“Chittor (or Chittour or Chittor Garh) is one of the cities that seem to have been doomed to continual struggle, and gateway after gateway on her winding ascent is marked with stones that tell how a hero fought and died. She sits on her mountain-top as a queen, though discrowned now, and gazes over the wide plains that she has often seen glittering with lance points, quivering under the hoop of charging squadrons.” – DR. ANNIE BEASANT
Chittorgarh, viz., the Fort of Chittor, or for the sake of brevity referred to as Chittor only, is the epitome of that golden part of Indian history which is replete with deeds and legends of heroism, patriotism, glory and romance which the stones of this sacred citadel eloquently tell every passer-
by in their silent language. Men and ‘women—sons and daughters—of the land sacrificed their life to defend their izzat (honour) and freedom of their beloved land from the invading alien hordes. It is that sacred altar where, on the death of their husbands in battle, thousands of Rajput ladies along with their children jumped into the blazing fire of Johar to follow their killed husbands in heaven and save their own honour and chastity rather than being disgracefully surrendered to the clutches of the enemy. It is the same land which has produced illustrious personalities like Hamir, Chunda, Kumbha, Sanga, Pratap, Bhama Shah, Padmini, Meera Bai, Panna etc. who have made golden leaves of Indian history and turned its course on several occasions. It goes to the credit of this land of heroes and patriots where struggle for freedom was begun quite early and continued for centuries. These are some of the secrets why Mewar of which Chittore was one of the capital seats, was the only state in the confederacy of Rajputana which could maintain her independence when the Moghul yoke lay heavy on the soil of the country.
When we, with its heroic past in our mind, stand amid the deserted ruins of the Fort, we are carried to the world of thrills. The intriguing and frustrated tactics of Alla-u-ddin Khilji to capture Padmini—the lotus beauty personified; the sensational scenes of the commission of Johar by her and thousands of other ladies; the bloody fight Jaimal and Patta gave in person until the last drop of their blood trickled from their body in defense of the Fort; the historical battle which Kumbha fought and commemorated his victory by erecting the Victory Tower; the scores of wounds and mutilated limbs of Rana Sangha as a result of about 18 pitched and history-making battles he fought—all thrill our imagination. However, amidst all these horrors of battles and disasters we also listen sweet and soothing songs of love and devotion of Meera Bai who after her marriage with Bhoj Raj renounced the worldly life and dedicated herself in love and devotion to Lord Krishna. Such is the splendid past of this great Fort.
It is nothing or more less than an apology to attempt to unfold the greatness of this historic Fort in the short space of this small booklet. However, in view of the fact that Chittor and Udaipur mutually have close historical association, and consequently, both have become complementary and synonym of each other, its short introduction will not be out of place.
The early history of the Fort of Chittor is in obscurity, but traditionally it is believed that it was founded by Bhim, the second of the Pandavas, who lived in Dwapar Yug—an incalculable past. Historically; its construction is ascribed to one Chitrang Mori, the Chief of Mori Rajputs who ruled over it about the seventh century. Therefore he named the Fort after his name as chitrakoot, the name impressed on the coins of Mewar. Near about 734 A. D., Bapa Rawal took over the Fort where the capital seat of Mewar was founded. The seat was again in 1567 A.D. shifted to
Udaipur, the site strategically safe on account of the ring of lofty Aravali hills around it. The Fort has seen many sacks of which the sacks by Alla-u-ddin Khilji in 1303 A.D., by Bahadur Shah of Gujerat in 1534 A.D and by Akbar in 1567 may be mentioned. The remorse and stormy sacks the Fort suffered from time to time inflicted untold destruction on its art: and architecture. Maharanas, to preserve the artistic and ancient grandeur of the Fort, had done repairing work. Now the Government of India under their Archaeological Department have taken the responsibility to preserve it as a national monument.
THE SITE, SIZE AND SHAPE
Chittor Railway Station is 105 km from Udaipur and 180 km from Ajmer. The Fort is 3 km from the Railway station. The Fort majestically stands as a bold hill-mass rising 500 feet above the ground level of the town and 1338 feet above the sea-level. The Fort is 50 km long, 1.5 km broad, 690 acres in area and 12 km in circumference at the the base. The town of Chittor is situated mostly below on plain, yet its sizable population also lives on the Fort.
The Fort looks like a huge whale-fish, but Sir Hugh Casson, a leading British architect who visited it says, “While rambling in the deserted fort of Chittorgarh, I felt as if I was walking on the deck of a huge ship.” Sir Thomas Roe, Ambassador in the court of Jehangir, writes in 16.15 A.D., “Chittor, an ancient city ruined on a hill, appears a tomb of wonderful magnificence.”
The architects of the Fort, which is one of the biggest forts of the World, shew their practical wisdom and strategic acumen in selecting its site on the huge hill. It commands a clear view of the whole plain below in all directions from the impregnable height of about 500 feet. Its surface area was considered sufficient for habitation of a sizable population at that time. With sufficient number of water tanks and land for agriculture, It provided self-sufficiency to its population during the times of besiege and emergency.
Ascend the Fort through its winding route which itself is studded with various sites of. heroic feats of warriors. On reaching up on the Fort, a panoramic sight below and thrilling sights in front conjure up before our mind’s eye a panorama of the Indian history replete with valour and chivalry; honour and sacrifice. For the places of interest on the Fort, the followings may be mentioned as important ones: Chhatris of Jaimal and Patta, Nau Lakha Bhandar, Palace of Maharana Kumbha, Temple of Mira Bai, Vijai Sthambh (Tower of Victory), Gaumukh Kund, Temple of Kalka Mata, Palace of Padmini, Kirti Sthambh (Tower of Fame), Temple of Adbhutji and Mohar Mangri.
VIJAI STHAMBH OR ‘TOWER OF VICTORY’
A special note about Vijai Sthambh or the Tower of Victory which is a symbolic monument of the Fort will be quite relevant here. The Tower appears majestically risen like the mast of a huge ship to a visitor entering the town or passing by rail. It is 120 feet in height and 30 feet in diameter. A staircase, winding alternately, goes up through its nine storeys leading one up on its top from where the entire panoramic view of the Fort and the plain below can be enjoyed. The Tower throughout its imposing mass of structure contains elaborate carvings. The Tower was erected by Maharana Kumbha in commemoration of his victory over Malwa in 1448 A.D. Col. Tod considers the Tower much superior to the Kutub Minar of Delhi in design and execution. Fergusson compares the Tower with the Tower of Trojan at Rome and finds the former as a symbol of better taste of architecture.
There is another tower which on first sight in pictures and photos confusedly appears just like the Tower of Vijai Sthambh. The said Jain monument is Kirti Sthambh or the Tower of Fame, which is older and lower in height than Vijai Sthambh.
One who does not pilgrim and pay one’s homage to the Fort of Chittor, the sacred and eternal embodiment of the heroic virtues of man, cannot say to have seen Rajasthan-nay, the glorious India in her thrilling past.