This is one of the most famous forts of the formerly princely state of Rajasthan. Located at the southern part of the state in the city of Chittor, this fort has a number of historical legends attached to it. Initially built by Chitrangad Maurya of the Maurya dynasty, various sections were added to it by a long line of rulers that ruled over this place from the seventh to the sixteenth century AD. It is believed to be the capital of the Gahlot and Sisodia kings of Mewar.
Historically the fort is the living example of the valor, tenacity and sacrifice of its inmates—the Rajput rulers of Rajasthan. The fort was sacked three times from time to time by the Muslim invaders and every time the defenders had to make the supreme sacrifice to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemies.
Among the three, the first siege was the most destructive and legendary. It occurred in AD 1303 when Ala-ud-din Khilji of Delhi attacked to gain possession of Padmini, the beautiful wife of Rana Rattan Singh, whom he saw in a water reflection. In spite of gaining control of the fort, the goal remained unachievable since Padmini along with other Rajput women marched in procession to an underground cave and committed self-immolation or jauhar. The other two sieges were carried out by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1535 AD and Mughal ruler Akbar Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1567. After the final sacking by Akbar, the backbone of Chittor was broken, and its ruler Rana Udai Singh fled to lay the foundations of Udaipur. Chittor never recovered and the fort was taken over by nature.
A visit to the fort would indubitably offer you an insight into the life of the Great Rajput rulers, who laid down their lives fighting a superior enemy instead of leading a life of submission under them. For them it was the triumph of spirit over physical victory.
For those you who are interested in the study of royal architecture, the magnificent fort that rises 150 m above the surrounding region is an architectural marvel. It runs to an approximate length of 3 km covering an area of 60 acres and peripheral length of 13 km. The ascent to the Chittorgarh Fort would take you through zigzag paths interrupted at intervals by seven enormous gateways or 'pols'. They were massive stone structures with reinforced doors to ward off elephants and even cannon shots. The top of the gates are notched parapets from where archers could shoot at their tormentors. These are guarded by watch tower and massive iron spiked doors.
On the east of the fort you would find the Suraj Pol gate with two chhatris (small domed canopies, supported by pillars). This is the place where the two famous commanders Jaimal and Kalla fell when Akbar laid siege to the fort in 1567.
The Padan Pol is built in the memory of Rawat Bagh Singh. He is a brave warrior king who joined hands with King Vikramaditya to fight against Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat when Chittor fort was attacked the second time.
The Bhairon Pol is named in the memory of Bhairondas Solanki who also fought against Sultan Bahadur Shah in AD 1534.
The Hanuman Pol, the Ram Pol, and the Lakshman Pol each have a temple in their vicinity. The Jorla Pol has two adjacent gateways, which are joined together in a peculiar manner. The upper arch of the Jorla (Joined Gate) is connected to the base of Lakshman Pol, a feature never seen anywhere else in India.
Another important feature of this fort is the presence of the numerous water bodies, for which it was also known as the Water Fort. It is said that earlier the fort had 84 water bodies, out of which only about 22 exist today. These include talabs (ponds), kunds (wells), and baories (stepwells). All the talabs have natural catchments. The kunds and baories are located below the talabs, so that even the seepage from the latter is not lost. It is said that in a year of more than normal rainfall (average annual rainfall: 700 mm), enough water would be stored to last the next 12 months. Even after water loss due to seepage and evaporation and other causes, an army of 50,000 could live in the fort for four years without fear of thirst!
So, do pay a visit this amazing fort which stands tall as the epitome of Rajput culture and values, and is regarded as one of the most outstanding forts of the country. It is not for nothing that the fort is considered the "Pride of Rajasthan State".
Apart form the pols; there are many places of interest within the precincts of the fort that stand as a grim reminder of the jaded grandeur of Chittor. There are several temples, reservoirs, and palaces originating between the 9th and 17th centuries AD. There is also a big complex of Jain temples within the fort. The places of tourist interest inside the fort are:
Rana Kumbha's palace: This is the oldest monument within the fort walls. It is the palace of Rana Kumbh, wh o is officially believed to have built Chittor. The palace built in plastered stone during 1433-68, has its entrance through Suraj Pol which directly leads into a courtyard. On the right of Suraj Pol is the Darikhana or Sabha (council chamber) behind which lie a Ganesha temple and the zenana (living quarters for women). A massive water reservoir is located towards the left of Suraj Pol. Ruined houses towards the south of the palace may have been used by lesser nobles, or were probably used by palace attendants. Below the central courtyard is a subterranean chamber where Rani Padmini committed jauhar with the rest of the women of Chittor when Alauddin Khilji besieged the fort. But the most remarkable feature of the palace is its splendid series of canopied balconies. Though the palace is almost in dilapidated condition, yet you can make out the majesty of this palace in those times even from ruins.
Fateh Prakash: Near Kumbha’s palace is Fateh Prakash, the most modern building in Chittor. Built in the early 20th century, the palace was the home for Maharana Fateh Singh, Chittor’s ruler who died in 1930. You would love the big Ganesh idol, the fountain, and the different frescoes in the palace.
