadswami at Mandore fort. The elder son of Nahad sacrificed the whole domain, gifted it to the younger brothers and underwent penances at Mandore.
Nagaur Fort :
According to Dodwell, Nagaur fort was built by black Naga rulers in 2nd century A.D. Initially it was a mud fort. The town is said to take its name from its traditional founders, the Naga Rajputs. From the 7th century A.D., it was probably governed by Chauhans and was held succes¬sively by Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Muhammad Ghori, and the chiefs of Jodhpur, save for a time when it was possessed by the Bikaner chief by grant from Akbar, and by another Rathore family by grant from Shah Jahan. The fort, rising above the town, has a double wall nearly a mile long, the outer being 25 feet and the inner 50 feet above the ground, with a thickness of more than 30 feet at the base and about 12 feet at the top. The principal objects of interest in the fort are some palaces, a fountain with seventeen jets (dating from Akbars reign), a mosque erected by Shah Jahan, and a cave claimed by both Hindus and Musalmans as a place of retreat for their former saints.
Jalore Fort :
From Kuvlayamala, it is clear that in the 8th century A.D., Jalore was a flourishing town adorned with temples and buildings of rich men. It was ruled at this time by the Pratihar ruler Vatsraja. On a hill to the south and entirely commanding the town stands the fort, one of the most famous in Rajputana. Built by the Parihars of Mandore, its walls, composed of huge masses of cut stone, remain even now in a perfect state of preservation, although the place has been many times besieged. The fort is about 800 by 400 yards in extent, and accessible only by an ascent of 3 miles up a steep and slippery stone roadway, passing three distinct lines of defence, all of considerable strength. After the fall of Parihar empire, Jalore fort was held by the Paramaras till towards the end of the twelfth century, when the Chauhan Rao Kirthi Pal (of Nadol) took it and made it his capital. His grandson Udai Singh surrendered it to Shams-ud-dm Altamsh about 1210 A.D., but it was immediately restored to him. About 100 years later, Ala-ud-din Khilzi, after a lengthy siege, captured it from Kanhaddeo Chauhan, and a three-domed mosque, said to have been built by him, is still in good repair and daily use. About 1540 the fort passed into the possession of Raja Maldeo of Jodhpur. It remained in the hands of his ascendants till the independence. In the end of 18th century prince Mansingh of Jodhpur took shelter in this fort. Some buildings of that period still can be seen in the fort premise.
Siwana Fort :
This fort was built by Veer Narayana, the Parmara prince of king Bhoja in V.S. 1011 (954 A.D.). He called it "Kumthana". In 12th century A.D., Chauhans of Nadole won Jalore and later on they took possession of Siwana also. In 14th century, Sataldeo, the nephew of king Kanhaddeo of Jalore, was ruling over this fort. According to Kanhaddeo Prabandha, when Ala-ud-din Khilzi, the ruler of Delhi sultanate, headed towards Jalore, Sataldeo came forward and challenged him to attack on Siwana first and then go to Jalore. Ala-ud-din Khilzi changed his route and accepted the challenge to attack Siwana. Sataldeo was a brave warrior and he fought with full zeal against Khilzi. After a long and fierce fight Ala-ud-din Khilzi defeated Sataldeo. Khilzi changed the fort's name and thus "Kumthana" became "Siwana". Ptolemy, in his book "Geograpy" has mentioned about a desert city "Zoana", this is actually siwana. This city was situated in a hilly fort. In medieval period this fort remained under Rathore rulers of Jodhpur. In Tarikh-E-Alai, Ala-ud-din Khilzi decribes that Siwana was situated in horrible forest which was full of wild men who usually plundered the travelers. The fort of Siwana was located on a hilltop in which Sataldev lived like a Simurg and thousands of his nobles were doing his security.
Forts of Medieval period
Rathore rulers of Marwar and their nobles built many forts in Marwar during medieval period. The forts at Jodhpur, Bhadrajun, Bhopalgarh, Phalodi, Maroth and Kuchaman were prominent among them. The forts of Bhadrajun, Bhopalgarh, Maroth, Bali and Rohat were small in size. In 17th century, prince Akbar and princess Safiyat-Un-Nisa of Mugal empreror Aurangzeb were kept for some time in Rohat fort by Veer Durgadas Rathore. Lohiyana fort was destroyed by Jaswantsingh II of Jodhpur as the Thakur of Lohiyana became rebellious against the ruler of Jodhpur. In 1752 A.D., Phalodi fort was completely diminished by Maharaja Vijay Singh of Jodhpur to crush the rebellious Rathore noble Jogidas. It might have rebuilt during 18th century as Phalodi was an important cener for salt producing and it was situated at Jaisalmer State's border.
