Table of contents for Chittaurgarh
It is famous in Mewar, गढ़ओं में गढ़ चित्तौड गढ़, बाकी सब गढिया, meaning that among all the forts Chittaurgarh is the only real fort, and all the rest are only small forts.
These days the fort of Chittaurgarh is virtually a deserted ruin, but impressive reminders of its pristine grandeur still remain. An air of desolation hangs over the honey colored ramparts, temples, towers and palaces of old citadels which sprawl over this rocky plateau. Time has mellowed down the once roaring fort, still these ruins vividly evoke the zeal of Rajput chivalry and bravery. This fort represents the quintessence of Rajput heroism and valor. It’s a magnet with many known and unknown tales, buried under the layers of time and the ubiquitous sandstone, which attracts visitors like little pieces of iron.
In my last post, I wrote my account till Meera Mandir on the fort. From Meera Mandir, I went to the Tower of Victory – Vijay Stambh. Vijay Stambh is the most prominent structure of the fort. This tower is visible from miles around.
|Vijay Stambh as seen from Padmini Palace|
It can be easily located even from the buses and trains passing through Chittaurgarh. It was erected by Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over the combined forces of Sultan Mehmud Khilji of Malwa and Sultan Kutubuddin Shah of Gujarat in 1437.
This magnificent sand colored tower has nine storeys and rises up to 37.19 meter. It took around a decade and approximately 7 million rupees to build. This tower is 30 feet wide on the base and has 157 steps to reach the top. On my previous visit to the fort, Jaishree and I walked till the top. It was an experience in itself to walk on the narrow, dimly lit stairs.
|A picture of the top floors of Vijay Stambh|
On every floor there are idols of the Hindu trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. On the fifth floor, the name of the architect of this tower, Jeta and his three sons Naapa, Pooja and Poma, is engraved.
On the top storey the lineage of Mewar rulers, from Maharana Hameer to Maharana Kumbha, is imprinted. Walking to the top is recommended to fitness freaks, to those who want to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the fort and to those who want to walk upto the top just for the experience in itself. Like all towers I have seen, including the famous Italian bell towers, this tower also, is more impressive from the outside. The exterior of this tower is delicately carved and is in a well preserved state.
|A close up of the Vijay Stambh|
Adjacent to Vijay Stambh is the place where Maharanas of Mewar were cremated when Chittaur was capital of Mewar. On the other side is a place called “Mahasati”. It was here that the second jauhar took place.
As I wrote earlier in my previous post, Sisodia rulers of Mewar lost Chittaurgarh fort thrice to foreign invaders and all the three times the defeat resulted in a jauhar where women willingly marched en-masse into the flames of the funeral pyre. It made Rajput warriors brazenly fearsome. After seeing their beloved family members willingly jumping into the pyre, they had no vulnerabilities and no desire to live. The single goal they had in their mind was to kill as many invaders as possible, before dying a martyrs death, defending their motherland.
Last time I wrote in detail about the third and the last jauhar. I am moving in reverse chronological order.
The second jauhar was the result of an unexpected onslaught by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. At that time widow of Maharana Sanga, Maharani Karnawati, was ruling Mewar. When Bahadur Shah attacked Chittaurgarh, Maharani Karnawati sent a Rakhi to Mughal Emperor Humayun and requested him to come to her help. Rakhi is a sacred thread that a Hindu woman tie on her brother’s hand wishing a long life for him and it is also a bond of protection, a promise from the brother that he would always be there to help his sister in an hour of need.
This episode has generated a legend in itself.
Humayun, the Muslim ruler, gave due respect and regard to Maharani Karnawati’s sentiments and to this sacred thread. He rushed towards Chittuargarh to defend the honor of his sister. But by the time, he reached Chittuargarh the damage had all been done. All the inhabitants of the fort were dead either in the battlefield or in the sacred pyre. When Humayun saw the tragic end of the inhabitants of the fort, he deeply regretted his not reaching on time.
|Ruins of the small temple that attracted me|
Between Meera Mandir and Vijay Stambh there was ruin of a small old temple. Its location attracted me. At the entrance, there was a rusted and locked turnstile, followed by around 300 meters of long desolated walkway. I slid through the turnstile and walked towards the temple enjoying the tranquility of its surroundings with no one in the view. The sound of my feet on the foot way scared a quail (Bater) in the nearby bushes. It hurriedly crossed my path, soon followed by another. As my hands reached my camera pouch I realized that the two birds had vanished. This bird is a weak flier and prefers to creep making it vulnerable to hunting.
|A closeup of that ruined temple|
I spent some time at that place, listening the sound of dry leaves caused by the moving birds, the silence of the fort and wondered about the time when this fort was a happening place.
People on the fort suggested me that I should try to reach Padmini Palace as soon as possible as the entry in that complex might get closed at around 5:00 pm. From Vijay Stambh I rushed to this place. It was around a km away from Vijay Stambh. At the entrance the caretaker asked for the ticket. I quickly searched it in all my pockets. As it always happens with me I could not find it. Looking at my desperate attempts to search the ticket, the caretaker told me that he was convinced that I had purchased the ticket and allowed me to enter.
