The Forts of Bundelkhand – Jhansi

The Jhansi fort is situated in the outskirts of Jhansi in uttar Pradesh. It was Built in the year 1613 by Raja Bir Singh Deo of Orchha.

The fort extends to a sprawling expansion of 15 acres (61,000 m2) and this colossal structure measures about 312m in length and 225m in width.

On the whole, there are twenty-two supports with a mammoth strengthening wall cosseted by a moat on both sides.

The fort standing in the hilly area shows how the north Indian style of fort construction differs from that of the south.

In the south most of the forts were built on the sea beds like Bekal Fort in Kerala. The granite walls of the fort are between 16 and 20 feet thick and on the south side meet the city walls. The south face of the fort is almost perpendicular.

There are 10 gates giving access to the fort. Some of these are Khanderao Gate, Datia Darwaza, Unnao Gate, Jharna Gate, Laxmi Gate, Sagar Gate, Orchha Gate, Sainyar Gate and Chand Gate.

Notable sights in the fort are the Shiva temple, Ganesh temple at the entrance, and the Kadak Bijli cannon used in the uprising of 1857. The memorial board reminds one of the hair-raising feat of the Rani Lakshmibai in jumping on horseback from the fort. Nearby is the Rani Mahal, built in the later half of the 19th century where there is now an archaeological museum.

The shattered upholder on the eastern side was rebuild by the British, who also supplemented a floor to Panch Mahal. Every year in the month of Jan-feb a grand occasion is held known as Jhansi Mahotsav many eminent personalities and artist perform their play .

The fort proper has occupied an area of 15 acres and measures 312m in length and 225m in width. Altogether, there are twenty-two bastions with a huge fortification wall protected by a moat on two sides. A bastion on the eastern side was destroyed, which was reconstructed by the British, who also added a floor to Panch Mahal.

The fort can be divided in three parts keeping in view the different stages of its constructions:- Baradari, Shankergarh and Panch Mahal. Besides, the fort contains many ancient structures of great importance. The old city wall had ten gates known as Khanderao, Datia, Unnao, Orchcha, Baragaon, Lakshmi, Sagar, Sainyar, Bhander and Jhirna. The first eight still have wooden doors and of the last two, the former is completely closed and the latter is open.

A breach in the wall between Sainyar gate and Jhirna gate, which was made by Hugh Rose’s batteries during the assault on the fort in 1858, is still in existence. There are also four khirkis (entrances) made in the walls-Ganpatgir-ki-Khirki, Alighol-ki-Khirki, Sujan khan- ki-Khirki and Sagar Khirki. The main structures within the fort are Baradari, Ganesh mandir, Shahar Darwaza, Bhawani shnakr, Kadak bijali, Grave of Gulam Gaus Khan, Panch Mahal, Siva temple, Execution tower, Kal kothari, etc.

The construction of the fort is ascribed to the Bundela Rajput chief and the ruler of the kingdom of Orchha Veer Singh ju Deo Bundela in 1613.It is one of the strongholds of the Bundelas. In 1728, Mohammed Khan Bangash attacked Maharaja Chattrasal. Peshwa Bajirao [2] helped Maharaja Chattrasal defeat the Mughal army. As a mark of gratitude, Maharaja Chattrasal offered a part of his state, which included Jhansi, to Peshwa Bajirao.

In 1742 Naroshanker was made the subedar of Jhansi. During his tenure of 15 years he not only extended the strategically important Jhansi fort (the extension is called Shankergarh), but also constructed other buildings. In 1757, after Naroshanker was called back by the Peshwa. Madhav Govind Kakirde and then Babulal Kanahai were made the subedars of Jhansi. From 1766 to 1769 Vishwas Rao Laxman served as the subedar of Jhansi. Then Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar was appointed the subedar of Jhansi. He was a very able administrator, increasing the revenue of the state and building both the MahaLakshmi Temple and the Raghunath Temple.

Notable sights in the fort are the Shiva temple, Ganesh temple at the entrance, and the Kadak Bijli cannon used in the uprising of 1857.

After the death of Shiv Rao his grandson Ramchandra Rao was made subedar of Jhansi. His poorly administered term ended with is death in 1835. His successor Raghunath Rao (III) died in 1838. The British rulers then accepted Gangadhar Rao as the Raja of Jhansi. The inefficient administration of Raghunath Rao (III) left Jhansi in a very poor financial position.

However, he was succeeded by Raja Gangadhar Rao, who was a very good administrator. He was reportedly very generous and sympathetic, and the local population of Jhansi was well satisfied. In 1842 Raja Gangadhar Rao married Manikarnika Tambe who was the given the new name of Lakshmi Bai She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before the Maharaja died.

The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories.

In March 1854, Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort. In 1857 the revolt broke out and she took the control of the fort and led Jhansi forces against those of the British East India Company.

Jhansi was besieged by the company forces of General Hugh Rose in March and April 1858 and was captured on 4 April 1858. Rani Lakshmi Bai was able to make a daring escape on horseback from the fort and the city before the city was pillaged by Rose’s troops.

The fort standing in the hilly area shows how the north Indian style of fort construction differs from that of the south. In the south most of the forts were built on the sea beds like Bekal Fort in Kerala. The granite walls of the fort are between 16 and 20 feet thick and on the south side meet the city walls. The south face of the fort is almost perpendicular. There are 10 gates giving access to the fort. Some of these are Khanderao Gate, Datia Darwaza, Unnao Gate, Jharna Gate, Laxmi Gate, Sagar Gate, Orchha Gate, Sainyar Gate and Chand Gate.

The memorial board reminds one of the hair-raising feat of the Rani Lakshmibai in jumping on horseback from the fort. Nearby is the Rani Mahal, built in the later half of the 19th century where there is now an archaeological museum.

In 1861 the British Government gave the Jhansi fort and Jhansi city to Jiyaji Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior, but the British took back Jhansi from Gwalior state in 1868.

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