One of the most interesting forts of Rajasthan is the lesser-known Achalgarh Fort nestled high in the Aravalli Range. This magnificent fort sits atop a hill in the picturesque village of Achalgarh, a few kilometres away from the famous Dilwara Temples. The Achalgarh Fort complex situated in an eco-sensitive zone is steeped in history, religion and spirituality.
This fort is believed to have been built by the mighty Paramaras who under the leadership of Raja Bhoja ruled over a kingdom that extended from Chittorgarh in the north-west to Konkan in the south and from Sabarmati River in the west to Vidisha in the east. This complex has a 9th century Shiva Temple, Jain Temples, ruins of a fort, Mandakini Kund and other temple structures.
It is highly likely that the Paramaras built the ancient Achaleshwar Mahadev Temple in 813 CE. Legend has it that one time, Vasishta Brahmarshi found his beloved Nandini missing from the ashram. He went looking for her and saw she had fallen into a deep gorge. Nandini was frightened and sought refuge in her revered Guru. Vasishta Brahmarshi used his extraordinary tapo balam (strength of penance and austerities) to move the mountain to make a safe passage for Nandini. Lord Shiva sensing that a large part of the mountain could collapse and fall on the people living near it extended his toe to balance the mountain and prevent it from falling over.
Lord Shiva then filled up the gorge with water from the Mandakini river so that Nandini could rise to the surface. Nandini made her way quickly to Vasishta Brahmarshi’s side who then thanked the Lord for his timely assistance. As the toe of Lord Shiva saved the people from destruction, the Lord is worshipped here in the form of his toe impression. There is a beautiful natural Shiva Linga along with other idols made from sphatika. A pit seen in the temple complex is said to lead to Patala (nether world).
There is a grand Nandi that locals believe is made from panchadhatu (alloy of gold, silver, copper, iron and zinc) weighing about 4 tonnes. The temple has some ancient inscriptions that appear to be poems.
Besides, the sacred Shiva Temple, there is a Dashavatar Temple (that has hundreds of lovely sculptures portraying various dance postures), Brahma Temple, Kali Temple (stunning idols of Lord Bhairav Nath and Durga Mata are seen in this temple) and intricately decorated Jain temples which offer a panoramic view of the Aravalli and its highest peak, Guru Shikhar. The most exquisite of these Jain temples is the Shantinath Jain temple built in 1513 CE.
The most curious feature of this fort complex are the three stone buffaloes standing in front of the Mandakini Kund. Legend has it that this tank used to be filled with ghee in the ancient times. Three demons in the form of buffaloes used to drink up the ghee every night. The sages used this divine ghee for their yagnas and frustrated with the actions of the demons, prayed to the Lord for his assistance. The Lord released a single arrow that pierced the three buffaloes killing them instantly (some locals say it was a king who shot the arrow). The three stone buffaloes exhibit an entry wound on their hide even today.
This fort was renovated by Rana Kumbha of Mewar in 1452 CE and remained as a watchtower for many centuries. There are dilapidated ramparts within the complex. The main gateway, Hanumanpol leads to the lower fort which has two towers. The second gate, Champapol leads to the inner fort. There is another reservoir called Revati Kund inside the fort.
Unfortunately, this fort is in a state of disrepair owing to decades of neglect and is barely discernible. It is indeed sad that a place of such great antiquity is relegated to obscurity.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)