The Nineteenth day, we decided to start ascending early morning from Mt. Abu to avoid the non-sense confrontation of driving skills of the local taxi drivers. All of us must have experienced that while driving in the hills, we are more sensible, sober and better negotiator than the local drivers. On the other hand those drivers play foul boastingly, trying to scare the other drivers. Practically, it seems that they do so to de-motivate us so as to hire the taxies otherwise.
Soon we were at Abu Raod and stopped at one of the shacks for a fag and morning tea, it was just 7 am. Since both of us had never visited Chittorgarh hence, we decided to include the destination in our itinerary. We headed on to reach the place early, after which might see if we could make Delhi before too late.
Abu Road to Chottorgarh is 260 km on excellent tar and may take almost 4 to 5 hours in no haste & less traffic. At or around 12 noon we entered the town by rolling further 2-3 km on a link road connecting the city with the bye-pass. We decided to take a guide so that we may not waste time in road enquiries and also venture the fort area with ease. Soon we found one reasonably at Rs. 250/- and entered the Fort through one of the seven legendary POL (gates) Each gate has a distinct name and relevance, just to quote the names without digging into history, they are the Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Jorla Pol, Ganesh Pol, Laxman Pol and Ram Pol. If I remember, we entered through the Ganesh Pol as there was an Idol of Ganesha at the entry.
Soon after, we discovered that the fort is much larger and magnificent than it actually appears from distant. Situated at a high hillock fortifying the entire hill with high solid rock boundary, it is spread covering close to 3 km2. The Fort was constructed by the Mauryans in the 7th century AD however, mythological beliefs claim, it was constructed by Bhima of Mahabharata. The fort boasts to be the palatial abode of many famous warriors such as Gora, Badal, Rana Kumbha, Maharana Pratap, Jaimal, Patta, etc. for many years before it was captured by the Mughals.
Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower)
Our guide started with visiting the most famous of all, the Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower). I have had a glimpse of the tower while my journey to Udaipur by Chetak Express, way back in 1997. I believed that the Tower is the only monumental architectural design on the barren hill because not much is visible from distant otherwise. Also, this was what pertinently published in the text books we were known during our school days. This was a myth, the tower is only a portion of the entire huge fort arena, which bags the honour to be the biggest fort in India. Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over Mohammed Khilji constructed it in 1440 AD. A marvel of architecture, the design is viewer’s delight. The intricacies and minute detailing of various Hindu Deities are so well sculpted on the sand stone that appear like high tech 3-D pictures on canvas. A closer look to the tower is mesmerizing and its gigantic tallness is awe inspiring. Capturing the entire structure in one frame of your camera may need professional expertise.
Rana Kumbha Palace:
Close to the Victory Tower is a vast lawn with the history of most infamous incident of Jauhar committed by Rani Padmini alongwith other females of the fort. This was perhaps done to save their honour after the males been killed or imprisoned by the crudest cruelties of the invaders. It is believed that Maharana Udai Singh, later the founder-ruler of Udaipur was born in this palace. During an invasion one of the Daasi (Maid) Panna, sacrificed her own son by replacing him with the infant, Udai Singh and eloped with the Maharana, safely. The palace is now in ruins but its glorious past can be imagined even today by its massive reminiscent.
Samadhisvara Mahadev – Mokal Ji Temple
A few steps forward in the complex of Rana Kumbha Palace is situated the ancient shrine of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, in its very unique form the trio joined head to head with each other. This large one piece idol and the elaborately built temple was said to be originally constructed by Raja Bhoj and was later renovated by Maharana Mokal, thus also known as Mokalji Temple.
The entire structure of the palace is simple but large, once supposed to be adorned with lush garden still feels the same with rows of hedges with effect of greenery. The queen was allegedly the then most beautiful woman thus luring Alauddin Khilji attract to glance her beauty, invaded the fort. In a deal Alaudddin Khilji assured Rana Rawal Ratan Singh to quit the battle and turn back if he was allowed to see the beautiful queen once. Accordingly, with cerebrate wit, Alauddin Khilji was allowed to see her but that was skillfully devised by fixing mirrors on accurate angles so that Alauddin Khilji would see only her reflection on the mirror. Excellent piece of mastery and engineering, those mirrors are still fitted in a room overlooking the water body beside. This incident however, later turned futile and series of attacks were done for possessing the fort or the queen or both.
