Chittaurgarh was not a planned trip. Our original plan of visiting Jodhpur was put on hold and our destination was changed to Udaipur when we found out that Lake Pichola was brimming with water. This was in October ’05. Thanks to the incredible State Highway between Kishangarh and Udaipur , we had to pass by Chittaurgarh! Chittaurgarh was a last minute decision to visit when we learnt that this was the largest fort in India. Chittaurgarh is 120kms east of Udaipur.
Amazing History – Heights of Rajput glory
I like journeys with the least stopovers. However, on seeing the amazing Chittaurgarh Fort in front of our eyes, I immediately found myself nodding to go check out this Fort (India’s largest) atop a 180m high hill that protected Rajput pride and glory against Muslim invaders between the 13th and 15th centuries (Chittaurgarh was founded in the 7th to 8th centuries). Boy, did they have a setup to ward off evil forces! A fish (whale) shaped compound wall runs 13 kms around the perimeter atop a hill with a whole city functioning inside. The drive up to the fort is at least a kilometer long and one has to pass through seven “Pols” or gateways with massive iron doors that were used to ward of enemies. In spite of this Chittaurgarh went through three major invasions in 1303, 1535 and 1568. The Rajput tradition was so strong that when invaders were close to victory, the women performed Jauhar (Mass Sati) – where women & children jumped into the raging fire rather than surrendering their dignity and pride to invaders.
Victory Tower (Vijay Stambh)
We arrived at the most intricately carved stone tower – Vijay Stambh. Apparently quartz and limestone are available abundantly in this region. It was built in 1440 to commemorate the victory of Rana Kumbha over Mahmud Khilji. 9 stories high & 33M tall,this site is the most famous tourist attraction in Chittaurgarh. It has balconies at each level offering incredible views of the rest of the fort. Every inch of the tower is intricate in it’s carvings. It also looks fresh as this site is now under the protection of the ASI. Even though we cannot say the same for the state of other buildings within the fort. A true testament to the artisans from the glory years!
There are spectacular temples in the fort. We had time to visit all but one – the one closest to the Victory Tower. A temple built on the styles of famous Jain temples within India, it houses a 3 faced deity of Lord Shiva, the central face carved of wood and the two adjoining faces lengthy and less artistic in an elongated form – apparently, a style from 10th century Jain Temples. This deity – the Shiva Trimurti is known as Adbhutanata Shiva.
Shiva Lingam – below the water at the Gaumukh Reservoir
Within walking distance of the Vijay Stambh is the wall of the fort offering splendid views of Chittorgarh town. Jutting out of the fort wall, a water body about 50 feet wide forms part of a secondary outer compound within the fort. This water body (Gaumukh Reservoir) is unique as the source of water is unknown and the water is perennial in that it never dries up! Walking the flight of stairs below to the water level, one can peer into the water to see a Shiva Lingam below in the water.
Fame Tower (Kirti Stambh)
This 12th century tower, adorned with carvings of Jain deities, is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain apostle or spiritual leader. Like the Vijay Stambh, the Kirti Stambh is another mindblowing structure, with intricate carvings on the entire site. Who trained these folks? Is it natural skill that these people were born with – the ability to turn stone into the most amazing monuments? I think skill and persistence had a lot to do with it. Given their history of valor amongst male warriors and pride within the women, this seems only natural.
Other places to see
Rani Padmini Palace, Palace of Rana Kumbha, Fateh Prakash Palace, multiple other temples – all with varied histories and differing state of ruin.
For a destination not on our main itinerary, Chittaurgarh took our breath away. The history of Chittaurgarh is steeped in rich tradition, the sights are outstanding and one can walk away with a piece of history otherwise hard to find in newer countries. Chittaurgarh is associated with honor, valor, bravery, sacrifice & romance – hard to find in today’s world. When planning popular tourist destinations such as Udaipur, including Chittaurgarh in the itinerary can offer a treasure trove of memories and history![This article was contributed by Vijay Ramanathan – a Technology/Gadget enthusiast and Blogger. You can follow his tweets at http://twitter.com/tekdude & his blog at http://tekdude.wordpress.com/ ]