The oldest settlement in Sawai Madhopur was around the Ranthambhore fort. The exact origin of the Ranthambhore fort is still disputed but it is generally accepted that there was a settlement at the site of the Fort, as far back as the 8th century AD. It is widely believed that the construction of the Ranthambhore fort was started during the reign of the Chauhan rajput king Sapaldaksha in 944 A.D. Another theory stipulates that King Jayant, also a Chauhan rajput, built the Ranthambhore fort during 1110 AD. It is most likely that the construction of the fort commenced during the mid 10th Century AD and continued for a few centuries after that.
Since, the Ranthambhore Fort controlled the trade routes between North India and Central India: it was highly coveted by the rulers of North India. The Ranthambhore Fort has its golden moments during the reign of the king Rao Hammir, the last ruler of the Chuhan dynasty 1282-1301 AD). During 1300 AD, Ala-uddin khilji, the ruler of Delhi sent his army to capture the fort. After three unsuccessful attempts, his army finally conquered the Ranthmbhore Fort in 13th century and ended the reign of the chauhanas. In the nest three centuries the Ranthambhore Fort changed hands a number of times, till Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, finally took over the Fort and dissolved the State of Ranthambhore in 1558. The fort stayed in the possession of the Mughal rulers till the mid 18th century.
During the mid 18th century, the Maratha rulers of western India were gradually increasing their influence in this region. In order to check the growing influence of the Marathas, Sawai Madho Singh, the ruler of Jaipur state, unsuccessfully, requested the Mughal emperor to hand over the Ranthambhore fort to him, in 1763, Sawai MadhoSingh fortified the nearby village of Sherpur and renamed it Sawai Madhopur. This town, which is now commonly known as the " "Sawai Madhopur city" lies in a narrow valley between two parallel hills, at the south western edge of the Ranthambhore National Park. Two years later, the Mughals handed over the fort to the Jaipur state.
Structures of Ranthmbhore Fort
The fort is well protected by a massive fortification wall provided with stepped and Z-shaped gateway with two strong and massive doors. Inside the fort, the Hammir Badi Kachahari, chhoti Kachahari, Battis khambha Chhatri, Hammir Palace and Rani Palace, with later additions and in dilapidated condition, are important secular structure. Among temples, the Ganesa temple is important besides a few Jaina temples.
It is situated in the north-west corner of the fort near the Delhi Gate. Facing north, it is built on a raised plinth and consists of a central chamber (19.50m X 11.90m), flanked by two rectangular chambers on either side. The ceiling of the central chamber rest on pillars, arranged in two rows. This arrangement of pillars divides the chamber into fifteen, compartments. The base and shaft of each pillar is square. The front of the central chamber consists of five toranas resting on a double row of columns. The peripheral compartments have sloping ceiling. It is constructed of stone rubbles in lime mortar veneered by roughly dressed slabs. The construction of this building is attributed to Hammir (A.D.1283-1301).
The royal palace, named after the strongest ruler of the fort, is a magnificent building which is accessible from the north through an arched gateway approached by ramps from two directions. The eastern wing is triple-storeyed while the other sides are single-storeyed. Besides, an underground storey also occurs in the north-east corner. The ground storey is multi-chambered with all cells interconnected by small doorways and a common verandah. The ceiling of the verandah rests on plain pillars. The eastern facade of the palace is provided with projected balconies. The access to the first storey is through a ramp. The ceiling of the palatial compartment is flat made of sandstone slabs supported on beams. The palace is built of stone rubble in lime mortar, plastered in lime. Some walls are veneered by stone slabs. The construction of this building is attributed to Hammir (A.D. 1283-1301).
Battis khamba Chhatri
Situated near Hammir Mahal, the Battis khamba Chhatri is a three-terraced structure approached from north through a flight of steps. The top terrace measuring 12.5 m X 12.5m, has a roof which rests on thirty-two pillars. These pillars are arranged in two rows on each side. The outer row has six pillars and the inner one has four pillars on each side. The lower part of the pillar shaft is square and the upper part is octagonal. Surmounted by capital. The verandah has a flat ceiling while the central portion has a domical ceiling with three smaller domes on each side.
The inner faces of the octagonal drum of the dome are decorated with pot-and foliage and figures of Ganesa and Vanugopala. The first two terraces are made of stone rubble with lime plaster and the third one is veneered by red sandstone slabs. This building can be dated circa eighteenth century A.D.
Pols of Ranthambhore Fort
The Ranthambhore Fort formed a significant part of the Chahamana kingdom of sakambhari. It is said to have been constructed by Maharaja Jayanta. The Yadavas ruled over it and subsequently the fort was occupied by the Muslim rulers of Delhi. Hammir Deo was the most powerful ruler of Ranthambhore. The following pols are situated in the fort: