Usually, many people find history to be a boring subject. We can imagine how dry it could be for any person to read about kings belonging to the past, a series of dancing digits representing historical years and loads of weird names of alien kings. But here is an opportunity to change even the perceptions of a common man towards history – from a boring subject to a very interesting avenue of information. The Chittorgarh Fort – an architectural marvel, a must-visit for any Indian to live the history of Rajasthan and that of Rajputs.
The fortress of Chittorgarh stands as a perfect embodiment of the imposing individuals it has given birth to. The indelible mark left by these custodians played a major part in what we know as the history of India and is imbibed deep into the Indian fabric. Its a testament to their prominence as a force for good that the tales of their heroism, romance, bravery, honor and sacrifice are sung to this day. Their acts of courage have not only immortalized them but also made them the symbols of true valor for the young generation.
Located on a high hill near Gambheri River in Chittorgarh, it’s situated at a distance of 112 kms from the city of Udaipur. The fort itself received its name from Chitrangada Mori, a ruler from a sub-clan of Mauryans. Chittorgarh was one of the most ferociously contested seats of power back in those days. As the story goes, Bappa Rawal, the heroic founder of Sisodia dynasty, is said to have received Chittor as dowry for the last Solanki princess while another story says that Bappa Rawal captured it from the Mauryans.
The competition for the capture of this famed fortress did not end with him though. Chittorgarh echoes with stories of such unparalleled courage that it sends shivers down the spine of visitors even today. Maharana Pratap of Mewar was the embodiment of sacrifice whose story, the people of Chittoragarh, still narrate with pride. Driven out of his homeland by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, in 1567, Maharana Pratap fought till his last breathe to regain his capital. In the famous battle of Haldighati, he lost many men and also his dear horse, Chetak, but didn’t give up. Maharana Pratap made his descendants vow like him that they would not sleep on beds, nor live in palaces, nor eat off metal utensils, until Chittorgarh had been regained. He sacrificed every bit of comfort and peace for the honor of his homeland and freedom of his people. But the sacrifice was done not just by the men. It’s women boast of greater merits.
Rani Padmini, the legendary queen of Chittorgarh and wife of King Ratnasen was renowned for her wit and unrivalled beauty. Driven by ill intentions, the then Sultan of Delhi, Ala-ud-din Khilji had wished to get a glimpse of Padmini, referring to her as his sister before the King of Chittorgarh. Padmini consented to allow Ala-ud-din to see only her reflection. On seeing Padmini’s reflection however, he decided that he should secure Padmini for himself. While returning to his camp, Allah-ud-din was accompanied by his generous host. Taking this opportunity, the cunning Sultan deceitfully kidnapped King Ratnasen and took him as a prisoner and demanded that Queen Padmini surrender if she wanted her husband alive. The guides still sing praises of Rani Padmini’s wit which helped release the king. Following this episode, the fort was captured and looted but the women of Chittor, led by their brave queen, Rani Padmini committed “Jauhar” ,the tradition of putting oneself on fire to save oneself the indignations at the hands of the captors and to save their honor from the foreign invaders, which still haunts every corner of the fort.
Chittorgarh faced its next attack in 1535 under the leadership of Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat. Rani Karnavati sent Rakhi to Humayun, seeking for her brother’s help against the invasion of Bahadur Shah. Though Humayun was late to reach for his sister’s aid, Rani Karnavati’s name and this incident has become irrevocably linked to the festival of “Rakshabandhan”.
This impregnable fort has been witness to Rajput courage, sacrifice and honor like no other. It stands as the epitome of Rajput glory, narrating the courageous story of its past inhabitants everyday to people visiting it from the world over.
The best known fort in and around the Indian State of Rajasthan; One of the oldest and largest forts in the Sub-continent as of now; The fort which hosted the famous Jauhar of Rajput women without submitting to Alaudin Khilji; Once known as ‘The Water Fort’ for its enormous water resources; Pride, Romance and Spirit of Rajasthan personified; Adding to all this, it has also been declared as a World Heritage Site in 2013; That is Chittorgarh Fort for you!
The Fort is located in between Delhi and Mumbai in NH 8 along the Golden Quadrilateral and at the intersecting point of NH 76 and NH 79. It is spread over an area of 700 acres vested atop a hillock to the left of River Berach – a tributary of The Banas, at an altitude of 180 metres. The building was initially built in the 7th century during the reign of the Mauryan Dynasty and was constantly concocted by the succeeding kings. It is an eponym derived from the name of its founder, Emperor Chitrangada Mori of the Mauryan Dynasty.
The Fort has served as the capital of Mewar for about 834 years as per historical records and has seen the ups and downs of numerous dynasties – all that ruled and all that were ruined. The fort has encountered three major setbacks between the 13th and 16th centuries. The first being the defeat of Rana Ratan Singh in 1303 by Alaudin Khilji, the second – defeat of Bikramjeet Singh in 1535 by Bahadur Shah, the then Sultan of Gujarat and the third being the defeat of Maharana Udai Singh II in 1567 at the hands of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
These foils were followed by the Jauhar of around 13000 ladies and children, who belonged to the family of the heroic Rajputs, under two courageous royal women – Rani Padmini, the wife of Raja Ratan Singh and Rani Karnavati. Jauhar was a practice of jumping into a pyre of flames with a bold intention to sacrifice one’s life rather than submitting to an enemy king.
From the ruins remaining today, we reckon that the massive fort must have had long before, all that a town needs to be self-sufficient and sustainable. The Fort had been facilitated with about 84 water bodies to preserve water for all the soldiers and refugees to remain thirst-free for four full years, and was known as ‘The Water Fort’ for the same.
Other significant monuments inside the campus include The seven humongous entrance gates – Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Jorla Pol, Ganesh Pol, Laxman Pol and Ram Pol; Kalikamata Mandir – originally built as a Sun Temple in 8th century and was later converted as that of Goddess Kali in 14th century; The Vijay Stambh – a nine-storey tower built in order to celebrate the victory of Maharana Khumba over Mohamed Khilji in 1440; The Kirti Stambh – built as a tribute to the 1st Jain Teerthankar Adinathji; The Gaumukh Reservoir – a deep tank watered by a spring resembling a cow’s mouth; Rana Khumbha Palace; Rani Padmini Palace residing beside a water pool; the Meera Mandir – a Vishnu Temple built by Rana Kumbha in 1449 and the Fateh Prakash Palace which is now a Museum run by the Government. The Chittorgarh Fort is an extensive edifice of Indo-Aryan architecture and a monumental description of the brave and benevolent Rajput Rulers. It is worth spending a hearty stint of at least a day to experience the intriguing intricacies of art and architecture.