Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort

The Ramnagar Fort is a castle in Ramnagar in Varanasi itself. It is situated near the Ganga River on its eastern bank right opposite to the Tulsi Ghat. The structure was built in the Mughal pattern by Kahi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh. At present, the fort is not in a good structure yet it’s beautiful to be visited. It has been the house of Kashi Naresh since the very eighteenth century. The present king and the resident of the castle is Pelu Bhiru Singh, who is also known as the Maharaja of Varanasi even though this royal title has been abrogated since 1971.

The building was established with creamy-coloured sandstone. It is constructed in the classic Mughal pattern of architecture. The fort holds the Veda Vyasa Temple, a museum, and the king's residential area. There is a Dakshin Mukhi temple of Lord Hanuman, which faces towards the south, as mentioned in its name Dakshin Mukhi meaning facing the south, built there.

The fort has been constructed on a high ground, which overheads the flood level. The architecture has several engraved balconies, open courtyards and structures. Only some parts of the whole structure is open for public exploring as the rest of it is the palace of Kashi Naresh and his family where they reside. The flag on the castle is heightened when the Maharaja is in the residence of his palace. Inside the fort, the palace has two white towers, which are accessed by a flight of stairs. At the end of the stairs, there is an archway and several courtyards that lead to the white towers. The exclusive residence of the King is on one side of the tower while the Durbar Hall and gathering and meeting rooms are on the other side. An engraving on the fort’s wall demonstrates "Fortified House of the Raja of Banaras, with his state Boat".

The museum is popular by the name Saraswati Bhawan. The museum is in place of what used to be the Durbar or the Public Audience Hall of the castle. It is quite popular for its unusual and rare compilation of American vintage cars, bejewelled sedan chairs, ivory work, medieval costumes, gold and silver decorated royal Palakis that is a palanquin in the shape of a lotus flower. It has elephant saddles sculpted out of silver, jewellery, costumes made of kimkhwa silk which is the finest product of the weavers of Varanasi, an extraordinary armoury hall with swords, old guns from the countries Africa, Burma and Japan. The old invulnerable matchlocks, elegant hookahs, daggers, portraits of the Maharajas, black shaded musical instruments that have turned white because of the neglection of maintenance and there is a very rare astronomical clock. The speciality of the clock is that it not only shows the time but also the year, the month, the week and the day and also the astronomical details of the Sun, the Moon and the other planets. This clock was built in 1852 by an Astronomer at the Court of the Royal Palace of Varanasi. To add on, old manuscripts, especially religious writings, are placed in the museum. Many books emblished in the Mughal diminutive style are also part of the collections. There are five hundred and thirty-five illustrations describing Islamic ideology, each having a decorative border with baroque floral designs or bobbin.

The castle-palace appears to be very vibrant and colourful when decorated during the long one-month-long Ram Lila festival where different episodes of Ramayana are performed by trained performers. On this great occasion, a colourful pageant or procession of Ramayana narrative is presented as part of the Dussehra celebrations that are held in October under the aegis of the King. These celebrations are wrapped up on the last day that is the Dashami day meaning the 10th day of bright half of Lunar month as per the Hindu Calendar. The festival also includes a succession of various antique displays of Royal dominions. The King continues his family heritage of attending the annual month-long Ram Lila skit held in the streets behind the fort by riding on a decorated elephant at the every first end of the procession. In the olden days, the show was performed by the native troops and the great story of Ramayana scripture was read through the month-long festival. Other festivals celebrated in the fort are in the month of Magh that is January and February in front of the Veda Vyasa temple where believers and visitors visit Ramnagar. In the month of Phagun, that is February and March a festival called Raj Mangal is celebrated in the palace 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 castle.

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