The mysterious Aravallis have countless tales of valour, deceit, loyalty, love and lust hidden deep in them waiting to be unraveled. Nestled in the Aravallis still relatively unexplored by tourist hordes is the sleepy town of Alwar. The cacophonous sound of adjoining Gurgaon appears to be shaking it awake with visible signs of construction appearing on the vast expansive rocky horizon. A comfortable 130 km drive from Gurgaon , it is a perfect last minute weekend getaway for the serendipitous tourist who wants it all. Whether a nature lover, a history buff, spiritually or religiously inclined, a bird watcher, a wildlife enthusiast orsimply a person of leisure, you can take your pick at Alwar.
A picturesque 10 km drive from Alwar city through the forests of Aravallis teeming with wildlife takes you to the hilltop where some ruins of the once majesticBala Fort aka Alwar Fort are located. Trekking up to the fort through the forests can also be an interesting option.BalaQuila literally means ‘Young Fort’ but believe me there is nothing young about the fort- Built in the 16th century by Hasan Khan Mewati, the fort is definitely ancient and so is the caretaker, a garrulous sepoyRam Singh from the police force who is spending his last leg of service guarding what remains of this precious heritage. Permissions are required from the Police Department to enter the first floor of the fort and we like most visitors were not aware of this. I guess our enthusiasm was palpable and Ram Singh obliged us by very spiritedly accompanying us atop the fort ramparts from where one gets a breathtaking view of Alwar city. Inside the fort is a small shrine and scattered lying in utter state of neglect are some cannons and artefacts from days gone by. You can walk through forest tracks to view pointsstrategically constructed by the glorious occupants of the fort to preempt any threat to the city or fort . One can only hope that the conservationists and tourism department take notice of this invaluable relic and make sure that whatever remains of it is preserved
On the way to BalaQuila aka Alwar Fort
Another beautifully architectured complex which has borne the vagaries of insensitive people and apathetic city administration is the City Palace or Vinay Vilas Mahal complex which houses a government museum, Cenotaph of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh , Moosi Maharani kiChattri and an artificial lake. Moosi rani highly revered by the locals was the queen of Maharaja BakhtwarSingh who performed ‘Sati’ by immolating herself on her husbands funeral pyre. The major part of the complex is now occupied by the District collectorate and shabby government offices with total disregard to maintaining the sanctity and aesthetics of the place and this has been further worsened by cricket playing locals and bikers and cyclists parking bikes inside the complex .
City Palace or Vinay Vilas Mahal complex which houses cenotaph of Raja Bakhtwar and Moosi Rani
In total contrast to these neglected and poorly maintained monuments is the Siliserh lake and the Lake Palace at a distance of about 15 km from the city. The Lake Palace dates back to 1845 and was a hunting lodge specially built by Maharaja Vinay Singh for his wife Sheela . This exceptionally clean, pristine and well maintained water body amidst the Aravallis is a perfect place to spend a leisurely evening, capture the dramatic light of the setting sun on the serene waters, grab a beer at the terrace restaurant and bar, or try out some adventure sports. You can choose an exhilarating 3 minute ride of the entire periphery of the lake on a water scooter or a ride with your family on the motor boat . The Lake Palace now run by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation also has accommodation available for those who want to stay overnight with tariffs ranging from Rs 2200-Rs 3500/-.
Alwar also boasts of an 1100 year old fort- Dadhikar Fort which has has now been converted into a heritage hotel for those who want to experience the opulent royalty lifestyle.
On the way to the fort it was heartening to see that some efforts were being made by NGOs to preserve the local art.
Still appearing on the ‘Places to visit in Alwar’ list is Vijay Mandir Palace which has been closed to public almost a decade back. Permissions are needed from the District Magistrate to enter the complex.
And for those who want more there is the Sariska National Park at a distance of about 35 km from Alwar with its own treasure of birds, wildlife , temples and monuments waiting to be explored. But lets leave that story to be told another day!!!