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Ramnagar Fort

Location

Ramnagar Fort is located at a distance of 14 kms from Varanasi city centre and 2 kms from Banaras Hindu University on the opposite bank of River Ganga.

How to Reach

The Fort can be reached by auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, taxis or by boat. There is a well maintained garden within the fort which forms the approach to the palace.

Timings: Opens daily from 9 am to Noon and 2 pm to 5.30 pm.

Highlights

Ramnagar Fort is ranked highly amongst the Monuments in Varanasi. The Fort was magnificently built in 1750 by Kashi Naresh Maharaja Balwant Singh is ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. The royal family of Banaras, also known as Maharaja of Kashi continues to reside in this Fort. Darbar Hall also known as the hall of public audience is the most prominent structure of the Fort. Ramnagar Fort attracts tourists from all over. The Fort houses a Temple and a museum within the premises. The Temple in Ramnagar Fort is dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who wrote Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. As per legends Ved Vyasa stayed within the Fort for a brief period.

Owing to its rich cultural heritage, the fort has emerged as a prominent shooting destination for numerous Indian film makers. Ramnagar Fort houses a museum displaying the Royal collection which includes vintage Cars, Royal palkies, an armory of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clocks. The Fort and its museum are the repository of the history of the kings of Banaras. Durga Temple, Chhinnamastika Temple and Dakshin Mukhi Hanuman Temple are also present in the premises of Ramnagar Fort. Inside the giant walls of the Ramnagar Fort, there is a big clock which not only displays year, month, week and day but also astronomical facts about the sun, moon and constellation of stars. This wonder clock or Dharam Ghari was made by the court astronomer of Banaras in 1852A.D. An interesting array of ornate palanquins, gold-plated howdahs and weapons are some of the artifacts on display in Ramnagar Fort museum.

Ramnagar Fort is very well maintained. The residential part of the royal palace is not open for the casual tourists. Ramnagar Fort Museum is a good place to see some of the best and most impressive articles that once belonged to the royals. The Fort is popular for its grand and extravagant festivity of annual Dussehra festival when the palace is decorated majestically and it vibrates with colour and life. The festival of Dussehra is marked by annual month-long Ram Lila festival where different episodes of Ramayana are enacted. On this occasion, a colourful pageant or procession of Ramayana epic is presented as part of the Dussehra celebrations that is organized on the streets behind the Fort. The celebrations comes to an end on Vijayadashmi, when the huge effigies of demon king Ravana and his kinsmen are sent up in flames, signifying the victory of good over evil. The festival also includes a procession of various antique displays of Royal possessions. The Maharaja continues his family tradition of attending the annual month-long Ram Lila by riding on a decorated elephant at the head of the procession. Other festivals held in the fort are in the month of Magh (January and February) in front of the Veda Vyasa temple where pilgrims visit Ramnagar. In the month of Phagun, (February and March) a festival called Raj Mangal is held in the fort with a procession of boats with people, dancing and singing; it starts from the Assi Ghat and goes along the river in front of the fort.

Other Details

Ramnagar Fort was constructed using Chunar sandstone and built in Indian as well as Mughal style of architecture. The fort houses Veda Vyasa Temple, a museum and the king's residential complex. There is also a Dakshin Mukhi Temple of Hanuman, which faces towards south. The fort has been built at a high level which is above the flood level in River Ganga. The carved balconies, open courtyards and beautiful pavilions are the highlights of the Fort. The utilization of marbles for the decorative pattern gives this fort a splendid outlook. The fort has many carved balconies, open courtyards and pavilions. Only a part of the structure is open for public viewing as the rest of it is used as the residence of Kashi Naresh and his family. Within the fort, the palace has two white towers which are accessed by steps. At the end of the stairs, there is an archway and many courtyards that lead to the white tower. The private residence of the Maharaja is on one side of the tower while the Darbar Hall and reception rooms are on the other side. An inscription on the fort wall attests "Fortified House of the Rajah of Benares, with his state Boat.

The museum housed in the fort is known as Saraswati Bhawan. The museum is in the Darbar Hall or the Public Audience Hall of the fort, is well known for its unusual and rare collections of American vintage cars, bejeweled sedan chairs, ivory work, medieval costumes, gold and silver brocaded royal Palakis (Palanquins in the shape of a lotus flower). The museum has elephant saddles carved out of silver, jewellery, costumes made of kimkhwa silk (finest product of the weavers of Varanasi), an impressive armoury hall with swords, and old guns from Africa, Burma and Japan. The old armoured matchlocks, ornate hookahs, daggers, portraits of Maharajas, black musical instruments and a rare astronomical clock. This clock shows not only the time but also the year, month, week and day, and the astronomical details of the Sun, Moon and other planets. This clock was made in 1852 by the Astronomer at the Court of the Royal Palace of Varanasi. In addition, manuscripts, especially religious writings, are there in the museum along with a precious handwritten manuscript by Goswami Tulsidas. Many books illustrated in the Mughal miniatures style, with beautifully designed covers are also part of the collections. There are five hundred and thirty-five illustrations expressing Islamic ethos, each having a decorative border with ornate floral designs or cartouches.