I could sense Jaishree, my wife, looking and smiling behind me. If she were ever asked to list down one typical traits of mine, I am sure she would mention that I seldom carry a wallet with me. If at all there is a wallet, there will be no money in it. More the pockets in my trouser, more the trouble in finding anything. I will start searching from pocket one and after searching all the pockets, the desired object would be found in the first pocket only, but in all probability I will find it only after one or two rounds of search!
|The rose garden at the entrance|
Entrance to Padmini Palace was flanked by patches of beautiful roses on both sides.
History of this palace starts in 13th century when Rana Ratansen was ruling Mewar. On one occasion he was deceived by Raghavdev, one of his courtiers –a scholar and an astrologer, on whom Maharana had great faith. When Maharana realized that he was misguided by Raghavdev, he was furious. On his order, Raghavdev’s face was blackened and he was taken around the streets of Chittaur on a donkey. After that punishment he was exiled from Mewar.
This insult generated a burning desire in Raghavdev to take revenge. He went to the services of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji. Soon he became close to the Sultan. On finding an opportunity he convinced Alauddin that his harem was incomplete without Maharani Padmini, wife of Maharana Ratansen, in there.
Lust blinded Alauddin and he ordered his army to attack Chittaur. His army sieged the fort for around seven months, but the determined Rajputs did not allow it to enter inside the fort. After seven months, Alauddin sensed that his army was growing restless and wanted to return back. As a final resort he played a dirty trick. He sent a messenger for a peace treaty with Maharana. In the message Alauddin proclaimed that he was willing to leave Mewar, but before leaving he would like to meet Maharani Padmini, whom he said, he had started to consider as his sister.
Rajputs were not convinced of Alauddin’s intentions. But they were also tired of the battle and wanted an end to it. They conveyed to Alauddin that meeting the Maharani would not be possible, but to satisfy his ego they agreed for him to get a glimpse of the Maharani by looking at a mirror, showing her reflections in the water surrounding the palace. Alauddin readily agreed to it.
|A mirror hung in the palace to recreate the incident|
On his arrival on the fort, Alauddin presented expensive gifts to the Maharana. Maharana got won over and he believed that Alauddin’s offer of friendship was genuine. When Sultan Alauddin’s evil eyes got a glimpse of the Maharani, he was convinced that Raghavdev was right. He decided to execute his ill plans to have this legendarily beautiful queen in his harem. When Alauddin was leaving the fort, Maharana personally escorted him to the fort gates to express warmth.
In all those sweet-talk Maharana became a little careless. After saying good-bye to Alauddin, as he turned back; he was surrounded and captured by Alauddin’s special force. A message was sent to the Maharani that if she wanted her husband to be alive and released, she had to surrender and marry Alauddin.
The deceit and the message made Rajputs furious. They decided to pay Alauddin back in his own coin. A reply was drafted and sent to Alauddin that Maharani was ready to surrender and marry Alauddin on two conditions: First she would surrender with her five hundred maid servants and to protect their modesty the palanquins, in which they would arrive to Alauddin’s camp, should not be searched. Second, she and all the maid servants, would like to meet Maharana for the last time, to take his blessings.
Alauddin promptly agreed to it.
The next day the palanquins arrived at Alauddin’s camp and were taken to the place where Maharana was imprisoned. Maharana Ratansen was aghast at the mere thought of Padmini surrendering to Alauddin and coming to meet him to seek his blessings. As soon as the palanquin carrying Padmini entered inside the tent, where Maharana Ratansen was held captive, Padmini’s nephew Badal , jumped out of it and freed Maharana . Gora, Padmini’s uncle, Badal, and a few Rajputs stayed back to fight with the enemy’s army, to slow down its pace, so that Maharana could safely reach back to the fort.
|Padmini Palace from Guest room|
Both Gora and Badal died in the resulting battle but Maharana safely reached the fort.
|A detail from Padmini Palace|
Now, the time for the final battle had arrived. In the night, Padmini led thousands of rajput ladies to commit jauhar with her. The next day around 7000 saffron-clad rajputs rushed out to fight their final battle. This small band of Rajputs was no match for the huge army of the Sultan and soon the battle was over. When the lascivious Alauddin entered the fort he was greeted by the smoldering ashes of death.
|Another view of Padmini Palace|
Padmini Palace had once been surrounded by water. Around a decade back boating used to take place in it. Today only a small puddle of dirty water can be seen around it. It is easy to make out that this palace when standing in clean water would look very romantic and beautiful. There are many neglected water bodies, filled with stinking dirty water, inside the fort. There is a need to clean them to make it attractive for tourists. It may also encourage those not much interested in history, to include Chittaurgarh in their itinerary.
|The stairs in Padmini Palace, I can never be tired of walking on these beautiful stairs|
I had been as busy as a bird-dog ever since I entered the fort. After visiting these most important buildings of the fort, I slowed down my pace and moved ahead aimlessly enjoying the human, animal and avian life of the fort. I still had around an hour and a half for covering the remaining part of the fort.
My visit to the fort is not yet complete. I think (hopefully!), I would be able to complete it in the third part of this series. And it all has to do with my passion to share in detail the historical stories associated with this fort. Thanks for remaining with me, and listening these stories :-)