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FORTESS OF KUSHALGARH - RAJASTHAN
A short distance from Alwar is a diversion taking one past the small fortress of Kushalgarh to Talbraksha (36 kilometres). The moist palm grove valley transports one mentally to India’s coastal areas and it is difficuft to believe one is geographically in a so-called desert state. Langurs compete in numbers with busloads of constantly arriving pilgrims. Side by side at Talbraksha are hot and cold springs with reputedly immense healing capacities.
In clearing is a cluster of temples of varying ages and one might almost miss the gem of them all, a 10th century temple relegated as it has been to the background. This temple, in the typical panchayatna (five houses) pattern, was probably built as a vaishnava temple, but was converted for Shiva worship. The Vishnu legend is represented in the reliefs of Hiranya kashyap Vishnu’s great antagonist, being killed by Narsimhavatar.
Talbraksha is mentioned in the Virata parva of the Mahabharata. It was a here that an arrow Arjun shot into the ground sprouted the Banaganga and he was able, when his exile ended, to purify himself in this offshoot of the holy river before taking up his arms and weapons concealed in a tree. Unfortunately the archaeological value of this temple, or of Talbraksha, has been little exploited.
Through rocky ridges, plateaux and cool valleys we make our way across Rajasthan’s green belt, the Aravallis, geologically amongst the oldest mountains in the world.
As the bamboo glades appear with geater frequency we approach the fort of Kankwari. Is it mere coincidence that Kankwari is Alwar’s least accessible fort? The imagination is agog with the myth of Dara Shikoh’s imprisonment here. The fort, locatedon a pleateau, is a relatively small anc cosy one with few ceilings anc enclosures and only a solitary carriage stand. Obviously it was made only for a few occupants. It is approaches either by a narrow pass or by a circuitious steep road, barely functional: for carts. The enduring impressior Kankwari leaves is of planner, deliberate isolation, rendering escape and even survival a near impossibilty. The view from the fort is a marvellous aerial one with dense forests an round.
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