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The fortress of Ranthambore was founded in 944 by the Chauhan Rajputs. The fortress commanded a strategic location, 700 feet above the surrounding plain. After the defeat of the Chauhan king Prithviraj III by Muhammad of Ghor in 1192, Ranthambore, led by Govinda Raja, grandson of Pritviraj, became the center of Chauhan resistance to the expanding Sultanate of Delhi. Govinda Raja was succeeded by his son Balhana.

The Delhi Sultan Iltutmish captured Ranthambore in 1226, but the Chauhans recapture it after his death in 1236. The armies of Sultan Nasir ud din Mahmud, led by the future Sultan Balban, unsuccessfully besieged the fortress in 1248 and 1253, but captured from Jaitrasingh Chauhan in 1259. Hamir Dev succeeded Jaitrasingh in 1283, and recaptured Ranthambore and enlarged the kingdom. Sultan Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji briefly besieged the fort in 1290-91. In 1299, Hamir Dev sheltered Muhammad Shah, a rebel general of Sultan Ala ud din Khilji, and refused to turn him over to the Sultan. The sultan unsuccessfully besieged the fortress in 1299, but returned in 1301 to personally oversee a long siege, and succeeded in capturing the fort.

The fortress was captured by the kingdom of Mewar under Rana Hamir Singh (1326-1364) and Rana Kumbha (1433-1468). After the reign of Rana Kumbha's successor Rana Udai Singh I (1468-1473) the fortress passed to the Hada Rajputs of Bundi. Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat captured the fortress from 1532 to 1535. The Mughal Emperor Akbar captured the fortress in 1559.

The fortress passed to the Kachwaha Maharajas of Jaipur in the 17th century, and it remained part of Jaipur state until Indian Independence. The area surrounding the fortress became a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Jaipur state acceded to India in 1949, becoming part of the state of Rajasthan in 1950.

Inside Ranthambore fort there are three Hindu temples dedicated to Ganesh,Shiva and Ramlalaji constructed in 12th and 13th centuries from red Karauli stone.