An archaeologist’s delight, Alwar has been among the historic cities in Rajasthan. Once a part of the Matsya kingdom, a visit to Alwar would transport you to an era in the history of a satellite town. Its ancient temples, medieval forts and palaces, gardens and wildlife make it an interesting tourist destination.
Embraced by the Aravalli ranges and cosseted from the desert sands, the quaint little town can boast of some picturesque locations. Lakes, wooded forests, palaces and some lesser-known forts, yet punctuated phase in history dot the city and its suburbs. Today, Alwar may have matured into an important industrial centre yet it retains the mystical charm to attract tourists from across the globe.
A moment out of history, you have here the Bala Quila where Babur is believed to have spent one night. The fort now rests on the highest peak of the Aravalli ranges in Alwar with a panoramic view of the city. Nestled on the foothill is the City Palace, now a museum where you would find numerous legendary treasures of Alwar’s Maharajas. While the architecture fascinates you-rare manuscripts, paintings, objects made from jade, ivory, silver and a large array of weapons are a visual delight.
The other interesting monuments here are the beautiful Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri a majestic red sandstone and white marble cenotaph built in the memory of a mistress of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh, a ruler of Alwar. You could also see the Vijay Mandir Palace and Moti Doongri.
A little drive on the road to Jaipur is Alwar’s most popular day out spot Siliserh. The summer retreat of the Maharajas is perched on a hill it is surrounded by the Aravalis and a tranquil lake that is very soothing. To the west in the wilderness are the protected forests of Sariska once the hunting grounds of the Kings. The Sariska Tiger Reserve and Wildlife sanctuary is a haven for several species of birds and wildlife that includes sambhar, chinkara, wild boar, jackal and the elusive tiger.
A drive into the forest, a site also visited by the Pandava when in exile, would take you to an ancient temple, a relic of the past. In near proximity lies Viratnagar a city revered in the history of having given shelter to the mighty Pandava brothers of Mahabharata. It is also one of the oldest historical sites in Rajasthan. An edict of king Ashoka dating back to the 3rd century was found here. In another part of the site are the ruins of the earliest freestanding structure, a circular Buddhist temple.
As you move on in the circuit, comes Deeg. With close proximity to Agra and Delhi, Deeg exhibits are the most beautiful in the region, palaces and gardens with strong Mughal influence. Deeg is famous for Coloured fountains, unique in the world; Temples of Kaman and Part of Braj 84 Kus bari Krama are visited by religious tourists.
A visit to this region is not complete without a trip to Bharatpur. The history of Bharatpur traces the rise and fall of Jat power in eastern Rajasthan. This was the region where important Jat rulers like Churaman, Badan Singh and Suraj Mal dominated the history of this entire belt. They fought the invading Marathas, Mughals and the interfering British and were a power to reckon with. The Bharatpur fort is now partly used by the government offices but a large part of it houses the government museum. But the icing on the cake is the Lohagarh Fort, the iron fort that took sixty long years to build.
Bharatpur a tiny little place, yet it can boast of one of the world’s best bird sanctuaries at the Keoladeo National Park once the hunting preserve of the kings. Every year the sanctuary is visited by over 400 species of water birds, which include exotic migratory birds from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Siberia and Tibet. The greylag and barhead geese are among the important visitors but the star of the sanctuary is the rare Siberian crane. If you’re a bird lover, then this is your paradise.
Further on in, lies Dholpur famous for its stone. At a little distance away, at Jhor is the oldest Mughal Garden built by Babar in 1527 and rediscovered in the 1970s. You also see the famous Machkund where a religious fair every year sees a gathering of devotees seeking a cure for their skin ailments by taking a dip in the holy kund. Other important locations include Bari and Damoh, the Van Vihar and Ram Sagar Sanctuary.
The grand finale on the circuit is the tiger land of international repute Ranthambore. After the Kings and the places let nature lover in you lead you through the kingdom of the king of the jungle. AS the various species co-exist in their habitat, you meander through the jungle tracks with verdant landscape satiating the wildlife enthusiast in you. But in that fervour don’t miss out the Ranthambore fort with the unusual Sunheri Kothi in Tonk. Carryback some felt rugs called namdas and leather items produced here.