Yeh hai abhisapt qilaa…. Shadiyon puranaa….
Bhul se bhi koi…. ish mein, mat jaanaa…..
Many of my friends may recall these lines. These are from the opening sequence of a television serial “Kile ka Rahasya” which was telecast on the Indian National network during late eighties. As teenager we use to watch and enjoy this serial which was the story of a mysterious fort (qila) that created terror among some visitors and the mystery behind it. Even though the fear factor was mild but considering the availability of television stuff in those days, it gave us sufficient chill. At that point of time, I never knew that I shall be getting opportunity to visit such a haunted fort in my lifetime. But it happened very recently during my recent trip to Sariska in Rajasthan. A nice place for weekend outings near Delhi.
The winter vacations of our children were coming to an end. They wanted us to spent some time together which I couldn't as my several last weekends were engaged due to some reason or the other (….official and social assignments)… we all needed a break. So we decided to spend the first weekend of the New Year far from the maddening city life. We zeroed upon a short two days family trip to Sariska National Park located in the vicinity of Delhi. Children were thrilled with this idea of outing with their cousins.
The most preferred route to reach Sariska from New Delhi is via Gurgaon through Jaipur highway (NH-8) upto Dharuhera then turning towards left to reach Bhiwadi and from there driving on toll road to Alwar via Tijara. I was suggested to follow this route which takes about five hours to reach Sariska. However, as we had to start from Surajkund, Faridabad we choose to follow alternative route via Gurgaon-Sohana- Alwar state highway. This route is also good and is recommended for people residing in Faridabad area. We drove on the Faridabad-Gurgaon toll road from Manav Rachna–Surajkund road. Few kilometers after crossing toll plaza turned towards left (Ghata turn) on the golf course extension road passed by Hilton double tree hotel and reached Gurgaon- Sohana- Alwar road. It took five hours to reach Sariska including forty minute break at a small road side dhabha. Very few dhabha/road side restaurants are available on this route. We halted for a break after crossing Sohana. As we had packed food from home we just ordered tea and sat on Khatiyas (cots) beside mustard fields to have lunch. Every one enjoyed this country side table d'hôte.
The road beyond Alwar is very picturesque. By late afternoon we reached Sariska. Very few resorts and hotels are there in this area so if planning for night stay then one must book accommodation prior to reaching this place.
We all spent that evening at the beautiful Siliserh Lake which is located on a diversion road about 20 kms before Sariska. The serenity of this place gives feeling of consolation and solace. This vast lake spreads around several square kilometers and is surrounded by Aravali ranges. It has been created due to construction of an earthen dam by Maharaja Vinay Singh during middle of nineteen century. Even today this reservoir is main source of water for inhabitants of Alwar city. Alongside the lake, a majestic Palace was also built by the Maharaja for his beloved queen Shila. Earlier the Lake Palace was used as a hunting lodge but now it is converted into a popular RTDC hotel. Boating in the lake and watching sunset at the Lake Palace in the backdrop of Aravali range is an immemorial experience. Don’t forget to have tea and snacks at Lake Palace restaurant. It is offered complementary on every entry ticket.
During the Jungle Safari we could see lot of wild life including: Chital, Sambhar deer, Nilgai, Chinkaras, other Antelopes , Wild boar, Wild Hare, Hanuman Langur, Rhesus monkeys, Peacocks and several species of birds. But the main attraction of this forest i.e. Bengal Tiger could not be spotted. But our guide Mr. Nathu Lal (without mustache??) very excitedly showed us the pug marks to assuage our distress.
This place is about 70km from Sariska and is located beyond the southern periphery of the National park. It took us about one and half hours to reach this place. Bhangarh is a deserted town with few thousand dwellings. It was established in 1613 by Raja Madho Singh, younger brother of great General of the Mughal army Raja Man Singh of Amber. It is believed that this town was abandoned soon after being built and supposedly after it was cursed by a magician. Bhangarh fort offers an intact view of the medieval past. Apparently, the town had been desolated by an old mughal invasion, and is just reverting back to being habited again.
Mr Nathu Lal told us the other myth also which says:
This story is about the gorgeous Rani Ratnavati, the beautiful queen of Mangarh and the wicked sorcerer Singhia, who was attracted by the queen’s beauty. Desperately, he tried to trap her in his magical ploy, but failed every time, as the queen herself was a master in the tantrik art. One day Singhia saw the queen's maid purchasing massaging oil for the queen in the market. As the girl was going back to the palace he wickedly introduced some charm in the oil. That was the day of last battle between them. The queen somehow sensed the foul play and eventually lost her temper. She transformed the glass bottle containing the massaging oil into a big rock and hurled it towards the hill-top and the rock started rolling towards the wicked tantrik. Sensing his looming death, the tantrik concentrated all his powers and spatted his dying curse: “I will die! But you too, you Ratnavati shall not live here anymore. Neither you, nor your kin and these walls of the city, none shall see the morning sun!” In that night, all the treasure of the Bhangarh was transferred to the new site of Ajabgarh and the next morning everything was leveled to the ground after a severe commotion. As per the ancient tales , Rani Ratnavati died next year during a battle between Bhangarh and Ajabgarh. Singhia's (the Wicked tantrik) chhatri (canopy) can be seen on the top of the hill.
One thing that is noticeable about this fort is that even though while most of the Palace has been ruined but all the temples located in the fort complex are majestically standing intact.
It was getting dark as we had to leave this place before the sunset, we returned back towards the main gate of the fort. We were asked by a group of people packing some food items to take Prasad from the Hanuman temple located adjacent to the main gate before leaving this place. With all devotion, we prayed the almighty, took prasad and came out.
During our return journey, a feeling of content and satisfaction could be felt on the faces of all family members. It was just by chance that we had visited this exciting place but the experience was wonderful.