Crumbling palaces in Dhar fort

When we came through the final gate in the ramparts of Dhar fort, we were a little nonplussed to see a little village inside. I’d read about a palace inside; I realized that the palace was probably the small structure at the top of the ramparts which I’d seen from below. A well-trodden path led off to our left, in the direction where I guessed the palace would be.

Right at the beginning of the path was this little gareebkhana. It wasn’t in great repair, although it looked like someone lives in it. An encroachment or an ancient right? When you come to such forts, it is never clear what the legal status is of the people who live inside. The bricks which made up the wall in front of the house looked very similar to those we had seen abutting the bastion outside the gate. This was certainly built in the last two hundred years, and possibly even in the last hundred.

The next thing we saw was this very impressive row of arches made of brick. This looked so much like the Lucknow residency that I was convinced immediately that it was British. I could be mistaken about that, but I would be very surprised if it was not post-Mughal. I’ve not seen bricks of this kind in Mughal architecture. This looked a little like the lakhauri bricks which the architecture of Awadh used. The wall behind this had thick surkhi plaster, another indicator that this was a post Mughal construction.

We walked through these arches and up a staircase just above it. There was a small palace above these walls(photo above) which was in very bad repair. Was this the Sheesh Mahal which was built by Jehangir inside this fort? There seemed to be no plaque which could tell us anything about the history of this structure. On the other hand, it could be a post-Mughal construction. Baji Rao II, the last of the Peshwas, is said to have been born in this fort. Since this palace stood atop the largest post-Mughal structure I saw, I wonder whether this crumbling palace is where he was born.

The crowning jewel of Dhar fort is supposed to be the Mughal era Kharbuja Mahal. That was indeed what I had seen from below the walls of the fort. The fanciful name apparently comes from the Mughal dome atop the building (you can see part of it in the photo above); to some eyes it looks like a watermelon, hence the name. You can see from the photos (above, and the featured photo) that it is in shockingly bad repair. The doors were locked. A closer look showed electrical wires threaded through jharokhas, so clearly some people do step inside. The building is at the edge of a forty foot drop. It had been raining, so I did not venture round the building to see whether there was a way up to the terrace from outside. Probably not, because some of the many young couples whom we saw here would have then made their way up.

Quite in keeping with the bad upkeep was the board explaining the history of this structure. Written in Hindi and English, it has clearly been stencilled over twice with two different stencils. It is hard to get anything out of this board. The Family walked away from the board in disgust. I took a photo thinking I would decipher it at leisure. Now looking at it again, I am ready to give up. Just in case you want to try, I’ve given you the photo above.