Chittorgarh fort
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Chittorgarh (the fort, garh, at Chittor) is the largest fort complex in India, and a fascinating place to explore. It rises from the plains like a huge rock island, nearly 6km long and surrounded on all sides by 150m-plus cliffs.

Its history epitomises Rajput romanticism, chivalry and tragedy, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many Rajputs. Three times (in 1303, 1535 and 1568) Chittorgarh was under attack from a more powerful enemy; each time, its people chose death before dishonour, performing jauhar. The men donned saffron martyrs’ robes and rode out from the fort to certain death, while the women and children immolated themselves on huge funeral pyres. After the last of the three sackings, Rana Udai Singh II fled to Udaipur, where he established a new capital for Mewar. In 1616, Jehangir returned Chittor to the Rajputs. There was no attempt at resettlement, though it was restored in 1905.

Chittorgarh

A zigzag ascent of more than 1km starts at Padal Pol and leads through six outer gateways to the main gate on the western side, the Ram Pol (the former back entrance). Inside Ram Pol is a still-occupied village that occupies a small northwestern part of the fort. (Turn right here for the ticket office .) The rest of the plateau is deserted except for the wonderful palaces, towers and temples that remain from its heyday, with the addition of a few more recent temples. A loop road runs around the plateau, which has a deer park at the southern end.

Meera & Kumbha Shyam Temples

Both of these temples southeast of the Rana Kumbha Palace were built by Rana Kumbha in the ornate Indo-Aryan style, with classic, tall sikharas (spires). The Meera Temple , the smaller of the two, is now associated with the mystic-poetess Meerabai, a 16th-century Mewar royal who was poisoned by her brother-in-law but survived due to the blessings of Krishna. The Kumbha Shyam Temple is dedicated to Vishnu and its carved panels illustrate 15th-century Mewar life.

Tower of Victory

The glorious Tower of Victory , symbol of Chittorgarh, was erected by Rana Kumbha in the 1440s, probably to commemorate a victory over Mahmud Khilji of Malwa. Dedicated to Vishnu, it rises 37m in nine exquisitely carved storeys, and you can climb the 157 narrow stairs (the interior is also carved) to the 8th floor, from where there’s a good view of the area.

Below the tower, to the southwest, is the Mahasati area where there are many sati (self-immolation) stones – this was the royal cremation ground and was also where 13,000 women committed jauhar in 1535. The Samidheshwar Temple , built in the 6th century and restored in 1427, is nearby. Notable among its intricate carving is a Trimurti (three-faced) figure of Shiva.

Gaumukh Reservoir

Walk down beyond the Samidheshwar Temple and at the edge of the cliff is a deep tank, the Gaumukh Reservoir, where you can feed the fish. The reservoir takes its name from a spring that feeds the tank from a gaumukh (cow’s mouth) carved into the cliffside.

Padmini’s Palace

Continuing south, you reach the Kalika Mata Temple , an 8th-century sun temple damaged during the first sacking of Chittorgarh and then converted to a temple for the goddess Kali in the 14th century. Padmini’s Palace stands about 250m further south, beside a small lake with a central pavilion. The bronze gates to this pavilion were carried off by Akbar and can now be seen in Agra Fort.

Surajpol & Tower of Fame

Surajpol, on the fort’s east side, was the main gate and offers fantastic views across the empty plains. A little further north, the 24m-high Tower of Fame , dating from 1301, is smaller than the Tower of Victory. Built by a Jain merchant, the tower is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (one of the 24 revered Jain teachers) and is decorated with naked figures of various other tirthankars, indicating that it is a monument of the Digambara (sky-clad) order. A narrow stairway leads up the seven storeys to the top. Next door is a 14th-century Jain temple.

Padmini’s Palace

Continuing south from the Gaumukh Reservoir, you reach Padmini’s Palace, beside a large lotus pool with a central pavilion. Legend relates that, as Padmini sat in this pavilion, Ala-ud-din saw her reflection in the lake. This glimpse convinced him to destroy Chittor in order to possess her. The bronze gates to this pavilion were carried off by Akbar and can now be seen in Agra Fort. Near Padmini’s Palace is a small prison where captured invaders were kept; former prisoners include sultans of Malwa and of Gujarat.

Tower of Fame

A little further north of Surajpol, the 24m-high Tower of Fame, dating from 1301, is smaller than the Tower of Victory. Built by a Jain merchant, the tower is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (one of the 24 revered Jain teachers) and is decorated with naked figures of various other tirthankars, indicating that it is a monument of the Digambara (sky-clad) order. A narrow stairway leads up the seven storeys to the top. Next door is a 14th-century Jain temple.

Rana Kumbha Palace

After entering the fort, turn right and you’ll arrive almost immediately at the ruins of this 15th-century palace, which includes elephant and horse stables and a Shiva temple. Padmini’s jauhar is said to have taken place in a now-blocked cellar. Across from the palace is the museum and archaeological office, and the treasury building (Nau Lakha Bhandar).

Tower of Victory

The glorious Tower of Victory, symbol of Chittorgarh, was erected by Rana Kumbha in the 1440s, probably to commemorate a victory over Mahmud Khilji of Malwa. Dedicated to Vishnu, it rises 37m in nine exquisitely carved storeys, and you can climb the 157 narrow stairs (the interior is also carved) to the 8th floor, from where there’s a good view of the area.

Meera Temple

Close to the Fateh Prakash Palace is the Meera Temple, built during the reign of Rana Kumbha in the ornate Indo-Aryan style and associated with mystic-poetess Meerabai. She consumed poison sent by an enemy, but survived due to the blessings of Krishna. The larger temple in this same compound is the Kumbha Shyam Temple (Temple of Varah).

Chhatris

On the climb up to the fort you pass two chhatris, memorials between the second and third gates. These mark the spots where Jaimal and Kalla, heroes of the 1568 siege, fell during the struggle against Akbar. Jaimal had been already fatally wounded but was carried out by Kalla to fight on to the death.

Mahasati

Below the Tower of Victory, to the southwest, is the Mahasati area where there are many sati (self-immolation) stones – this was the royal cremation ground and was also where 13,000 women committed jauhar in 1535.

Ratan Singh Palace

While Padmini’s Palace was the summer abode of the Chittor royals, the winter palace takes the name of her husband, Rattan Singh. It overlooks a small lake and, although run down, is an interesting place to explore.

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