Earth : Asia : South Asia : India : Western India : Rajasthan : Udaipur Division : Chittorgarh
Chittorgarh is located in the southern part of Rajasthan, lies on the Berach River, a tributary of the Banas, and is the administrative headquarters of Chittorgharh District and a former capital of the Sisodia clans of Rajputs of Mewar. It is 112kms from Udaipur and 182kms from Ajmer is a famous tourist destination for its massive fortress claimed to be the largest amoung all the Rajput fort and has witnessed the legendary tale of Queen Padmini's act of 'jauhar' that fascinates most historians and travellers.
Historically, the Chittorgarh fort was built by the Maurayans in 7th century A.D. The fort is surrounded by a circular wall which has seven huge gates before one can enter inside the main fort area. Some accounts say that the Mori dynasty was in possession of the fort when Bappa Rawal the founder of the kingdom of Mewar seized Chittorgarh (Chittor fort) and made it his capital in 734 AD. While some other accounts say Bappa Rawal received it as a part of the dowry after marriage with the last Solanki princess.
The first attack was by Alauddin Khilji in 1303 A.D., who was enamoured by the beauty of Padmini of which he had only heard. Rani Padmini preferred death to abduction and dishonour and committed jauhar (an act of self immolation by leaping into a large fire) along with all the other ladies of the fort. All the men left the fort in saffron robes to fight the enemy unto death. Chittorgarh was captured in 1303 A.D. by Alauddin Khilji, Sultan of Delhi who led a huge army. Elderly people then had the responsibility to raise the children. It was recaptured in 1326 A.D. by the young Hammir Singh, a scion of the same Gehlot clan. The dynasty (and clan) fathered by him came to be known by the name Sisodia after the village where he was born.
By the 16th century, Mewar had become the leading Rajput state. Rana Sanga of Mewar led the combined Rajput forces against the Mughal emperor Babur in 1527 A.D., but was defeated at the Battle of Khanua. Later in 1535 A.D., Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat besieged the fort causing immense carnage. It is said that again just like in the case of Jauhar led by Padmini in 1303 A.D., all 32,000 men then living in the fort donned the saffron robes of martyrdom and rode out to face certain death in the war, and their women folk committed Jauhar led by Rani Karnawati. The ultimate sacrifice for freedom, Jauhar was again performed for the third time after the Mughal Emperor Akbar captured Chittorgarh in 1568 A.D.
Chittorgarh is also famous for its association with two very widely known historical figures of India. The first is, Meera Bai the most famous female Hindu spiritual poetess whose compositions are still popular throughout North India. Her poems follow the Bhakti tradition and she is considered to be most passionate worshipper of lord Krishna.
Chittorgarh remains replete with historic associations and holds a very special place in the hearts of Rajputs, as it was a bastion of the clan at a time when every other stronghold had succumbed to invasion. The fort and the city of Chittorgarh also hosts the biggest Rajput festival "Jauhar Mela". It takes place annually on the anniversary of one of the jauhars, not the one by Padmini which is most famous. This festival is to commemorate the bravery of Rajput ancestors and all three Jauhars which happened at Chittorgarh. A huge number of Rajputs which include the descendants of most of the princely families do a procession to celebrate the Jauhar.
The climate of Chittorgarh is quite dry and parched. The summer season extends from April to June and is quite hot. The average temperature in summers falls between 43.8° C to 23.8° C. The winter season lasts from October to February. Chittorgarh weather in the winters is pretty cool. The temperature averages around 28.37° C to 11.6° C. The monsoon season falls during the months of June to August. As far as climatic conditions of Chittorgarh, Rajasthan in monsoon are concerned, there is only slight rainfall that averages around 60 cm to 80 cm. The best time to visit Chittorgarh is between September to March.
The completed Golden Quadrilateral highway system will pass through Chittorgarh, connecting it to much of the rest of India. Also crossing the East West Corridor (Express Highway). The Chittorgarh is situated at National Highway No. 76 & 79, both the Highways are crossing at Chittorgarh It is well connected with Jaipur, Jodhpur, Indore, Ujjain, Ratlam, Ajmer and Fatehabad by many metre gauge trains. The town still lacks connectivity to Ahemdabad, Bhopal, Gwalior, Ajmer, Jabalpur and Nagpur, so in order to catch trains for further cities one has to reach either Kota, Nagda, or Ratlam.
