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A brief history of Jodhpur

In 1458, secure in his dominion, Jodha became the fifteenth Rathore ruler. The Raj Tilak or formal anointment of the prince, necessary because it vests in the man divinity, was performed by his elder brother Akhairaj, Ranmal's rightful heir who renounced his claim in favor of his younger brother because the latter had reconquered every inch of Marwar himself..

Within a year of his accession Rao Jodha decided to build a new capital. The fort in Mandore, already over a thousand years old, was no longer considered strong and safe. In doing so he bequeathed to India one of her greatest forts and most beautiful cities. The foundation of this fort was laid on 12th May,1459 by Jodha himself on a rocky hill six miles south of Mandore. The hill, a hundred and twenty meters high, was known as Bhakurcheeria, the Mountain of Birds, or Cheeriatunk, the Bird's Beak. Its lone human occupant at the time was an old hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the Lord of the Birds.( Even today the fort is home to thousands of birds, particularly the Cheel or Kite, the sacred bird of the Rathores.)

Auspicious though the day, it was not a smooth beginning for Jodha because the disturbed hermit left his cave cursing the invaders of his solitary world. His curse, impossible to forget even today, "Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!" A terrible curse anywhere, in Marwar heralding doom itself. Undeterred Jodha continued with his construction but he did take some measures to appease the gods. Besides building a house for Cheeria Nathji in his new city he also constructed a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit used for meditation. The cave and temple together with a pond in front form an enchanting spot today. And over five hundred years later fresh flowers are still placed every morning in the temple to placate the irate hermit.

Jodha then took the extreme step to ensure the new site proved propitious; he buried a man alive in the foundations. The man was Rajiya Bambi (Meghwal) and he was promised that in return his family would forever more be looked after by the Rathores. It was a promise that has been honored and Rajiya's descendants continue to enjoy a special relationship with the Maharaja. A proud family they still live in Raj Bagh, Rajiya's Garden, the estate bequeathed by Jodha.

Rajiya's fate is an established fact of history but there are sources, albeit less reliable, which record three other human sacrifices in the foundations of Jodha's fort. Four in all, one for each corner if these sources are to be believed. Of the three one is held to be Rajiya's son and another a Brahmin named Mehran, both improbable choices. It seems unlikely that Jodha would pick two men from the same family and a Hindu king sacrificing a Brahmin or priest does not ring quite true.

The controversy remains alive because these sources claim that Jodha named his new fort after Mehran. Today the fort is indeed called Mehrangarh, Mehran's Fort, and it has been for some time, but the origin of this name remains a mystery. Did Mehran really exist and was he offered to the gods? For the present these are secrets trapped in the depths of Bhakurcheeria. On the other hand the answer may, in fact, be quite simple; Mehr is a Rajasthani word for the Sun and it is not at all unlikely that the Rathores, who claim descent from the Sun, would name their first citadel in His honor. (Excerpt from 'The House of Marwar' by Dhananajaya Singh. Roli Books 1994)

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