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the-south-asian.com                            February 2001

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Page  2  of  2


FORT-IFYING A RESPLENDENT PAST

by

Saikat Neogi

 

Deeg_palace.jpg (31353 bytes)
Deeg Palace

Located just 34 kilometer from Bharatpur is the ancient town of Deeg also known for its forts and havelis. Here, the famous Deeg Palace has gardens, which are marvel of engineering skills. It would be no exaggeration to say that the elegance of design and workmanship of this palace is not seen elsewhere in India. However, the shifting sands of Rajasthan have taken a toll here as well. And the palace is in urgent need of renovation. Now, thanks to the state government's decision, it is being restored and converted into a heritage resort. " Besides giving new life to these forts and palaces, the restoration will serve another purpose---that of opening up fresh tourist destinations in Rajasthan," says Abdul Naseer, an avid travel writer visiting Rajasthan for 40 years now. " These forts are a reminder of the colourful history of the state."

The Taragarh Fort in Bundi district, in the midst of Ramgarh sanctuary, was built in AD1354, and has a lotus lake in its midst. Perched on a thickly wooded hill it is a marvelous white fort with a huge reservoir. After years of lying in ruins it is now being converted into a heritage resort.

" There are so many forts and palaces in Rajasthan that's it is difficult to make a choice," says G.N.Bhatt. " Every little detail has to be gone through for proper restoration work." As has been the case with the magnificently decorated hunting lodge built by Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur in 1933. Located at Sardarsamand in district Pali and overlooking a large lake teeming with birdlife, this too is becoming a heritage resort.

In Udaipur district again there is the Raj Mahal standing amidst the wooded Sitamata wildlife sanctuary and the Jai Samand lake. Here too work is on and the resort should be operational to meet the tourist season in a few months.

Some 80 kilometres from Udaipur is 15th century Kumbhalgarh fort which is the second principal fortress in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh. This domed shelter fort, situated inside the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and built on top of magnificent hill tracts that divide the erstwhile Mewar and Marwar regions, has seen historic battles. But after renovation it would be seeing a battle of a different kind---a marketing battle to attract the tourists. Says Bhatt, " There's a huge tourism potential here. Most overseas visitors find these forts and palaces very exotic as they are a throwback to the days of kings and queens and shikars. Foreigners, especially those with an eye for art and history prefer to stay in forest forts than in hotels."

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