The prime tourist attraction in Chittorgarh is the fort of Chittogarh, which is located on a steep hill beside the main township. The chhatris or memorials of Jaimal and Kalla which mark the spots where they fell while bravely defending the fort during a siege in 1586 speaks for the valor of Rajputs. Rana Kumbha Palace is an important spot and it is believed that Queen Padmini had performed jauhar in one of its cellars. The Archeological Museum, the Singa Chowri Temple, and the Fateh Prakash Palace and Museum adjacent to Rana Kumbha Palace are worth visiting. The Victory Tower or Vijay Stambh is one of the main tourist attractions of the fort. The Tower of Fame or Kirti Stambh is another important monument. built in 12th century and is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara (spiritual leader).
The fort, plainly known as Chittor, was the capital of Mewar and is today situated several kilometres by road south of Bhilwara. It sprawls majestically 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. A winding hill road of more than 1 km (0.6 mi) length from the new town leads to the west end main gate, called Ram Pol, of the fort. Within the fort, a circular road provides access to all the gates and monuments located within the fort walls. 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 meet the water needs of an army of 50,000. The supply could last for four years. These water bodies are in the form of ponds, wells and step wells. The fort has seven gates (in local language, gate is called "Pol"), namely the Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol and the main entry gate of Ram Pol (Lord Rama's Gate). All the gateways to the fort have been built as massive stone structures with secure fortifications for military defense. The doors of the gates with pointed arches are reinforced to fend off elephants and cannon shots. The top of the gates have notched parapets for archers to shoot at the enemy army. A circular road within the fort links all the gates and provides access to the numerous monuments (ruined palaces and 130 temples) in the fort. Admission Fee: INR 5.00 for Indian nationals, foriegn tourists: INR. 100.00.
Rent a bicycle to explore the magnificent fort. It is a fairly tough climb up to the fort, but once at the top it is mainly flat. You can climb to the top of this tower and from the top, the view is outstanding. It takes approximately 3 hours to see everything. Alternatively, have a tour by auto-rickshaw costs around Rs 125-150, which includes waiting time. You should work out the waiting time in advance. Auto-rickshaws for a tour of the fort can be arranged at the tourist office.
To feel the existence of Rani Padmavati, stroll down the marble gallery of Padmini Palace, also watch the reflection of yours on the crystal clear water of the Pond inside the Palace.
Chittorgarh has many bazaars that sell various items including metalwork, fabrics, Thewa jewelry, leather shoes and handmade toys. Thewa jewelry is made up of golden designs that are later embedded in glass. Some of the best places to shop around are Sadar Bazaar, Rana Sanga Market, New Cloth Market, Fort Road Market, Gandhi Chowk, and Station Circle. The Akola printed fabrics that are made from vegetable dyes is one of the major draws and is available only in certain parts of India.
Eat and Drink
There are many roadside local joints to eat. Some of the popular places to eat:
Fairs and festivals
Jauhar Mela [Annual Fair. February - March]: The fort and the city of Chittorgarh host the biggest Rajput festival called the "Jauhar Mela". It takes place annually on the anniversary of one of the jauhars, but no specific name is given to it. It is generally believed that it commemorates Padmini's jauhar, which is most famous. This festival is held primarily to commemorate the bravery of Rajput ancestors and all three jauhars which happened at Chittorgarh Fort. A huge number of Rajputs, which include the descendants of most of the princely families, hold a procession to celebrate the Jauhar. It has also become a forum to air once views on the current political situation in the country.
Safety and Warnings
The heat in Chittaurgarh can be torturous and one would need sufficient sun protection such as shades and caps. It would also do to bring along a sunscreen lotion for those with delicate skin to avoid heat burn. Wear a strong pair of shoes while climbing the Chittaurgarh fort to avoid getting hurt and spraining ones ankles.
The monkeys at the fort generally do not harm anyone but always keep a safe distance as they are unpredictable creatures. Besides be careful while resting under a tree as some monkey sitting above might just drop their excreta on you!
The fort is massive and hiring bicycles would ensure that your exploration of the place is not as tiring. One could get lost in the fort, so make sure that you travel in groups and with local guides.