Monday 17 December 2012

"There is no story here." Penny Dolan

It was late November 2012. The Indian sun shone, breaking through the trees that sheltered the path.

The steps were too uneven for a good pace, assuming any of us could. Some had numbers written on them. 500 steps up and 500 steps down.

"The day of a thousand steps!" we joked..


Eventually we entered the ruined walls of Ajaigarh fort, clambered up more broken blocks, and entered the small door within what was left of a main gate.

   Set within the walls were old carvings.

Some, the most ancient, followed the curving rocks above a cool cave-well. 

Others, mostly fragments of decorative friezes, had been used to repair the tumbled walls.


The last steps led to a wide, open area.

Beside a remaining tower were a shrine with prayer flags, the caretaker’s carefully tended garden, a captured cannon and views over the walls to the land far below.

 Our guide led us on across the top of this hill plateau. Now it was mostly covered by tall teak trees and the ground was covered with their enormous stone-grey leaves. 

 We passed tumbled stones, ruined palaces edging what were once man-made lakes and warily balanced temples threatening to fall into deeper chaos.  We did not go inside.

 Eventually, we came to a small gateway where there was space to sit, shaded from the sun.


As we sat there, eating our picnic lunch, we chatted about the wonderful climb and the romantic ruins and the atmosphere.

I could not help thinking  of those  awful, resonant lines "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings . . ."

The site of this hill fort seemed to offer more than the carefully restored temples of Khujaraho not so far away. 
“More people should come and see this place,” we enthused, or something similar. There had been hints that a road might be built up the hill but it seemed uneconomical and unlikely.  Besides, it would spoil the atmosphere of the place.

Our guide sighed slightly. He shrugged. “There is no story here,” he answered, simply, and that was that..

Sometimes history has just too many layers.

 Penny Dolan

The ruined hill fort of Ajairgarh, once capital of a princely state, sits on a high plateau 25 km north of Panna, Madhya Pradesh. The ruined fort has some superb rock carvings, a few half-ruined temples and overhanging bastions that look out over a wide rural landscape.

The fort, with its strategically important site, has been captured and recaptured, built and destroyed. It has passed through the hands of many rulers, religions and dynasties,  including those of Rani Durgavati, the legendary fighting queen who tried to keep her kingdom safe for her young son, though it was not her main stronghold. 

Captured by the British in 1809, Ajairaigh was handed over to the local princely family whose deserted palace can be seen at the foot of the hill, and the fort was left to fall into ruins.


Sue Purkiss said...


Sally Zigmond said...

What an atmospheric place. No story? There must be hundreds of them just waiting for someone to tell them.

JO said...

No story!!! Or there is a story, but it's a secret Indian story and he's not going to tell you!

Paeony Lewis said...

Adored reading this and seeing the photographs. Perhaps 'no story' is good because there's nothing the marketing people can grasp and promote, and if hoards visit then the haunting atmosphere you describe would be destroyed and it wouldn't be the same place. Anyway, I'm sure the visit inspired you with a story!

frances thomas said...

Just gorgeous to read - especially on a bleak wintery day. You've made me want to jump on the next plane to India

Joan Lennon said...

"There is no story here."

A poem in a line.

Thanks for posting!

adele said...

Super post, Penny! And wonderful photos.

Penny Dolan said...

Glad you all enjoyed a bit of sunshine and atmosphere.

We stayed not far away, at a lovely retreat in a wildlife area called the Sarai at Toria. It was a wonderfully peaceful place and so welcome at the end of a three-city working tour. We took a boat-ride on the lake, an early morning drive among the changing scenery of the Panna Tiger Reserve - we saw a pawprint! - and ate delicious meals spread under the trees. They even hung lanterns on the branches on our last night there - just blissful! (If not strictly historic information.)

Enough. Back to the seasonal & wintry rush.