Table of contents for Chittaurgarh
- Chittaurgarh Fort, an enigma with a thin line between history and mythology -I
“यह है अपना राजपूताना, नाज़ इसे तलवारों पे,
इसने सारा जीवन काटा बर्छी तीर कमानो पे,
यह प्रताप का वतन पला है आज़ादी के नारों पे,
कूद पड़ी थी यहाँ हज़ारों पद्मिनियाँ अंगारों पे,
बोले रही है कण-कण से क़ुर्बानी राजस्थान की,
इस मिट्टी से तिलक करो यह मिट्टी है बलिदान की”
A rough English translation of it is
“This is our Rajputana, it is proud of its glittering swords,
It has spent all its life with spears, arrows and bows
This nation of Paratap has grown listening to the vows of freedom
It has seen thousands of Padminis jumping into sacred fires,
Every grain of its soil is telling the stories of sacrifices,
Smear this sand on your forehead, for this earth is of Martyrs
|The Chittaurgarh Fort|
Indian national poet Pradeep not only penned down these patriotic, inspiring lyrical stanzas, but he also lend his silken voice to this melodious song and took generations of children on Bharat darshan. Each and every line of this pleasing song is dipped in patriotism and reminds us of our brave ancestors. This song was filmed in Hindi movie “Jaagriti”. I saw this movie when I was in school and it had an impressionable effect on me.
It was my second visit to Chittaurgarh fort. The first trip was a very special one. That trip was after my engagement. My fiancée and now my wife, Jaishree, invited me for a visit to her home. I accepted the invitation on the condition that on my visit she would take me to a nearby tourist place for ghumakkari. On that visit to Chittaurgarh fort, Jaishree was my guide. It sat a precedent. She is still guiding me, though now on this beautiful journey of life.
This march when we visited our hometown I told my mother and my wife about my plans to visit the fort again. Both of them were surprised and they tried to dissuade me. They could not understand that when I had already visited it, why was I so adamant in visiting it again and that too all alone.
It was difficult to explain, but this land of valiant warriors was calling me and I could not ignore that call. It was mid-march. Afternoons were already very hot. I wanted to spend considerable amount of time on the fort. But I also wanted to avoid the blazing sun. After finishing my lunch, I took a quick nap and around 2:00 pm, braving the heat, I boarded a bus from Bhilwara to Chittaurgarh. Chittaurgarh is very well connected and is easily accessible by bus and train.
Bus moved through a few dusty villages. It was an unusually hot day and after a long time I saw a twister. It used to be a usual sight of summers during my school days.
This belt of hilly land, east of Udaipur, watered by several ‘once-perennial’ rivers that ‘now-seldom-become’ river even in rainy season, is still amongst the most fertile area of Rajasthan.
At Chittaurgarh bus stand, I climbed on a tempo going to the fort. Very soon the driver realized that I was a tourist and offered to take me around the fort. Gently, but firmly, I said “No” to him. I could sense that he was not happy. Who cares! The fort of Chittaur was calling me and I did not want anyone else to share my very rare ‘all-alone-status’.
Chittaur preceded Udaipur as the seat of Mewar rulers. It was the strongest bastion of Rajput resistance against Mughals. This fort is on top of a 180 meter high segment of Aravali hill that rises abruptly from the surrounding plains. It is about 1350 feet above sea level and is around 5 Km long and 1 Km wide.
The sprawling hilltop fort of Chittaurgarh epitomizes the heroic brave ideals of Rajput gallantry. For them honor was always most important, even more than their lives. When a defeat was evident, a huge pyre was prepared on the fort grounds. The male inhabitants of the fort then watched their wives, sisters, mothers and young kids committing johar by jumping into and willingly burning themselves alive. Men then smeared ash from the sacred funeral pyre over their bodies, donned the saffron robes of martyrdom, opened the gates of the fort and rode with unprecedented ferocity to their certain death on the battlefields below.
The uncompromising policy of death than surrender, as followed by Sisodia rulers of Chittaur, made the history of this fort replete with tales of extreme cases of loyalty, bravery and sacrifices.
Ascent to this fort begins at Pada pole. Pol in Rajasthani means a huge gate meant for entering a particular part of city or fort. It is believed that once a gory battle gave way to a river of blood and in that river a young buffalo came floating near this gate. Thereafter this gate of the fort was called Pada Pol. Pada means a young buffalo.
