Hinglajgarh: Mysteries of a Medieval Fort

Amidst a dry deciduous forest in the northeastern part of Madhya Pradesh state, there is an elaborate yet buried historic fortified city presently known as Hinglajgarh. Geographically, the site is in a catchment area of the grand Chambal River, and rivulets—or channels—called Mandaleshwari nulla and Txakeshwar nulla protect the site from three sides. This valley—80 to 100 feet deeper than the plateau—is inhabited by wildlife and thick vegetation.

The fort was inhabited, flourished, decayed, vacated, rebuilt, and again vacated over its history. What we see built today are Maratha period and Chandrawat period (seventeenth and eighteenth century) military structures. The site provides the opportunity to chronologically identify the different layers of building. Among all the layers, the most significant and highly evolved is from the Parmara period in the tenth century. This is probably the most important phase, with astonishing stone-craft evidence from medieval Indian history. The sculptures and building-crafts seen at this site are matchless as both two components of skill development in stone craftsmanship and the stone material naturally available at this site. Pale yellow, buff colored sandstone form the plateau, which provided both fine grained textures good for carving, and at the same time necessary structural strength for the building construction. Later developments were optimal but also erected higher and stronger to serve as a military base. During this time, the location of the Hinglajgarh on the border of Mevar and Malwa was a very strategic defense location.

The fort has four enclosed quarters aligned from the south to north. These enclosures were built and rebuilt in phases. The enclosure located nearest to the water channel and laid on the foot-hills suggests that it was initially an agricultural-based settlement. This settlement, after sufficient growth and prominence, would have shifted upwards on the higher terrains for either expansion, safety, or due to flooding from the rivulet during heavy rains.

Another enclosure adjoining the original lower enclosure posed an apt location for the royal seat. This enclosure has buildings and remains having higher proportions and establishments than that of other areas, suggesting that these buildings were important for royalty.

The name Hinglajgarh is derived from the Goddess Hinglaj devi. The revered shrine of the goddess is located in Baluchistan. There are a number of temples of Hinlaj devi built mostly by Rajput warriors who ventured during wars up to the north western parts of the subcontinent. There is much yet to explore of the history of Hinglajgarh Fort, but it is evident that the basic factors to sustain a settlement are available here in plenty: the terrain, its catchment, flora and fauna, the lowlands for cultivation, and the rivulet that provides its lifeline—the water.

WMF has partnered with the government of Madhya Pradesh’s Department of Culture to develop a sustainable management program for continued conservation and maintenance of the state’s heritage sites.