Kankwari : A fort and a history in deep jungle!
Between visits to Bhangarh and Kankwari forts, I had other three notable experiences. All are worth independent posts, that would certainly be in coming days. But, to me it seemed rather more appropriate to write about Kankwari fort immediately after Bhangarh. It helps more in drawing comparisons and parallels.
Although the visit to Bhangarh fort had its worth because of all the stories attached to it and I was impressed by the fortress city as a whole, but I was largely disappointed by upkeep and ruins of the Bhangarh fort. In that context, visit to Kankwari fort right next day was a huge surprise… a pleasant one.
I had read about Kankwari Fort sometime back but never had chance to visit it in my earlier trips to Sariska Tiger Reserve. Even the information available about fort has been too little, too less, baring one critical historical fact that this fort was used by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to imprison his brother Dara Shikoh in 17th century. This has been always the selling point to popularise this fort. Another known fact is that the fort was built by Raja Jai Singh I of Amber who was a senior general in Aurangzeb’s army and grandson of Raja Man Singh, one of the nine jewels of Akbar’s court.
Now, the locational facts and present situation: Kankwari fort is located right deep inside the Sariska National Park and Tiger Reserve. Its alone on a hillock in the middle of the jungle, with just a handful of families to its company, who live in the Kankwari village at the base of the hillock. Obviously, the fort is located in an area with no other human access, this being a protected forest in reins of a Tiger Reserve. The fort was also a point of contention some six years back when there was a plan to open the fort for eco-tourism, which was opposed tooth & nail by the then central environment & forest ministry. Probably the plan was shelved as a result. On the other hand, Kankwari village below had to be relocated out of the core tiger area to make the critical tiger area as ‘inviolate’ i.e. out of bounds for human use. But few families are still there living in the Kankwari village.
So, under these conditions, when we finally managed to reach to the Kankwari Fort, it was a big surprise for us. Going there is tough as you hardly get a proper guidance and direction to move into the restricted forest. Only way to reach Kankwari fort is through a safari in tiger reserve.
Fort is on a hillock and once you reach on the top of the hillock, there is a gate to enter the fort, which leads to another gate through a big fortified passage on the cliff. See the images-
As soon as you enter the main gate is a lounge (locally this structure is called as tibara or तिबारा in Hindi, a hall or shelter with three open arch gates, image below) which looks refurbished recently. Perhaps this was the renovation going on some years back to promote tourism to this fort, before this was halted.
Then on the right side are stairs to go up the fort. After one enters the inside gate, there is a huge fortified compound on all sides. Stairs from the front strangely look very small to enter a fort.
Once you enter the small gate after climbing through these stairs, you reach to a intricately designed compound which looks like a garden. There is a small but deep tub in the centre. Initially it looks like a place to take bath, but it is very deep and has no stairs to go down. It might be place to store water. The intricate designs in this compound look like carved out of white marble but actually they are made of limestone. Too beautiful indeed. See for yourself-
Then there are another stairs to go up to next level-
In the image above you can see a set of rooms on this floor. These all rooms are interconnected. There is another staircase on the left minaret to go up. There are another two levels once you move up with two areas on the lower level- front and back and one front area on the upper level.
The rooms are well designed and seemingly in good condition, even the designs. What is also there, like other forts, is the number of stairs and passages, connecting one part to another and one level to other. Also overwhelming is the view from the top of the fort. It provides a 360 degree view of the jungle below, and believe me, its most fascinating part of the fort. See for yourself (click the image for full view)-
Hardly anybody comes to the fort, but few empty bottles and cartons were testimony of some odd liquor parties held here away from the eyes of the world.
Another interesting part is the back portion of the fort. Earlier I told about small stairs going up the fort from the front. But then there is another stairs from the lower level that takes one to the backside of the fort. Towards the back, when one thinks that it is the end of the fort, there is another area not visible from front.
From an opening in the wall towards both sides is the way to go to backside. There are some hidden rooms in the wall and then there is a huge baoli sort of pond, which locals say was the place to punish the rebels. Some people say that Dara Shikoh was kept here. To me it looked like a huge water reservoir. But it was interestingly designed-
There was a separate way for the horse army to enter the fort. There was a way upto the fort from the side of the lake-
Most Important things to take care off:
As I said earlier, this fort is right deep inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve, hence it falls under restricted area. Only way to go to fort is by taking a safari for tiger reserve, along with a guide. One has to pay full safari fees and the guide fees for that. To reach the fort, you have to pass through safari zone 2 of the reserve. Since you have to take a safari to go to the fort, you can only enter the jungle, hence the fort on designated safari timings, i.e. 7 am to 10 am and then 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm. These are the times to enter and exit the jungle, so one has to reach the fort, see it and come back to the exit gate- all in three hours. Its a tough task because of the distance of the fort from the entry gate, which is around 25 kms of tough bumpy jungle track. SO, considering the time strain it is not possible to see animals and fort, in single safari. But you can still be lucky to see plenty of wildlife on the way, as one passes through the thick of the wild. Well, this all is from the main Sariska gate of the reserve. There is also another gate towards Tehla, which is called Tehla Gate of the reserve. This fort is slightly closer to the Tehla gate. But then, tourists coming from Delhi mostly prefer Sariska gate. Tourists coming from Dausa side will prefer Tehla gate.
Another thing to note is that this fort is not under ASI or the tourism department. Being inside the jungle, the fort comes under the control of forest department. However, if any maintenance work has to be done to the fort, than that is done under the supervision of the ASI. So, one should hope that when you reach the fort, the forest officials have left the gate open to enter. When we reached to the fort, there was absolutely nobody at the fort. Gate was not locked and our guide led us inside the fort. As per information I gathered at the booking office, very few (less than five percent) tourists coming for the safari in Sariska, go to the Kankawari fort.
So next time you are in Sariska, keep time for a separate safari to the Kankwari Fort.
Any questions? Write me, I will be more than happy to reply with best of my knowledge.