Jodhpur was capital of the state of Marwar. Dominating the city is Meherangarh, one of Rajasthan's great hilltop forts.Meherangarh appears impregnable, and with good reason. The fort stands out in great magnificence on an isolated rock about 400 ft. above the sandy plains. It is one of the most gigantic and majestic fort of erstwhile princely states enclosing within it oblong space of about 500 yards in width. This enclosure is almost completely covered by palaces, bar-racks and magazines. The height of its walls varies from 20 ft. to 112 ft. Seven barriers are thrown across its circuitous ascent, each having eminent portals and their sepa¬rate guards. There is no access to the ramparts, apart from one entrance of seven successive gateways, each with its own protective devices for the defence of the fort. The strength of the fort's massive walls, and of its gateways, are in direct contrast to delicately lovely residential buildings within. They feature few of the refinements of inlay and wall painting that are evident in states where there was more time for leisure and the pursuit of aesthetics.
Nevertheless, Meherangarh has its own architectural drama, such as brilliant stained glass that creates colourful mosaics on the floors with the passage of the sun through the day. Meherangarh is the example of the most extensive fort ever built in Marwar. Rao Jodha got it constructed. Foundation of the fort was laid down by famous Charan Devi Kaniji on 12th May 1459. The Fort is surrounded by a wall 12 to 17 feet wide and 20 to 150 feet high. Maximum width of the Fort is 750 feet and length 1500 feet. This magnificient fort on a 400 feet high hill can be seen from a great distance.
It is said that when the sky becomes clear after rains, Mehrangarh can be seen from Jalore Fort. According to astrology, the name of this fort is Chintamani but it was famous as Mihirgarh. Mihir means Sun and garh means fort. This Mihirgarh has now changed to Mehrangarh. Because it's shape is like that of a peacock's tail, it is also called Mayur Dhwaj Fort.The fort encloses the Palace, gates, temples, artillery, memorials, armoury etc. During Jodha's reign the area under the Fort was called Jodhaji ka Falsa. The construction of the front part of Loha pole (Gate) started in 1548 A.D. during Rao Maldeo's reign and was finished in 1752 A.D. during Maharaja Vijai Singh's reign. The walls of this gate have imprints of Sati Hands.Jai Pole is Located in the North West of the Fort, this gate was constructed by Raja Mansingh in 1806 A.D. in the memory of winning a battle against Jaipur. The Iron Gate fixed in this pole was brought by Udawat Amar Singh, Thakur of Nimbaj in 1730 A.D., from Ahmedabad during the reign of Maharaja Abhay Singh. Maharaja Man Singh fixed it in Jai Pole.In memory of winning the battle with Mugals, Fateh Pole was made by Maharaja Ajit Singh in 1707 A.D. Between Fateh Pole and Palace there are six other gates called Gopal Pole, Bheron Pole, Amrit Pole, Dhruv Pole, Loha Pole and Suraj Pole. Important buildings inside the fort are the Motimahal, Fatehmahal, Phoolmahal, Sringarmahal and the temples of Chamunda, Murlimanohar and Anand-ghan.
Kuchawan Fort :
Kuchawan was a head-quarter of a jagir estate of the earstwhile State of Jodhpur. A strong and well-built fort containing 18 Towers (Burj), several palatial buildings, temples and water reserviors was built by Rathore nobels on a hilltop near the town. The Thakurs of Kuchawan belongd to the Mertia sept of Rathore Rajputs, In state time a mint was established in this fort where silver coins were casted. The one rupee silver coin was known as Kuchawani rupia. In Jodhpur state, only Kuchawan Thakur among the nobels could issue currency.
