13 June 2024

Chittorgarh fort: The Capital of the World’s Oldest Ruling Dynasty in Rajasthan, India

The Chittor Fort or Chittorgarh is one of the largest forts in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort was the capital of Mewar and is located in the present-day town of Chittor. It sprawls over a hill 180 m (590.6 ft) in height spread over an area of 280 ha (691.9 acres) above the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River. The fort covers 65 historic structures, which include four palaces, 19 large temples, 20 large water bodies, 4 memorials and a few victory towers.

In 2013, at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Chittorgarh Fort, along with four other forts of Rajasthan, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a group called the Hill Forts of Rajasthan.

Architecture & Precincts:

The fort, which is roughly in the shape of a fish, has a circumference of 13 km (8.1 mi) with a maximum length of 5 km (3.1 mi) and it covers an area of 700 acres.  The fort is approached through a difficult zig-zag ascent of more than 1 km (0.6 mi) from the plains, after crossing over a limestone bridge.

It is surrounded by a perimeter wall 13 km (8.1 mi) long, beyond which a 45° hill slope makes it almost inaccessible to enemies. The ascent to the fort passes through seven gateways built by the Mewar ruler Rana Kumbha (1433–1468) of the Sisodia clan. These gates are called, from the base to the hilltop, the Paidal Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jorla Pol, Laxman Pol, and Ram Pol, the final and main gate.

The fort complex comprises 65 historic built structures, among them 4 palace complexes, 19 main temples, 4 memorials, and 20 functional water bodies. These can be divided into two major construction phases. The first hill fort with one main entrance was established in the 5th century and successively fortified until the 12th century. The second, more significant defense structure was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the Sisodia Rajputs, when the royal entrance was relocated and fortified with seven gates, and the medieval fortification wall was built on an earlier wall construction from the 13th century.

Besides the palace complex, many of the other significant structures, such as the Kumbha Shyam Temple, the Mira Bai Temple, the Adi Varah Temple, the Shringar Chauri Temple, and the Vijay Stambh memorial were constructed in this second phase. The 4.5 km walls with integrated circular enforcements are constructed from dressed stone masonry in lime mortar and rise 500 m above the plain. With the help of the seven massive stone gates, partly flanked by hexagonal or octagonal towers, the access to the fort is restricted to a narrow pathway which climbs up the steep hill through successive, ever narrower defence passages.

The seventh and final gate leads directly into the palace area, which integrates a variety of residential and official structures. Rana Kumbha Mahal, the palace of Rana Kumbha, is a large Rajput domestic structure and now incorporates the Kanwar Pade Ka Mahal (the palace of the heir) and the later palace of the poet Mira bai (1498–1546). The palace area was further expanded in later centuries, when additional structures, such as the Ratan Singh Palace (1528–1531) or the Fateh Prakash, also named Badal Mahal (1885–1930), were added.

Although the majority of temple structures represent the Hindu faith, most prominently the Kalikamata Temple (8th century), the Kshemankari Temple (825–850) the Kumbha Shyam Temple (1448) or the Adbuthnath Temple (15th–16th century), the hill fort also contains Jain temples, such as Sattaees Devari, Shringar Chauri (1448) and Sat Bis Devri (mid-15th century) Also the two tower memorials, Kirti Stambh (12th century) and Vijay Stambh (1433–1468), are Jain monuments.

They stand out with their respective heights of 24 m and 37 m, which ensure their visibility from most locations of the fort complex. Finally, the fort compound is home to a contemporary municipal ward of approximately 3,000 inhabitants, which is located near Ratan Singh Tank at the northern end of the property.

History:

Chittorgarh was originally called Chitrakut. Due to the ancientness of this fort, there are no clear evidences supporting the origin of the fort. It is said to have been built by a local Mori Rajput ruler Chitrangada Mori. The Guhila ruler Bappa Rawal is said to have captured the fort in either 728 CE or 734 CE.

