The atmosphere is charged with valor. Silent screams echo everywhere. The aura of romance is mired with bloody wars and agonizing sacrifices. Memories come flooding back because I visit Udaipur and Chittorgarh after fifteen years. I had then stayed in Udaipur and had gone on each day trip to Chittaurgarh or Chittorgarh, the erstwhile capital of Mewar. There are numerous places to go to in Chittorgarh and at some point is simply not enough. It had been my first introduction to Rajasthan. Fifteen years later, I found myself in Mewar again and this point I’ve decided to drive from Udaipur to Chittorgarh only for old time’s sake.
However, standing here after fifteen years, I noticed that Chittorgarh isn’t almost a montage of monuments – but an album of emotions. Every monument here, be it the formidable fort or the towering towers, the exquisite temples, or the magnificent palaces – they represent pride, courage, lust, love, devotion, and sacrifice.
Battles fought and won, sieges ending in death, women immolating themselves – every tale may be a heightened tale of chivalry and romance, gallantry and dauntlessness, death, and destruction. And, therefore, oral ballads tell these tales. One legend that echoes even today from the ruins of Chittorgarh is that the lore of the famed Rani Padmavathy or Chittor Rani Padmini, now framed in celluloid.
Chittorgarh Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside five other forts of Rajasthan – Kumbalgarh Fort, Jaisalmer Fort, Amer Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort and is one among the most important fortresses within the country.
Built atop a hillock within the 5th century, it oversees the sleepy town and was strengthened by different rulers over a period of your time. There are seven gates and over 65 monuments, including four palaces, four memorials, and eighteen temples. Victory towers dot the skyline. There was a time when there have been over eighty water bodies round the landscape but now you’ll see over twenty of them.
Legends of Chittorgarh
Legends interest me and its fascinating to ascertain how every destination in India is tied to either of the 2 Indian epics – Ramayana or Mahabharata. Chittorgarh is however connected to the latter as Bheema is meant to possess struck the bottom here trying to find water and therefore the spring is now a reservoir named after him – Bhimlat Kund.
Rani Padmini or Padmavathy of Chittorgarh
Nevertheless, the legend that’s synonymous with Chittorgarh is that the story of Rani Padmini or Padmavathy, wife of Raja Ratan Singh who was known for her famed beauty. Set in the medieval era, Padmavathy was the topic of several ballads, fantasies, and poems.
Besides the oral Rajasthani folklore, one among the famous fictional works is penned by poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. I, however, read the story as a toddler from my favorite comics, Amar Chitra Katha.
The story is about with talking parrots who speak of the sweetness of the queen and even lures the king to woo her. However, it’s the lust of Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi that takes center stage here. He was allowed a glimpse of her beauty from the reflections of mirrors, but that was enough for him to attack Chittorgarh. While Ratan Singh was killed, Padmini alongside other Rajasthani women committed Sati or Jauhar and immolated themselves to avoid capture. While historians refute the story, the siege did happen within the medieval era and Alauddin did capture Chittorgarh within the 14th century.
Akbar’s Attack On Chittorgarh
The practice of Sati or Jauhar is imprinted on the walls of those forts. The cries echo from these broken ruins of palaces. There was apparently a record of 13000 women who committed Jauhar within the 16th century when Chittorgarh was besieged again. However, the ultimate onslaught happened during the Mughal era when Akbar decided to attack. Thousands were killed and lots of women immolated themselves consistent with the records.
The story goes that Rana Uday Singh II’s son decided to shift camps to the Mughals only to find out that Akbar was getting to invade his father’s territory. He returned to warn his father but it had been too late by then. Some stories say that Rana Uday Singh II escaped while his valiant men fought on the battlefield until death. While most legends speak of wars, the victory tower or Vijay Stamb built by Rana Kumba stands as a gift of a win.
Chittorgarh has more stories, one concerning Rana Uday Singh the founding father of Udaipur. When there was an indoor conspiracy to kill him as a baby, his nurse sacrificed her son by substituting him for the prince.
Meera bai And Chittorgarh
But there are stories beyond conspiracies. Chittorgarh also revolves around Meera bai, the devotee of Krishna who dedicated her entire life to the deity and even left her worldly life behind her. She lived here, married to Bhojraj Singh, son of Rana Sangha, but it had been Krishna who mattered to her. Meera bai’s life is now immortalized in a temple dedicated to her.
Places to go to in Chittorgarh
If you’re planning just one day in this Mewar fort, then here may be a list of places to go to in Chittorgarh besides the Chittorgarh Fort.
Palaces of Chittorgarh
There are several palaces inside the fort but my favorite is the palace of Rana Kumbha, which is now completely in ruins. There’s a way of poignancy as I walk around the crumbles. Every broken brick features a tale to mention. This palace is the oldest monument within the fort and my favorite moment is to face here and watch the sun go down over the whole city.
The Fateh Prakash Palace is adjacent to the present monument except for me the foremost fascinating monument is Rani Padmini’s palace lying desolate within the pond, shrouded by trees and searching rather forlorn.
Temples Inside Chittorgarh Fort
Almost every nook and corner of the fort is crammed with temples. However, if you’re running out of your time, then do visit the Meera Temple, dedicated to Meerabai, probably one among the few temples dedicated to a person. She was considered a mystic and a lover of Krishna and was veered as a saint.
There also are temples dedicated to Kali and Shiva. There’s the Kshemankari Temple, the Kumbha Shyam Temple, Adbuthanath temple beside a couple of Jain temples on the fort itself.
Towers – Kirti Stambh and Vijay Stambh
Two towers stand tall here – one is the Kirti Stambh built by a Jain merchant within the 12th century that rises to a height of twenty-two meters. And, therefore, the other is the Victory tower called Vijay Stambh that was built by Rana Kumba dedicated to Vishnu. it had been built to commemorate a victorious battle and it had been hospitable the general public. While we did climb it during our first trip, I made a decision to offer it a pass this point. If you’re trying to find more places to go to in Chittorgarh, then spend longer in these towers.
Water bodies around Chittorgarh
From reservoirs to step wells, Chittorgarh is surrounded by water bodies that gave the title water fort. I’m fascinated by the emerald tinged waters of the Gaumukh. This was sort of a private bathing pool for the queens and apparently there was an underground tunnel connecting the reservoir and therefore the palaces also.