The ramp leading to the fort is further interspersed with six ornate gates, cenotaphs and a few temples.
The second gate to the fort is called Bhairon pol. On the right side of Bhairon pol are the Chattris(cenotaphs) marking the spot where Rathore Jaimal of Badnor and his clan’s man Kalla met their fate. The first four pillared chattri is of Kalla and the second six pillared chhattri is that of Jaimal.
In 1568, Akbar laid siege of Chittuargarh with a large army under his command. At that time Maharana Udai Singh, father of Maharana Pratap, was the ruler of Mewar. A victory against that massive Mughal army was almost impossible. So it was decided among Rajput noblemen that Maharana will escape to forest to continue their fight against Mughals. Jaimal was appointed the Army chief. As planned Maharana UdaiSingh left the fort with a few trusted sardars from a secret passage. The remaining Rajputs continued to resist Mughal invasion.
Siege continued for three months. Mughals used cannons to make holes in the impregnable fort walls in day times. To their utmost surprise the portions that were destroyed in the day were promptly repaired in the night, without giving any advantage to them!
One night when Jaimal was getting a segment of the wall repaired, Akbar recognized him from the lights of the flame and ordered to fire at him. The canon ball struck the target and left Jaimal crippled. The broken wall could not be repaired that night. Sensing the invasion of the fort the very next day, a johar was committed in the fort that night. The fort of Chittaurgarh was sacked thrice and all three times it has resulted in thousands of women committing johar. It was the third and last johar to take place in this fort.
Next day, the fort gates were opened for the final battle. The small Rajput force was no match to the large Mughal army. Still the Mughals met stiff resistance from the gutsy Rajputs under the inspiring leadership of Jaimal. The canon ball left Jaimal incapable of riding a horse. Yet he, sitting on the back of his clan’s man Kalla, led the Rajput sena. Before dying as martyrs, the rapidly moving swords of Jaimal, Kalla and other brave Rajputs inflicted major damage to the Mughals.
Meanwhile, in the forest, Maharana Udai Singh felt that Chittaurgarh was prone to enemy attacks. He then laid the foundation of a new city Udaipur at the shore of Lake Pichhola and shifted the capital of Mewar from Chittaurgarh to Udaipur. After this defeat Chittaurgarh remained with Mughals till 1616. In 1616 it was ceded back to Rajputs but the royal family never settled there again.
Having seen the first two pol , on the ramp on which the tempo was running, I went on to see Hanuman Pol and Ganesh Pol, the third and the fourth gates respectively. These gates are named so because of Hanumanji’s and Ganeshji’s temple in the vicinity. Fifth gate is called Jodla Pol (a pole in the pair) because it is very near to sixth gate. There is a small temple of Laxmanji at the sixth gate and so it is known as Laxman pol. The seventh gate is known as the Ram pol. Incidentally, Sisodia rulers of Mewar considered themselves as Suryvanshi and the descendents of Lord Shree Ram.
Near Ram pol there is a cenotaph of a young Rajput named Patta, of Kelwa (a small town situated at around 32 Km from Chittaurgarh). At the time of battle he was only 16 years old and was just married. The night before the final battle, he saw his mother and young wife committing johar. On the fateful day his sword swung fiercely, cutting Mughals in large numbers. At one time he looked uncontrollable and invincible. A mad elephant was then pushed forth to control him. The elephant sieged him in his trunk and slapped him several times on the earth killing him instantly. It is believed that the heroics of this young warrior impressed even Akbar. The cenotaph was erected by Akbar to commemorate him!
Time was limited and the sun was at its full glory. I reached the top in the tempo itself. One day I would like to walk on the ramp of this fort to get a real feel of difficulty to access it. The tempo driver stopped at the ticket booth and suggested me to buy a ticket. One guide at the ticket booth had to actually argue to elicit a free brochure of the fort from the ticket seller to me.
My first destination was “Fateh Memorial Museum”. While getting down the tempo driver explained me the way so that I could cover most significant parts of the fort in the little time I had.
|Fateh Memorial Museum|
This palace was built by Maharana Fateh Singh in 1920 and is the most recent construction on the fort. It was later converted to a museum. Usual weaponry, armors, photographs were displayed in the museum. A few photographs of the sunset from the fort were really good. I envy the photographers who have such liberal amount of time (time … so elusively precious and little) and opportunities to capture such beautiful moments.
