Running along the left of the road as you walk from Mahasthangarh town towards the museum, the Citadel – or what’s left of it – forms a rough rectangle covering more than 2 sq km. It was once surrounded on three sides by the then-mighty Karatoya River, which still flows but has been reduced to a trickle. Hindus make an annual pilgrimage to the river in mid-April. The site shows evidence of various Hindu empires, as well as Buddhist and Muslim occupations.
Probably first constructed under the Mauryan empire in the 3rd century BC, the Citadel fell into disuse around the time of the Mughal invasions. Most of the visible brickwork dates from the 8th century, apart from what was added during phases of restoration. Nowadays, there isn’t a lot left to see aside from the edge of the exterior walls – some of which rise three or four metres above the ground level – and various unidentifiable grassy mounds.
Not far inside the first entranceway you come to if you walk from town, you’ll see Jiyat Kunda (Well of Life), an 18th-century well, the waters of which were said to have supernatural healing powers. Only a few paces ahead is the plinth work of the Parshuram Palace, the residence of one of the Hindu kings of yore. You can walk the length of the citadel from here, roughly following the line of the main road, to the museum, which is located just outside the far entrance to the site. The Citadel’s interior is now used mostly as farmland and is fabulous picnic territory.