Saturday, October 22, 2011


Nagaur is a small city, by Indian standards, of just under 100,000. Dominating the town is the huge fort, with 1.5 kms of walls enclosing 36 acres of land, accounting for half the area of the city. Inside the fort is an enormous palace area, controlled (still today) by the Maharajah of Jodhpur. 12 havelis occupied by 12 queens comprise part of the fort, and these have been restored and made into hotel rooms; we stayed in one of these rooms and had a lovely terrace looking out over the fort. 

Many of the forts and palaces we've seen have been Mughal and reflected Islamic architecture and painting; this fort is completely Hindu.  But what was most interesting was to have a peek into a historical site in the process of reparation. Because the Maharajah who owned the fort was in Jodhpur, this vast area lay unoccupied for hundreds of year, until the Indian army was stationed here during 60s. The fort took a real beating during their visit, and this has made the job of restoration even bigger.  There was a small museum area within the fort, describing the efforts at restoration, which was particularly handy because of our guide's weakness in English. 

Many rooms and their beautiful paintings have been restored, for example the room shown below.

There are many rooms made of plaster based on crushed sea shells, which resembles marble, some with beautiful original paintings. Pillars are lined up to give symmetrical vistas whichever way you look. There is beautiful painting and other decoration on the walls.  But what blew my mind was the ingenuity of the cooling mechanisms for the middle of a desert.    One kilometer of clay pipe or troughs circulated water throughout the palace and delivered it to countless internal fountains and pools.

The areas of the fort were positioned to maximize air flow during the summer months for natural cooling.  On the roof was a square structure cunningly designed to catch and funnel the wind, from whichever direction it was blowing, down a vent and into the rooms below:

 The roof had rainwater catchment with pipes that directed the water into giant pools - Olympic sized for sure. There were separate pools in restricted areas where the women would bathe. 

For the baths, there were separate hot and cold water cisterns, and you could see the holes in the wall of the bath where the equivalent of faucets must have been (shown in picture) so you could mix the bath water to your taste in temperature.

Water pressure delivered water from cisterns on the roof (shown in picture) to power all the fountains, with oxen working to pump the water up. I couldn't help thinking how much I would have loved living here, but also how much water-starved peasants must have hated the whole idea of all that water being used for bathing, while they struggled for enough for sustinence and agriculture.

Our driver Harnam taught us the expression ABC (Another Bloody Castle) which can be applied to some trips to India.  With the natural cooling and the many pools and baths spread around, and the ecological soundness of this fort, it was far from an ABC.  Nagaur would qualify as an eco-resort in modern times. 

No comments: