Chittorgarh Fort

By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2008

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Chitor or ancient Chitrakuta was the capital of Mewar & the center of Rajput policy from 7th to mid 16th century A.D. The fort was built by 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 all built by the Gohalit king in the 9th century A.D. Maharana Kumbha (1433-68 a.d.) made extensive alterations & additions. It has been a witness to the rule of several dynasties such as the Mauryas (7-8th century), Pratiharas (9th century), Paramaras (10-11th century), Solankis (12th century) followed by Guhilots or Sisodias.

Stone inscription in the fort. The fort is famous for its architectural features & feats of valor of its rulers who fought for its independence. The fort is fish shaped, is situated on a 180 meter high hill ie 600 metres above sea level. It covers an area of 700 acres, had 13 temples & 84 reservoirs and a fortification wall ie 13 kms in length.

The traditional entrance is from the east whose picture you see, was meant for coming on horse or by foot. There were seven gates of which only two remain. Below this entrance are fields ending with mountains. Today you drive into the fort from the western side.

You see fort ka main entrance door. In earlier times elephants were used to break open the gates. Given the elephants height rulers fixed pointed steel rods at a particular height on the gate so that it would pierce elephants who tried breaking the gate.

As you drive by you see many gates ie 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. You see Bhairav pole restored by Maharana Fateh Singhji.

You see Ram pol or gate.

The road that you see in the picture is on the western side, is the one we used to reach the fort. Clicked this from the point where lies entrance to fort. Like in olden times there a number of people who reside in the fort even today.

As we stood at the entrance point on western the side our guide Anil Kumar Sen got me to click this picture of Chittor town. On the left you can see a small bridge. According to Anil there was a river here earlier (Ghambira) which formed a moat, natural barrier for enemies who wanted to attack from the rear side.

We now went to Kumbha palace. It was situated on the western rear side of the fort so that escaping was easier if required. 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 which is what you see in the picture. In the center is where the Rana sat.

This point is exactly opposite the Darikhana. In the center at a height you see the place where musicians at & played music while the Rana was in the court. On the right of picture you see main apartment palace.

Extreme left you see an entrance it is called Badi pol. Huge flat platform that you see in front of picture is where the Rana sat. Where exist green lawns today is there the people or praja sat. Next to Badi pol 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. In the background you see Kumbhaswamini & Mira mandirs.

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.

Very close to the Kumbha palace is Panna Dai’s palace. The story of Panna Dai is well known. Vanavir Singh the natural son of Maharana Sangha’s eldest brother Prithviraj went to the room of prince Udai Singh to kill him so that he could ascend the throne. Before he came to kill the child Panna Dai kept her son there instead and sent off Udai Singh from the western side to Kumbalgarh.

The palace is situated on the western side ie from where the entrance is today. Next to his palace was the treasury so if required he 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.

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. 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. You see the mandir.

In front of the temple is an icon of Garuda under a canaopy supported by four pillars. 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. A side view of the mandir.

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. In front is the Meera mandir, on the left of picture is the chhatri.

Tower of Victory is Chittor’s most famous landmark. Read the stone inscription i.e. what you see.

You see Vijaya Stambha. It was 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 then.

Wife Aparna & I standing in front of Vijaya Stambha. Note the intricate carvings at all levels. This was also used as a watch tower.

Just next to this the Vijaya Stambha is a huge garden. In the center you see a structure i.e. up to plinth level only. This is the place where thousands of Rajput women committed Jauhar to save their honor. When Muslim invaders won similar battles one of the consequences was the wholesale rape of Hindu women. In order to avoid such a dishonor Rajput women committed Jauhar i.e. jumping into the holy fire or Agni when it became clear to them that defeat was imminent. The structure that you see on left of the picture is the entrance from where the royal women came i.e. straight from the Kumbha palace. The guide told that originally there was a pit into which women jumped, later on a small temple was made but it was destroyed, what remains is the plinth.

Stone inscription tells you about the Samadhisvara Mandir. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was built by Bhoja Paramara in the middle of the 11th century a.d. It was renovated by Mokal in 1428 a.d. It consists of a garbhagriha, an antarmala and a mandapa with three porticos on its north, south and west. The colossal image of Trimurthi Siva is enshrined in the sanctum. The interior & exterior of the mandir is elaborately carved with figures of gods & goddesses. To the south is a long staircase that descends to the sacred Gaumukha.

An overview of the temple, very impressive piece of work. Next to the Shikhara you can see a Lion which is a symbol of good luck & strength. It is in the center of the picture. Saw similar lions in the Kailasha mandir at Ellora. At the top of the shikhara is a Kalash.

The guide explained the temple to me closely. Level one i.e. 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.

You see the 3-faced icon that was damaged in 1568 as is visible in the picture. It was restored around 1935. This temple is not east but west facing. Twice a year during March & September setting suns rays fall on one of the three icons i.e. Brahma (smiling face), Vishnu (normal) and Shiva (angry face). Mitras am very pleased with my camera, never thought it would capture the trimurthi this well.

You see Gaumukh Tank. From 8th century onwards water came from cow’s mouth. The gau ka much 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.

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

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 i.e. what you see. 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 this picture. The mirror was placed at such an angle that Khilji could see Padmini’s reflection as 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. We tried it out and the logic seemed sound. How true the story is is anybody’s guess.

After seeing the Rani’s palace you drive for a while on the eastern side of the fort till you first reach the main gate and then the Kirti Stambha. Unfortunately few people venture this side. By doing so you get an idea of how big the fort is, the number of water harvesting points it had. Standing next to the tower is a 14th century Jain temple. Raised on a high jagati, it comprises of a sanctum & a mandapa. Its walls are beautifully carved.

The temple is dedicated to Adhinatha, the first Jain tirthankara. This elegant stambha was built by Shresthi Jija & Punyasing of Bagherwal 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.

Outside the Kumbhaswamini mandir there was a boy who charged Rs 10 and allowed you to sit on a horse in local clothes with sword in hand. I wore shorts for most of the trip because it was so hot. Seeing my attire a number of Indians including guides thought I was an NRI or a foreigner. For everyone who told me that I said was a Punjabi from Ludhiana leaving them shell-shocked.

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