The Tribune - Spectrum



Sunday, November 5, 2000

A saga of sacrifices & victories
By Kamaljit Singh

AFTER spending a full day in Udaipur, seeing the marvellous royal places of Rajput rulers of Mewar I began my trip early to Chittaurgarh by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation bus at 8 am. After visiting the largest place complex, the City Palace, the journey to the biggest as well as legendary hilltop fort aroused tremendous curiosity about the great battles and fables of Rani Padmini.

Chittaurgarh is situated 112 km from Udaipur towards east. Though the oneway road had scanty traffic, it took close to three hours to reach Chittaurgarh. an isolated giant of rocky terrain looms in the foreground of the bright sun.

This is the fort of Chittaur at 180-meter high hill, covering the entire top of 279 hectares and impossible to capture on camera in a single shot. It ramparts, bastions and gates exemplify martial architecture. The fort has a chequered history and has witnessed the bloodiest battles in history besides three great (sakas) sacks. Folk musicians, even till date, sing of the heroic deeds of valour of the inhabitants of the fort.

Chittaur, the stronghold of Rajputs, was sacked thrice by a stronger army. On each time the end came as jauhar where the men donned the saffron robes of martyrdom and rode out from the fort to certain death while the women and children immolated themselves on a huge funeral pyre.

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The first sack occurred in 1303 when Ala-ud-din Khilji, besieged the fort to capture the legendary beauty, Rani Padmini, queen of Rana Rattan Singh. After a seige of seven months, Khilji sent a message to Ratan Singh that he will go back to Delhi only if he is given a chance to have a glimpse of Rani Padmini. After deliberations with Rajput Chieftains, the Rana gave in. The spot from where Khilji was allowed to see the mirror reflection of the beauty standing on the stairs is still there and well preserved. A small pond separates Padminiís palace, which stands intact amidst it. In the gentís portion overlooking Padminiís palace, a mirror was strategically fixed at such an angle so that Khilji could see only the mirror reflection of Padmini without being able to see the real Padmini, standing below on the staircase. The wall of the window obstructed the direct view of the spot where Rani Padmini stood downstairs without her realising of being watched.

Unfortunately for the Rajputs, the glimpse of Padmini increased Khiljiís passions, and like the face of Helen of Troy in Greek mythology, which launched thousandThe palace of Rani Padmini ships to burn the topless towers, Padminiís face too launched a fierce war which culminated is Padminiís jauhar alongwith others. While Bhim Singh led the orange clad noblemen out to their inevitable martydom. It is believed that Padmini committed jauhar in one of the underground cellars in Rana Kumbhaís palace, now in ruins, the biggest monument in the fort.

The second sack of Chittaur, in 1535 was by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat. The carnage was immense this time. In the jauhar, 13000 Rajput women immolated themselves and 32000 warriors died fighting the forces of the Sultan.

About 33 years later, Akbar took the Chittaur for the final sacking in 1568. The fort was defended heroically but as the odds were too heavy, jauhar was performed and the Rajput warriors opened the doors of the fort to ride out to meet the death. On the occasion, maharana Udai Singh left Chhitaur to re-establish a new capital ó Udaipur ó at a new place. Chittaurgarh was devastated completedly. Though in 1616 Jahangir returned it to the Rajputs, no attempt was made at resettlement. Today, the fort is a deserted ruin, however, impressive reminders of its grandeur still stand.

A 1 km-long, zigzag road leads through seven gateways to the main gate, the Rampol on the western side. As one goes further on, there are two chhatris which are memorials marking the spots where Jaimal and Kalla the legendary heroes of 1568 siege fell defending the fort. Within the fort, a circular road runs around the ruins, connecting all landmarks. The main gate on the eastern side of the fort, known as Surajpol, gives a complete view of the battlefield. To get inside from the West, one has to cross seven gates, (called pols) built by Maharana Kumbha. The gates are named after temples of the gods located nearby. Just opposite Rampol is memorial of Patta, the legendary hero, who was caught by elephant and killed in the war against Akbar. A billbord on the way announces Yeh dharti hai balidaan ki ó This land is soaked with the blood of martyrs. Some locals still live within premises of the fort but legends about the dashing heroes are now history ó the world of blood and blades, of battles and unbattered spirits.

