Nahargarh is one of three forts in the vicinity of the "Pink City" of Jaipur. Despite its prominence, the fort remained sadly neglected until recent years, resulting in visitors frequently overlooking it in favor of iconic and well-preserved Amber Fort on the opposite end of the ridge. Extensive restoration works and some exciting new attractions have revitalized the fort though, making it one of the top tourist places in Jaipur. Plus, there's no better spot to see the city!
The History of Nahargarh
The king of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh II, commissioned Nahargarh in 1734 to help strengthen the security of his newly established capital (which he'd relocated from Amber Fort in 1727) after an ongoing battle against the Marathas. However, it's said that construction was hampered by the ghost of a dead prince, Nahar Singh Bhomia, who haunted the area. The fort was named after him in order to appease him. A temple dedicated to him was built inside the fort as well.
Sawai Jai Singh II also set up a royal treasury inside the fort. It continued to function there until the last king of Jaipur, Sawai Man Singh II, moved it to his small palace on Moti Dungri (Pearl Hill) south of the city in the 1940s.
The design of Nahargarh is clearly clever. Its sturdy, elongated ramparts run all the way along the ridge to connect with Jaigarh fort, above Amber Fort. The fort's defenses were never tested though, as it was never attacked. Instead, its cannons were used on ceremonial occasions to signal the time.
That's not to say the fort had an unchequered history though. If the curious tales of locals are to be believed, problematic concubines were banished and held captive there. The most legendary one was Ras Kapoor, a dancing girl who became the obsession of young playboy king Sawai Jagat Singh II in the early 19th century. Apparently, she died under mysterious circumstances after being imprisoned in the fort.
The grandest part of the fort, the palace complex known as Madhavendra Bhavan, was added in the latter half of the 19th century by Sawai Madho Singh II. He decided to turn the fort into a recreational retreat for himself. Thakur Fateh Singh of the Raj Imarat (royal building department) was responsible for the design. Judging by the layout of the lavish palace complex, Madho Singh was evidently a king who enjoyed himself!
After Sawai Man Singh II took up residence at Moti Dungri palace, Nahargarh fell into neglect. The fort managed to periodically capture the attention of the film industry though. Classic Bengali movie "Sonar Kella" (1974), and Bollywood hits such as "Rang de Basanti" (2006) and "Shuddh Desi Romance" (2013), were partially filmed there.
Nahargarh was finally rescued from the doldrums by the opening of three new attractions within the fort—a fine-dining restaurant Once Upon a Time in 2015, a Wax Museum in late 2016, and a contemporary art Sculpture Park in late 2017. The Sculpture Park is a Public-Private Partnership initiative of the Rajasthan government and Saat Saath Arts Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the visual arts.
Nahargarh is strategically perched 1,970 feet above sea level on a ridge just north of the Jaipur city center. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. It's about four hours southwest of Delhi and is well-connected to most parts of India. This Jaipur city guide will help you plan your trip there.
How to Visit Nahargarh
Depending on how energetic you feel, there are two ways of reaching the fort.
The shortest way involves an uphill hike along a cobblestone path that starts near Nahargarh Palace Hotel at the base of the fort (take Nahargarh Road from Chandpol Bazaar in the the Old City to reach it). If you're reasonably fit, you should be able to complete the hike in under 30 minutes. It does get tiring though. The path ends near the fort's sunrise point.
Alternatively, if you'd prefer to go by road, be prepared for a windy drive that's sometimes termed the "drive of death" due to its hairpin bends. Unfortunately, there's no direct route up the hill. The road starts out from Kanak Ghati on the way to Amber Fort.
The main palace part of the fort requires an entry ticket and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The cost is 200 rupees (around $2.80) for foreigners and 50 rupees (70 cents) for Indians. Nahargarh is also one of the monuments included in the composite entry ticket available at Amber Fort, Albert Hall, Hawa Mahal, and Jantar Mantar. This ticket costs 1,000 rupees (around $14) for foreigners and 300 rupees (around $4) for Indians.
Entry is free on certain special days: Rajasthan Day (March 30), World Heritage Day (April 18), World Museum Day (May 18), and World Tourism Day (September 27). Expect huge crowds though! If you want a peaceful experience, avoid visiting on Sundays and public holidays as the fort is a popular local hangout spot.
Entry to the Wax Museum costs extra. It's 700 rupees ($10) per person for foreigners and 500 rupees ($7) for Indians. The Wax Museum is open until 6:30 p.m. daily. Personal photography isn't allowed inside, although there's a professional who will take your picture for 25 rupees (35 cents).
Rajasthan Tourism's "Pink City by Night" tour concludes with dinner at Nahargarh. This government-run tour goes past many of the city's heritage monuments, which are illuminated at night. It costs 700 rupees ($10) per person including a vegetarian buffet and transport in an air-conditioned bus. The tour is mostly booked by Indians and there's no guide on board. Depending on your requirements, this private Jaipur Night Tour may be a better option.
For an offbeat experience, you can learn about Nahargarh's water catchment system on this insightful walking tour offered by Heritage Water Walks.
CaptivaTour provides this app-based Nahargarh Fort Audio Guide for those who'd like more information while exploring the fort.
What to See There
Nahargarh is a compact yet robust fort. Inside, the highlight is the Madhavendra Bhavan palace complex. It has nine spacious self-contained apartments, where the king's women lived, set around three sides of a courtyard. The king's quarters are on the remaining side. They're connected to the apartments by a corridor that enabled the king to secretly visit his ladies and frolic in privacy. The buildings in this section are adorned with beautiful frescoes.
The Sculpture Park's installations are dotted around Madhavendra Bhavan and change every year. The current exhibition is a collection of works from 12 Indian and 11 international artists.
The Wax Museum is the other major draw inside the fort. Some people feel it's overpriced through. The museum is divided into three sections—a Hall of Icons with wax statues of various celebrities including cricket players and Bollywood actors, a Royal Darbar with paintings and wax statues of eminent Rajasthan royalty in traditional costumes, and a stunning modern-day Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) crafted out of millions of glass pieces.
As with many forts in Rajasthan, Nahargarh has its own baolis (step wells) where water was stored. One is situated inside the fort, and the other on the outside but within the fort ramparts. Unlike most step wells, they have unusual unsymmetrical shapes that follow the natural terrain of the hill. The stepwell on the outside is most impressive and features in "Rang de Basanti."
The fort's ramparts provide a spectacular view of Jaipur city and surroundings, including the other forts and Jal Mahal floating on Man Sagar Lake. It's possible to walk on the ramparts. However, doing so poses a safety risk because of the aged construction.
After you've explored the fort, unwind with something to eat or drink and soak up the city views below. If budget isn't an issue, Once Upon a Time restaurant is gorgeous. Government-run Padao is a cheaper option.
Nahargarh is perhaps the most popular sunset and sunrise spot in Jaipur. Kali Burj, near Padao restaurant, is promoted as a sunset point. The sunrise point is near the large external step well.
The fort and its walls are illuminated in the evenings, making it even more magical.
What Else to Do Nearby
The road to Nahargarh also goes to Jaigarh fort, so you can visit all three forts (including Amber Fort) together. This will take up most of the day. There's another ancient stepwell, Panna Meena ka Kund, at the rear of Amber Fort that's worth seeing too. Those who are interested in Indian handicrafts can drop by the Anokhi block-printing museum in an old haveli (mansion) near Amber Fort.