Jhansi Fort, or Jhansi ka Kila as it is called, is an imposing fort lying on a big hilltop named Bangira in Uttar Pradesh. It was a major fortification for the Chandela Kings from the 11th to the 17th century in Balwant Nagar. The Jhansi Fort lies in the center of Jhansi City. It lies three kms away from the Jhansi Railway Station, while the nearest airport is located at Gwalior, 103 kms away from Jhansi. You can also get down at the Jhansi Museum Bus Top to reach this fort.
Reaching the Jhansi Fort is quite easy, as the Jhansi town itself has grown around this structure. The Fort is positioned on the hilltop and all major landmarks and tourist attractions are located nearby, making it easy for all visitors. At the entrance to the Jhansi Fort, one is greeted by the iconic Kadak Bijli cannon that was operated by Gulam Gaus Khan. There is also the Bhawani Shankar cannon which was handled by the legendary Moti Bai woman gunner as per local guides! Both soldiers laid down their lives for Her Majesty.
The Jhansi Fort compound was earlier vulnerable to wild overgrowth and bats. It is here that Rani Laxmi Bai shifted outside to the Rani Mahal upon the death of the Maharaja. This royal residence has now become a museum with a gorgeous collection of sculptures going back to AD 9. The restoration work on Jhansi Fort has taken a long time and tireless work from the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).
The Maharani Jhansi Fort had an immense strategic importance in its early years. It was constructed by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo (1606-27) from Orchha, on the rocky hilltop named Bangra in Balwant Nagar town that is currently called Jhansi. There are 10 darwazas or gates for this Fort.
Jhansi Fort: Key facts and details
The major gates include the Unnao Gate, Khanderao Gate, Jharna Gate, Datia Darwaza, Chand Gate, Laxmi Gate, Orchha Gate, Sagar Gate and the Sainyar Gate. The Karak Bijli Top or tank lies within the key fort area, along with the Shiv temple, Rani Jhansi garden and the mazar for Ghulam Gaus Khan, Khuda Baksh and Moti Bai. The Jhansi Fort has a collection of elegant sculptures, which offer insights into its rich history over the years.
The Fort had a vital role to play in the revolt of 1857 and was also witness to the battle spearheaded by Rani Lakshmi Bai. There are Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva temples inside the fort complex while the Karak Bijli and Bhawani Shankar cannon of the queen are also placed inside. There is also a museum with a collection of sculptures. It provides rich insights into the history of Bundelkhand, while there is a masterful diorama showcasing the battle where the Rani of Jhansi sacrificed her life for saving her citizens from the British Raj. Here are some more interesting details about the Jhansi Fort:
- The Fort showcases the north Indian hill fort construction style and how it actually varies from south India. The latter has most forts being constructed on sea beds such as Kerala’s Bekal Fort.
- The Jhansi Fort’s granite walls are 16-20 ft thick and the city’s walls meet it on the southern side. The Fort’s southern face is near-perpendicular.
- There are 10 gates in all, some of which have been named above.
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- The 1857 uprising had the Kadak Bijli Cannon being used, which is still kept in the Fort while the memorial board speaks of Rani Lakshmi Bai and her adventures, including tales of her jumping on a horseback from the structure.
- The Rani Mahal lies nearby, built in the later portion of the 19th century and this currently houses an archaeological museum.
- The Fort covers a whopping 15 acres and the structure is 225 metres in width and 312 metres in length.
- 22 supporting structures are present with a strong wall and a surrounding moat on two sides. The support on the eastern side was destroyed and later rebuilt by the British and they also integrated another floor for the Panch Mahal.
- In January-February every year, a major Jhansi Mahotsav is held at the fort premises, which is graced by several artists, playwrights, actors and eminent citizens of the country.
Jhansi Fort history
The Jhansi Fort may have been constructed by the chief of the Bundela Rajputs and the ruler of the Orchha Kingdom, Veer Singh Ju Deo Bundela, sometime in 1613. It was one of the major fortifications for the Bundela rulers. Mohammed Khan Bangash attacked the maharaja, Chhatrasal, in 1728. He was helped in his victory over the invader by Peshwa Bajirao. As a token of gratitude for the support, Chhatrasal offered a part of his state to the Peshwa, including Jhansi. Naroshanker became Jhansi’s Subedar in 1742. Throughout his rule of 15 years, he extended the Jhansi Fort and the extension is known as Shankargarh. The Peshwa summoned him back in 1757 and Madhav Govind Kakirde and thereafter Babulal Kanahai became Jhansi’s Subedars.
Vishwas Rao Laxman assumed this position from 1766 to 1769 and then Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar took charge. He increased the revenues of the region while developing the Raghunath and Mahalakshmi temples. Shiv Rao’s death saw his grandson Ramchandra Rao taking charge of Jhansi. He died in 1835 and Raghunath Rao (III), the successor, passed away in 1838. The British rulers then took Gangadhar Rao as the Jhansi Raja. The poor administration of the earlier rulers had already left Jhansi in a precarious financial state. Gangadhar Rao was a generous ruler and popular among the local citizens. He married Manikarnika Tambe in 1842 and she received the new name of Lakshmi Bai. A boy was born to her, called Damodar Rao, in 1851 although he died after just 4 months. The maharaja also adopted a son named Anand Rao. He was renamed as Damodar Rao and was the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin. He was renamed on the day prior to the death of the maharaja.
A British political officer was witness to the adoption and was in possession of a letter from the maharaja, stating that the child should be respectfully treated while instructing the handover of the government of Jhansi to his widow throughout her entire lifetime. Post the death of the ruler in November 1853, since Damodar Rao was an adopted child, the British East India Company, spearheaded by Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general, came up with the Doctrine of Lapse. They rejected the claim of Damodar Rao to the empire and annexed the state. Lakshmi Bai was awarded an annual pension in 1854 of Rs 60,000 and directed to leave the Fort and palace alike. The revolt broke out against the British in 1857 and she assumed control of the fort, leading the army of Jhansi against the East India Company.
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Company forces led by general Hugh Rose attacked the Jhansi Fort throughout March and early April 1858 and it was finally captured on April 4, 1858. Rani Lakshmi Bai fought courageously and escaped, by jumping on horseback from the Jhansi Fort before the city was plundered by the British troops. The British government gave Jhansi city and the fort to Jiyaji Rao Scindia, the Gwalior maharaja, in 1861, although it was later taken back in 1868 by the British.
The Jhansi Fort is also located in close proximity to several other tourist attractions. These include the Raja Ram Temple, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Rani Mahal and the Chaturbhuj Temple, along with the Orcha village with its serene ambiance. A famous photograph exists of the Jhansi Fort as well, taken by Lala Deen Diyal from Indore, in 1882. This is named ‘Photograph of the Fort of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh’ and finds a place in ‘Scenes and Sculptures of Central India’ which is a part of the acclaimed Lee-Warner Collection.
Who built the Jhansi Fort?
The Jhansi Fort was built by Veer Singh Ju Deo Bundela, ruler of Orchha and the chief of the Bundela Rajputs.
Which Indian warrior queen bravely fought the British from the Jhansi Fort?
The legendary Rani Lakshmi Bai fought the British from the Jhansi Fort, capturing it and leading her troops against the British East India Company.
What is the other name of the Jhansi Fort?
The Jhansi Fort is also known as Jhansi ka Kila.