Opposite to Rana Kumbhaís palace is the Naulakha Bhandar. Once a hemispherical building with lofty walls and towers, it is now in ruins. The appellation comes from Rs 9 lakh that were kept here to meet Banbirís expenses. Incidentally, the Vijay Stambh or Victory Tower, erected by Rana Kumbha to commemorate victory over the combined forces of Gujarat and Mahmud Khilji of Malwa in 1440, also has nine storeys. It was constructed between 1458 and 1468, and has a girth of 30 ft. at the base, it rises 37 metres, with intricately engraved sculptures from the Hindu mythology adorning the outside and inside of tower.

Remarkably, every idol bears its name beneath, though most of them are not legible. Going on the top storey of the Stambh, covering 157 steps, watch your head on the lintels, as one has to bow head to pass the narrow gates. The top offers a panoramic view of the fort and the nearby area. Apes abound in the area and are often a nuisance to the unsuspecting tourist. Take care that you do not have any purse hanging on your shoulder and carrybag in your hand. To guard against mischief, pull up the glass of your car also.

Close to the Stambh is the Mahasati where Ranas were cremated and there are Sati stones to commemorate women who immolated themselves on their husbandís funeral pyres. An ancient Sammidheshwar temple, a witness to all there events, stands nearby and daily worship is still performed there. Walking down further, at the edge of the cliff one finds a deep tank fed by a cow-mouthed perennial spring. It is rightly called the Gomukh reservoir and it supplies essential water to the inmates of the fort. The opening here has a cave leading to a cellar in Kumbhaís palace where Padmini and her entourage are said to have committed jauhar.

As one continues further south, one comes across a signboard in blue giving the direction towards Padminiís palace. By following this, one reaches the spot from where Khilji saw the reflection of Padmini in the mirror. The four-storey palace of Padmini, standing in a pool of clear water presents a lively view in the otherwise dull surroundings of the fort. The ancient Kalika temple, dedicated to goddess Kali is nearby. Daily worship takes place here. Between Gomukh and the Kalika temple is the ruined palace of legendary heroes Jaimal and Patta. Nearby, a lake has been named in their honour. Further south, a small area is reserved for a Deer Park.

As the antiquity of the fort is difficult to trace, it is believed that Bhima, the legendary figure of Mahabharata, visited this place and opened a water reservoir with the simple dash of his foot. The pool was called Bhim Lat. Some historians are of the view that the fort was originally built by Chandergupta Maurya in the 7th century and he named it Chitrakoot. Whatever the history, location and architecture of the fort, it arouses a lot of curiousity among the visitors.

At a short distance from Surajpol, the main gate of fort, is located the Kirti Stambh, the Tower of Fame. It is dedicated to Lord Adinath, the first Tirthankar of the Jains. Renovated recently, it was built in the 13th century by the Jain community. It is 22 metres high but smaller as well as older than the Victory tower. It is 30 feet wide at the base and 15 ft. wide at the top. It is replete with naked figures of various Tirthankaras, thus indicating it to be a monument of the Digambaras. A close staircase is built inside to reach the top seventh storey.

Adjacent to the Kirti Stambh, is the idolless Mahavira Swami temple, which is being renovated by the archaeological department. Fateh Parkash palace, a building built in the modern style, houses a museum. A large collection of sculptures, dating back to the 3rd century BC are on display. The multi-coloured frescoes have turned pale. Close to this palace is the Meera temple, that was built during the times of Rana Kumbha in the architectural style that can be termed as ornate Indo-Aryan.

A picture of Lord Krishna and his devotee Meera, has been placed inside. Taking it to be amrit nectar, Meera is said to have gulped poison sent by Vikramaditya at Maharana Kumbhasís palace.

Other important monuments within the fort, worth seeing are Jatashankar Mahadev Devalaya, Samideshwar Mahadev temple, Khatan Raniís palace, Bhaksi a small jail type building, Raj Tila, Domes of Gora and Badal, Chittori burj and Mohar Magri. Mohar Magri has an interesting tale behind it. Itís a small artificial hill some 150 ft. below chittori burj. When Akbar attacked Chittaur, he selected this hill to raise it to the fortís height by piling up soil for conquering it. Every labourer was given a gold mohur for dumping one basket of soil, so giving it the name Mohar Magri.

Exploring the Chittaur fort proves to a trip down the history lane where the heroic legends of great warriors are written with blood. The very sight of debris whose once elegant palaces stood, brings images of war vividly before eyes.

Home This feature was published on October 29, 2000Top