THE FORMER princely state of Alwar is now a dusty, provincial town, visited by few tourists except those on their way to the Sariska National Park. Nevertheless it has some remarkable monuments, built by its wealthy rulers in the 18th century, that are well worth seeing. The most significant of these is the City Palace, whose extravagant architectural features include a profusion of curved bangaldar roofs and chhatris(pavilions) as well as delicate Mughal floral tracery and jalis . The palace, built in 1793, now houses the District Collectorate and Police Head- quarters, and is best viewed from the central courtyard with its lovely marble pavilions. The lavishly decorated Durbar Hall and the Sheesh Mahal, on the first floor, can only be viewed with special permission.
A door to the right of the courtyard leads to the City Palace Museum, spread over three halls on the palace’s upper storey. Its treasures, which bear witness to the opulent lifestyles of Alwar’s maharajas, include rare and exquisite copies of the Persian poet Sa’adi’s Gulistan (written in 1258) and the Babur Nania Or “Memoirs of Babur” (1530), superb Mughal and Rajput miniatures and an awesome armoury. Particularly intriguing is a macabre coil called nagphas, used for strangling enemies. Another unique exhibit is a silver dining table with dividers, through which shoals of metal fish can be seen swimming.
The cenotaph of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh (r.1790-1815) lies behind the palace, across a magnificent kund (tank). It is locally known as Moos Maharani ki Chhatii , after his mistress who committed sati here after he died. An elegant monument that blends brown sandstone with white marble, its ceilings are adorned with gold leaf paintings.
On a steep hill above the city is the rugged Bala Gila , a fort with extensive ramparts, massive gateways and some spectacular views from the top. Originally a 10th-century mud fort, it was added to by the Mughals and Jats, and captured by Pratap Singh ofAlwar in 1775. Within the fort is a pretty frescoed palace, the Nikumbh Mahal, in the courtyard of which a police wireless station is, rather inappropriately, sited. Also visible are the ruins of the Salim Mahal, named after Jahangit (Salim), Mughal emperor Alwar’s heir who was exiled here after he plotted to kill Abu’s Fazl, the emperor’s official historian. Near Alwar’s railway station is another fine monument, the Tomb of Fetch Jang, one of Emperor Shah Jahan’s ministers, built in 1647. Dominated by an enormous dome, the walls and ceiling of this five-storeyed structure have raised plaster reliefs, with fine calligraphic inscriptions on the first floor. Alwar’s green lung, Company Bagh, is a lovely garden with a greenhouse.