While the country burned over the issue of “Padmavati” or “Padmaavat”, I quietly decided to pay a visit to the place where the legend lies so deeply rooted in the hearts of her people. So there was I at Chittorgarh, the kingdom of the legendary queen Padmini who was so beautiful that paeans were made about her grace, beauty and valour.
As I entered this town of Rajasthan, I remembered all the stories that I had heard as a child from my uncle about Rani Padmini, Maharana Pratap and Panna Bai. I was entering into the territory of these brave souls whose stories never ceased to amaze me. I recollected about bothering my uncle for the umpteenth time to narrate the story of the Padmini or Panna Bai. My uncle was, of course, a great storyteller who definitely had our full attention!
Chittor covers one of the fascinating chapters of Indian history – resplendent with tales of honour and chivalry. And you will get the feeling once you reach Chittorgarh Railway station. The walls are full of pictures depicting the heroic tales of royalty and even the common men.
Table of Contents
- The Chittorgarh Fort:
- The Legend of Rani Padmini
- The numerous other stories of valour and sacrifice:
- Things to see at Chittorgarh Fort:
- How to reach Chittorgarh:
- Best Time to Visit Chittorgarh:
The Chittorgarh Fort:
The Chittorgarh Fort is one of the oldest and the largest fortresses of India. Built atop a 590 feet hillock the fort covers 700 acres and has a one-mile long serpentine road that leads to the seven gateways. Almost half of the fort’s space was covered with water body at that time. Now only 22 out of the 84 water bodies exist. Currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort has breathtaking scenery overlooking the city, as if it is looking after the well being of the city.
Historically, the Chittorgarh fort was built during the 7th century AD by the Mauryan dynasty. The fort is surrounded by a circular wall that has seven gates before entering the main fort area. It is said that Bappa Rawal was the founder of Mewar kingdom and ruled his kingdom from the Chittorgarh fort. Chittor remains the land of the Rajputs known for their bravery and fearlessness. Chittor was attacked three times as per the annals of history. The first attack was by Alauddin Khilji in 1303 AD, again in 1535 AD by Bahadur Shah Jafar and finally by Akbar, the great in 1567 AD.
The fort has an air of magnificence written all over. And I realized that once I entered the gates of the fort. The day gloomy and the sky was cast with grey clouds. It had a numbing feeling on me; it felt as if the stones were telling the abandon stories that took place within the walls of the fort. Very soon, it started raining. It was unseasonal rain. Though we had to take cover, soon enough, I was ready to brave the rains and look around so that I could relive my childhood stories.
Every monument here is telling the stories of courage, pride, devotion, love and sacrifice – be it the majestic fort, the towering towers or the exquisite temples and palaces. Talking about the various battles that had been valiantly fought or the stories of Jauhar, every corner of Chittorgarh is like a ballad on stone, the most famous being the legend of Queen Padmini.
The Legend of Rani Padmini
The most noted and romantic tale that echoes through Chittorgarh is the legend of Rani Padmini. Now captured on celluloid, the story of Queen Padmini or Padmavati is the source of many ballads of the folklore of Rajasthan. It is said that the Queen was of exceptional beauty and intelligence. She was married to the Mewar King Rawal Ratan Singh. Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, when heard about her beauty expressed his desire to meet the Queen. The shadow of the Queen was showed to the Sultan. Alauddin Khilji was so smitten by seeing the shadow of the Queen, that he wanted her for himself. This led to the war between the Delhi Sultan and the Mewar Rajputs. Chittorgarh was outnumbered by the Delhi Sultans and was defeated. But the Queen did not surrender to the Sultan. She, along with the ladies of the fort committed Jauhar (an act of self-immolation).
Well, though the story of Padmini attracts so many, the existence of Rani Padmini is historically challenged. Alauddin did attack Chittor, but it was mainly for expansion of his kingdom. Padmini finds mention in the epic poem written by the Sufi poet Mallik Muhammad Jayasi way back in 1540 AD, much after the reign of Khilji.
But Padmavati Mahal exists in Chittor and also the mirror and lake where the shadow of the Queen was shown to Alauddin Khilji. Infact, the people remember the Queen with much reverence.
The numerous other stories of valour and sacrifice:
Queen Karnawati was married to Rana Sangha. When Bahadur Shah attacked Chittor, the fort again saw the act of Jauhar when Rani Karnawati committed Jauhar in 1535 AD along with other ladies of the palace. But the story that always haunted me was the story of Panna Dai. Panna Dai was the nurse of Prince Uday Singh. There was an internal conspiracy to kill the baby prince. Panna Dai sacrificed her own son to save the royal prince thus giving the ultimate test of loyalty. Later Rana Uday Singh went on to become a ruler and was the founder of Udaipur.
The stories of Chittorgarh remain incomplete without the mention of the great Maharana Pratap. After Akbar defeated Chittor in 1567, Maharana Pratap became the ruler of Mewar in 1572. He was the king without a capital. He continued to defy the Mughal rule without the aid of any Rajput kingdoms and valiantly fought the Mughal forces in the Battle of Haldighati where he also lost his beloved horse Chetak.
Things to see at Chittorgarh Fort:
Rana Kumbha’s Palace:
Rana Kumbha was a versatile king under whom Chittorgarh became a dazzling cultural centre. The Rana Kumbha’s Palace, one of the oldest monuments are located at the entrance gate near the Vijay Stambha. The legendary devotee of Lord Krishna, Meera Bai also lived in this palace. This is also the place where Rani Padmini committed Jauhar at the Jauhar Kund.
The Vijay Stambha (Victory Tower) was also built by Rana Kumbha in 1448 AD to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa. The tower is an excellent piece of architecture standing on a 10 feet high pedestal.
It is a 22 m high tower built by Bagherwal Jain merchant Jijaji Rathod, it is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar.
Rani Padmini Palace:
This beautiful building stands in the northern part of the Padmini Lake. It is here where Ratan Singh had shown the glimpse of Rani Padmini through a mirror. Walking through the palace gave me goosebumps as I thought about all the stories I had heard.
Temples of Chittorgarh:
There are temples at every corner of the fort. The Meerabai Temple dedicated to Meera Bai is one of the most beautiful temples in the fort. Meera Bai was revered as a saint and I think this is one of the few temples dedicated to a human being.
There are other temples dedicated to Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. The Samadhiswar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and there is a staircase behind the temple that leads to the Gaumukh Kund.
Apart from these, there are a few Jain temples as well.
It was indeed a magical experience visiting Chittorgarh. This was a place where I wanted to visit since I heard those accounts of heroism and bravery. I also thank Explorarchi to take me through the history as well as the architecture of the place.
How to reach Chittorgarh:
The nearest airport is the Maharana Pratap Airport at Udaipur. Chittorgarh is well connected by railways from various cities like Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Ajmer.
Chittorgarh is also connected by buses from Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur.
Best Time to Visit Chittorgarh:
The winters are the best time to visit Chittor as the summers of Rajasthan are quite hot.
Here are some more pictures of beautiful Chittorgarh.
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