Saturday, 27 December 2014

Malcum Kothi at Nalcha near Mandu MP

If you act like wannabe Indiana Jones, then you do get chances to act out like the real Indiana Jones. You are running against time. The sun is about to go down in a few minutes and you need to get to this kothi or mahal you have chanced to read about, few kilometres away from Mandu on the road to Dhar.

While reading up on Mandu, you came across this fantastic google e-book ‘History of Mandu, The Ancient Capital of Malwa’ written by an unidentified author who goes by the name 'A Bombay Subaltern' originally published in 1844. In addition to Mandu, the book had accounts of Ajanta and some other places. As the book had gone out of print, His Highness the Raja of Dhar had paid for the publication of the part pertaining to Mandu. The second edition came out in 1879. University of Michigan has a copy of the second edition and whose digital version you came across.

G. Yazdani who later wrote ‘Mandu - The City of Joy’ pays tribute to the book in his preface - The author has given an extremely vivacious account of his journey to Mandu, in which place it is as difficult to forget him as to forget Washington Irving in the Alhambra. Yes, from what little you have read, the book has lots of humour with facts - the way you want a book to be.

Nalcha - Malcum Kothi with the Ruined Pavilion on the Right
The book starts from the village Nalcha. The author says Nalcha is the base for travellers who want to go visit Mandu. Here in Nalcha, the travellers to Mandu would stock up on supplies and hire a guide.  Nalcha used to be the residence of Vice-Regents of Mandu on several occasions. Ruined buildings and especially this palace you are looking for are some of the vestiges that have survived from those times.

An Overgrown Dome in Nalcha Village
After visiting Mandu, on the way back to Indore, you stop at Nalcha village. You see more ruined domed structures here. You ask the locals if there is a Mahal or Kothi in the village. There sure is. You are directed to just outside the village. There is an ASI sign off the Dhar road. A dirt track leads into the fields and beyond to the kothi. Camera battery had already died, so grabbing the Tab you hurry down the path before the sun goes down.

The Indiana Jones Way
Walking through darkening shadows on a dirt track as it snakes around with fields on both sides, it seems nothing has changed in this part of the country. Maybe there were more mango trees and a tank as noted by Bombay Subaltern then. Otherwise this could be 1880s. The track on both sides is bound by trees and bushes so that the only way you can see is up ahead.

Just few minutes ago after a long day at Mandu, you were tired and were already thinking of the hotel room. But suddenly, there is an inexplicable spring in your feet. Its a familiar pattern - just the thought of discovering something relatively unknown, pumps endorphins in your blood stream and feeling tired is the last thing on the mind.

Malcum Kothi - The First View
You hurriedly push along asking for directions from couple of people you run into on the way, negotiating turns; and this is when you finally see what you have been looking for. In the distance you can see a structure that is unmistakably what you are looking for.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Moment
And then the tractor comes barrelling down at you.  There is no escape. The pathway is just wide enough for the tractor to scrape through. To boot, the tractor is carrying a seed drill in the back with its ends overhanging. You try to run back looking for an opening in the bushes to squeeze in and let the tractor pass. There is none. Finally, you jump in the middle, wave and shout at the driver to stop the tractor. For a moment the thought did come that after selling tractors a good part of your life, it would be ironic to be mowed down by one! The tractor stops and you untangle.

Malcum Kothi in Nalcha Village
Few steps more and the Kothi emerges in full view. The structure is much more substantial and imposing than you had visualized. The setting is kind of charming. It is apparent that it was designed to be an outhouse or a retreat away from the confines and intrigues of Mandu. The idea could have been to use the mahal as an offsite for strategy sessions or simply to kick back in the country side.

Malcolm Kothi basks in setting sun
And here in front of the south wall with a tree as neighbour, ASI here has installed the sign proclaiming - Malcum Kothi (sic). The sign further says that the Palace was constructed during the reign of  Mandu Sultan Nadir Shah Khilji (1505-1510). There were beautiful gardens all around and originally it was called Nadir Shah Mahal. In 1565 Akbar used it as a resthouse. During Jahangir’s time it was called Tuk-e-Jahangir. In 1818, the political agent of Malwa, Sir John Malcolm, who loved the mahal, moved in and lived here until 1830. And hence the building got its current name Malcum Kothi!

