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3. Chittorgarh

We left Udaipur at about 7.45am to reach Chittorgarh by about 10ish. We proceeded straight to the Fort and were lucky to find a good guide immediately. It took us about four hours to see the fort. After that we had lunch at a roadside dhaba and reached Udaipur by about 5pm. It is a big fort so you need a car to drive around.

Chitor was the capital of the Gohalit & Sisodia kings of Mewar from the 8th to 16th century A.D. Tradition attributes the building of this fort to Chitrangada Maurya after whom it is named Chitorgarh. But the Sisodia ruler Ajay Pal (1174-77 A.D.) seems to have improved the earlier fort built by the Gohalit king in the 9th century A.D. The fort is famous for its architectural features & feats of valor of its rulers.

The fort is fish shaped, is situated on a 180 meter high hill, 600 metres above sea level. It covers an area of 700 acres, had 13 temples & 84 reservoirs and a fortification wall i.e. 13 kms in length.

The traditional entrance is from the east whose picture are on site. However, today you drive into the fort from the western side. As you drive by you see many gates i.e. Padan pole, Bhairav pole (restored by Maharana Fateh Singhji), Hanuman pole, Ganesh pole, Jorla pole, Laxman pole and Ram pole. There are seven poles in all. Since the Maharanas are Suryavanshis or followers of the Sun God whose chariot had seven horses so also the fort has seven gates.

The first sack of Chitor took place in 1303 A. when Alauddin Khilji attached the fort to gain possession of Padmini, the queen of Rana Ratansingh. Padmini & her followers entered the funeral Pyre (Johar) to save their honor. The Rana & his eight sons died fighting in the battle. Bahadur Shah of Gujarat sacked Chitor again in 1536 A.D in the reign of Vikramaditya when Rawat Bagh Singh Deolia & Queen Jawahar Bai died fighting.

The third sack of Chitor by Akbar in 1568 A.D. took place in the reign of Udai Singh when his commander Jaimal & his clausman Fatta died a revengeful death. 9 queens & 5 princess performed ‘Jauhar’. Each time ‘Jauhar’ was performed when women immolated themselves on a huge funeral pyre which asserted the heroic spirit of the Rajputs.

Though defeated in the battle of Haldighati by the combined forces of Akbar & the chiefs of Marwar, Maharana Pratap subsequently regained his territory and saved the honor of Mewar.

Several temples, tanks, towers & museums made during the 9th to the 17th century are inside the fort. Besides the fort wall with its gateways, memorials of Rajput kings & soldiers see the towers of victory & fame, Meera Bai & Kumbha Shyam mandir, Kalika Mata mandir, Kumbha & Rani Padmini palaces, Jaimal & Patta’s palaces, Govt Museum, temple of Annapurna, Naulakha Bhandar or nine lakh treasury), Gomukh reservoir.

Kumbha Palace: This magnificent palace provides faint glimpses of past time of glory typical domestic architecture of the Rajputs. Maharana Kumbha (1433-1468 A.D.) made several additions & alterations to the earlier palace. The palace is approached through two gateways to the east – Badi pol & Tripolia pol. These gates led into open space to the south of the palace & to Darikhana. A small doorway on the back the darikhana gives access to the main apartments – the Surya Gokhra, Zanana Mahal, Kanwar Padeka Mahal & other residential structures & open courts. Built of dressed stores, the exterior walls have decorations including sculptured bands serving as stringcourse & large flower – head roses.

The palace is situated on the western side i.e. from where the entrance is today. Next to his palace was the treasury so if required one could escape with money/jewels from the backside of the fort. We clicked a picture of the treasury on the right and the jharokhas in the left. From the jharokhas the queens & princess could see the king when he returned from war. Prior to the Muslim invasion there were no separate palaces for men & women. Things changed with the Muslim invasion hence we see the construction of jharokhas where queens sat & watched the proceedings.

Very close to the Kumbha palace is Panna Dai’s palace. The story of Panna Dai is well known. Banwir Singh wanted to kill the young Udai Singh so that he could ascend the throne. Before he came to kill the child Panna kept her son there instead and sent off Udai Singh from the western side to Kumbalgarh.

From here we clicked the Audience ground. It shows where the Maharaja sat when he gave darshan. People entered the ground through the Tripolia Gate next to which was Hathiwada where an elephant was always kept. An elephant was supposed to be a symbol of luck. Before going for any yudh (war) the Rana always took the blessings of the elephant.