  • Alauddin Khalji (Year 1303-1311 AD): In 1303, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji led an army to conquer Chittor, which was ruled by the Guhila king Ratnasimha. Alauddin captured Chittor after an eight-month-long siege. According to his courtier Amir Khusrow, he ordered a massacre of 30,000 local Hindus after this conquest. Alauddin assigned Chittor to his young son Khizr Khan (or Khidr Khan), and the Chittor fort was renamed “Khizrabad” after the prince.
  • Rana Hammir and successors (1311-1433 AD): Khizr Khan’s rule at the fort lasted till 1311 AD. After Khizr khan Sonigra chief Maldeva ruled the fort for 7 years Hammir singh, usurped control of the fort from Maldeva and Chittor once again regained its past glory. Hammir, before his death in 1364 AD, had converted Mewar into a fairly large and prosperous kingdom. Hammir singh son Ketra Singh ruled Chittor with honour and power. Ketra Singh’s son Lakha who ascended the throne in 1382 AD also won several wars. His famous grandson Rana Kumbha came to the throne in 1433 AD.
  • Rana Kumbha and clan (1433 – 1509 AD): Rana Kumbha (or Maharana Kumbhakarna) ruled Mewar between 1433 AD and 1468 AD. He is credited with building up the Mewar kingdom assiduously as a force to reckon with. He built 32 forts (84 fortresses formed the defense of Mewar) including one in his own name, called Kumbalgarh. His brother Rana Raimal assumed the reins of power in 1473. After his death in May 1509 his youngest son Sangram Singh (also known as Rana Sanga) became the ruler of Mewar.
  • Rana Sanga (1509 – 1528 AD): Rana Sanga ascended the throne in 1509 after a long struggle with his brothers. He was an ambitious king under whom Mewar reached its zenith in power and prosperity. Rajput strength under Rana Sanga reached its zenith and threatens to revive their powers again in Northern India.  Rana Sanga defeated Ibrahim Lodhi at the Battle of Khatoli in Year 1518. After that Rana Sanga fought another battle with Ibrahim Lodhi known as Battle of Dholpur where again he was victorious. Rana Sanga fought a war with Babur known as the battle of Khanua in year 1527. Rana Sanga was defeated by Mughals. After that he took an oath to never return to Chittor till he defeated Babur and conquer Delhi. While he was preparing to wage another war against Babur he was poisoned by his own nobles who did not want another battle with Babur. He died in Kalpi in January 1528.
  • Bahadur Shah (1535 AD): Bahadur Shah besieged the Chittorgarh Fort in 1535. The fort was sacked and once again medieval chivalry determined the outcome. After the Rana, his brother Udai Singh and loyal maid Panna Dhai escaped from Bundi, it is said that 13,000 Rajput women committed Jauhar (self-immolation on a funeral pyre) and 3,200 Rajput warriors set out to fight and die from the fort.
  • Akbar: Akbar attacked the fort in 1567 during the reign of Rana Udai Singh II. Shakti Singh went to Akbar after quarrelling his father. But when he came to know that Akbar was planning to attack Chittorgarh, he returned back and informed his father about it. After knowing this, Rana Udai Singh hid himself in the hills of Udaipur while Jaimal and Patta defended the fort but were killed in the battle which was fought for four months. In 1616, after a treaty between Jahangir and Amar Singh, Chittorgarh was given back to Amar Singh by Jahangir.
Places to see in Chittorgarh fort:
  • Vijay Stambha: The Vijay Stambha or Jaya Stambha is a tangible structure announcing the triumph of the Rana Kumbha over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa. Built over a period of 10 years from 1458 – 1468, the Vijay Stambha is 37.2 metres in height and is spread over a 47 square feet area. The nine storeys of the structure can be accessed by the means of circular steps and ends in a dome, a later addition. The Stambha is now illuminated during the evenings and gives a beautiful view of Chittor from the top.
  • Kirti Stambha: Kirti Stambha or the Tower of Fame is a 22-metre-high tower built by a Bagherwal Jain merchant Jijaji Rathod, and is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara. The tower is embellished with Jain sculptures on the outside, and the inside of the tower is adorned with the figures of various Tirthankaras. A 54 steps stairway leads to the top of the tower and was added in the 15th century.
  • Rana Kumbha Palace: The ruins of the Rana Kumbha’s Palace are situated towards the entrance of the Vijaya Stamba, and is the oldest monument in the Chittorgarh Fort. The entry to the palace’s courtyard is through the Suraj Pol which welcomes you into a series of beautifully embellished canopied balconies. Meera Bai, the famous poet-saint, also lived in this palace. This is also the site where Rani Padmini committed mass self-immolation along with many other women.
  • Padmini’s Palace: Padmini’s Palace or Rani Padmini’s Palace is a three-storied structure, and is a 19 – century reconstruction of the original palace. Located towards the southern part of the Chittorgarh Fort, it is a stunning white stone structure. It is here where Allauddin Khilji was permitted a glimpse of Queen Padmini, which convinced him to overthrow Chittorgarh. The bronze gates to this pavilion were removed and transported to Agra by Akbar.
  • Gaumukh Reservoir: In Hindi, Gaumukh means mouth of a cow and this reservoir near the Samadheshwar temple derives its name from the cow-shaped mouth which fills it with water. It was the main water source whenever Chittorgarh was under a siege.
  • Meera Temple: Meera Bai was a famous poetess from the Hindu Mythology who dedicated her life to Lord Krishna. According to legends, she was a princess from Chittorgarh who gave up her royal life to worship the Hindu God Krishna. Meera temple was built in her memory.
  • Kalika Mata Temple: This temple is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kali and dates back to the 14th century. According to the legends, it was destroyed by Allauddin Khilji during his attacks at Chittorgarh and was later reconstructed. It is situated right across Rani Padmini Palace and is famous for its Indo-Aryan architecture.
  • Fatehprakash Palace: A memoir of Mewar’s art and craft, Fatehprakash Palace was built during the reign of Rana Fateh Singh and served as his residence. His admiration for artefacts is reflected in every corner of the palace which now serves as a museum.
  • Kumbh Shyam Temple: Kumbh Shyam temple was originally built around 8th century AD but was later repaired by Maharana Kumbh of Mewar for his wife Meera Bai who was a devotee of Lord Krishna or Shyam Sundar. It was an architectural marvel during that time and was Meera’s Bai personal temple.
  • Shringar Chauri Temple: It was built in the 15th century AD during Maharana Kumbh’s rule. Dedicated to 10th Jain Tirthankara, Shanti Nath, it reflects the Indo-Aryan architecture.

Nitesh Kumar Singh

Technical content writer l Website developer

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