You associate big palaces and forts with the emperors where the connection with the emperor is limited to, say, where the throne sat or some personal quarters. But here in the middle of nothing, in this small building the connection with the past sultans and emperors is so stark and complete. The feeling that Akbar, Jahangir, Malcolm walked through these doors is that much more intimate and stirring.

All of a sudden everything goes quite except the wind. You are in the zone - time and place when your mind and everything else goes silent in the company of a monument. You are transported back into the sepia tinted past. The monument rejoices in the golden rays of the setting sun. This is a beautiful moment. You are just so lucky to experience such moments quite often these days.

Malcum Kothi in Nalcha Village - South Western View 
The Kothi here and its antecedents reminds you of Dilkusha in Delhi’s Mehrauli Archaeological Park which Sir Thomas Metcalfe had converted into his residence. Metcalfe bought the 16th century tomb of Quli Khan (the tomb again had Akbar connection like here at Nalcha!), extended it, created gardens and water bodies all around under the shadow of Qutb Minar and named it Dilkusha.  Sir Malcolm did something similar here too - He fitted up the mahal to serve as a bunglow during his stay in Nalcha.

Malcum Kothi is a rectangular building with four arched doorways in the facing southern wall. There are two circular windows on either side of the wall. On the right, in the rear, you can see a ruined pavilion with the dome gone. As you circle around the building you realise the southern wall you first saw is actually the rear of the kothi.

The main entrance is from the North though the entrance has now been walled off. The building is seemingly made of some kind of red rock called balua. Outside, chajjas can be seen all around the building. You did not get a chance to peep inside the building.

Surviving Pavilion on North West Corner

Remains of the Day
In the north side, that is, the front of the kothi, the view gets better. Two pavilions were built at each corner. While the one in South-west survive with the dome intact, the other pavilion is almost lost - casualty in the last 170 years or so. The pavilions were probably connected to the main building by covered passages. Inside, the central apartment is square and has three hanging lamps. The lamps were supposed to be a legacy of Sir John Malcolm. Bombay Subaltern says there were two halls and six more apartments inside. Some rooms are reported to be diamond shaped.

The North Wall with the Original Main Entrance
Stairs led to the top which had two rooms and a bathroom. You don’t see any stairs or any rooms on top though the parapet walls are pretty high with chajjas all around the four sides. Going through the notes in the back of the book, the rooms on the top were burnt down accidentally while trying to shoot down a pigeon!

Water Tanks between the Chattris
Malcolm Kothi - North West View
In between the pavilions there are water tanks or fountains. Just like Mandu, here too, a building is not complete without its own water tanks. Stretching to the North and East were the well laid out gardens and big tanks thus completing the picture of a summer home.

Subaltern says that the top of the kothi provided a breathtaking view with mango groves and occasional tamarind trees. In front of the kothi was a big tank. The tank had ruined walls and towers. Now, you don’t see anything except flat fields. Probably the tank has silted up now. On the right, Subaltern says, was an extensive tank called the Nalganga. The tank was square and had masonry steps. There was an island in the centre. On the banks were several buildings with domes rising above the tamarind and banyan trees. The buildings could be zenana and a palace. This place is now actually getting exciting and would need a couple of hours to explore next time you are here.   

Built heritage in India springs surprises every day. If you had not come across the mention of Nalcha Kothi, there is no way you would have found this little surprise hidden among the fields so close to Mandu. Those were the times. And again, as always, finding yourself back in those times for a few moments leaves you happy and elated. You want Indiana Jones moments to keep happening. Now you live for them.

Getting There: On the way to Mandu from Dhar, Nalcha is about 20 kms before Mandu on the state highway. Spend an hour here. And then stop over at Kakda Kho with its ravine and footprints, Jali Mahal and Andha & Andhi ka Mahal before finally entering Alamgir Gate, the first of many gates into Mandu.

Reference: History of Mandu - Ancient Capital of Malwa by A Bombay Subaltern

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Sublime Sunset and Magical Moonrise over Sanapur Lake in Anegundi - Let the Pictures Do the Talking

Muniswamy is impressed seeing your sincerity as you toil in the heat looking for little known monuments in Hampi. So he promises you a surprise when we go to Anegundi the next day. According to Muni, your regular cabbie in Hampi, such surprises are reserved for passionate travellers only and not for casual tourists. Now it is your turn to be impressed with yourself.

