Kalinjar Fort and its Khajuraho Connection

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The Khajuraho temples, with all their erotic sculptures and tantric subtext are famous across the world. But closely connected with their history, is the history of the impregnable fortress of Kalinjar, around 102 kms from Khajuraho. Built on top of a hill 800 feet high, this fortress has been in continuous occupation for the last 1500 years from the Gupta dynasty in 3rd century CE to serving as a British garrison during the Revolt of 1857. This was the fort that Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri, was trying to capture when he was killed and this was also once owned by Akbar’s confidante and ‘Court Gem’, Birbal. Few forts in India, have been around for so long, or seen so much!
Origins of the Fort
While we don’t know the exact date when the fort was built, the District Gazetteer of Agra and Oudh, mentions that Emperor Samudragupta of the Imperial Gupta dynasty conquered Kalinjar fort in 336 CE. However, Alexander Cunningham, the founder of Archaeological Survey of India, in his book Boundelkhand & Rewa in 1883-1884, claims the origins of the fort to be around 249 CE. Cunningham has an interesting theory of where the name Kalinjar or Kalinjar comes from. He believes that it might have been used by Shaivite ascetics as a place of retreat giving it the name Kalanjaradri or ‘Hill of Kalinjar’. Kalinjar is one of Shiva’s names, which means ‘Decayer of Time’ (Kal – Time, Jar – Decay). He goes on it compare it with Gwalior Fort, which also derives its name from Shaivite monk ‘Gwalipa’ who meditated on the hill.

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