The Jogi Mahal, the forest rest house, used to operate as acoomodation for guests. It is now unfortunately closed, as its unrivalled location would make for a memorable stay. Next to the guest house is the second largest banyan tree in the world.
There is no entrance fee to go into the fort, nor are there guides available. We brought our own guide, the naturalist who came with us on the game drives, which makes for a more interesting visit, but him providing us with information and history regarding the fort.
At this shrine half way up the steps to the fort, devotees leave food offerings to Ganesha, which in fact are then eaten by the resident sacred langurs.
I spent some time sitting opposite this shrine on my own, and became quite a tourist attraction myself. Local boys would come up to me to practice their English, or just stand and stare. People would join me on the wall and chat away to me in their local language, completely oblivious to the fact that I couldn't understand a word. A holy man came up and blessed me, lads wanted to try out my binoculars and young girls would just point and giggle. Quite an experience!
The sandstone fort is dotted with beautiful temples such as this 8th century temple dedicated to the Lord Ganesha. Letter to the God (mainly wedding invitations) by devotees are brought up to this temple daily by the postman. This is one of the most important Ganesha temples in the state of Rajasthan.
Inside the fort are palatial living quarters, temples, barracks, massive gates, curtain walls and even a mosque! This monument has been declared a protective site by the Archaeological survey of India.
From 1528, the Mughals ruled the fort and the Emperor Akbar the Great is reputed to have lived at the fort in the mid 1500s. In the late 17th century, the fort was gifted by the Mughals to the Maharaja of Jaipur, and the surrounding jungles became the royal hunting grounds.
Many hostile armies attempted to overthrow the fort, but with little or no success. Great warriors such as Alaudin Khilji, Feroz Tughlaq, Bahadur Shah and Kutub-ud-din all failed in their efforts. According to a legend, over a thousand women committed mass suicide rather than succumb to the marauding armies of Alauddin Khilji in 1303 – a victorious invader.
If you want some exercise on this otherwise sedentary holiday, take a walk up to the top of Ranthambore Fort. The fort has a stunning location at the top of a 200 metre high rocky escarpment in the middle of the forest. It can be seen for miles around, and would have provided a mighty stronghold for defence. The fort is enormous, with a circumference of 7 km. It is one of the oldest forts in India, dating back from 944 AD.
Still within the fort is the Badal Mahal – the Palace in the Clouds - with its famous 84-column chhatri of King Hammir. This is where he used to hold an audience.
Also inside the fort is a spring, which provides a perennial source of water for the fort and the surrounding area.