After discovering the Monkey Kingdom of Kishkindha in the charming and laid back village of Anegundi you make your way towards the surprise. Anegundi roads are picture perfect. Lush green paddy fields, swaying coconut trees and huge loose boulders piled up high complete the incredible looking countryside. Anegundi, one of the oldest plateaus of the world about 3000 million years old, has thrown up several surprises in the past few days including pre-historic cave dwellings and paintings. Several episodes of Ramayana have played out among these boulders including the enmity between the brothers Vaali and Sugreev and the ashram where Sabari fed sweet berries to visiting Lord Ram. 

In the early evening, driving among the paddy fields with windows rolled down, you come to an embankment on your left. Sitting in the car, the level of the embankment is above the eyeline as you run your eyes looking for the surprise. And then you hear water sloshing. Woow - the motorcyclist driving up front just got hit by a wave that suddenly leapt up over the embankment! While you were looking for a monument, Muni has delivered you to Apollo Bandar behind Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, right here in the middle of boulder strewn Anegundi. 
Sanapur Lake at Anegundi
Oh yes - you are definitely surprised and stop the car to see what is going on. The sight is mesmerizing. Just above the edge, lapping waves catch the hues of the sun as it sets over the distant hills. You thought the only water body among the boulders of Hampi and Anegundi was the Tungabhadra river. But here tucked away in complete isolation is the big surprise in the form of Sanapur Lake created by the reservoir of Tungabhadra Left Canal and named after the local village.

The difference is so stark - On the west is the glorious sun setting over rippling waves, while on the east, just beyond the embankment, green paddy fields stretch among the piled up boulders.
Sanapur Lake - Croc Alert!

The road turns to the right sharply and goes over a barrage that regulates the flow downstream. A sign cautions against going into the water as there might be crocodiles. Muni clarifies that no crocs have been sighted and foreigners who stay in Anegundi village are known to take a dip jumping off the boulders. 

Sun sets over the Sanapur Lake Anegundi

Even in an off-the-grid like place Anegundi, this setting is far greater amazing. Irregular shaped boulders line up on both sides of the road as it snakes beyond towards Rangapur. 

Downstream, few local fellows have arrived to catch fish. Coracles dry on the bank. 

You climb one of the boulders and absorb the surroundings. The water turns into liquid gold. All around it is supremely peaceful and serene - just the sound of lapping of water and a divine setting for company. This is a different world.  This is the time when the mind goes silent on its own and nature takes over you. This is the utopia called Sanapur Lake in Anegundi.
Moon Rises over Sanapur Lake

But the surprise continues. As the sun goes down in the west, the moon comes up in the East. You cannot believe your luck – it is a full moon night. The water flowing towards the east catches the moon light. It seems the men tossing the fish line into the water are trying to reel in the moon. Now this is astounding and phenomenal. You have never seen this before. It is like being in the middle of the sea. In the west, the water turns golden catching the dropping sun and here in the east, the water turns silver catching the rising moon.

This is the time to put away the camera and just give in to the moment. This is a moment to experience and feel and store in the cache memory of your mind. Something like this happens after years of travelling. You soak in the sights forever. As if hypnotized, you do not even remember the guys catching the fish leave. Muni is calling you. The spell is broken. It has turned dark and even quieter. Only the skies in the east seem to be lit up. And as you walk to the car, you see a shooting star - looks like your wish has already been fulfilled.

Sanapur Lake - Is that a Shooting Star?
Tungabhadra Dam turning into a Fairyland
On your way back to Hospet, you see the Tungabhadra Dam twinkling away in brilliant colours. Looking from the Hospet road bridge, it looks like a fairyland. What an amazing evening. In Hampi and Anegundi it seems as if every evening is different, heavenly and almost life altering. This is when you have not yet climbed Anjanadri Hill and Matanga Hill for their scintillating sunsets.

