Drive to Alwar is one of the most beaten-to-death routes around Delhi. No penny to guess that even a motorcycle ride cannot make it better for anyone unless you take a detour…
Delhi –Jaipur highway does not offer much except the Neemrana Fort.
The concept of a fort brings along certain inquisitiveness about the life of descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III who built Neemrana Fort in 1464. Prithviraj Chauhan was a Rajput king of the Chauhan dynasty, who ruled the kingdoms of Ajmer and Delhi in northern India during the latter half of the 12th century.
The Rajput king fled Delhi after losing his second battle against Muhammad Ghori. The successors of Chauhan clan were a proud bunch who would bow to none. All other rulers had their ways of pleasing the British and this cost the Chauhans dearly. Their lands were clipped and given away to Alwar, Patiala, Nabha and others who entertained the viceroys of the Raj with shikar and Champagne breakfasts as is stated in the history of Neemrana Fort.
Taking directions from many locals on the way, I managed to miss the pithy right turn towards the Neemrana Fort entry. The terrain was full of potholes, dust and looked nothing like an entry to a king’s fort. Kids were busy pulling their play-carts made of bottle lids and the broken pieces of wood ply and switch boards. I rode through the narrow lanes and was amused to see a centuries old structure now a government primary school. Schools kids were running recklessly around the school lanes with recently cleaned drains as garbage rested carelessly on the corners.
I wanted to ride the steep climb from the narrow gate towards the first entry. The guard asked me if I was staying at the fort. I was amused and said no. While walking towards the main entry, it dawned on me that the centuries old fort is now a five star property inducing mixed emotions within me. As I tried to jump thru the dust at the main gate, the doorman enquired my interest inside the fort palace. He offered me two tickets to enter. Rupees 1900 and one could also have lunch inside the palace. 1900??? to see an old fort??? One could also get inside with a pass Firefox zip line tour costing a few more Ks. It wasn’t a fort anymore. It is now a themed resort aka palace aka hotel equipped to cater to the foreigners and UHNIs.
I walked out with heavy steps admiring the outsides of the fort. The architecture, the style, the exuberance, the luxe, everything tell you a bit about the Chauhan dynasty kings who would have commissioned it over 500 years ago.
The doorman with a badass moustache walked up to me and asked if I was interested to see the fort’s bauli. Thanks to “Maharaja Agrasen ki bauli” made famous by PK, I understood and was eager. I hopped on to my motorcylce and raced towards the pointed direction.
Once again, I easily missed the turn as there was no indication towards the historic masterpiece. A lot of fingers pointed to one direction and I did finally manage to reach. I was eager to run down the broken stairs of this historic bauli which once would have been house to our princely ancestors. Inside the dark and dingy bauli, a couple snuck in a distant corner getting on with their business. Seeing me getting down the stairs another onlooker gathered some courage and followed me down the dingy, dirty stairs smelling of dead poultry.
I felt happy having discovered the remains of what must have been a happening joint of yesteryears. I spent a lot of time inside trying to hear voices from the past, imagining life as it must have been… nothing! All I got was peace. I walked around the bauli trying to avoid the couple who was trying to avoid me.
I came across a well around the bauli and was peeping down as someone called me. “A dead body was recovered from the well a couple of days ago”, said a local man with a grin at his face. “Must have been a local dispute”, he added. He was smoking pot with two other friends and seemed pretty upset with the way things moved in the locality. I was interested to know more. “The fort is now a picnic spot for the ultra rich and we don’t know what it looks like from the inside anymore”. “These rich people have taken away everything”, he complained as he inhaled what looked like a deadly dose of pot. Pointing to the couple, he said, couples frequent this place every day and mark their territories. Sometimes drunk men walk in and beat up the guys in front of the girls out of frustration, exhaling the smoke, he alleged as if that the guys deserve it.
“My grandfather worked for the ruler” he mentioned as he pointed towards the Neemrana bagh which is now house to the wife of Raja Rajinder Singh. There are many stories about Raja Rajinder Singh trying to sell his fort as he could not manage the expenses anymore. He finally found a buyer after forty years in a business duo that made a fortune post buying and restoring the fort. It was difficult to ascertain if the Rani actually lives in that bagh as there is no information available about the couple apart from a news clip about the inauguration of Neemrana fort for public where Raja Rajinder Singh was the chief guest.
I spent the night at Alwar Bagh near Sariska National Park and the trip went to better than planned but the mind is still inquisitive how fate treated the Raja and Rani after they sold off their fort.