Chittorgarh: The Ruins Speak
Explore the mighty Chittorgarh Fort with Kena Shree as she revels in its rich history Stretch of ruins for roughly hundred kilometres or more, half-understandable brick remains, fierce overhead sun, few corners or walls that form a good backdrop for a photo shoot, stray vendors serving masala chai, over-fried snacks and locally made toffees and a shabby looking middle-aged guy in the name of a tourist guide. Isn’t that how most of us identify a typical Indian old fort? If only someone could transport us to the era in which this fort had stood galore, would its machismo and marvel have spoken of its glory. When I set on my journey to explore the mystique of Rajasthan, I had a long list of places in mind. Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Pushkar and the very many mighty forts around these places. To be honest, if at all Chittorgarh was to be in the itinerary, it wasn’t to be allocated more than half a day, for it looked not even half as significant as other much talked-of places did. Keeping our initial plan in mind, my husband and I reached the trekking point to Chittorgarh Fort in an early December morning. Well-researched, maps in hand, a light backpack, equipped with a camera and having hired a government tourist guide, we set climbing the mighty road to the fort. The Chittor Fort – As if having borne the cruelty of intruders and calamities of nature not once or twice but a hundred times! In fact, we were sort of right. As the history has to tell, Chittor Fort fought thirty major battles out of which it lost only three. With every major battle millions of lives, opulence, fame and prosperity were lost and with losing the last battle, Chittor never rose to glory again. The silence of ruins however speaks a thousand stories of chivalry, sacrifice and blood flowing like river down the fort hill. This wasn’t just a holiday spot. From the many forts and palaces that we had been to, this one was ALIVE. Waiting to be told and retold and appreciated. Here are the few spots within the Fort premise that speak of its heroism, that a tourist just cannot give amiss while trekking:-
(1) The building where Panna sacrificed her son
On one summer night in 16th century within these stone wall Panna, nanny to little prince Uday Singh II, had already fed her beloved son, Chandan and her royal charge, and put them both to bed when she heard loud noises and chaos from a kilometer away distance. Immediately, a servant ran in to tell her that Banbir, the illegitimate claimant to the throne, had assassinated Uday’s father in a nearby chamber of the fort and was rushing to behead the little prince. “Young Udai must be saved”, that was all Panna was determined about. She immediately instructed the servant to put the sleeping prince into a large basket and smuggle him out of the fort where she would later join them and then the mother of strength and steel lifted her sleeping son, Chandan, from his bed and placed him on the prince’s bed, faking him to pass off as the royal prince. As expected, Banbir burst into the room and slew her son right before her eyes. Watching her son cut to pieces, this woman rose the glory of motherhood of which this room boasts about:-
(2) The temple where Meera, the queen, sacrificed luxuries in worship of Lord Krishna
In 1516, Prince Bhoj of Mewar married the princess Meera of Merta. This is the same Meera Bai who is spoken about as the biggest devotee of Lord Krishna. The ‘KanwarPada Palace’ in palace is the place where Meera arrived as a new bride and lived at Chittorgarh Fort. Her love for Krishna was not appreciated by the royal Rajputs who mocked her to be loving someone who she wasn’t married to and tortured her day in and day out. However, this did not dissuade Meera from worshiping Krishna. She got a temple built within the fort premise where she spent most of her time singing glories of him.
(3) Jal Mahal, the palace which led the country to witness its first ever Jauhar by Rani Padmini
One of the most beautiful women in the world whose grace and intelligence either brought suitors and claimants to insanity or to dust, Rani Padminiis the uncrowned heroine of Chittor and also one of the bravest woman in Indian history. This is the palace where Khilji caught a glimpse of Rani Padmini in a mirror while she sat on the steps of the Jal Palace. The nerd king instantly lost his mind completely to her beauty. This later led to first major attack on the fort by him which drove Rani to perform the first Jauhar in India, supposedly with 15000 women and children. Jauhar! In which, on getting the news of their spouses getting killed in the battlefield, women in the fort along with their little ones were supposed to jump in a forty five feet trench of fire. It is said that one jauhar fire stayed lit for three continuous days after which the fort left nothing behind but a barren land of in-collectible ashes.
(4) The jauhar, sati and burial ground
Gosh! This was the creepiest place in the fort, like some live burial ground. Sati, Jauhar, martyrdom, soldier’s graves, cold blooded murders, talk of it and you find it here. The silent reverberations of children howling, women mourning and mothers weeping gives goosebumps. In the picture below: Spot 1: The platform where women performed ‘Sati’ by immolating themselves along with husband’s dead body Spot 2: The spot where women and children performed Jauhar in a forty five feet deep trench Spot 3: Burial ground of soldiers.
(5) The Royal Rajputana’s Pond
This is the pond in the fort where royal blood took their daily bath. While men could walk down to the pond in an open stairway, an underground tunnel was built for the royal ladies so that their privacy remained protected. The fort that once boasted of 84 water bodies has only 22 of them now. These water bodies are fed by natural catchment and rainfall and have a combined storage of 4 billion litres that could suffice water needs of an army of 50,000. The supply could last for four years. Because the fort would not run out of food or water for years, rarely did Chittor lose long fought battles.
(6) The Victory Tower
These are another two notable spots in the fort premise. The Victory Tower (37.19 m high and 9 storied) was constructed by Mewar king RanaKumbhabetween 1442 AD and 1449 AD to commemorate his victory over the combined armies Mewar and Gujarat led by Mahmud Khilji and boasts of remarkable architecture.
(7) The Kallika Temple
The Kallikamata temple is an ordinary ancient temple with a rare tradition in which whenever a wish is granted by Goddess Kali, a rooster is left free for life in the temple campus unlike the old age tradition of ‘bali’ or sacrifice at altar. One can see numerous roosters playing gleefully around with dogs, monkeys and birds. By the time, we reached the tail end of the fort, dusk had fallen and darkness seeped in making the stone walls come to life with casting of beautiful lights. This was just the right time to review the history of Chittorgarh Fort via the light-and-sound show organized by RTDC in one if the stone structures. The story rendition brings one to tears. One can easily imagine the sumptuosity of life and bravery of Rajputanas with which they defended their prestige, year after year, enemies after enemies. This feeling is so profoundly moving that even after returning from the fort, it haunts in the memories for a long, long time. So while you plan your itinerary to the travel the land of Royal Rajputanas, take a pause at the mighty Chittor. You may lose your heart there. Bon Voyage!
About The Author
“You don’t need magic to disappear. You need destination.” Kena is dexterously adept to magically disappearing in the goodness of food, music, travel and poetry, at any given time. Her partners in crime will be a backpack, a Nikon, water bottle, a credit card and pen and paper to fuddle with. When not travelling or blogging, she is a Human Resource professional, speaker and corporate storyteller. She may be contacted at the twitter handle @KenaShree