Getting There: Sanapur Village is few kms away from Anegundi in Koppal District of Karnataka on the road to Hospet. Turn right from Sanapur Village to reach the lake.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Narwar Fort - A Fort you can Call your Own

You have seen it in Hollywood movies. A car driving through the summer Arizona desert as mirages appear and road in the distance starts to dance and shimmer in the white heat. This is how you feel as you set out from Jhansi. The destination is Narwar Fort across the state border in Shivpuri district of MP. It is eight in the morning but the haze rising from the searing asphalt is already hurting the eyes. You had experienced the almost 50 degree heat last evening in Jhansi and something similar is expected today. It seems as if earth is going to boil over. But you need to be true to your mission at hand. You have already missed Narwar Fort the last time you were in this general area.

Finally there is a fort that you can call your own. You have just hit upon an interesting tidbit. Narwars are said to be descendants of Chandravanshi King Narhari who belonged to Nauhwars. Nauhwar is a gotra of Jats and according to a popular book on Jat history, Nauhwars are believed to be a ruling clan who ruled over Scythia and Central Asia. Sir Alexander Cunningham, former Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, considered the Jat people to be the Xanthii (a Scythian tribe) of Scythian stock who he considered very likely called the Zaths (Jats) of early Arab writers. Today, the Nauhwar Khap has 100 villages centered around Nauhjheel. And your ancestral village is about 5 kms from Nauhjheel in Mathura district of UP. This is news that makes you want to add your gotra to your name.
Narwar Fort - View from Karera Road
The NH 76 from Jhansi to Shivpuri is excellent and it speeds away further west to Kota and Udaipur in Rajasthan. What difference five months make in this part of the world. Last time there was dense fog with zero visibility on this road and today it seems that the heat will just melt and vapourise everything. At Karera, you make a right and chance upon another fort up ahead built on a hill. On any other day this would be treated as a bonanza, but on a hot day there is no way you are climbing two forts. So you keep going towards Narwar. The single lane road is newly built and you clock the remaining 40 kms in no time.
Narwar - Tombs and Chattris on top of Hill before Narwar Fort
Zoom View of Tomb on top

Tomb with the Cenotaphs and Quaint Pillars

Just before entering the town of Narwar, on the left you see canopies built high up on the hills. A little ahead, at the ground level there is another tomb with number of graves. The surprise here are the quaint looking never seen before pillars at the head of cenotaphs. These short or pygmy pillars with niches were probably used to light candles and chiraghs. The presence of pillars could indicate that sufi saints are possibly buried here. The tomb here and the tomb on the top are the relics of Muslim rule at Narwar from the times of Iltutmish, and going on to Sikander Lodhi and beyond to the Mughals. Just beyond on the right, above the town rises the fort.

View of Narwar Town

Houses probably belonging to the Nobles in the town of Narwar - View from Narwar Fort
Tavernier in his travelogue describes Narwar "as a large town on the slope of a mountain or a steep scarp of Vindhyan range, above which there is a kind of a fortress, and the whole mountain is surrounded by walls. Most houses in the town are hatched while houses belonging to the wealthy are two storeyed and terraced. In the distance are beautiful tombs." These are the same tombs you see when entering the town.

Father Monserrate, Jesuit priest from Portugal who passed through Narwar on his way to meet Akbar in 1580, describes Narwar: "This district is called after the neighbouring town; its savage inhabitants knowing that they can commit robberies with impunity, are wont to attack travellers from ambush and to carry off their goods as plunder." You are ready to roll over laughing.

The Challenge
You have heard of certain hobbies like paragliding that are extremely hazardous. Fort Climbing never appeared in the Top Dangerous Hobbies list anywhere. But the recent experience is teaching you that fort climbing is no less hazardous. If it was a nasty looking snake and unseen cliff edges at Asirgarh Fort and unsavoury characters at Tughlaqabad Fort, here at Narwar Fort it seems getting sun stroke is a huge possibility and sun strokes are known to kill folks. The Top Dangerous Hobbies List makers need to be informed of this steep dangerous quotient involved in fort climbing.