A part of the building has now been converted into a museum but the rest of it is closed to visitors. It has a rich collection of sculptures from temples and buildings in the Fort. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on Fridays.
Kirti Stambh: The Kirti Stambh, a tower built of quartz is a seven-storied structure with a cramped stairway of 54 steps. It is 30 feet at the base and narrows down to 15 feet at the top and is adorned with Jain sculptures on the outside. It is dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara or spiritual teacher, Adinath, and has an impressive five-feet-high statue of the saint. It is believed to have been built by a wealthy Jain merchant in the 12th century A.D.
Vijay Stambh: This is the most imposing structure within the Chittorgarh Fort. You can see it even from the town, which is located below the fort. An excellent piece of architecture, it was built around the 15th century, by Rana Kumbha, one of the most powerful Mewar kings. He built it to commemorate his victory over the combined forces of Mahmud Khilji of Malwa and Gujarat. The entire structure is covered with sculptures of Hindu deities and episodes from the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Designed by an architect called Jaita in the Jain revivalist style, the tower is built of quartz and compact limestone abundantly found in Chittor. The black marble tablets in the top floor contain shlokas (verses) tracing the genealogy of Chittor rulers. However, most of the slabs have been defaced and only one is still in its original condition. The fifth floor contains relief of the builders of the tower, and a simple staircase which leads right up to the top connects the entire storey.
There are around 157 narrow steps leading to the terrace where the balconies give a beautiful top angle view of the whole town. When illuminated in the evening, the tower reflects a mesmerizing effect. You can capture this breathtaking view in your camera to cherish the moment forever.
Kunwar Pade ka Mahal: This 15th century palace was the first Rajput buiding to incorporate the use of ogee arches. These are S-shaped arches which later became an essential part of Rajput architecture and were widely used in palaces, step wells and temples. This palace was actually used by the prince of Chittor and some of the beautiful blue tiles that went into decorating most of the palaces here.
Mohair Margi: The Chittor fort was almost impregnable due to its strategic location on top of a hill. But Akbar used a very risk taking venture to attack it 1567. He got the Mughal army engaged to raise a hill as high as the fort walls, so that they could fire cannons into Chittor. But it was not an easy task, as it meant sure death for some. It was said that Akbar paid one gold mohur (coin) for each basket of mud placed outside the fort walls. And after a few days when the mound did reach as high as the fort walls and Akbar was able to seize Chittor. This mound is still there today and is known as the Mohair Margi.
The Sammidheshwara Temple: It is a temple built near the Vijay Stambh tower and it allows light to enter from four different directions. The temple walls are short and take the form of blind banister. Small pillars support the roof on the outside while columns support the dome of the inner chamber. This central chamber is largely open on all sides and its columns meet in arches in the upper reaches.
Gaumukh reservoir: It is actually a big water reservoir with water gushing out of a rock shaped in the form of cow's mouth called 'Gaumukh'.
Close to the opening of the cave is the Rani Bindar tunnel which leads into the subterranean chamber where Rani Padmini committed jauhar during Alauddin Khilji’s siege of Chittor.
The reservoir is considered to be sacred and here you can feed the fishes on your tour to Chittorgarh.
Rani Padmini Mahal: This is a distinctly feminine structure that overlooks a pleasant pool and as the name suggests was the palace of Rani Padmini. It is located to the south of the Rana Kumbha Palace and it is here where, Ala-ud-din Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, was allowed to see the reflection of Rani Padmini.
It is a compact three storied white building, but what you see today is a 19th century reconstruction of the original. The palace is surrounded by water, and the inevitable chhatris (pavilions) crown its roofs. Akbar carried off huge bronze gates from here and installed them in Agra.
The Bhimtal Kund: This is an artificial tank located close to the Rani Padmini Mahal. It is dedicated to the strongest of the Pandava brother, Bhima of our great epic the Mahabharata. Some legend even say that Chittorgarh was originally built by Bhima.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple: This temple too is located near Padmini's palace of the Chittorgarh fort. As the name suggests the temple is dedicated to Lord Mahadev or Shiva.
Shringar Chaori Jain Temple: This is a small domed Jain temple located in the northeastern corner inside the fort. It has detailed carvings of gods and goddesses on the outside and was built into the fort wall in 1448 in honor of Shantinath, a Jain fort maker.
The palace of the Ranas: Built by Rana Raimal, this is a plain edifice with notched battlements, following the style of original Rajput architecture devoid of any Mughal influence. This palace was the home for the very first rulers of Chittor, or that of the Mauryas from whom Chittor was seized.
Govind Devji temple: This is located within the courtyard surrounding the palace. Rana Sanga had a special affinity for Govind Devji. He prayed at the temple whever he forayed out of the fort for a war. On a victorious return, Sanga would once again pay homage to the deity.
