The medieval fort near Jaipur in Rajasthan has a history that is filled with intrigue and betrayal. And then there was the curious case of hidden treasure that Indira Gandhi sought to confiscate. The story of Jaigarh Fort is as intriguing as its history.
Overlooking the famous Amber Fort and the Maota Lake, Jaigarh is part of a single fort complex that also comprises Nahargarh fort. The three forts are connected to each other by underground passages. Constructed on one of the peaks of Aravalli ranges, Jaigarh is a good 400 m above Amber Fort providing fantastic views not just of the hills but also the fort below. The fort is rugged and has far lesser frills than its neighboring Amber Fort where the royal family resided before moving to Jaipur. Jaigarh was constructed with the express purpose of protecting Amber Fort.
Built by Jai Singh II in 1726, the fort has been named after its maker and is fortified with thick red sandstone walls. The fort is spread over a length of 3 km and width of 1 km and boasts of a manicured garden that is open to the public to this very day. The watch tower provides unrestricted view of the plains while the triple-arched entrance known as the Awani Darwaza offers a great view of the artificial Sagar Lake which supplied water to the fort.
Jaigarh Fort may not be known for its opulence — for that you must walk down to the Amber Fort — but that was because it has always been a hardcore military fort. It is however known for Jaivana, the world’s largest canon on wheels that was built by the canon foundry, one of the most efficient in the world thanks to the rich presence of iron ore around it.
The foundry had a wind tunnel that sucked air from the mountains right into the furnace where temperatures would go as high as 1300 degrees Celsius. Cannons built in this foundry were over 16 ft long and would be prepared within a single day! Jaivana, the largest cannon on wheels, was manufactured in this very foundry in 1720 during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II.
Jaivana boasts of a 20.19 ft barrel and a diameter of 11 inches. The cannon weighs 50 tonnes and has been mounted on four wheels (as against the traditional two) with a mechanism that enables it to turn a complete 360 degrees. Interestingly, Jaivana was never used in battle since the Rajputs and Mughals were allies! Jaivana was, however, test fired all of o-n-c-e. 50 kg of gunpowder was loaded on to the canon and when it was fired, it covered a distance of 35 km.
In 1977, Jaigarh Fort found itself in the spotlight when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a search of all the buildings on a tip-off that the fort’s precincts and its water tanks had a treasure belonged to Amber’s erstwhile Kachwaha rulers. A parliamentary question was raised about the search and whether Indira Gandhi used army trucks to transport the treasure to her home. However, the search, which was carried by an army unit proved to be futile and after three months was called off.
The general belief is that the treasure, if there was any, was used by Sawai Jai Singh II to construct a city… the city we now know as Jaipur!