Narwar Fort - View from the last shady point - Last Chance to Back Out

The initial climb to the fort is the toughest part. It is the most vertical and appears suddenly as soon as you step out of the car. Though it is just ten in the morning the temperature already feels about 45 degrees. A peepul tree just beyond the last line of houses at the base of the fort provides the only shade.  You look up the hill towards the first gate - about 300 metres of incline and 100 steps to get there. You pause to think if you really want to do this and prove the fort climbing dangerous hypothesis right. But you also know there might be no second chance coming this deep into MP. So it is now or never - after all you need to find out what the deal about Nal and Damyanti is. Also, is Narwar or Nalapura the same great city of Padmavati of the Purans which is the scene of Bhuvabhati’s drama of Malati and Madhava? With the cap on and handkerchief tied around the face, head bowed down, you set out under the unforgiving sun and blazing breeze.

Those Steps will definitely kill you

Not even halfway and you are sure it was all a big mistake. Your heart is pounding, lungs seem to have ballooned and close to bursting and all you hear are your gasps of your breath. Slowly the feeling from your legs muscles is fading away. The incline has given way to steps now. Usually you would bound up the stairs in single steps. But now you are stepping twice on each step. The gateway topped with a chattri on right is about 50 steps away. On either side the walls rise. Just getting to the gateway is your immediate goal. It should give you the bragging rights of visiting Narwar Fort. There are some boys sitting under the little shade the gate is offering and watching you labour up the steps bemusedly. And then you throw yourself down on the ground. You remember the boys asking something but you are busy doing more important things - like trying not to die and hoping the heart stops pounding.

It will in the scheme of things if the fortress is also described as we continue our painful ascent. Cunningham describes the fortress as situated in the bend of Sindh river and built on an irregular shaped hill. The fort can be described as the neck, head and bill of a duck. The head or central portion is called Majh Mahal or middle quarter and also Bala Hisar or ‘Citadel” as it commands the view of the entire fort. The neck or northern quarter is called Madar Hata as it contains the shrine of famous saint Shah Madar. The duck’s bill or south-eastern quarter is called Dulha Kot. The whole circuit of the walls is about eight kms. The principal entrance to the fort lies at the hollow forming the duck’s throat. And this is where you have finally struggled to reach.
Alamgir Gate

View of Narwar Town from Alamgir Gate
After few swigs of water, you are able to speak. The boys have just come back after visiting the temple. Soon they leave you behind as they begin their descent under the burning sun. The gate is called Pisanhari Gate. It is said the gate was opened in the morning before the grain mills in the fort above would start grinding. Aurangzeb dismantled the original structure and built the gateway in Mughal style and therefore it is also called Alamgir Gate. The ASI sign says that the gate has been mentioned by William Finch, Tavenier and Cunningham. Is this enough or should you go inside? The boys step into the burning heat leaving you to fend for yourself. 
Looking up into Narwar Fort from Alamgir Darwaza
Wondering what to do next and almost sure that now there will be plain ground and maybe some steps to contend with you look around the bend ahead on the left.  The sight makes you feel sick! About 100 broken steps stare down at you. At the top the steps seem to turn right. You can’t make out what lies ahead.

Moving towards Sayyidon Ka Darwaza
With stone steps and stone walls towering around you, it feels even hotter now. You cannot go back from the gates. If you have made it this far, it deserves another shot. So you are on your way up again. This time the heart does not pound as much, but the gasping breath returns. You corner the turn and expectedly run into a wall - a standard defence feature of forts. This is the spot earmarked for giving reception to the enemy when arrows rained down or if the besieged fort denizens were in good mood boiling oil would be poured. Right now, baking under the sun, boiling oil does not seem too bad.
View from Sayyidon Ka Darwaza

Sayyid Tomb
Possible Temple Fragments
You come to the landing at the top where there is a gate on the left. On the right are built two-storeyed galleries where probably the soldiers and guards camped. A stairway leads up to the top of the bastions. The gate on the left is called Sayyidon ka Darwaza or Peeran Paur.  Just beyond the gate is a white washed tomb with several graves. An inscription says that one of the graves belong to Sher Shah Suri’s fort commander Dilawar Khan (1545) who was a Sayyid. Cunningham thinks that since the gate was repaired by the Sayyids and hence the name. You have seen this across forts: temple members and fragments used to build the later structures and walls. Here just below the ASI sign you can see stones that apparently came from temples.
Narwar Fort - Seduction Continues - Fourth Gate
You have reached the third gate including one at the town level and you are nowhere inside the fort. You still see steps going up on the right of the tomb. This is how the forts seduce you. They show a little with a promise of more and you get reeled in. So what you could be in bed for few days suffering from untold misery.  

