So great is the pull of the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary,
Bharatpur, that people spare not a thought for the state that
gave birth to it. This superb waterfowl habitat, one of the
finest in the world, was actually created by a maharaja.
This national park takes its name from the god Keoladeo, an
aspect of Lord Shiva, enshrined in a small temple within the
park. Ghana means dense and refers to the thick forest, which
used to cover the area. Stretching over no more than 129
square kms, which isn't much for a national park, the Keoladeo
Ghana National Park is home to an astonishing range of flora.
There is more to Bharatpur than the national park though
that's the major claim to fame. It was closely linked with the
ancient kingdom of Matsya Desh, which finds mention in
Mahabharata. It was also a flourishing town during the second
century BC (late Mauryan era). Sculpture and shards of pottery
belonging to that period have been found at nearby Noh, on the
Unlike the rest of Rajasthan, Bharatpur and its environs are
peopled by Jats. A loose confederacy of Jats, formed in the
late 17th century, began to make its presence felt by
systematically attacking the surrounding countryside. By the
middle of the 18th century, they came to control a large area
west of the Yamuna River between Delhi and Agra. Around this
timework began on the Bharatpur fort and continued for as many
as 60 years!
Bharatpur fort was the citadel of the Jat chieftain, Raja
Surajmal, who earned himself a place in history by plundering
the Taj Mahal and Red Fort in the sunset years of Mughal rule.
He built this fort as a point of resistance against the
British. Laying siege to it in 1805, Lord Lake hung on grimly
for four months but had to retreat in the face of the heaviest
looses ever suffered by the British up to that time.
The sanctuary is situated a couple of kilometers from
Bharatpur town. Till the late 19th century it was generally
like the surrounding countryside-part scrub, part woodland and
tending to be dry. But there was a difference. Year after
year, during the monsoons, a slight depression spread over a
considerable area trapped rainwater and wildfowl homed in on
the unexpected bonanza. The maharaja recognized the potential
of the place. Rather than wait for a liberal monsoon, he
decided to increase the supply of water by diverting some from
a nearby irrigation canal. He also constructed small dams and
dykes to hold the water, the idea being to turn the area into
the best wildfowl hunting preserve in north India.
The maharaja's planning paid off. The new ecosystem flourished
way beyond expectation, so much so that today it is able to
support thousands of water birds for months on end. For
several years the maharaja celebrated his success by throwing
extravagant shooting parties for British dignitaries and other
Indian princes. But surprisingly birds continued to converge
on the habitat. In 1956 the hunting preserve became a
sanctuary and subsequently a national park.
Climate: The beautiful Indian tourist destination of
Bharatpur is located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.
Bharatpur experiences extremely hot summers and cold winters.
From July till mid September the tourist destinations
experiences heavy rainfall. The humidity in the air goes as
high as 90% during this period. The best time to visit
Bharatpur is between the pleasant months of October and March.
Best time to visit: An extensive green cover ensures a
pleasant season during spring and early winter. The best
season to visit the city though remains between October and
Places of interest
Bharatpur Birds Sanctuary :
named Lohagarh (Iron Fort) the Bharatpur fort took its name
from its supposedly impregnable defenses. Two massive ramparts
of solid, packed earth and rubble surrounded the fort each in
turn surrounded by a moat 150 feet wide and 50 feet deep. The
mud walls were thick enough to absorb any missile, thus
efficiently protecting the main edifice of the fort. The
outermost wall was originally 11 kilometers in circumference
and took eight years to complete. Today, all that remains of
the ramparts is a section of the inner wall and one of the
moats. Of the 27 cannons that once thundered from these walls,
only two remain.
You enter the fort over an ancient brick and stone bridge. The
palace within the fort is a mingling of the Rajput and Mughal
styles of architecture but infinitely simpler. A pragmatic
people, the Jats had no use for ostentation. The Durbar, now
converted into a museum, displays the weapons used by the
erstwhile rulers. Atop the fort there is an iron pillar
engraved with the family tree of the rulers of Bharatpur in
. Some concession to ornamentation has been made in the royal
palace or with delicate designs and the raja's room was
strategically placed so he could see this queen moving about
in the Mahal meant for royal ladies. Within the fort stands
Nargada, a structure where the umbilical cords of all the male
members of ht royal family lie buried. Two of the towers are
also of interest. One, called the Jawahar Burj, was built to
commemorate the successful Jat assault on Delhi. This is also
the spot where the rulers of Bharatpur used to be crowned. The
other tower known as Fateh Burj was built as a proud reminder
of the successful defense of Bharatpur against the attack
mounted by Lord Lake.
The royal palace is still owned by a descendant of the last
Jat ruler. But a large apart of it has been let out. Offices
and shops crowd many of the place rooms and encroachment is
only too evident.
While on a round of Bharatpur, do look for the house of Begum
Samru now used as a girls school. Begum Samru is an
interesting character from the pages of 18th century history.
She married a German mercenary and showed real spirit and
daring in supplying troops to the rulers of Bharatpur.