I liked the architecture of this simple yet elegant palace-museum. In the courtyard, there was ample shade and sunlight. A small statue of Maharana Fateh Singh looked brilliant in that shade and light arrangement. I wish I could take picture of that. When I asked for permission, it was denied. “No photography” rule becomes very strict when a person asks for permissions. I repented asking.
It reminded me, “Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry… To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery. -George Polya, professor of mathematics (1887-1985)”. Most of us have pedantic attitude towards rule, expecting mastery from caretakers was expecting too much. Money though in many cases converts pedantry into mastery with ease :-)
When I came out of the museum I was wondering which way to go. Suddenly, a person who was standing in a small group called me and told me how to proceed. He added that he heard the “kind” tempo driver telling me the way. It was just opposite of the way the fort should be covered and hence he felt the need to correct him. A person standing next to him added that he is a good guide and I could take his services to visit fort. It embarrassed the guide. He clarified that he understands and respects my desire to roam alone and it was not his real intention to call me. I thanked him and moved in the direction suggested by him.
Should I call it human chemistry or karmas of previous births that unknown people ‘like you OR dislike you’ ‘help you OR cheat you’, without any of your own contributions?
Impressive Kumbha Mahal is situated just near Fateh Memorial Museum. This palace was built in 13th century. Maharana Kumbha rebuilt it in 15th century and after that it was known as Kumbha Mahal. There are two imposing doors to enter the palace and they are known as “Badee Pol” and “Tripolia Pol”.
Sometimes I wonder who among the rulers of Mewar, was most powerful. Was it Maharana Pratap? We all are aware of his defiant resistance to Akbar. Or, was it Maharana Sanga or Sangram Singh? He was once very close to rule Delhi. It was his miscalculation that Babur, being a foreigner, will leave Delhi after plundering and looting it, that cost him the throne of Delhi. Recently, I read in detail about Maharana Kumbhakaran or Kumbha, and I was forced to include his name also in this list. It is difficult to conclude who was the most powerful and accomplished Maharana of Mewar because of different time periods and circumstances they ruled in, but it is sure that Maharana Kumbha was among the one to rule Mewar for the longest peaceful reign. He encouraged literature, architecture and art and gave golden years to this region.
|Fateh memorial museum from Kumbha Palace|
Though this palace is in ruins, but it still gives insight into the architecture that flourished under Rajput rulers. Its zenana can still be recognized by jali screen. Places that are worth seeing here are Sooraj Gokhara, Zenana Mahal, Deewan-e-aam, Treasury and a Shiv temple.
|The impressive ruins of Kumbha Palace|
Like this fort, this palace has also witnessed events that are incomparable to any other place in the world.
In this Palace Maharana Udai Singh, father of Maharana Pratap and youngest son of Maharana Sangram Singh, was born. In the history of Mewar, it was a period of trouble and turmoil. Maharaja Sangram Singh’s eldest son, Bhojraj, was fatally wounded in a battle and died. After Maharana Sangram Singh’s death his second son Vikramaditya was made the Maharana.
These ruined walls are witness to the incident when Maharana Vikramaditya sent a bowl of poison to Meerabai doubting her character. Meera was late prince Bhojraj’s young widow. She remained unruffled in the face of this false accusation and accepted the bowl of poison, offered it to Lord Krishna and drank it as His “Prasad”. The poison got converted to nectar and she survived. Chittaurgarh fort is blessed to hear the melodious, devotional songs of this saint queen. I will write in detail about her later on.
|A Meera bhajan narrating the incident|
Continuing about Vikramaditya and that period, Vikramditya’s arrogance and puerile behavior infuriated and alienated many loyal Rajput sardars. Within a year or two of his coronation as Maharana, Rana Sanga’s elder brother’s illegitimate son Banveer removed him from the throne and put him in the jail.
Banveer was even more arrogant, quick-tempered and cruel. He was very sensitive about his lineage and punished anyone who tried to cast aspersions.
