Chittorgarh has etched its name in history not just for the bravery of its kings but that of its queens too. The Chittorgarh Fort is one of the largest and oldest fortresses in India and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Architecturally beautiful, historically important, and culturally valuable to the jewels of Rajasthan – the fort has astounding views overlooking the city like the great protector of Chittorgarh. The former capital of the Mewar Kingdom has many places to visit and legends to hear about.
Chittorgarh being more than 100 km from Udaipur, I knew it was best to hire the services of a travel agency and so I did. My trip to the fort was with a bunch of travelers who happened to enquire at the agency in Udaipur at the same time. The agency pitched an elaborate plan with enough time to spend at the different spots of our interest. I’ve always liked slow travel, more spur-of-the-moment adventures but as you will see a day trip with a tour operator is a very different experience.
As we entered Chittorgarh, chapters from history lessons at school flashed through my mind. Maharana Pratap, Rani Padmavathy were names that spoke of bravado, valor, honor, and pride. I was now in what once was their princely kingdom but today most of it is in ruins. Let’s look at the Places to Visit in Chittorgarh but first a little history on the fort.
History of The Fort
Chittorgarh Fort has had multiple rulers throughout its existence. It was built by the local ruler Chitrangad Mori of the Maurya Dynasty in the 7th century.
The popularity of the fort rose in the 14th century with the siege of Alauddin Khilji. As the story goes the rapacious invader, Alauddin caught a glimpse of the beautiful Queen Padmini’s reflection in a mirror and was filled with uncontrollable desire. Overcome with passion, he made a series of attacks, before taking King Rawal Ratan Singh, the husband of Queen Padmini as his captive.
On capturing the fort Alauddin’s victory turned to dismay. He watched the women of Chittorgarh led by Queen Padmini embrace death by Jauhar (jumping in fire).
Before coming under the hands of Rana Kumbha in the 15th century, several kings ruled the fort. Rana Kumbha built almost 100 structures inside the fort to further strengthen its defense. In the 16th century, the fort was attacked and captured again. This time by the Sultan of Gujarat and many women immolated themselves again. Later, it was conquered by the Mughals who ruled for many years, until the British took over the whole country.
Places to Visit Inside The Fort
Spanning over 700 acres, Chittorgarh Fort sits atop a hill with its defensive walls extending on all sides by 150m + cliffs. The Fort comprises more than 50 historic structures including 4 palaces, 19 large temples, 22 water bodies, 4 memorials and a few victory towers dotting the skyline. You can only imagine the sheer size of this formidable fort. To make your day trip smooth here is a list of places to visit.
Though a lot of the Fort today is in ruins but it still paints a riveting picture of its glorious past. The starting 1.5 km winding road from the new town area to the ticket counter at Ram Pol leads to the first of the spots we picked to cover.
Travel Agency Charges: INR 600
Entry to Chittorgarh Fort: INR 50
Cost of Guide: INR 400 (can be split with the number of people you’re travelling with)
Tower of Victory – Vijay Stambh
Vijay Stambh is the main structure in Chittorgarh Fort and the topmost in the list of places to visit here. The monumental tower (37m tall) was built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century to celebrate his victory over Malwa’s Mahmud Khilji. It is the most significant tower in Chittorgarh and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The elegant tower is a fascinating structure to shoot pictures at and provides spectacular views to those who climb the nine floors of 157 stairs, to reach the top of the fort. However, with the crowd frenzy at the temple, I steered clear of the stairs and admired its beauty from below.
The partial red sandstone structure has elaborate carvings which speak of the fearless Rajput and their pride in gallantry. The exteriors also depict many stories from the Mahabharata. Interestingly, the structure also has a few mentions of Allah to tactfully keep the frequent Muslim invaders from destroying this creation.
Enthralled by the chief architect Jaitia’s work, Rana Kumbha had figurines made of Jaintia and his sons on the 5th floor of the timeless tower.
Southwards of the tower are the grounds where more than 10,000 women immolated themselves to avoid being captured by Alauddin and his army.
One of the most interesting aspects of the forts in Rajasthan is how well planned they are. The water storage facilities are so impressive that it was sufficient to sustain thousands of soldiers. The fort once had 84 water bodies including wells, lakes, and reservoirs. Today, only 20 remain.
The Gaumukh Reservoir at the Fort with its emerald color water is located at the end of a cliff. This area was a private bathing pool for the Queen. The reservoir is massive and the views are beautiful from the cliff.
The attractive reservoir located on the far end of Vijay Stambh is often missed by many.
As I let my thoughts wander through the spectacular view, I could hear my travel agent from a distance saying it was time we move to the next destination.
The tall and majestic Kirti Stambh (22m) was built by a Jain merchant Jijaji Bhagerwala in the 12th century. Jain followers from all over the world come here to pray to their first spiritual teacher – Tirthankara. The structure was primarily constructed to celebrate Jainism. It has a 7-floor stairway however this is inaccessible for visitors.
Queen Padmini’s Palace is located south of the Fort besides Kalika Mata temple. Maharana Hamir rebuilt the temple in the 14th century and placed a statue of Maa Kali as a symbol of power. The temple was considered as the protector of the fort to ward off invaders.
The current Palace structure is a poor attempt at restoring the original Palace. As per records, the gates of Padmini’s Palace were taken by Akbar for his Agra Fort. Sadly, even the surrounding pond is in a pitiable condition.
For a Queen whose entrancing looks have made her a focal character in many narratives, her Palace was disappointing, to say the least. Infact it is a deserted structure with no entry for visitors.
Chittorgarh is filled with temples but one that I feel stood out was the Meera temple. A rare instance of a temple dedicated to a human. Meerabai was mysterious and a spiritual devotee of Lord Krishna. The temple has no statues as it is believed Meerabai, an illustrious saint always carried the statue of Lord Krishna with her.
Rana Kumbha Palace
Named after the ruler Rana Kumbha, the palace is located beside the Vijay Stambh and is the oldest within the fort. A striking feature of the palace is the series of canopied balconies which brings finesse to the massive structure. Unfortunately, the palace like most other structures in Chittorgarh is in a dilapidated condition.
Apart from Rana Kumbha, there are other noteworthy names attached to this place. Meerabai, the devotee of Lord Krishna lived here and the founder of Udaipur, Maharana Udai Singh was born in Rana Kumbha palace. It is believed at the time of his birth a few people conspired to kill him.
It is believed that at the time of his birth he narrowly escaped a conspiracy plot to kill him. The heir to the throne of Udaipur was saved by his caretaker Panna Dhai. With an infant of her own at the time, it is believed she placed her son in the bed where the infant Udai Singh lay. While Udai Singh was taken to a safe location, she watched as her son was murdered. This was another incident that speaks of the courage and sacrifices Rajput women have made.
When and How to Visit The Fort
You can visit the fort anytime of the year from 9am to 6pm.
- Despite many structures being in ruins, history and architecture aficionados will revel in the glorious past of Chittorgarh. Explore the fort with a guide to get a better perspective and listen to the folklore.
- To get panoramic views of the fort and the surrounding areas you can climb the stairs at Vijay Stambh.
- Chittorgarh Fort is vast and has a lot to explore in the list of places to visit. This demands a lot of walking around, ensure you are comfortable in your footwear.
Travelling over 100 km to this city in ruins and after hearing of the many battles fought on this land made me think how futile conflicts are. The land may be harsh today but the hearts of people of Chittorgarh are full of warmth.