Located in the Brij region, Bharatpur was once a well-planned and well-fortified city, and the capital of Jat kingdom ruled by Sinsinwar Maharajas. Today it is known for the nearby Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. Once the shooting preserve of royalty, it is perhaps the most spectacular water-bird sanctuary in India. It is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian Crane, have been recorded in the park. The name Keoladeo is derived from the name of an ancient Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva in the sanctuary's central zone, while the Hindi term "Ghana" implies dense, thick areas of forest cover.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is also known as the Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary. Once the shooting preserve of royalty, it is perhaps the most spectacular water-bird sanctuary in India. It is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian Crane, have been recorded in the park. The name Keoladeo is derived from the name of an ancient Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva in the sanctuary's central zone, while the Hindi term "Ghana" implies dense, thick areas of forest cover. Covering an area of just 12 square miles, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is an interlocking ecosystem of woodlands, swamps, wet prairies and dry savannah. The park was painstakingly created in the 19th century out of the arid surrounding scrubland by diverting the waters of a nearby canal and creating a series of dykes and dams. The new ecosystem that emerged became an ideal habitat for birds of all kinds. The birds here are often enormous in size: the tallest bird in North America, for instance, the great blue heron, approximately 4.5 feet tall, would be completely dwarfed by birds here such as the greater adjutant stork and the black-necked stork, which are up to 6 feet tall with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. Keoladeo is also Asia’s largest breeding ground of the painted stork. It has become a symbol of Keoladeo as it visits the park during each monsoon season and nests in colonies of thousands on the tree tops.
Built by Raja Surajmal in the mid-18th century, Bharatpur Fort (also known as Lohagarh Fort) was virtually impregnable. The name Lohagarh literally means “Iron Fort.” It had two formidable concentric ramparts, each surrounded by a moat 149 feet wide and 60 feet deep. The outer wall, about 7 miles long, took eight years to construct. What’s more, being a mahi durg, or mud fort, Lohagarh’s thick walls were able to absorb even the most furious of artillery barrages. The cannon balls would simply sink into the mud walls, to be collected later and used against the enemy. As a result, the fort stood up to several attacks by the Mughal armies and no less than four attacks by the British before it finally fell. Lohagarh’s outer ramparts were demolished by the British after the Treaty of 1818, but the inner battlements remain, punctuated by two massive towers commemorating two great victories of the Bharatpur armies: Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj. At Jawahar Burj do not miss the iron “victory column” bearing the inscriptions of the geneology of the Jat kings. There are two imposing gates to Lohagarh: in the north is the historic Ashtadhati Gate, with its huge, rounded bastions and war elephants painted on either side, and in the south, Loha Gate.
Within Lohagarh Fort is a complex of three palaces: Khas Mahal, Kamra Palace and Raja Badan Singh’s Palace, built by successive generationgs of Bharatpur’s rulers-and set around a small, but elegant, old Mughal garden. Khas Mahal houses the royal apartments, which reflect the simple lifestyle of the Jat rulers. Its chambers are small, with ornate pierced stone windows and patterned marble tiled floors. In the corners are octagonal chambers with domed ceilings and delicately painted walls. On the lower floor is an interesting hammam, or sunken bath house. Raja Badan Singh’s Palace, adjacent to Khas Mahal, has an imposing sandstone durbar hall, with finely carved walls, pillars and archways, and a beautiful alcove set into the far wall, from where the Raja himself would hold court. Today this palace houses part of Bharatpur’s Archeological Museum, with Kamra Palace next door housing the other half. The museum has some carvings dating back to the second century and terracotta toys from the first century, excavated at the village of Noh, just a few miles east of the fort. Pieces of note include the 7th-century image of Shiva and Pavarti, the 11th-century image of the Jain saint, Parshvanatha, and the 10th-century Ganesha. However, the prized piece is the unique 2nd-century red sandstone shivalinga (the phallic emblem of Shiva).