The urban legend lives on
Build by Jai Singh II in 1726, Jaigarh is one of the three forts besides Nahargarh and Amer that border Rajasthan’s capital of Jaipur. Jaigarh takes its name from the Jai Singh II who commissioned its construction. Built with the intention of protecting the neighbouring Fort Amer and its enclosing palace complex, Jaigarh is a solid medieval fort that has remained unconquered in battle.
It runs for nearly three km north-south and was known for its canon foundry. It was here that the largest cannon in the world, Jaivana, was made and continues to occupy a prominent position. Because of its reputation, no one ever made an attempt to capture Amber or Jaigarh and the Jaivana was fired all but once… as a test shot. Since Jaigarh served as the first line of defence for Amer, it is connected to the latter through a complex structure of underground passages that have now been shut.
One of the striking features of Jaigarh is its water storage and supply mechanism. The fort had an efficient water harvesting system and used the catchment areas in the Aravalli mountains to collect water for consumption. This water was then transported to the fort using a canal and then stored in three underground tanks below the central courtyard. The largest of the tank is said to have a capacity to store more than six million gallons of water. And it is this tank that has been at the heart of speculation for several decades.
An urban legend that has gained significant mileage over centuries is that the tank once held an unimaginably large amount of treasure of the Kachwaha rulers stashed away to protect from the Mughal emperors. This treasure was said to be so vast that it could put to shame the richest people in the world since it would have been valued at several billion dollars. The legend only grew because, like all legends, it seemed totally believable. Of course the Kachwaha rulers would’ve done that! Can you imagine the amount of wealth that could have been hidden in a water tank under the central courtyard? And, of course, it is there because, hey, it’s right under the central courtyard where the king could keep a close eye on it.
This legend was so strong that even Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is said to have conducted a search after arresting Gayatri Devi the queen who married into the Kachwaha dynasty. The story goes that Indira Gandhi and Gayatri Devi never saw eye-to-eye. Gandhi’s dislike for the queen was even more because she had managed to defeat her representative in the elections multiple times over. So during the Emergency, Indira Gandhi is said to have arrested Gayatri Devi and conducted a thorough search of her palace to confiscate anything that was deemed illegal and to tax the former queen.
It is said that the search even extended to Jaigarh, which had by then long since been abandoned by the family. Metal detectors were used in the hope of finding that lost treasure. There were also rumours that the Jaipur Delhi highway was shut for nearly two days for normal traffic so the treasure could be transferred to Indira Gandhi.
Of course, this is believed to be conjecture. There was no treasure found because there was no treasure there in the first place! By all estimates, if there was any treasure, Jai Singh II had likely used it to build a city that he’d always dreamed of. A city, we now know as Jaipur.