Kumbhaswamini Mandir: Originally dedicated to Varaha, this mandir was renovated by Maharana Kumbha (1433-1468 a.d.). Raised on a high plinth it comprises of a sanctum, a mandapa, a portico & an open pradakshinapati area. The sanctum appears to be original & shows bold podium moldings decorated with sculptured niches. On the projections. The roof of the mandapa is in the form of a pyramid while the sanctum is crowned by a tall shikhara. The interior of mandapa is composed of 20 pillars. In front of the temple is an icon of Garuda under a canaopy supported by four pillars. On the south, there is a small shrine called Meera Mandir. In front of this there is a four-pillared chhatri, said to have been built in the memory of her Guru.

Originally a Sun mandir was constructed in 8th century A.D. in the time of Bappa Rawal. A Khilji destroyed it in 1303, renovated by Rana Kumbha. It was destroyed again by Akbar in 1568 a.d. Mandir stands on a chariot. Like Jagannath Puri Mandir architecture middle roof like pyramid and entry have toran.

Vijaya Stambha: also used as a watchtower, built like a ‘Damroo’. It is 37 mtrs in height, has a girth of 30 feet at the base, is 9 storeys and has 157 steps. Rana Kumbha built it in 1440 to commemorate the victory over the combined forces of Malwa & Gujarat. It cost Rs 90 lakhs to make.

Gaumukh Tank: from 8th century onwards water came from cow’s mouth. This was destroyed by Muslim invaders. Water continues to come today i.e. a natural source. The water is very clean. I drank the water and did not have any health problems later.

Samadesvara Mandir: contains trimurthi of Siva. Maharana Mokal repaired it in 1428. The guide explained the temple to me closely. Level one ie bottom has lotus flowers. Level 2 has devils. Level 3 has elephants for protection of God & good luck. Lever 4 has various scenes like dance & war. Level 5 has deviyo ki pratima. Level 6 has apsara ki pratima in dancing shape. Next to the Shikhara you can see a Lion which is a symbol of good luck & strength. At the top is a Kalash.

The 3-faced icon was damaged in 1568 as is visible in the picture. It was restored around 1935. This power temple is not east but west facing. Twice a year during March & September setting sun's rays fall on one of the three icons i.e. Brahma (smiling face), Vishnu (normal) and Shiva (angry face).

Kalikamata ka Mandir: this is the oldest temple in the fort that was built by Bappa Rawal that was originally dedicated to the Sun God. In 14-15th century Kalika & Durgamata ka icons were installed since the Ranas of Mewar worship Shakti.

Rani Padmini’s Palace: This palace is of immense historical importance in the history of Mewar. Associated with Rani Padmini, this beautiful building stands in the northern part of the Padmini Lake. It is said that there Rana Ratan Singh showed a glimpse of legendary beauty of his wife Padmini to Khilji through a mirror. After which, Khilji went to the extent of ravaging Chittor to posses her. In the middle of the lake there is a three storied structure with arched openings locally known as Jal Mahal. The Rani sat on the steps that you see in the center of the picture. Khilji was in a room in the building on left of the picture.

This room had a mirror that you see in the photo section. The mirror was placed at such an angle that Khilji could see Padmini’s reflection as she sat on the stairs. However if Khilji turned around to see the Rani he could not see her since the steps were at a lower point. How true the story is anybody’s guess.

Kirttistambha: is dedicated to Adhinatha, the first Jain tirthankara. This elegant stambha was built by Shreshthi Jija & Punyasing of Baghwewal clan in 1301 a.d. It is a 6 storied tower, 24.5 metres high, stands on a square platform. A central staircase winds up on a square shaft through 6 stories to a small partition of elephant design, the roof of which rests on 12 columns. Large standing images of Tirthankaras are placed in 4 pillars on the lower storey. Hundreds of small figures are carved on the upper stories. Standing next to the tower is a 14th century Jain temple. Raised on a high platform, it comprises of a sanctum & a mandap. Its walls are beautifully carved.

We had the benefit of a good guide in Anil Kumar Sen. His contacts are 91 9314110810 or [email protected]. Coming from a family of barbers he chose to do his M.A. in history and become a government approved tourist guide. Approved rate is Rs 280/ per guide but we paid him slightly more since he did a very good job.

Sources of Content: One notes copied from boards outside the temple/palace. Two words of our Guide & local Pandit. Three is History & Culture of Indian People published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Given volume & page number references below. Four print outs given by the Maharana’s palace hotel in Udaipur. Five is Rajasthan tourism site. The piece gives you history of place & travel insights.

Pics of Chittorgarh Fort
Read Rani Padmini and Alauddin Khilji

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