Palaces Of Marwar Region
In times of peace, the rulers of Marwar built delicate palaces, incorporating the best from Rajput, Mughal and British architecture. These buildings are splen¬didly handsome, as Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur is, or exquis¬itely pretty, such as the Sheesh Mahal in Mehrangarh fort. Rarely has the world seen such thoughtful divisions of space as exists in Jodhpur. The palaces had to suit the dual lifestyle of the royals. They had to function as modern residences, as well as traditional Indian style palaces in which it was essential that there be separate women's quarters and corridors through which women could move from one area to another in privacy. Though the maharajas also built separate summer residences, the main palace almost inevitably had a room designed so that breeze flowed freely through it, where the royals could relax on a hot summer afternoon in the comfort of perfumed, cooling breezes. While later palaces had grand, sweeping staircases in the best Continental tradition, and were surrounded by open gardens, many of the earlier palaces were built within fortified walls and characterised by narrow staircases and unimpressive entrances to the royal apartments.
A large number of luxurious palaces were built in the 19th and early 20th century for a variety of reasons. Jodhpur's Umaid Bhawan Palace was built to provide employment during a terrible famine.It was not just the architecture of the palaces that was spectacular; their furnishings also set them apart from other grand residences. Elaborate architectural motifs were picked out in window screens, pavilions, balconies, cupolas and turrets. Inside the palaces, French tapestry, French and English furniture, Belgian suites and Bohemian crystal chandeliers were used to create the world's richest homes. The look could be formal, or art deco. Often, sadly, it was eccentric because the royals shopped indiscriminately and shipped back everything that caught their fancy in Europe and England. Faberge eggs sat beside onyx lamps, and the Swiss watch industry worked overtime to keep royal households supplied with a clock for each mantelpiece, and there were often more than a hundred! Carpets worth small fortunes were casually flung in the halls, on staircases, and in cars. Silver and gold appointments in certain palace suites were common. In the ballroom, wood floors were provided for Western ballroom dancing. Those halls in which traditional mujras were staged were heavily carpeted. Inevitably too, trophies of hunts graced dining rooms and billiard rooms, and the maharaja's study.
Palaces in Mehrangarh Fort :
The palaces in Mehrangarh fort were built in an informal pattern over several centuries. They follow their own rhythm, with narrow staircases serving as the only means of access to the royal residences. The maze of buildings would have made it difficult for any invader to discover the right route to the innermost apartments, and this acted, therefore, as a defence, an essential element since Jodhpur was often at war! Main palaces at Meherangarh include Moti Mahal, the pearl palace, with its pierced stone screens and Shringar Chowki where coronation ceremonies were held. The Shringar Chowki was constructed during Maharaja Vijay Singh's reign. Jhanki Mahal in the women's area has a view of the public areas so that the royal women could watch the day's proceedings. Chandan Mahal was a hall of private audience in which affairs of state were discussed by the luminaries of the state. Rang Mahal is a pleasure palace, the Durbar Takht throne room contains an octagonal gaddi upon which the maharaja sat in state. The sheesh mahal was formerly a house of worship. The palaces have beautiful carved panels and perforated screens of red stone.
Umaid Bhavan Palace :
Umaid Bhavan Palace is built of pink Chheetar stone. The palace rises above the surrounding landscape, towering above the city in regal isolation, on its own hill.The 20th century Umaid Bhawan Palace was built in a time of peace and is open and Western in its design. Maharaja Umaid Singh hired an English engineer, H. V. Lanchester to design his new palace. Lanchester brought with him the heavy civic style of building to which he was accustomed. The building is located on Chheetar Hill. A special rail line was laid to transport building materials to the site. Slowly the great domes rose in royal splendour above the sur-rounding plain. Its builder and the architect had only one ambition: when complete, it was to rival the Viceroy's Palace in New Delhi, then also under construction. Under a dome, the like of which no other palace in Rajasthan has, Umaid Bhavan Palace contains over 300 rooms. It has its own theatre, eight dining rooms, and a banquet hall which seats three hundred people. A Ball Room catered to the westernised royal life-style. Much of the interior of the palace is in the art deco style. In fact it is said to be one of the finest surviving examples of art deco in the world. In the luxurious suites designed for the maharaja and maharani, Indian themes were painted by European artists. Entire baths were carved out of single blocks of marble. Deep within the bowels of the palace is an indoor swimming pool, with a mosaic of zodiac symbols.The royal family is still in residence in the palace, but so huge is the building that it also houses a magnificent museum and an impressive hotel.
