Table of contents for Chittaurgarh
I came out of the Padmini palace in a contented mood. The serenity of the evening was resonating with the tranquility of my satisfied soul. I had been to the famous monuments of the fort; even then I had a good amount of time with me to visit a few more and to enjoy the evening. There were some places on the fort where I would have liked to spend some time but there was no rush. After all, Chittaurgarh is on the way from Bhilwara to Udaipur and there is always a possibility of another trip.
From Padmini Palace I ventured out into the open grounds of the fort that had shops selling handicrafts and the traditional dresses. Colorful Rajasthan was at its best. Beautifully dressed and decorated, camels and horses were patiently waiting for tourists to sit atop them. Their owners though were becoming a little impatient and were desperately looking for ways to earn whatever little money they could.
A horse owner invited me to get my photograph clicked on his horse in a paltry ten rupees. When I showed no interest, he was exasperated and commented with sarcasm that I might have given thousand rupees just for sitting on a mare (he was referring to my marriage) and at that time spending even ten rupees was a concern for me. A bystander decided to join the fun. He jokingly replied to that person, “Sir is still a bachelor. If you find any good looking girl, please inform him.” I smiled and moved ahead.
At some distance a young guide was engrossed in playing ludo like game with two young kids. As he noticed an unguided tourist and a potential customer he offered his services to assist me. On my refusal, he was so quick in joining back the game that his sense of gratitude was palpable :-)
On my way back, I crossed the Kalika Maa temple. It is believed that it was built in the 8th century and was originally a Sun-temple. Later, in 14th century it was converted into a temple of Maa Kaali. All expeditions of the Mewar rulers always started only after taking the blessings of Maa Bhawani in this temple.
As I moved ahead, I noticed the ruins of a once impressive Fatta haveli.
There was no one around it, not even the all-pervading monkeys. At the entrance there was a big symbol of a devi painted on the wall. I entered inside the haveli to explore it more, but I was a little scared because of my unfamiliarity with the symbol at the entrance, my solitude, remoteness of the haveli, and the setting sun; all of them created an unnerving atmosphere.
Inside there was the idol of Bheruji and a deepak was burning in front of it. I guessed that someone was there just before me, though no one was visible around at that time.
On one side of this roofless compartment there were stairs to go up to nowhere. The only remaining structure on the first floor was a stone window. I walked up to have a view of the fort from the window. There was barely some space to stand. In retrospect, I feel that one should be careful while going up within ruins. Ruins are usually inhabited by bats. Any human activity around them can scare them and the sudden movement of the bats or any other bird/animal which may be around can scare the person to lose his balance and fall off the stairs.
From Fatta haveli, I moved towards the Smadheeshwar Mahadev temple.
With the further descent of the sun, the tourists on the fort were outnumbered by the monkeys.
The symbiotic and friendly relationship animals share was very evident at one place where a monkey was eating the head lice from a pig’s body and relieving him of that menace.
When I reached the Smadheeshwar Mahadev temple, the sun was hiding behind the temple and was playing peek-a-boo. The temple was glowing in the golden rays of the setting sun and the scene looked picturesque with a big barren tree in the background.
I was a little apprehensive of going towards the temple as it was completely surrounded by the monkeys. When I saw a family moving towards the temple, I too gathered courage and moved in. Apparently the monkeys were non-aggressive.
Smadheeshwar Mahadev temple was built in the 11th century by Raja Bhoj of Malwa and was later rebuilt by Maharana Mokul in 1428. The carvings on the exterior of the temple were notable. At one place I noticed a Jain Teerthankar carved on the temple wall. Mewar is among the regions where the Jain community not only prospered but also commanded respect from its Rajput rulers. It reminds me of one such incident that bring forth that special relationship.
The chance meeting between the tired and dispirited Maharana Pratap and the wealthy Jain merchant Bhamashah, after the battle of Haldighati, is well known in Mewar. In Haldighati, Maharana Pratap’s army fought the Mughal army led by Rajah Mannsingh. There were heavy casualties on both the side and none of the two sides could claim victory. But, that battle dashed the hopes of Maharana Pratap. He lost his beloved horse Chetak and was left with no resources to carry on his fight with mighty Akbar.
The conditions were so harsh that Maharana even considered conceding defeat and giving up his fight for independence. One day Maharana accidentally met Bhamashah in the forest and the Maharana’s dejected condition became evident to Bhamashah. He realized Maharana‘s need for resources and gladly presented his enormous accumulated wealth of several generations to Maharana. It is believed that these possessions were enough to maintain an army of 12000 soldiers for 12 years. This contribution invigorated Maharana. He re-gathered his army and by the end of his life, he recovered all the forts he lost to Akbar, except Mandalgarh and Chittaur.