Meanwhile, Udai Singh, the youngest son of Maharana Sanga, was being nurtured by a wet nurse named Panna Dhai. She had a young son, Chandan, of the same age as that of Udai. Both of them were very close and they used to spend most of their time together.
|The narrow alleys of the Palace|
One night Banveer first killed Vikramaditya and then rushed in these palaces to kill Udai Singh – the last legal heir of the seat of Mewar. Udai and Chandan both were sleeping at that time. Banveer entered inside the bedroom with the fresh blood dripping from his sword and asked Panna Dhai about Udai. Panna Dhai had to take a decision in split seconds and what happened afterwards is unprecedented in world history. The loyal nurse made the extreme sacrifice and pointed towards her own son Chandan. Immediately, in front of her eyes, her son Chandan was brutally murdered. She hardly got any time to cry for her beloved son. I wonder, when in the world history had any mother been given such a difficult choice to make and when had any mother made such an extreme sacrifice.
|Shringar Chauri – A Jain temple that was covered by Banveer with a massive wall|
She is indeed an icon of loyalty. Maharana Udai Singh was then smuggled to Kumbhalgarh fort and remained in care of Panna Dhai. History of Mewar talks about her till Udai Singh was in exile but her name fades from history after Udai Singh’s coronation as Maharana. This is indeed surprising and sad.
The first jauhar committed in this fort by Maharani Padmini and others also took place in the courtyard of this palace.
Adjacent to Fateh Prakash Memorial, there is a 15th century Jain temple known as Sat-Bees Deori because of 27 shrines in it. Last time the backyard of this temple was the place where, Jaishree and I, had sat for a long time after visiting the fort. It had an impressive view of the ruins of southern part of the fort. This time lack of time forced me to give it a miss.
|A beautiful panel showing dancers in Kumbhaswami temple|
My next destination was beautiful Kumbhaswami temple and the Meera Mandir. It is believed that Kumbhaswami temple was originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s Varah incarnation, but was destroyed during foreign attacks. Maharana Kumbha rebuilt it in 1433-68.
|Statue of Vishnu in Varah incarnation|
At the entrance there is an attractive black stone statue of Garud in reverence to Lord Vishnu.
It took me back to the memories of my trip to Ireland. In 2004, I worked in an Irish company Parthus. The first person with whom I interacted most in that company was Gearoid (his name was pronounced as Garud). When I told him about Garud, he requested me to bring a small statue of Garud. At that time I could not even recall how Garud looks like, and I was clueless as to where to find a statue of Garud. I think most of the readers will be like me and for them it will be difficult to recall how Garud is portrayed in sculptures.
Kumbhaswami temple is built in Indo-Aryan style. The significant feature of the Indo-Aryan style of temple architecture are the “Garbha Griha” or the sanctum-sanctorum where the main idol is placed, the Shikhara – a ribbed curvilinear spire over the Garbha Griha, the Amalaka or round stone on the Shikhara surmounted by a golden Kalasa. Every temple had a Sabha mandap which was used by devotees for group meditation, religious discourses etc.
|Kumbhaswami temple – an example of Indo-Aryan architecture|
Kumbhaswami temple complex also houses a small temple of Lord Krishna. It is known as Meerabai’s temple. As I wrote earlier, Meerabai was married to Prince Bhojraj, eldest son of Maharana Kumbha. Meerabai devoted herself to the service of Lord Krishna when she was very young and believed that she was married to Lord Krishna. For her Lord Krishna was everything. Sisodia rulers worshipped Maa Kaali and at that time there was no Krishna temple on the fort. Meera had to visit local Krishna Temples. The poetess-queen used to forget her complete self when she was in deep prayers to Lord Krishna and in her ecstasy would sing and dance in the streets and in the temples.
Her singing, dancing and losing her complete self among the masses created a furor and brought embarrassment to the royal family. Some jealous family members of the royal family conspired against her and tried to malign her character.
Bhojraj understood, loved and had faith on his pious wife. He got this temple constructed so that Meera could pray in the fort itself and avoid accusations, allegations and conspiracies. Meera’s personal life was full of tragedies. Her parents died when she was young and even her loving and protective husband also died when she was still in her twenties. It transformed her love from mortal to eternal.