Palaces on Foot hills :
Sawai Maharaja Sur Singh made a palace on a big rock in the plains of Mehrangarh. This palace can still be seen on the road between Ada Bazar and Juni Dhan Mandi. Sur Singh had made this palace for his queen Saubhagya Devi. Later this palace became the residence of widows of the royal family. The treasury and families of Maharaja Man Singh and Jaswant Singh II were also kept here. A tunnel was made from Fateh Pole at the fort to this palace passing Ranisar. This tunnel was used by queens in normal days and by the spies during emergency.Some secret rooms were also made in the palace which were used for keeping arms and treasure. The entrance of the palace is like a valley in which a large arch was constructed. Main entrance comes after a slight turn. The palace is made like the Bhool Bhuliya of Lucknow, to prevent the enemy from entering easily. Its stone work is extremely fascinating. The remains of the delicate carving on red sandstone can still be seen.
Sur Sagar Palaces :
About 1.5kms away from Jodhpur city, Maharaja Sur Singh got constructed a pond with beautiful gardens and palaces. These palaces are made on rectangular platforms made of white Marble. Two palaces opposite each other belong one each to ladies and gents. The palace for men was used by the king and other royal men, while the ladies' palace was used by the queens and their friends. Two large halls were constructed on the sides of the palaces, which were used by the maids and servants. The security walls made around the palaces, carved domes and arches are proof of the fine architecture of medieval period. The passage to the palaces starts after a large gate. When Marwar entered in an agreement with British government in 1817, these palaces were converted into the residence and office of the British Ambassdor in 1838. Jodhpur's first Post Office was opened in the meeting halls of these palaces. In 1909 when Lord Kichner came to Jodhpur, a museum was made in these palaces for him.
Bijolai Palaces :
Maharaja Takhat Singh built 'Bijolai Palaces'. These are located about 11 kms from Jodhpur city.Maharaja Vijai Singh used to come to this place for hunting. Bijolai palace is divided into three parts. The stairs near the main wall reach the top of the palace. In the centre of the main palace is a large open space adjacent to the kitchen. The central part of the second and third floors have large halls each surrounded by 40 pillars. These are made of red sandstone and the interiors of the palace have been polished with shells. Maroon and blue shades can still be seen on the ceilings of the halls. All the sides of the halls have stone frame fittings from which doors are missing. Small almirahs are made on both sides of the doors which earlier had gold sheets covering them.
Raikabag Palace :
This palace is situated near Raikabag palace railway station. It was constructed in 1663 by Hadiji, queen of Maharaja Jaswant Singh I. Maharaja Jaswant Singh-II also liked this palace very much. He mostly stayed in the octagonal bungalow of this palace. In 1883 when Swami Dayanand Sarswati came to Jodhpur, his sermons were arranged for the public in the ground of this palace. Jaswant Singh-II used to listen to Swami Dayanand in this palace only.
Zenana Palace :
Zenana Palace was made on a picturesque spot in Mandore during the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singh (1707-24 A.D.). The grandeur and architecture of the palace catches the eye immediately. The palace is made like a small fort, surrounded with walls. The big stones used to make the main structure have been joined without any binding material. A large gate forms the entrance of the building with ventilators. The stones on the gate have flowers, domes and other designs sculpted on them. A large umbrella on the gate is also designed into various shapes and forms. Its centre has a large stone flower to hang chandeliars. Around the umbrella stone awnings beautifully are attached to it. This mahal is also monumental evidence to Marwar architecture.The palace has many rooms of various shapes. Different spots in the building have filigiree, flowers, leaves and other designs carved on them. The room towards the West after entering the gate has walls decorated with flowers and leaves and a scene showing an elephant attacking a lion.
Ek Thamba Mahal :
This palace in the form of a single pillar was also made during the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singh (1707-24 A.D.). This octagonal palace has been made by joining stones with filigiree work, the upper portions of which have been made into flowers. The palace is made of brown coloured soft sandstone which can be easily carved. The stones have been adjusted in such a manner that the joints can't be seen and the whole-building seems to be carved out of a very large single rock. Around the main structure which is in the form of a single pillar, awnings have been beautifully arranged in Bengali style. These prevent rain water from splashing straight on the building. The top two storeys of this three storeyed building have a large number of ventilators on all sides. These storeys can be reached by climbing the stone stairs within the palace. The structure is surrounded by a platform and an open space in front. A boundary has been made around the platform, with the help of small pillars. The main door can be reached by crossing this platform, though all the sides of the palace have an entrance.