Madhya Pradesh is home to a marvelous work of stone known at the Bandhavgarh Fort which was built somewhere around the 10th century standing high amidst the Vindhyachal ranges. This hill based fort is located in the Bandhavgarh hill which is approximately 811 meters above sea level with the magnificent Bandhavgarh National Park in its vicinity.
A large number of smaller hills surround the area which is separated by gently sloping valleys. The fort is located in the Umaria district. The valleys amidst the hills end in local swampy meadows known as “Bohera”. The fort safely houses endangered species of many vultures.
The fort can be seen from almost any point in the Tala Range, and you can expect a real good view of the hills and valleys from the Bandhavgarh fort. As of now the Bandhavgarh Fort and the national park seem to have intertwined together as one can see many tigresses visiting the fort plateau to keep their young cubs away from dominant young male tigers.
You can see a beautiful mixture of flora and fauna here. Wild animals and birds including some rare species like the Malabar pied hornbill, falcons and four different species of vultures can be seen in this area. A tour through the Bandhavgarh national park is incomplete if you skip on the fort part.
Bandhavgarh Fort History
The History behind the Bandhavgarh fort dates far back to the Treta yug following up to being a stronghold for the Bahela Rajputs in the Kali Yug. The folks around the area hold a strong belief in the legend that says that the Bandhavgarh Fort was constructed when Lord Rama searching for his lost wife. It was made to help his younger sibling Laxman keep a guard over Lanka where his wife was held captive during his exile from the Kingdom.
The name Bandhavgarh has been derived from the cause of its construction where the word Bandhav refers to “Brother” and Garh translate to the “fort”. It has carvings which provide a convincing evidence of human-based activities, and there is also a lesser known legend associated with the fort which says that the fort was ruined and the monkeys who helped Lord Rama build a bridge between Lanka and India were the ones to reconstruct it again to the prior glory of the fort.
The fort also houses several man-made caves with inscriptions from the pre-Kalyug era and rock paintings. Moving forward to the Kalyug era, the Bandhavgarh fort was believed to be constructed by the rulers of the Gond Empire as suggested by the regional folklore. Gond kings of the Pandro caste are known as the ones to have constructed the fort originally. This folklore is confirmed by the descendants of Gond kings who still live near the fort.
Only a few of the total twelve talabs constructed by the Gond kings have managed to survive. The fort has been ruled by numerous dynasties like the Mauryans who inhabited the place in the 3rd century BC, Vakataka rulers, Sengars, Kalachuris, Baghels followed by Maharaja Vikramaditya when he moved his capital to Rewa. The last known inhabitants resided in the fort up until 1935, and now it is deserted.
Bandhavgarh Fort Safari
A jeep safari through the Bandhavgarh fort starts with the karn pol which is a narrow ancient gate and heads towards the left direction of the fort. You can see how beautifully the green jungles and the old structures have intertwined with each other. Man-made caves were used as guard room, horse stable, justice court, etc which can be seen during your safari. These caves are constructed from the sand-stone rocks and are cold from the inside. Upon proceeding further, you will notice two pathways in different directions. Taking a left turn will lead you to a site where you can watch birds and especially rare vultures.
The right side will lead you to the ninth avatar of lord Vishnu known as Varah. Bandhavgarh houses many such amazing statues and ancient piece of art including the famous shesh shaiya with 65 feet long Lord Vishnu Statue in a reclining position, which can be accessed via a jeep safari.
Bandhavgarh Fort Photos
1. Bandhavgarh fort entrance:
After a few minutes of trekking atop the Bandhavgarh hill, you stand to face the beautiful fort of Bandhavgarh. You can get the gist of the place from this very entrance known as the Karn pole gate which is beautifully carved in stone. Once you enter through this door, it promises that you would find yourself in the beauty and serenity pre-modern era.
2. Shesh Shaiya:
A full distance image of 65 feet Lord Vishnu lying down in his bed made up of the Shesh nag’s (Seven Hooded serpents) giant tail. This is the origin point of the Charanganga River.
3. A close-up picture of Shesh Shaiya:
A close-up picture of Shesh Shaiya in a green pool of Charanganga River. This water is believed to have originated from the feet of Lord Vishnu and thus holds sacred importance.
4. Lord Vishnu as Mohini:
A beautifully preserved statue of Lord Vishnu as Mohini which is said to be one of his dasavatars. Lord Vishnu appeared as Mohini to bring back the elixir of immortality from the demons to the gods to help them keep their immortality.
5. The Varaha Avatar:
The boar or the Varaha is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu helped defeat the demon king Hiranyaksha who had taken over the Earth.
6. The Vamana Avatar:
Vamana or the dwarf avatar of Lord Vishnu who helped gain backs the three worlds from Bali, a descendant of Hiranyakashyap.
7. Lord Ganesha & others:
The elephant-headed god and son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati was immensely worshipped by the inhabitants of the fort.
8. Lord Vishnu in his sixth avatar as Parshuram:
Lord Vishnu in his sixth avatar as Parshuram who came down to earth when evil took over and there was no way out. Known for his powerful axe, Parshuram maintained the balance of the world by destroying the evil.
9. Statue of Lord Vishnu:
A well-preserved statue of Lord Vishnu basking in all its glory. One can find similar idols all over the fort some of which represent the avatars of Lord Vishnu.
10. The Kabir Chabutara:
The Kabir Chabutara is one of the few surviving tomb structures of the Bandhavgarh fort. Other structures include Seth Dhani Ka Temple, Bandhavdheesh temple and Treasury,.
11. Lord Ganesha carved in a stone:
Lord Ganesha carved in a stone in the Bandhavgarh fort which dictates that apart from worshipping Lord Vishnu, the earlier settlers of the fort worshipped Lord Ganesha as well.
12. Bandhavgarh fort scene
The beautiful lush green beauty of the Bandhavgarh national park can be seen from this point. The deep valleys cutting through small hills are a sight to linger in your memories for a long time.
How to reach Bandhavgarh Fort
As the road to Bandhavgarh is uphill full of sharp turning points which might be a little dangerous for new drivers, you need to obtain prior permission from authorities to visit Bandhavgarh fort. Make sure you hire a professional driver for the same.
You cannot directly fly to Bandhavgarh; the closest airport to the fort is the Khajuraho airport and Jabalpur airport. From here you can hire private vehicles to reach your destination. A road trip from places like Delhi, Agra or Varanasi takes about seven to eight hours to the Tala park entrance of the Bandhavgarh fort.
You can opt for an overnight journey starting from Delhi to Umaria followed by a 30 minutes drive to the fort entrance. You can avail only jeeps for the same. The distance between Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh is about 250 km which is an approximate 8 hours drive. The closest railway station near Bandhavgarh is Umaria just after Katani which is about 40 minutes drive to the park.
Buses owned by the state government run from cities like the Pendra road, Shahdol and Bilaspur up to the Bandhavgarh fort. A drive from Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh is around 4 hours with an approximate distance of 190kms.
Best Time to visit Bandhavgarh Fort
Bandhavgarh fort site was accessible to tourists up until the year 2012 and has been closed off for the time being. If decided otherwise by the forest department, the fort can start functioning again as a tourist hub. The same will be available for the tourists when the park is opened for jungle safaris. The visitors can visit the fort from Mid-October to June end.
This best time to visit Bandhavgarh is between November and April during the winters. Rainy season is not appropriate for the same as the steep roadways leading to road might get slippery and lead to unforeseen circumstances. Safari jeeps are available to help you explore the place at a reasonable price.