One of the most iconic forts of Madhya Pradesh is the Madan Mahal Fort located atop a hill in the centre of the historical city of Jabalpur. Built by Raja Madan Singh of the Garh Mandla kingdom of Gondwana in 1116, this fort is also known as Rani Durgavati Fort or Rani Durgavati ka Qila.
This unique fort is famous for its legendary colloquial saying, “मदन महल की छाँव में, दो टोंगों के बीच। जमा गड़ी नौं लाख की, दो सोने की ईंट।” which roughly translates to two gold bricks that are worth nine lakhs lie in the shade of Madan Mahal between two ponds (surfaces or crevices). It might be just a legend but historical documentation has suggested that the Gondwana kingdom was in possession of wealth that far exceeded one’s imagination. A lot of avaricious treasure seekers have dug up parts of the hill in search of the elusive gold bricks but have come up empty. Locals say that this fort is generally avoided after dark as there have been instances when strange sounds and voices were heard and movement of people was seen in the dead of night.
This fort is perched on a hill that is about 500 metres above the ground and offers a panoramic view of the city. A flight of stone steps takes you through the sparsely vegetated surroundings to the top. This fort is much smaller in size and therefore is largely believed to have been more of a military outpost rather than a defensive structure.
The fort is carved on a huge rock that forms the base. The rooms in the front of the main structure would have most likely been the barracks. The narrow steps at the base of the rock lead into an open hall which extends into two small rooms. One room appears to be a small court where military discussions would have taken place. The smaller room on the right has a trapdoor which locals say leads to a secret tunnel that Rani Durgavati used when she wanted to pray at the nearby Sharadadevi Temple.
There is a small reservoir and ruins of stables seen within the fort complex. “The Balancing Rock” seen on the way to the fort is a geological wonder and has survived earthquakes, thunderstorms and harsh weather conditions.
Maharaja Sangram Shah, a successor of Raja Madan Singh is said to have built some of the temples that are seen on the way to the fort. Rani Durgavati who was an ace marksman and an excellent rider is believed to have spent a great deal of time in this fort. Locals say that she used to watch over the prized city of Jabalpur from these rocks. She has also contributed to the structure and is perhaps the architect of the maze of tunnels that run underneath the hill. She started the tradition of Sawan mela and Jhanda Pratha which is still followed.
One tunnel discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is said to lead to Singorgarh Fort, while another one found in a man-made cave leads to Dhuandhar Falls. Locals say that eight escape routes were created in all the directions to ensure the safety of the king and queen with one leading to Mandla.
This fort offers a peak into the military might of the affluent Gondwana Kingdom and is well worth a visit.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)