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|Part of Banda district|
|Uttar Pradesh, India|
A view of Kalinjar Fort
|Type||Fort, Caves & Temples|
|Controlled by||Government of Uttar Pradesh|
|Battles/wars||Mahmud of Ghazni 1023, Sher Shah Suri 1545, British 1812 & Revolt of 1857|
|Chandel dynasty of Rajputs & Solankis of Rewa|
|Garrison||British garrison 1947|
Kalinjar (Hindi: कालिंजर) is a fortress-city in the Bundelkhand region of central India. Kalinjar is located in Banda District of Uttar Pradesh state, near the temple-city and World Heritage Site of Khajuraho. The fortress is strategically located on an isolated rocky hill at the end the Vindhya Range, at an elevation of 1,203 feet (367 m) and overlooks the plains of Bundelkhand. It served several of Bundelkhand's ruling dynasties, including the Chandela dynasty of Rajputs in the 10th century, and the Solankis of Rewa. The fortress contains several temples dating as far back as the Gupta dynasty of the 3rd-5th centuries.
Kalinjar means The destroyer of time in Sanskrit. 'Kal' is time and 'jar' destruction. Legend says that after manthan Hindu God, Lord Shiva, drank the poison and his throat became blue (hence the name Neel (blue) Kantha (throat)) and he came to Kalinjar and overcome the 'Kal' i.e. he achieved victory over death. This is the reason the Shiva temple at Kalinjar is called Neelkanth. Since then, the hill has been considered a holy site, casting its shadow across the patches of grasslands as well as the densely forested valley. The natural splendor of the surroundings makes it an ideal place for penance and meditation and, surprisingly, a strange mystique still pervades all over the hill.
The term "Kalinjar" (as "Kalanjara") appears appears in ancient Hindu mythology, but the exact origins of the fort itself are uncertain. According to the 16th century Persian historian Firishta, the town of Kalinjar was established by one Kedar Raja in 7th century. The fort came to prominence during the Chandela rule. According to Chandela-era legends, the fort was built by a Chandela ruler. The Chandela rulers used the title Kalanjaradhipati ("Lord of Kalanjara"), which shows the importance they attached to the fort.
Its historical background is replete with numerous battles and invasions. The Hindu princes of different dynasties as well as the Muslim rulers fought hard to conquer it and the fort continued to pass from one ruler to another. But, except for the Chandelas,:22–23 no other ruler could reign over it for long.
In 1023 Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and received a tribute from Kalinjar, Mughal invader Babur was the only commander in history to have captured the fort in 1526 when driving away Raja Hasan Khan Mewattpati. It was also the place where Sher Shah Suri met his death in 1545 when he was killed either in the fort or nearby on the grounds. Kalinjar played a prominent part in history down to the time of the Revolt of 1857, when it was held by a small British garrison. Both the fort and the town, which stands at the foot of the hill, are of interest to the antiquary on account of the remains of temples, sculptures, inscriptions and caves.
In 1812, the British troops marched into Bundelkhand. After a long battle they were able to annex the fort. The British seizure of Kalinjar proved to be a great watershed, transferring the legacy of the old aristocracy into the hands of the new bureaucracy of officials who showed their loyalty to British imperialism by damaging the captured fort. The damages caused to the fort can still be seen on its walls and open spaces.
The majesty and grandeur witnessed within Kalinjar's precincts is due to the Bargujar rulers' creative imagination, their highly developed aesthetic sense and religious fervor. Though they were great devotees of Lord Shiva, they also showed great interest in the construction of temples of other deities. The massive rock cut sculptures include figures of various gods and goddesses from ancient mythological themes. Wherever the Bargujar established their reign they left their mark in the form of fine works of art, stone images, and sculpture.
The western part of the fort contains the temple of Neelkanth Mahadev, which allows views of a shivalinga through a cave-like opening. Just above the temple is a natural water source that never dries up and water continually drips onto the shivalinga. The priests, who have been Chandela Rajputs since the time of the Chandela kings have pointed out that the neck of the sculpture of Lord Shiva on the shivalinga, though made of solid rock, is always moist to touch. This is a reminder of the "neelkantha" or drinking of poison story from the epic Bhagavata Purana.
Close to the Shivlinga Cave stand the idols of Bhairava and goddess Parvati, made of black stone. Images of numerous gods and goddesses are carved on both sides of the gateway. A number of broken pillars are set at regular distances on which it is said[who?] six-storey constructions were raised, but later demolished. There are numerous rock-cut sculptures showing neglect and the ravages of time.
Another sight is the Palace of Prince Aman Singh who was the descendant of King Chhatrasal. A number of legends are associated with this Mahal whose big lawns and walls unfold the long history of Chandela culture. Thousands of broken and decayed images made of granite and sandstone have been collected here in an informal museum.
There are also many Trimurti images showing the faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). Some distance away is a massive figure of Vishnu lying in the ocean of milk, enclosed within the coils of the Sheshnag. The images depict Lord Shiva, the god of love Kamadeva and Indrani the wife of Indra amongst others and show the influence of diverse cultures and religions. It also indicates that the creation of the Chandela culture was not the handiwork of artists from one region.
The Bargujar princes who ruled before the Chandelas were influenced by the 'Shaiva' cult. Therefore, among the rock-cut and stone images are mostly those of Shiva, Parvati, Nandi and the Shivlinga. Shiva is seen at times in his dancing posture of tandava and at others in a close embrace with goddess Parvati.
There are other attractions including the Venkat Bihari Temple, the 'pond of million tirthas', which is said to cure skin ailments along with aquatic features such as the Sita-kund, Pandu-kund, and Patal-ganga.
Metalled roads have been built through the mountainous passage along which people can travel to reach the fort. Alternatively, an old beaten track cuts its way through the rough and rocky terrain with seven magnificent gates along its course.
The nearest airport is at Khajuraho, 130 kilometres (81 mi) away.
The Kalinjar fort is linked by road to all the important centres in the region with regular bus services. Some of the major road distances are: Chitrakoot, 78 kilometres (48 mi); Banda, 62 kilometres (39 mi); Khajuraho, 130 kilometres (81 mi); and Allahabad, 205 kilometres (127 mi).
- Edwin Felix T. Atkinson (1874). Statistical, descriptive and historical account of the North-western Provinces of India, ed. by E.T. Atkinson [and others]. pp. 449–451.
- Finbarr Barry Flood (2009). Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter. Princeton University Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-691-12594-5.
- Sen, S.N., 2013, A Textbook of Medieval Indian History, Delhi: Primus Books, ISBN 9789380607344
- Iqtidar Alam Khan, Ganda Chandella, Historical Dictionary of Medieval India, (Scarecrow Press, 2007), 66.
- Raj Kumar, History Of The Chamar Dynasty : (From 6Th Century A.D. To 12Th Century A.D.), (Kalpaz Publications, 2008), 127.