In the countryside surrounding Amanbagh there lies evidence of a lost empire whose historical ambition still echoes in the remains of grand architectural ruins. Excursions on a cultural trail within a 30km radius of Amanbagh include visits to the nearby Ajabgarh Fort and Temple which were built in 1635 and are connected by an underground passageway. Nearby, the Baba Kapoor Shah Mosque was erected in the 17th century in memory of the great Sufi mystic, Baba Kapoor Shah. Bhangarh, built in the mid-1600s, is 15km from Amanbagh and is of great archaeological importance. It is a national heritage site comprising an entire city of bazaars, palaces, gardens, temples and bathing pools deserted overnight by inhabitants who feared a curse.
ajabgarh village, fort & temple
Ajabgarh is named for its founder Ajab Singh Rajawat, the grandson of Madho Singh, founding ruler of Bhangarh. Moghul Emperor Akbar the Great is said to have stayed in Ajabgarh during the inauguration of Somsagar, a reservoir lake in the hills behind Ajabgarh.
Shah Jahan, famed creator of the Taj Mahal, was entertained here at a chhatri erected specially for him by Ajab Singh when the former was passing through this valley to join his son, Aurangzeb, on a campaign against the Maharajah of Orchha. Ajab Singh’s grand-aunt, Jodha Bai of Jaipur was married to Akbar, the grandfather of Shah Jahan.
In the 1930’s, the dam which borders Amanbagh was built. Garh is the Hindi word for ‘fort’ and in this part of Rajasthan there are three (Ajabgarh, Pratapgarh and Ramgarh) all named after their founders who were brothers.
Ajabgarh’s finest present day attractions are the fort and the old temple, dedicated to Shri Raghunathji. Built in 1635 AD, it features a 24-pillared open courtyard and a marble façade. This temple once housed a statue a Lord Rama and the Goddess Sita, bejewelled with precious stones. It was unfortunately stolen. The temple and Ajabgarh fort are connected by an underground passage originally designed for use by the royal ladies so they could enter the temple in complete privacy.
Excursions to Ajabgarh from Amanbagh can be organised to Ajabgarh during the day on foot and by camel, or in the resort’s open jeeps. During the warmer months you can travel via camel or open jeep to a candle-lit dinner for two (or more) in a chhatri ruin near Ajabgarh. This overlooks the lake and mountains with the fort perched above.
baba kapoor shah mosque
This ‘Mazaar’ (mosque) was erected in the 17th century in memory of the great Sufi mystic, Baba Kapoor Shah. The celebrated mystic devoted his life to meditation, devotion to Allah and the welfare of society. His disciples still visit his favourite meditation spot, a small chhatri at the top of the hill, to practice the peaceful art of inner reflection.
Bhangarh is a medieval site of great archaeological importance, 15km from Amanbagh. According to local villagers, the splendid ruins are haunted and it is famously named the ‘Bhangarh of Ghosts’. The township was built in the 1600’s by Diwan Madho Singh of the Jaipur royal family. He was the younger brother of Maharajah Man Singh, the General of Moghul Emperor Akbar.
Legend has it that this now uninhabited city of magnificent bazaars, palaces, gardens, temples and bathing pools was deserted overnight (only a generation after its completion), after being cursed by an evil court magician, Selu Sewra, who had unsuccessfully attempted to seduce Bhangarh’s virtuous and beautiful Queen.
Bhangarh is a national heritage site and whilst many travel guides recommend it as one of the top 10 sites in India, very few travellers manage to include it in their itineraries which means that you will largely have Bhangarh to yourself during your visit.
Mornings and late afternoons are a perfect time to visit this deserted city that is marvellously well-kept with green lawns and age-old ficus trees – home to many langur and macaque monkeys. It is an amazing setting for photography, meditation and yoga. Visits can be organised from Amanbagh to simply view Bhangarh, to experience yoga or meditation, and for picnic breakfasts or lunches. Transport is via car or jeep and takes approximately 15 minutes.
narayani mata temple
With its history dating back to 1058 AD, Narayani Mata is as sacred to the Rajasthani as Pushkar or Ramdeora. It is located 14km from Amanbagh, on the edge of Sariska National Park. The legend of the site began when Narayani and her husband were returning to their village. Along the way, while taking a rest in the shade of a Banyan tree, her husband was fatally bitten by a snake. While the cremation was taking place at this fateful site, Narayani, already renowned for displaying supernatural powers, chose to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, asking the villagers whether she could assist them in any way.
Villagers wished for water which miraculously sprang from the ground. The same spring continues to flow to this day. Sparked by her prayers, the funeral pyre ignited and consumed them both. Narayani, of the Barber caste, became one of the oldest known and best revered Sati in Rajasthan, one with the power of truth.
A Meena tribal priest conducts the Aarti (prayer in the form of songs) in the evenings which, with bells and gongs resounding, can be an intense experience.
For a trek to Narayani Mata in the same tradition as the local villagers, depart from Amanbagh by jeep to the start of the welltrodden trail up over the hill and down into Narayani Mata. Here guests can view the temple and adjacent spring of holy water and enjoy a chai stop with the locals before being picked up for the return to Amanbagh.
the temple town of neelkanth
Neelkanth, meaning the blue-throated reincarnation of Lord Shiva, is located inside Sariska National Park, 45 minutes from Amanbagh. The view is spectacular as one climbs up the last stretch of road to the plateau where it is situated.
Lost in a high valley, encircled on all sides by mountains, this ancient temple town is home to the ruins of more than 80 beautifully carved temples dating back to the 6th century. Its most famous temple, Neelkantheshwar, predates even these. Neelkanth is also the site of the remains of the 7th century Jain temple of Naugaza, where there is the massive 25ft tall pink sandstone statue of Shri Parshavanath-ji – the 23rd Jain Tirthankara. Transfers from Amanbagh are organised by jeep or car in the morning or afternoon. Depending on the weather, a picnic lunch can be organised.