The very name of Chittorgarh evokes images of the glorious scarifies of the Rajputs, and their spirit of freedom and honour. The Chittor fort stands out among the forts of India for its rare historical importance and it holds the key to the history of medieval Rajasthan. Besides its strategic importance, it is also a picturesque and hilly sight with its pools, cisterns, streams and step-wells over different parts of the hill. The fort has high rocks on three sides crowned with temples and trees, and on the fourth side there are old religious shrines which surround the palace complex. Situated in a unique geographical position, the fort is wrapped in history and heroic deeds of the chiefs known as Maharanas. For the people of Rajasthan, Chittor stands for the spirit of courage, freedom, honour and sacrifice.
Built in the eight century by Bappa Rawal, the founder of the dynasty, its antiquity goes back to the days of the epic Mahabharat. It is believed that this fort was built by Bhim, the mighty Pandav. Chittor is also the land of poetess princess Mira Bai, singer, saint and ardent devotee of Lord Krishna.
It also reverberates with heroism and sacrifice the tales of which are still sung by the Bards of Rajasthan. The imposing and awe inspiring fort stands on a 240-hectares site, on 180m high hill that rises rapidly from the plains.
It has one kilometre zigzag ascent to it. The road leads through seven gates to the main gate Rampol (meaning Gate of Ram). The main gate of the fort itself is Surajpol (meaning Sun Gate).
Three sieges of Chittor
In its glorious history of about 12,00 years, Chittor was besieged thrice, and every time the men-folk, all dressed in saffron ropes for till the end, and their women willingly jumped in fire and committed Jauhar En-Masse.
The first siege of Chittor was laid in 1303 by Alauddin Khilzi, the Sultan of Delhi, who having heard of the unmatched beauty of Padmini was crazy about possessing her. But he slyly made an offer to the Maharana, after laying siege, that he wanted to have a glimpse of the queen and will go back after this. Very reluctantly the Maharana agreed, but permitted only to watch her reflection in the mirror. The reflection proved to be better than what he had heard and the Sultan, forgetting his promise, deceitfully captured the Rana and asked for Padmini’s hand as price of his release. It was preposterous and humiliating how a Maharana’s honour could stand it? Therefore the Rajputs made up their minds to do or die and answered back that the queen will be presented to the Sultan as demanded, but she will be accompanied by her companion-maids. To this, Khilizi agreed. As per their strategy, the Rajputs put on their armours and armed themselves and distinguished themselves as palanquin-bearers. Carrying more armed men inside. On reaching the Sultan’s camp, these Rajputs rushed with war-crise for avenging their honour, creating havoc and all of them dying fighting. Meanwhile Padmini along with her friends and women of the family committed jauhar inside the fort by jumping into the pyres. The ashes are still preserved at the jauhar spot.
Another siege was laid in 1535 by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and Chittor fort was captured by his forces. It was during this siege that Rani Karamwati sent a Rakhi to Mughal Emperor Humayun, as an SOS message. Humayun started at once but at the time, he reached Chittor for helping Rani Karamwati, she had already embraced fire with other women inmates and the second jauhar had been committed.
The third and the last siege of Chittor was laid in 1567 by the greatest among the Mughals, Akbar the great whose father had come in 1535 to save Chittor. Maharana’s forces fought bravely, but they had to leave the fort which was captured by Akbar. In this battle, two young men Jaimal and Patta fought with such bravery that even Akbar was impressed. Two gates of fort namely Bhairon Pole and Ram Pol have been named after them. Akbar had their statues installed in his fort at Agra, to commemorate them. But the biggest trophy of this victory was the celebrated drum of Chittor, which was presented by Akbar at the Dargah of Ajmer which is there even today.
Rana Kumbha’s Palace
It is the oldest palace of Chittor, having canopied balconies and a stepped outer wall. The other one in the vicinity, an example of Rajput architecture, is the crown prince’s apartment, with the temple of Mira Bai nearby. Another temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was restored and rebuilt by Maharana Kumbha. The Vijay Stambh (victory tower) is another monument to Kumbha’s bravery. Completed in 1448, it has panels showing scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. This nine-storeyed 37-metre-high tower was erected to commemorate the victories over the Sultan of Malwa and Gujarat. To the South of the Vijay Stambh is the cremation ground of Maharanas, adjoining a tank connected with a spring to a Gomukh (cow’s face), sculpted in the rock.
Moving a little Southward inside the fort, one will come across the mansions of Jaimal and Patta, and from these one can go to the Kalika Mata temple. Originally dedicated to the Sun god, it is an eight century structure, the oldest one inside the fort.
Further South lies the place of Padmini. She was so fair, it is said, that you could see water passing down her throat when she drank it. It was for her that the first saka, fight to finish, and the first jauhar was performed. The last is one of the most beautiful monument, being yet another tower known as the Kirti Stambh, dedicated to Adhinath, the Jain pontiff.
Other attractions include: Gaumukh Reservoir, a deep tank filled by a spring coming from gaumukh, situated at the edge of the cliff; Ratan Singh Palace, the winter palace, which overlooks a small lake; Pratap Park; Meera Park and Nehru Park.