The rich history of Rajasthan has given it so much worth seeing that you just need to throw a stone in any direction and it will land at a location that you haven’t discovered before. Once you are done with the more well-known cities like Jaipur and Udaipur, it is time to do a round of some places that do not attract tourists in equally large numbers, but are remarkably beautiful in their own right. One such location is the town of Sawai Madhopur and the area surrounding it.
Sawai Madhopur is the headquarters of the district sharing its name, on the border of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and located about 160 km from Jaipur. Known mainly for being the gateway to Ranthambore National Park, one of the best places in India to see tigers, it is also home to the regal Ranthambore Fort and several other destinations worth visiting.
The earliest recorded settlement in this area was at the site of Ranthambore Fort around 8th century CE. The fort’s construction was begun under the Chauhan kings sometime between the 10th and 12th centuries. Being located on the trade route connecting North India to Central India, the area was highly coveted by many rulers. Under the reign of Rao Hammir, the last king of the Chauhan dynasty (1282 – 1301), the area underwent major development. Ala-ud-din Khilji’s army ended the Chauhan rule after several failed attempts in 1301, after which the fort and the area surrounding it changed many hands, eventually ending up with Akbar. To protect the region from Maratha incursions, Jaipur ruler Sawai Madho Singh fortified the village of Sherpur and renamed it Sawai Madhopur in 1763. The Mughals handed over the fort to the Jaipur state two years later, and it remained a part of the kingdom till 1947.
Main Places to Visit
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Ranthambore National Park – Located about 11 km from the city center, it was first set up as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary way back in 1955, and became a national park in 1980. Apart from the tiger population, the park is also known for its leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, wild boars, chinkaras, sambars, nilgais, langurs and macaques. The best months to visit the park are November and May, and the ideal way to do it is to take an early morning safari. Riding through the undulating pathways inside the park in an open-aired gypsy in anticipation of a tiger sighting will make you stop grumbling about waking up pre-dawn. And if you are lucky, you will stop a few meters from a lioness feeding freshly killed meat to her cubs – an experience you will remember for a long time. Very little beats the sheer thrill of seeing this beautiful animal in the wild staring back at you.
Photo by d.e.v.e.s.h
Ranthambore Fort – The fact that the fort is located inside the national park adds to the excitement, though it is mostly safe (at least during the day). It is interesting that most forts in Rajasthan have the same basic architectural style, but each stands out in its overall construction and the way it’s been adapted to the local geography.
This fort requires you to climb 250 steps through 7 gates to reach to the top. Where once you would have been met with archers and other sundry warriors, the only adversaries you run into now are a bunch of monkeys focused on any food you might be carrying. The fort covers an area of 4 sq. km, with grand ruins of palaces, temples, cenotaphs and houses spread around, including the majestic 36 Pillars Chhatri, and it is a good idea to hire a guide for a quick trip through it. Out of the few Hindu and Jain temples at the top, the Ganesh temple is the most popular.
Photo by Vijay Singh
Khandar Fort – An ancient fort long held by the Sisodias of Mewar, it is located on the edge of the national park. Inside this fort, believed to have remained invincible for most of its existence, are many places of worship, including the beautiful Rani Temple, which offers a commanding view of the park.
Temples – If you are religiously inclined or just want to admire great architecture, head to some of the many Hindu and Jain temples spread in this area. The chief ones include Amareshwar Mahadeo Temple, Chamatkarji Temple, Kala Gaura Bhairav Temple, Chauth Mata Temple, Shri Mahaveerji Temple and Dushmeshwar Mahadeo Temple.
Shilpgram – Located 9 km from the city, this is a craft village depicting the diversity in crafts, art and culture of Rajasthan and other parts of India.
Photo Courtesy Rajasthan.gov.in
Other Sites – There are a number of other very interesting places to visit not far from Sawai Madhopur. These include Indargarh (51 km away – famous for the Bijasan Mata Temple located high up on a hill), Tonk (81 km – capital of the only princely state in Rajasthan to have Muslim rulers, with its own set of beautiful buildings), Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (200 km – located in MP, this is another major Indian wildlife conservation site, and also the sanctuary chosen for introduction of Asiatic lions from Gir in Gujarat).
Jaipur International Airport (132 km) is the nearest airport. Sawai Madhopur Junction lies on the important Delhi-Mumbai train route and most major trains stop here. The station is well-connected with other parts of India too. The city is connected to Jaipur via Tonk by an excellent national highway.
Sawai Madhopur, like most tourist destinations in Rajasthan, has really good options for staying. You could opt for one of the resorts close to the national park – the roar of tigers or the laugh of hyenas can easily be heard at night from here.
Featured Photo by Bharat Goel