ALWARA Secret Out In The OpenBy Abhilash Gaur
Most Rajasthan Roadways’ buses racing down to Alwar have ‘Matsyanagar Aagar (depot)’ painted on their rear panels. But the last time Alwar was referred to by that name was immediately after Independence, when the kingdoms of Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur and Karauli were merged to form the short-lived ‘United Kingdom of Matsya’. But the name itself is older than recorded history, its antecedents hailing from mythology. The Matsya kingdom, for instance, figures in the Mahabharata.
Historians are divided on the origin of the modern name Alwar. Some say it is a corruption of Salwapur, Salwa being the name of a tribe that lived here. Others say it is a corruption of Aravalpur, Aravallis being the hill range running through the district. Still others see it as a corruption of Alpur, the name of the city founded by Maharaja Alaghraj in 1049.
Legends apart, the oldest extant thing in the city today is the Bala Qila, built by the Nikumbha Rajputs in the 10th century. The fort spreads over the surrounding hills, which, along with the nearby lakes, are Alwar’s most alluring assets. If you come in the rains, they are bright green; if you come in the dry season, they are ruddy and rocky.
All that rock has been put to good use in and around Alwar. Forts, tombs and palaces abound. It is said that as Alwar was the youngest kingdom in Rajputana — it came into existence in 1775 — its rulers never tired of pomp and pageantry to make their mark amidst the older kingdoms. This should explain why they built 52 forts and innumerable palaces in the 175-odd years that they ruled.
Modern Alwar is a repository of much of that heritage. Unfortunately, it does not seem to get any returns on its investment, as tourists bypass Alwar for places like Sariska. Wandering around the town’s old streets, one realises how much there is to cherish in Alwar, and how little the outside world knows about it.
Alwar Town does not have public transport, but cycle rickshaws are cheap and easily available along most roads. The city stretches west from the railway line to the hills crowned by the 10th century Bala Qila. Most of the sightseeing and buildings such as the City Palace and Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri are concentrated on this far side, under the fort’s watchful eye. The Alwar Inter-State Bus Terminus is also nearby, within walking distance of the Prem Pavitra Bhojanalaya, the best place to lunch at after a long journey. North-east of the bhojanalaya is Hope Circle, a busy traffic intersection surrounded by markets like Churi Bazaar and Kalakand Market. While cycle rickshaws charge at least Rs 10, the fare varies according to not only the distance but also the gradient of the roads traversed. The usual fare from the bus terminus to the railway station is Rs 15. While there are diesel autos that run both inside and outside the town, they are expensive to hire solo and run like shared cabs. The cycle rickshaw is a more eco-friendly option for short distances.