Apart from the architectural beauty what makes the fort interesting is that the fort is replete with legends. Sharing a few interesting stories and legends about the famed Chunar Fort near Varanasi.
Perched atop Adri hill, Chunar Fort is one of the prime attractions of Chunar town which is 45km from the city of Varanasi. The fort is situated on the banks of the river Ganges at a height of 80-175 feet from the ground level and is spread across 34,000 square feet.
Chunar fort has been a silent spectator to the 2500 years of history and has undergone major changes based on the preferences of each and every ruler that has held this fort. Due to its unique location, it has always been of strategic importance for every ruler. The fort has been rebuilt several times by the different rulers who have controlled the fort. As a result, the architecture of the fort is a unique blend of different styles and cultures.
Legend has it that the fort was built by King Vikramaditya for his hermit brother Bharthari, a follower of Goraknath, who spent rest of his life at this fort and was later given Zinda Samadhi, in the premises of the fort, which is now a temple.
Later, the fort was conquered by Babar followed by Sher Shah Suri, Humayun, Akbar, Aurangzeb and finally the Mughals occupied the fort from 1532 until the British occupied it in 1768. The British had control of the fort thereafter till India’s independence. The British used the fort mainly as a warehouse to store weapons. The thick walls of the fort also have slanted apertures which were used to attack approaching enemy.
The dilapidated structure today doesn’t even look anywhere close to the ones that we have seen in Rajasthan but it does offer stunning vistas of the adjoining Ganga and the rolling hills.
The fort has been witness to a long history of bravery, battle and yes, the fort has a mythological connection too. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu in his Vamana incarnation appeared before King Bali in the form of a Brahmin and begged for three feet of land. The generous king granted the wishes of the Brahmin and donated three feet of land as his Dakshina. Lord Vishnu placed his first step on the Adri hill and left his foot-mark there, since then it is known as Charnadri ( Charna – feet and adri – the name of the hill).
There was a beautiful temple which was constructed inside the fort for the Saint Bharthari. Aurangzeb, during his rule, ordered for the demolition of the temple. The temple was demolished but he was unable to demolish the deity. When the army tried to destroy the deity, a swarm of bees came out of nowhere from the rupture and attacked them.
To stop the attack Aurangzeb decided to pour hot oil inside the rupture but instead of dying, the attack intensified and the number of bees doubled. He soon realized that it is a holy place and ordered his army to stand down and stopped the destruction of the temple. Post this incident Aurangzeb never laid a finger on any other Hindu Temple.
It is still considered to be a holy place where the wishes of the worshipers are granted.
The fort is also famous as Nainagarh. Raja Sahadeo established the statue of Naina Yogini in a cave of Vindhya hill and christened the fort as Nainagarh.
The mandap was built by King of Nepal, Sandeva (1333) for his daughter Sonwa. She was a beautiful princess with golden hair. Locals also believe that she was a magician and used to transform humans into parrots with her magic. The king wanted to get her daughter married to someone who was brave enough to defeat him. In this process, 52 kings lost their head and their heads were hung on the 52 pillars near the fort.
But the search continued until one fine day, a Knight from the nearby village kidnapped Sonwa to Mahoba. Later, they got married and lived happily in Sindora. The Mandap never saw any marriage function but it still stands as a testimony of the yesteryear tales of bloodshed for the sake of love.
The hugely popular show of 90’s Chandrakanta based on the novel written by Devaki Nandan was shot here, hence the fort is also known as Chandrakanta Chunargarh.
There is also a place near the fort where capital punishment was given. The king used to give instructions by a thumbs up or down from a vantage point that overlooked the hanging place and the beheading was carried out followed by throwing the body into the Ganga.
Legend has it that the well which is 15 feet (4.6 m) in diameter was constructed by King Vikramaditya for his wife. The well was used by the queen for her ablutions. There is also a dungeon and underground changing rooms.
The royal court of Sher Shah Suri was also the bungalow of Warren Hastings during the British rule. As of today, the bungalow has been re-purposed as PWD guesthouse. Near the guest house, there is also a splendid Jharokha (balcony) of Fathema Begum. The queen used to hold and participate in the royal sessions from the balcony.
There is also an underground tunnel from the fort which connects to Raigarh & Vijaygarh. But due to security reasons, the tunnel is closed.
The fort also boasts of dungeons ventilated only by small air holes which were built by Sher Shah Suri to keep the rulers who he had defeated in battles as hostages. Humayun was kept in one of the dungeons.
Any time of the year but preferably in winters
Visiting hours – 10 am to 4 pm.
Opens on all days.
Special Pottery Ware
Air: Nearest airport is Lal Bahadur Shastri airport
Rail: Chunar is well connected by major cities.
Road: From Varanasi – 40km, Mirzapur – 40 km, Allahabad – 130 km