Overlooking, a small palace is built in the middle of water on an island is also called Padmini Palace and popularly called Jal Mahal or Water Palace. Unlike Jaipur’s Water Palace, which is relatively larger and harsh, this palace is very soothing and wild.
Beside the Padmini Palace lies the inspirational water reservoir, an ancient method matching modern technology of harvesting rain water. An artificial tank filled by a stream of water seeping out of a rock structure resembling a Cow Mouth was primarily built as a future source of water in case of emergency in the dry land. There were many more such reservoirs in the fort, few of which ruined and few like the one still survived. It is not only considered sacred by devotees but also high-lightens the beauty of the surrounding with natural greenery flourishing around the water bodies.
Jain Temples & Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame)
The Fort not only comprised palaces but also hospitable to many religious faiths that flourished and their reminiscent still boast the truth. Much before the Vijay Stambh was constructed by Maharana Kumbha in 1440 AD, the Kirti Stambh was built in the 12th Century by a Jain Merchant in dedication to Adinathji, the 1st Jain Teerthankar. The 22 meters tall tower is beautifully adorned by exquisite sculptural designs and figurines of the Digambar faith. Pertinently, the adherents of the Digambar sect do not believe in covering the natural body, thus keep cloth-less.
It is believed that there were Twenty Seven illustrious Jain Temples in the fort, Six out of which still exist. The most marvelous of them is at ‘Sattavish Devri’ dedicated to Bahgwan Adinathji. The two Kirti Stambhs, one beside and the other at the far end have much relevance to the glorious past of Jainism in the region.
Meera Bai needs no introduction, it is believed that she was the most sincere and passionate devotee of Lord Krishna.Meera Bai once resided in Rana Kumbha Palace at Chittorgarh Fort. She was married to Bhoj Raj, ruler of Chittor but was least interested in the earthly matters. In her subconscious she believed Lord Krishna as her spouse. Childless, she widowed and devoted herself as mad lover of Krishna reciting and dancing for Krishna and wandering from one place to another. For fleeing of all brutality by her in-laws for not maintaining her feminine modesty, she one day left Chittor. Legend says, her last appearance was reported in Dwarka, Gujrat where she merged herself in Krishna when Rana Udai Singh tried to bring her back to Mewar. A small Krishna temple is now dedicated to Meera Bai in the premise of the beautiful Vishnu Temple, built by Maharana Kumbha in 1449.
One of the oldest structures in the Fort is a simple but much revered temple of Goddess Kalika. Originally built in the 8th century, dedicating the Sun God as Sun Temple, was later dedicated to the Goddess, in the 14th century.
Fateh Prakash Palace
A very large modern structure painted in white and built with bricks and mortar is though beautiful to see but surprises at first instance of its existence in such excellent condition. Come closer and we knew that it was lately built by Maharana Fateh Singh. A huge sprawling lawn with ornamental greenery and a fountain is symbolic to a change from the ancient to modernity. The larger than life idol of Lord Ganesha and different roman style frescoes are nevertheless quite attractive and enticing. The palace is now converted into a museum which we missed to visit due to shortage of time. It is however, informed that the museum has a rich collection of sculptures from temples and buildings in the Fort.
By the time we finished the above visits it was pretty late and we reminded that we hadn’t had our meal since morning. At 5 pm our guide bid us good bye by guiding us to one of the finest restaurants in the town “Pratap Palace”. A lighter intake was preferred as we were planning to drive back home.
Chittorgarh to Delhi is around 600 km and may take 10-11 hours. It was 6 pm hence we decided to break at Ajmer or Jaipur and may reach Delhi next day. Visiting so many important sites at Chittorgarh was though interesting but tiring as well. At 11 pm we finally lodged in one of our frequently visited hotel in Jaipur.
On the Twentieth day of our road journey, we finally reclined at our most cosy bed at home by reaching Delhi in the evening. After almost 6000 km in 20 days, we were able to discover innumerable stopovers you may also call them destinations. I tried to compile each of them like a Roadie and not as a Historian or Travel Guide. Hope readers enjoyed my road journey and virtually visited the stopovers.
The Journey still continues ………