I was roaming and appreciating the carvings on the exterior of the Smadheeshwar temple.
|Lord Kuber – God of wealth and material possessions|
A septuagenarian priest sitting just outside the temple noticed me and remarked callously, “will you be interested only in the external carvings and leave the temple without darshan of Jatashankar (another name of Lord Shiva)?” He harshly reminded me that the real thing was inside and not outside.
I became conscious and realized the meaning of his harsh statement and entered the temple. Inside, I felt an aura of peace. On the black wall of the temple there was a huge three-face idol of Mahadev. It was for the first time that I saw a three-faced idol of Lord Shiva. My eyes remained wide open looking at that beautiful and ‘just as-ferocious’ form. It was a perfect depiction of Mahadev who is considered to be very kind but capable of doing the dance of destruction when angry. Both of these emotions were simultaneously, skillfully represented in the carving of that idol.
I sat there for a small prayer. After wandering in the fort for such a long time, my body really needed some rest and the calm and soulful surroundings of the temple rejuvenated me. After the prayers I bowed before the almighty and came out.
Outside I had a brief conversation with the priest. He abused Rajah Man Singh with choicest of abusive words and expletives, adding that if it was not for him, and his association with Akbar, the history of Hindustan would have been very different. Rajah ManSingh was highly respected for his bravery in Akbar’s court. In-fact Akbar considered him as one of his nine jewels, but for the locals of Mewar, he was a coward and is remembered for his treachery towards the greater cause of Rajput unity. What really surprised me was that even after centuries these feelings are still strong.
A way from here leads to the Gomukh Kund. It is called so because a reservoir of fresh water has been formed there from the underground water that flows continuously from a sculpted cow’s mouth (Gomukh means cow’s mouth).
By then, I had visited most of the fort except for the Kirti Stambh. Kirti Stambh was built before Vijay Stambh by a Jain devotee in the14th century. The two towers are so similar in their architecture that Kirti Stambh must be an architectural inspiration for Vijay Stambh. This six storied pillar is around 24 meter high. I wanted to visit Kirti Stambh on my first trip itself but I was unable to visit it in my second trip as well, so a third trip to the fort is in the offing :-)
Actually, the more important reason for planning another trip would be Rachit’s growing interest in the history of Mewar. He now has a good collection of Amar Chitra Katha editions on the brave Rajput warriors. I am sure he would cherish his visit to the fort about which he already knows so much.
On my way back, I noticed several small stones piled over each other. It was in Sikkim that I first noticed this way of making a wish and I thought it to be a tradition that Sikkimese follow, without realizing it is such a common practice and so widely followed.
The sky was clear in the day and I was not expecting anything special at sun-set, but from somewhere a wandering small cloud arrived and engulfed the sun in its soft embrace and I was blessed with the sight of a soothing sun-set from the fort.
It was an experience in itself to spend an evening in these ruins. The setting sun was blessing the abandoned palaces, havelis and the ramparts with its empathic golden rays.
Who else can understand and feel the pain of these desolate majestic ruins that were once the epicenter of buzzing activities of a powerful reign, than the sun who itself was so mighty and ferocious only a couple of hours ago. Once these ruins basked in the glory of its legendary inhabitants and that evening, and possibly every evening, they glow in the golden color of the benign sun.
Someone had told me that a train leaves for Udaipur from Chittaurgarh at around 6:45 pm. At 6:15 pm, I decided that it was time to reach the railway station to catch the train. I tried to confirm train timings from several locals on the fort but strangely no one seemed aware of it. Unfortunately, I could not find any tempo leaving from the fort to the city. As time was ticking away fast, I panicked and started to walk downward. Luckily, after walking only a short distance a tempo arrived and I boarded it.
The driver told me that the tempo was not going till the railway station but he would take me to the point from where I could take another tempo. At that point the driver stopped and pointed to the tempo leaving for the railway station. The second tempo stopped around half a km from the railway station.
I ran hard and entered the railway station, almost running, at 7:05 pm. The train to Udaipur was standing on the platform, but there was a small queue for the ticket. I was worried not to miss the train, not after coming so close to catch it, looking at it helplessly, moving away in front of my eyes. Once I bought the ticket, I noticed that the scheduled departure of the train was 7:15 pm.
When I entered the coach I was so exhausted that I could not speak for sometime. As I regained some energy, I took out an orange and a book on Kerala that I was reading at that time; shared the orange with my co-passenger and started to look out of the window. The train had started to crawl leaving the hustle-bustle of the station behind, entering the darkness.
My invigorated mind took over my exhausted body and it was smiling at the amazing day I had at the fort and on my luck of catching the train on time.