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Ajaygarh fort

Imagine you are traveling through a jungle and suddenly, you come across a strange ancient fort atop of a hill, almost entirely hidden from the eyes of people around it, with a treasure trove of unexplored riches mentioned in historical and archaeological records. One of such marvels is Ajaygarh, concealed inside dense forests and ravines of the Vindhya Hills in Madhya Pradesh. At a distance of 33 km from Panna and 65 km from Khajuraho, this ancient fort is situated at Ajaygarh in Panna district and listed among the top attractions of the region. Built at a height of 688 meters, Ajaigarh or the Ajaygarh Fort stands on a flat-topped projection of the Vindhya range. It was the capital of the Chandelas in their declining years. The fort is bordered by beautiful Vindhya Hills and provides absolutely stunning views of the River Ken. This grand fort is noted for its rich historical past and architectural beauty, which speaks volumes about the Chandela dynasty.

History Ajaygarh fort

The history of the Ajaygarh Fort dates back to the days of the Mahabharata, when this area was part of the kingdom of Chedi. In the vicinity there was the old frontier fortress built by King Shishupala during his reign as described in the early parts of the Mahabharata. In the pre-historic and early ancient eras, it was part of expanding empires at the time based out of Eastern India, including the Nandas, the Mauryas, the Sungas and the Guptas. The modern fort was built in the 8th century by the Chandela Kings who took control of this region after the fall of the Harshavardhan Empire.

The Ajaygarh Fort faced its first Muslim invasion under Sultan Iltutmish of the Delhi Sultanate in 1226 AD, though prior to this attach, Sultan Qutubuddin Aibak’s army passed in the vicinity in 1209, but failed to localise the fort due to its hidden strategic location. Rulers of Panna, who were the sovereigns of this fort, made a subsidiary alliance with the Delhi Sultanate under four different Sultans, namely, Iltutmish or Altamash in 1226, Balance in 1273, Alauddin Khilji in 1297 and Muhammad Bin Tughlaq in 1327, and saved the Fort as well as the state from direct assault and destruction. It remained intermittently independent until it finally came under the Mughal rule under Emperor Akbar in 1561. This area became a part of the Dominions of King Chatrasal of Panna and then part of the expanding dominions of the Maratha Empire, and finally asserted its independence again after the third battle of Panipat in 1761. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see it today

There is much to be explored at the fort, making it a treat for history and art lovers. Reminiscent of old times, this fort has two gates (there used to be five), two Hindu and three Jain temples and two rock-cut tanks close to the northern gate. These tanks were named Ganga and Yamuna. In the vicinity there is a ruined Chandela temple dedicated to Raja Parmardi deva. Many ruined Jain temples built in Khajuraho style are located here. The fort walls were constructed using large dressed stones, with no visible mortar. One has to climb 500 steep steps to reach the fort entrance. There are no signboards, maps, info sources or traces of human habitation to be found at the top. It is not a well-developed place, so one needs to take water and food with them.

Tourist Information

The fort is open between 6 AM and 6 PM throughout the week. The nearest airport is in Khajuraho.

Text by Sammik C Basuu