Moving Towards Hawa Paur
Hawa Gate - Fifth Gate
More winding steps leave you even more winded. Bastions tower over you with canopies on top. Another gate brings you to Hawa Paur. So far you seem to have just been going around winding stairs protected by high walls and bastions. These are great defense mechanisms: increasingly difficult levels of protection makes the fort that more impregnable. Last time you climbed so many steps was in Daulatabad Fort. But that was a perfect day. January in Aurangabad with a little nip in the air was perfect for fort climbing. It being a Sunday you took your time negotiating the multi level fort and doing your 25 year reprise. But today running on clock on a furnace like day is a bad idea. During rains cool breeze would sooth the people sitting in the pavilion of Hawa Paur. But now it seems a dragon is breathing fire on you.
Hawa Paur at Narwar Fort
Before the Marathas seized Narwar Fort, this gate was called Gaumukhi Darwaza. Daulat Rai Scindia’s Governor Ambaji built Hawa Paur in 1800. Above the Hawa Paur is Udal Vakshi and a 13th century Vishnu Temple. You missed seeing both! But what is not something to scoff at is that you have climbed 360 steps from Alamgiri Darwaza to Hawa Paur.

On the right there is a grilled gate and you think this should do it. Here inside you finally find the caretakers who are taking refuge under the gateway. But up ahead it still does not look good. There are two more vertical flights of stairs to be climbed before you actually enter the fort. You want to call off the visit right here. But then again the ‘what if’ scenario kicks in. You visit every monument thinking it’s the last time you are visiting it and there would not be another chance. Another pause and you begin your final assault on your wobbly legs.
Finally in the fort - Looking down towards Hawa Paur
Finally you are inside the citadel. You have climbed over 400 feet. Just getting to the top is an achievement in itself in this heat. The fort roughly encompasses an area of eight square kms. You will be lucky if you are able to see even a fraction of it. A sign indicates the different buildings on either side. You are not sure if you can do it. But anyway, you start walking to the left.

A rutted path leads to a bunch of buildings here. Some have been recently conserved while others are not in good condition. Since the buildings do not have identification these would comprise of Hawa Paur Mahal and Koriyon ki Haveli. The buildings have the regular Rajput architecture with flat roofs, verandahs around enclosed courtyards and bangla roof canopies on top.

Coming back the same path, this time you turn right. Here there are several structures each leading into the other. As per the sign the buildings this side are called Ladau Bangla, Chhip Mahal, Flour Mill or Chakki Mahal, Phulwa Mahal, Rani Damyanti Mahal, Rawa Parewa Mahal, Kachheri Mahal, Sunheri Mahal, Ram Janaki Temple, Catholic Chapel and Sikander Lodhi Mosque.
Chhip Mahal
Chhip Mahal - View from First Floor
Fountain at Chhip Mahal
You make your way through succession of courtyards with colonnaded arcades. A building of interest is the seemingly newly restored Chhip Mahal. It is a two storeyed building with enclosed courtyard. The courtyard is ringed with shaded verandah.  Above, you can see the facing pillars recycled from dismantled temples. Climbing stairs is painful now. The pillars are similar to be seen in Qutb Complex and they probably belonged to 10th-11th century temples. What happened to the other temple members - they probably went into raising walls of the palaces and the battlements. The first floor provides good view of the buildings in the neighbourhood. Next to the first floor pavilion is a tub or a fountain.  Just the idea of a sprouting fountain and cool breeze flowing is so far fetched on this searing day.

Like Gwalior Fort, Narwar too had several magnificent temples according to Cunningham. But unlike Gwalior, all temples here were destroyed. Sikander Lodhi who camped here for six months undertook wholesale destruction of temples in 1508. The same fate befell the nearby Himmatgarh Fort. A dismayed Cunningham says the destruction at Himmatgarh was so complete that not a single temple member can be seen.
View of Narwar Fort from Chhip Mahal

Narwar Fort - Ladau Bangla

You walk into another courtyard which could be the Ladau Bangla. In the centre there is a newly restored pavilion or a baradari. The pavilion built on a raised platform looks pretty. In the centre of the pavilion there is an enclosure. You just admire it from the periphery of the courtyard under shade. You don’t feel like climbing the four stairs to peep inside the enclosure under the unrelenting sun.