Soon she renounced the luxuries of royal life and became an ardent Krishna Bhakt. She wrote many devotional bhajans for Lord Krishna. These bhajans (devotional songs)are sung even today with great reverence throughout the country. These Bhajans are iconic form of folk devotional music.
Meera regarded Guru Ravidas as her spiritual Guru. This enlightened saint was a shoemaker by caste and profession. In 15th century itself he propagated the message that caste has no meaning and its one’s own karmas that decide one’s fate. He also composed many bhajans. Some of these bhajans are also included in the “Guru Granth Sahib”.
अब कैसे छूटे राम, नाम रट लागी |
प्रभुजी तुम चन्दन हम पानी,
जाकी अंग अंग बास समानि |
प्रभुजी तुम घन बन हम मोरा,
जैसे चितवत चन्द चकोरा |
प्रभुजी तुम दीपक हम बाती,
जाकी जोति बरै दिन राती |
प्रभुजी तुम मोती हम धागा,
जैसे सोने मिलत सुहागा |
प्रभुजी तुम स्वामी हम दासा,
ऐसी भक्ति करै रैदासा |
( How can I give-up I reciting the name Ram.
Lord, if you are sandalwood, I am water;
With your fragrance in all parts of my body.
Lord, if you are a cloud, I am a peacock;
Looking for you like a chakora for the moon.
Lord, if you are a lamp, I am the wick;
With a light burning day and night.
Lord, if you are a pearl, I am the thread;
Together like gold and bracelet.
Lord, you are the master and I servant;
thus is the devotion of Raidas.)
One of the many incidents associated with him is that one morning some of his neighbors were going to take bath in the sacred Ganga and asked him also to accompany them. Guru Ravidas had promised to deliver shoes to one of his customers. So, he was not able to join them. When one of his neighbors persisted, then Guru Ravidas uttered his belief saying that: “Man changa tow kathoti mein Ganga“. That is if your heart is pious then the holy river is right in your tub and you need not go anywhere else.
There is a small chhatri in front of Meera’s temple. It has guru Ravidas’ engraved foot print. As a respect to her guru, Meera once wrote:
“Guru Milyaa Raidaasji …”
|engraved foot prints of guru Ravidas|
Later on Meera moved to Vrindavan. By that time common man had realized that she was an enlightened saint. But the priests in Vrindavan still tried to put restrictions on her movements. One night when she tried to visit a Krishna Temple, priests there stopped her. They told her that the temple was closed, Lord Krishna was sleeping and the doors would open only the next day. Meera started to pray in front of the temple. Suddenly the sanctum-sanctorum opened. In the state of elation, Meera ran inside. As she entered in, the doors got closed. When the doors opened, Meera was nowhere, only a small portion of her pallu was seen enveloping Lord Krishna’s idol.
Meera showed how with love and devotion, mortals can merge with the eternal.
Her life reminds me of an urdu sher,
यह रियासतें, यह सियासतें, यह वजारतें, मेरे किस काम की,
मुझे उस फ़क़ीर की शान दे, कि ज़माना जिसकी मिसाल दे.
(These kingdoms, kingships and Prime-Minister-Ship is of no use to me, I want the glory of a faqir whom masses love, adore and see as an example).
My wife is a Meera bhakt. In our last visit to the fort she told me that someone used to sing melodious Meera bhajans in front of that small temple. I am not sure this practice is still followed. But, with respect to this great saint, I would like to end first part of my post on Chittaurgarh Fort with one of her bhajans.
बरसाई बदरिया सावन की,
सावन की मान भावन की.
सावन में उमग्यो मेरो मनवा,
भनक सुनी हरी आवाँ की..
उमड़ घूमड़ चहु दिससे आयो,
दामण दमके झार लावन की.
नान्ही नान्ही बूंदन मेहा बरसाई,
सीतल पवन सोहावान की
मीरा के प्रभु गिरधर नागर,
आनंद मंगल गावन की
Its English translation is:
It is raining in the month of Savan,
I like the rain coming down.
In Savan, my heart starts to pine,
I hear the sound of Hari coming.
The clouds have rolled in from all sides,
lightening occurs and it pours.
Tiny drops come from the clouds,
and I enjoy the cool breeze.
O lord of Mira, called Giradhar Nagar,
The cloudy season is for singing joyfully.