Bharatpur Travel Information

 

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Introduction

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 Agra road.
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 March.

Places of interest


Bharatpur Birds Sanctuary :
Aptly 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 Hindi.

. 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.


 

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