In the neighborhood there are more buildings. Wait a minute: there is this three storey building. To you this is kind of rare. With open space all around, why were multi storeyed buildings built? They almost seem like precursor to the modern apartment blocks. They are apparently completely built of stone with no iron or wood used. This area is known for all stone buildings just like the mother of all stone forts, Datia Fort, some distance away between Jhansi and Gwalior. Datia Fort is a huge edifice of about seven storeys with no wood or iron used.

Pillars possibly used to raise Mandap over Hawan Kund
In the the courtyard are two pillars. These two pillars could be part of group of four pillars used to mount a mandap over a hawan kund. The entire arrangement of the pillars and mandap could be called Yagya Stup. There was a single pillar next to the pavilion in the Ladau Bangla. Another structure in the Narwar town has four pillars. 
Chakki Mahal
In the corner of the Chakki Mahal or Old Flour Mill building is - yes - a grain flour mill. The room looks restored. There are mill stones and a cavity below for collecting the ground flour. You have no idea what provided the power to move the stones - was it manual or animals were used.
Narwar Fort - The large tank Makar Dhwaj is clearly seen in the center
The only Hindu structure, according to Cunningham, is the large tank in the citadel called Makara Dhwaja, probably named after the king who commissioned it. The tank is 300 sqft in area and about 35 feet deep dug out of solid rock.

An interesting feature of the fort is a Roman Catholic cemetery with a Chapel. The grave stones carry dates of around middle 18th century. It is believed that about 300 Bourbons of Aremenian heritage came from Delhi after Nadir Shah’s plunder of 1739. Here in Narwar Fort they built a palace and the chapel. The cemetery came into being with time.

On the road towards Gwalior there is a 23 feet high column bearing inscription containing Tomar dynasty genealogy of Gwalior. Nearby is a large baoli of about 27 feet in diametre.

The history of Narwar is as old as the Mahabharat. Narwar, also known as Nalapur is named after King Nal, a descendant of Kush, son of Ram and is universally acknowledged as the builder of the fortress. Mahabharat mentions the virtuous King Nal and his beautiful queen Damyanti. For sake of brevity, Nala because of a curse decides to abandon Damyanti to keep her away from his curse. Damyanti walks through the forests to reach Chanderi. Chanderi during Mahabharat is mentioned as Chedi ruled by Shishupal.  This area indeed is rich in history that includes several groups of temples at Budhi Chanderi, Kadwaya, Terahi, Mahua and Ranod. It was in these jungles that freedom fighters like Chandrasekhar Azad and Tatya Tope moved around during the freedom struggle. However, King Nal despite all hardships follows the path of righteousness to overcome the influence of Shani Dev, and is able to wrest away his kingdom from his brother Pushkar in a gambling rematch. Nal and Damyanti are reunited and lived happily ever after.

Historically, Narwar was ruled by nine generations of Nagas approximately starting from AD 0 to 225. One of the Naga kings was a contemporary of Samudragupta. With coins found here in Narwar, Gwalior and Mathura, Cunningham proves that Narwar was the kingdom of the Nine Nagas. The Naga kingdom covered Bharatpur, Dholpur, Gwalior, Bundelkhand and stretched to the south upto Narmada. 

From 225 AD to next eight centuries no inscriptions or coins have been found. So Cunningham suggests that Tomaranas ruled from 260 to 310 AD. Harsh Vardhan of Kannauj ruled the area from 607 to 650 AD.
Narwar Fort - View from Hawa Paur
Narwar is also associated with the ancient city of Padmawati. Padmawati is the scene of Bhavabhuti’s drama Malati-Madhava. Bhavbhuti was the court-poet of Yasovarman, King of Kanauj. Bhavabhuti is acclaimed as eminent Sanskrit poet second only to Kalidas who, according to historians, wrote between 700 and 730 AD. Bhavabhuti belonged to Vidarbha and so Narwar has Vakataka connection also. Cunningham says Bhavabhuti poetry is very interesting since it is extremely rare to find description of actual places in Hindu poetry. His descriptions leave no doubt that Nalapura or Narwar was the Puran city of Padmavati.

