Chittorgarh-Home to the Brave

Jaya Stambha or the Victory Tower is to Chittorgarh what Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It is the most recognizable face of this quaint and medieval fort, perched on a hill which rises abruptly from the surrounding plains. The fort itself is huge, spread over many miles and enclosed by high  walls, watch towers and other battlements, once formidable but now lying in ruins. 

The Victory Tower was built by Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Khilji, the Sultan of Malwa in 1437. This nine storeyed tower stands tall at over 37 metres and is accessed by a 157 step staircase from within the center of the tower. The staircase is almost vertical like a spiral staircase and one has to feel his way as parts of it are quite dark. Both the external facade and the  internal walls are covered with sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses depicting stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The images are all defaced due to depredations of medieval marauders.

The Victory Tower

But Jaya Stambha is not the only tower in Chittorgarh. There is another –Kirti Stambha or the Tower of Fame-which is much older(12th century) and dedicated to the Ist Jain Tirthankar, Adinath. This was reportedly built by a Jain merchant. It is also intricately carved with the images of various Jain Tirthankaras. It is an amazing contradiction-a tower to commemorate victory in a battle and a tower dedicated to an epitome of non-violence, both within the same fort!

The Tower of Fame

   

But these are not the only reasons to visit Chittorgarh. The place has been immortalized by the bhakti  of  Meera Bai, the sacrifice of Panna Dhai, the romance of Padmawat and the indomitable bravery of the Rajputs. Meera  was of royal blood who had found eternal love in Krishna. Undeterred by the disapproval of her family, she renounced the material in favour of the sacred. Her bhajans are still sung all over India.

A Temple  

Panna Dhai’s story of sacrifice is also unparralleled.  She was the foster-mother  of  Prince Udai Singh, son of  Rana Sanga, the king of  Chittor. After the death of the king, his brother  wanted to kill the infant prince to usurp the throne. Panna Dhai replaced Udai Singh with her own son who was killed by the brother of the dead king. Udai Singh was thus saved and he eventually became the king and founded the beautiful city of Udaipur.

 

Mallik Muhammad Jayasi, a sufi poet composed Padmawat  in 1540. It relates the story of how Rana Ratansen of Chittor, having heard of the incomparable beauty of Padmawati, wooed her only to lose both her and his life to the lust of  Sultan Allauddin Khilji of Delhi. The Sultan, too, had heard of this beautiful damsel and laid siege to Chittor to carry her off. To save the city, the Rana consented to the Sultan having a glimpse of the beautiful  Padmawati  in a pool of water. Treacherous that he was, the Sultan apprehended the Rana and sent word to Padmawati ( also known as Padmini) that her husband would be released if she joined his harem. The Rani pretended to consent and went to the Sultan along with warriors concealed in litters supposed to be carrying her maids. The Rana was rescued but the enraged Sultan  assaulted the fort. Defeat was inevitable for the Rajputs in the face of an overwhelming enemy. Disgrace and pollution would have been the lot of their women at the hands of their aggressors. But they preferred death to disgrace. The women immolated themselves on a funeral pier and the gallant men rode out, to the last man, to embrace death on the battlefield.  When Allaudin entered the fort, all he found was a smouldering funeral pyre which had already consumed hundreds of women. A general massacre was ordered and the city was put to the torch. The story depicts the ideals of love, bravery, courage, honour and chivalry which were so dear to the Rajputs.

A Ruined Palace

Similar tales of valour were enacted countless times, for the fort controlled the gateway to Gujarat for the Delhi Sultans and the Moghuls. And the Mewar Rajputs were not the ones to give up their freedom without a fight. Now the fort is deserted but for the tourists. A new town has sprung up below on the plains.

A view of the town from the battlements 

 

Chittorgarh though not on the usual tourist itinery is well worth a visit. It lies about 310 KMs from Jaipur on the Delhi- Mumbai national highway (NH-8). It is 120 KMs from Udaipur on the same highway. It is well connected by rail and road. The nearest airport is at Udaipur. For local transport, auto- rickshaws and local taxis are easily available.

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2 Responses to “Chittorgarh-Home to the Brave”

  1. Ashimananda Says:

    A unique angle to look at Chittor…well done

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