Jain Mandir (Jain Temple - Sattavish devri): When you visit the Chittorgarh fort, you can have a look at the six Jain temples which are a part of the twenty seven temples that were there in the past. Hence the place was earlier known as ‘Sattavish devri’. However, the largest and chief among them is the temple of Bhagawan Adinatha with fifty-two devkulikas. Some of the others include the Digamabar Jain Kirtistambh and seven-storied Kirti Stambh (which has been mentioned before).
Meera Mandir (Temple): Among the temples that lie inside the fort, the Meera Mandir is one of the most massive. It was built by Meera Bai, the saint-poetess and Lord Krishna’s devotee. It is to be mentioned here that Meera bai’s life and bhajans have become part of the folklore and literary traditions of the region and several parts of India.
Near the temple is the cenotaph of Meerabai’s guru Shri Rai Das. Inside the cenotaph is a statue depicting five human bodies fused together with one head, signifying that there are no caste differences and even outcasts can reach out to god. Another temple in the same premises is a Vishnu temple dedicated to the Varah avatar (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar). Built by Maharana Kumbha in 1449, it has beautiful idols in its sanctum, mandap and pillars. In the same premises, there is a small temple of Lord Krishna.
Near these temples you would find two kunds or reservoirs, each measuring 125 feet in length, 50 feet across and 50 feet deep. However, they were not meant to store water and were constructed for the wedding of a Chittor princess. They were filled with oil and ghee (clarified butter) which was served out to attendants and guests.
Kumbha Shyam Temple: This simple temple has been dedicated to Lord Krishna. Its walls are filled with diamonds and carry images of gods and goddesses as well as the eight regents of Chittor. The upper walls are decorated with a frieze of entwined loops. A major part of the temple seems to have been restored, but the inner chamber still retains its originality.
Adbhutnath Temple: This 16th century temple demonstrates a style which emerged in the 10th century. Here, images of gods tend to be differently portrayed than in other temples. Heads are almost circular and the statues’ limbs form a tubular shape, making the images look like crude toys. The main image of Mahesha or Lord Shiva is made of wood and is an unrefined depiction of the Destroyer god. His face is flat and two more adjoining faces are turned forward in an obvious display of the lack of dimension.
Kalika Mata Temple: Bappa Rawal built the Kallika Mata temple sometime during the 8th century for Surya, the Sun god. Alauddin Khilji destroyed it in the first sack of Chittor, but Rana Hammir rebuilt it as a Kali temple in the 14th century. The temple consists of five chambers, all devoid of their original roofs. The walls of this temple are plain but the cornices are decorated with lotus symbols. The inner sanctum’s walls depict the Sun god Surya in nichés surrounded by consorts and angels. The moon god Chandra is also shown in sculptures in the walls which rise up into a flat ceiling supported by quadrangular pillars, also intricately carved and bracketed at the top. The doorframe of the inner sanctum has four ornamental bands with Surya forming the central theme of its carvings. The entire frame is flanked by an elaborate panel in which are carved figures of deities around a main figure of the sun god. The temple still retains the flavor of the Gupta style of architecture, and an inscription within the edifice informs us that it was built by King Manabhanga.
Tulja Bhawani temple: In the western side of the fort is an ancient Tulja Bhawani temple in honor of goddess Tulja, held sacred by the scribes of Chittor. Adjacent to this temple is an open courtyard, the tope khana (cannon foundry) of yesteryears where a few old cannons can still be seen.
Naulakha Bandar (Treasure Store): The Naulakha bhandar (nine lakh treasury) built by Rana Kumbha is a small citadel in itself, and it was here that all the wealth of Chittor was hoarded. The bastion once had lofty walls and towers to guard it, but now lies in ruins. The Naulakha bhandar is also said to have been the residence of Banbir, the usurper
Brahma Temple: Rana Kumbha’s Brahma temple is not really that of the Creator of the Universe, and is in honor of Kumbha’s father Mukul, whose bust stands in the centre of the solitary chamber. Adjoining this temple is Charbagh, a garden of cenotaphs where the ashes of each one of Chittor’s rulers – from Bappa Rawal to Udai Singh II, the founder of Udaipur – are kept.
Mahasati: The Ranas of Chittor were cremated in the Mahasati, a small terrace surrounded by stones marking satis (widows burnt with the bodies of their husbands).
By Air: Chittorgarh does not have an airport. The nearest city Udaipur is 112 kms away.
By Rail: Chittorgarh has rail links to cities like Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Udaipur, Jaipur, Kota, and Delhi.
By Road: There are also regular buses for Ajmer, Bundi, Kota, and Udaipur from Chittorgarh. For local transport, one can use auto-rickshaws and taxis.
While at Chittorgarh, you may stay in the numerous hotels located nearby or you may return back to Udaipur which is the nearest city. Some of the budget hotels in the city are:
Chanderiya Road, Near Sainik School,
Chittorgarh, Rajasthan - 312001 – India
Pratap Nagar Road,
Near Railway Station,
Chittorgarh, Rajasthan - 312001 – India
The Bassi Fort, Heritage Hotel and the Bijaipur Castle, Heritage Hotel.
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