Cunningham conjectures in ASI Volume II that "Nalapura maybe only a synonym of Padmawati Nagar, as Nala or the ‘water-lily’ is frequently used as an equivalent of Padma or the ‘lotus’."

Bastions tower over Sayyidon Ka Darwaza

View from Saiyadon Ka Darwaza
Seventh and Eighth centuries saw the rise of Rajput dynasties like Tomars of Delhi, Chandellas of Khajuraho and Sisodiyas of Chittaur. Kachhwahas of Gwalior and Narwar came into their own around this time. The Kachhwahas built the hill fort. Next came the Parihars in 1129. The Parihars ruled from Gwalior until 1232 when Iltutmish annexed Gwalior Fort. But the Parihar king escaped and most probably came to Narwar. Narwar was later ruled by Hindu King Chahada Dev who strengthened the fort. In 1252, According to Ferishta, Narwar was put under siege by Nasir-ud-din Mahmud of Delhi, and after immense slaughter the fort was reduced.
Narwar Fort - Entrance from the town
It is possible that in this period the fortress was taken over by Narwarias of Chambal valley. Narwarias get the 'Narwar' word from Narhari, a great Jat warrior. Narwars are descendants of Chandravanshi King Narhari, who belonged to Nauhwar clan. What an interesting fact. Yes, its time to incorporate your gotra Nauhwar in your name!

In late 13th century Narwar came under Alauddin Khilji of Delhi Sultanate and probably continued under the Sultanate until 1493 when it was besieged by Tomar king of Gwalior. Sikander Lodhi captured Narwar in 1506. Later Kacchwahas of Amber got Narwar back by giving away their daughters to the Mughals. In the final years of 18th century Scindias wrested the fort. The last Kacchwaha king Man Singh, gave up Tatya Tope in the aftermath of 1857 thus exacting revenge over the Marathas he hated.
Ramparts of Narwar Fort
Sun is getting fiercer with every passing minute. You know there are more buildings to see just beyond including Sikander Lodhi Mosque, Damayanti Mahal, Allah Udal ka Akhada and cannons. But you are really stretching your luck now. There are about 500 steps to descend under the unforgivable sun. And getting sick while away from home is not pretty.

It is clear that Narwar Fort was almost as majestic as its more popular neighbour Gwalior Fort eighty kms to the north west. The only difference is that Gwalior Fort has the Man Mandir and temples like Saas Bahu and Teli ka Mandir that still survive. Narwar Fort is more heavily protected by the towering walls and bastions while the elongated sharply rising hill gives Gwalior Fort the natural protection. Narwar Fort too had magnificent temples to rival Gwalior Fort but according to Ferishta, Sikander Lodhi levelled the temples and built mosques in their place. Gwalior Fort was a tad lucky. Sikander Lodhi was planning to lay siege to Gwalior Fort, but died in the initial planning stages. Plunder, time and dereliction has ensured that the old splendour is gone but the pride of Narwar Fort is still intact.

Narwar Fort is a complete fort - a challenge to climb, full of surprising features and straddles across eons from Mahabharat to Tatya Tope. And the fort shares your name. It deserves another visit during the rains. Only a full day will do justice to it, so that you can see the filled up tank Makara Dwahaj, the chapel, and the mosques that you missed seeing this time. Come visit Narwar Fort - another hidden gem in the heart of India.

Getting There: Narwar Fort has good connectivity from both Shivpuri MP and Jhansi UP. Narwar is about 45 kms from Shivpuri and 85 kms from Jhansi. On the way from Jhansi, climb the Karera Fort. On the road to Gwalior from Narwar, you can see Himmatgarh Fort. While in Shivpuri, go see Gadhi & Temple at Surwaya. Shivpuri has Madhav National Park and Scindia Chattris; Jhansi of course has fort and Orchha nearby. If you are feeling adventurous then dive deep into Shivpuri and go visit the ancient temples in Kadwaya, Terahi, Mahua and Ranod. Shivpuri can keep you busy for a week!

1. Archaeological Survey of India Volume II 1864-65 by Alexander Cunningham Pages 307-328
2. Bhavabhuti by Vasudev Vishnu Miras - on google books
3. Armenians in India, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day by Mesrovb Jacob Seth