It was March 2020 and just before the lockdown, when the danger of COVID-19 was looming large. I was on my annual pilgrimage to Shahpura near Bhilwara in Rajasthan. The annual Ramsnehi festival dates wer clashing with yet another religious event, which was underway just 35 km away from Shahpura at a village known as Jahazpur. The function was related to the inauguration of the Jain temple of Tirthankar Muni Suvartswamy.
The idol was found during the renovation of a house owned by a Muslim in Jahazpur. In the past too, many idols of Jain Tirthnkars have been recovered during digging work in Jahazpur. The damaged statues are kept in a Govt museum in Bhilwara and elsewhere. However, the statue of Muni Suvartswamy, the 20th Tirthankar was found intact, and hence a temple was built in the shape of JAHAZ (Ship) from where this small town gets its name.
I took out time and went to Jahazpur. The Jain temple is located on the banks of river Banas (should not be confused with West Banas, originating from Sirohi District and further flowing into Gujarat). I spent nearly two hours as there was a big gathering, since it was the opening of the temple. After leaving the temple, I came to the road leading to Jahazpur town. It was past noon and evening was still away; the beautiful hill behind the village with a monument on the top was appearing attractive.
I just walked down to the bus stand of Jahazpur and inquired about the building standing firm on the hilltop. I was told that it is the ancient Fort of Jahazpur. I was told that there are hardly any visitors and the Fort is in ruins. There were some autos and taxis on the bus stand. I just inquired with a Maruri Omni Driver, if he could take me to the Fort. He was a local residing in a village some 5-10 km from Jahazpur. However, he could thrw no light on the abandoned Fort and simply said “No I never visited this fort but if you are interested I will take you”. I, along with my driver proceeded to Jahazpur village, crossed some lanes and inquired if this was the way to the hilltop leading to the Fort. I wsa told by some people that the road will lead to a Dargah. In fact, a little over halfway to the Fort, there is a Dargah too, which could be seen due to the green pasture surrounding it.
After quizzing the locals, we passed through narrow lanes and went towards the Fort. One slope was so steep that he needed to drive the vehicle up on 1st gear. A tar road all along came to an end just before the Fort rampart. The outer wall was broken in many places and one could identify from the footpath that it was leading into the Fort. Before my visit to this place, I Googled and noted that the Fort was originally constructed by the grandson of Samrat Ashoka the Great. Further research revealed that later, the Fort changed many hands and it was renewed by Bappa Raval and subsequently Rana Kumbha.
However, the Fort has an interesting story about the demise of Rana Udaisingh, the founder of Udaipur. He nominated his favourite queen Bhatiyani’s son Jagmal Singh as his successor. The chieftains of Mewar decided otherwise and the coronation of Rana Pratap Singh took place as the next Rana. A dejected Jagmal Singh left Mewar and went to the Mughal Court. The areas around Chittaurgarh were under Mughal control after the famous battle of Chittor of 1567-68 (The Jaimal- Phatta fame). In the Mughal court, Jagmal was made Mansabdar and was rewarded with the Jahazpur Fort. In this fort, his successors lived until near 1730 (presumably).
After the decline of Mughal power between 1720-30, a new power emerged in India in the form of Marathas (houses of Holkar, Schindia, Gaikwad, Bhonsle and Pawar). The Maratha power slowly made all Indian kings from Bengal to the west to pay tribute namely Chauth & Sardeshmukhi to them and Rajasthan was no exception. The Maratha impact was little on Bikaner and Kutch due tyo geographical advantage. The Fort of Jahazpur was located in Mewar but on the border of Hadauti (Bundi-Kota) and Dhundhad (Jaipur state), and therefore, the Maratha elected to possess the Jahazpur Fort permanently for watch and better collections. In the bargain, the Sisodia chieftain was shunted out. The Sisodia chieftain took recuse in Kutch state, where he was given the Jagir of Anjar. I tried to know their present location but could not ascertain for sure.
Shifting the story back to the Jahazpur Fort - we came across a path with sharp stones on either side typical of Aravali hills. The layers of stones looked broken. The wall was surrounded by keekar trees and other shrubs. We kept going and first found a well but near the well, there was another Mazar in green. From there, the path was further leading to the depleted palace. As we made our way through the thorny shrubs my driver looked up to the ruins and remarked "Sir yeh to Bhutiya (deserted - ghostly) Qila lagta hai” ("Sir, it looks like a deserted and ghostly Fort").
We continued further and took some pictures of the other end of hill including a beautiful pond located at the foothills and then entered the main Palace. There was again a small well that was completely driedup. The debris of collapsed walls, halls, and rooms were scattered all around. There was a three-storied building as the main palace, the roof of this palace was looking totally in shambles and it was advisable not to go under it. There were beautiful JHAROKHAS (windows) in a totally devastated state. In the end, there was a temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Naval Shyam.
The temple situation indicated that the temple priest is coming every day and performing puja. On my way back, I talked to many people but hardly there was a proper response as most of them were unaware of the history of this Fort. However, I was told that Jahazpur is in existence for over 3000 hundred years and is one of the of the oldest towns in Mewar. The Fort is still standing in a dilapidated state and may survive for another 5 decades before it collapses totally. The Jahazpur Fort is belived to be under the Archological Department of Rajsathan, but apparently there is no one to take care and with every passing year, it is vanishing - so is our history. This year in March, I revisited the site accompanied by my son and daughter-in-law. A visit to cherish indeed.