Chittaurgarh Fort is an acknowledgement to the courage of the gallant Rajput rulers who sacrificed their life combating dominant rivals instead of surrendering before them. Chittorgarh Fort is said to have been the capital of the Guhilots and Sisodia kings beside other dynasties who ruled Mewar between the eighth and the sixteenth centuries.
The fort was attacked three times and every time it got saved by the daring heroism of the Rajput warriors. In 1303, for the first time, this fort was attacked by Allaudin Khilji said to fulfill his desire to make off with Rani Padmini. For the second time, the Fort was sacked by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1535. In 1567, it was attacked for the last time by Mughal Emperor Akbar to conquer Maharana Udai Singh. Every time, a jauhar (mass suicide) was observed and the women folk of the Royalty never submitted themselves.
This colossal fort is accessible through seven huge gates (Pols) that are comprised of strong iron spikes and served as a watch tower in earlier times. The way to Chittorgarh Fort will take you through crisscross paths that would be interrupted at intervals by seven giant pols (gateways). The foremost gate you will come across is the 'Ram Pol' (the gate of Lord Rama) that has a temple in its vicinity. While climbing further, you would find two cenotaphs near Padal Pol. These cenotaphs are dedicated to Jaimal and Kala, who were killed by Akbar in the battle of1567.
Its eventful history and rich monumental heritage is characterized by strong fortification, gateways, bastions, palaces, temples, towers and reservoirs which are fine examples of Rajput architecture.
Pols:The fort is provided with seven main gates locally known as Pol. These are Padal Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesa Pol, Jorla Pol, Lakshman Pol, Ram Pol. There is another Pol on the eastern side known as Suraj Pol.
Kalikamata Temple: Originally dedicated to Surya, it consists of a pancharatha sanctum with an ambulatory having three transepts, a vestibule, a closed hall with lateral transepts and a porch, all devoid of original roof. Its ceiling is of flat type and disposed in registers, decorated with relief figures depicting deities, angles, etc. The pillars are profusely decorated and carry ornate brackets of the double roll variety. The temple still retains Gupta flavour with an elegant modelling and meditative expression. The temple is, therefore, assignable to the eighth century A.D. which is corroborated by an inscription attributing the construction of the temple to one king Manabhanga.
Kumbhasvamin or Kumbha Shyam Temple: Situated near Kumbha’s Palace to the north of Vijaya-Stambha, the original temple showing features similar to the Kalika Mata Temple. The interior is composed of twenty pillars arranged in longitudinal axis. These pillars are of different stones, designs and type and belong to different styles. Maharana Kumbha restored its sikhara and dedicated it to Vishnu. This temple was originally built in the early eight century A.D. by Raja Manabhanga who is recorded to have built here a Surya Temple (now called Kalika Mata Temple) and a Tripura Vijaya Temple. This is also confirmed by Kumbha’s prasasti. In front of the temple is an image of Garuda under a canopy supported on four pillars. On the south is a Meera temple. Facing east, temple stands on low pitha consists of sanctum, mandapa and a portico. In front of it is a four pillared chhatri, said to have been built in the memory of her Guru.
Vijaya Stambha: This tower popularly known as Vijaya- Stambha or Tower of Victory is the most ambitious building erected by Maharana Kumbha (A.D. 1433-68). It is 14.32m square and rises to a height of 37.19m above the ground. It has nine storeys distinctly marked on exteriors with openings at the four faces of each storey. A staircase having one hundred and twenty seven narrow stone steps arranged within the body of the tower leads up to the eighth storey. The topmost storey houses two inscribed slabs of the fragmentary prasasti which contains a genealogical account of the Guhilot family and records the construction of this tower called Kirti Stambha. This prasasti was begun by Kumbha’s Pandit scholar Arti and finished by his son Mahesh. Each storey of the tower has images of gods and goddesses like Grahas, Ritus, Janardan, Rudra, Brahma, Harihara, Ardhanarisara, Siva, Vishnu, Padmavati and ascetics whose names are engraved below them. There are many short inscriptions in the tower but most curious is the Arabic inscription Allah in the third and eight storeys. The chief architect, who designed and built this tower was Sutradhara Jaita, son of Lakha who was assisted by his three sons Napa, Punja and Poma. The tower has undergone partial renovation carried out by Maharana Fateh Singh and Bhupal Singh of Udaipur.
Samadhisvara Temple: The temple of Siva as Samadhisvara is situated at the Gaumukha-Tirthasthala. The sanctum at a lower level enshrines an image of Mahesa Murti with three faces; the central and left ones being pacific and the right one terrific representing Aghora aspect of Siva. This temple is identified with the temple of Tribhubana Narayana built by the Paramara king Bhoja in the eleventh century AD. Two large prasastis placed and preserved in the temple supply valuable data in this connection. The earlier one consisting of twenty eight lines in Sanskrit language dated AD 1150 is carved on a slab of black marble which records the visit of the Chalukya king Kumarapala to Chittaurgarh and donations made to the temple. The second prasasti with fifty three lines in Sanskrit verse records restoration of the temple by Mokal, father of Maharana Kumbha in VS 1485 (AD 1428). This temple displays diverse features as it has been repaired and restored from the eleventh to fifteenth century AD.
Jain Kirtti Stambha: Kirtti Stambha or the Tower of Fame is one of the most interesting Jaina monuments of the medieval age and is elegant specimen of its class adorned with sculptures and mouldings from base to summit. It was dedicated to Adinatha or Rishabhadeva, the first Jaina Tirthankara whose standing images are fixed in the niches of its four cardinal points. The height of the tower is about 24.50 m on a square platform. A central staircase winds up a square shaft through six storeys to a small open pavilion of elegant design, the roof of which rests on twelve pillars. An inscription records the erection of the stambha by a Bagherwal Mahajan Jija, son of Naya and is datable to 13th century A.D.
Ratan Singh’s Palace: It is situated in the northern part of the fort complex. The main entrance of the palace facing east is provided with a lofty arch and chhatris. The first courtyard is surround by small rooms and deorhi in the north-west which leads to the second courtyard. The second storey of this open courtyard is provided with audience hall alongwith a fine balcony overlooking the reservoir in the east. To the north there is another courtyard which has a lofty building adorned with domes. It is significant to mention here that there is a Siva temple, known as Ratnesvara Mahadeva temple. The exterior wall of the temple is adorned with gods and goddesses.
Padmini Palace: The Padmini Palace is also one of the important buildings within the fort complex. Rani Padmini was wife of Rawal Ratan Singh, a ruler of Chittaurgarh. Hence, this building is known after her name. It overlooks a reservoir in the centre of which stands a three- structure with arched opening. The main gate facing west leads to courtyard surrounded with a row of small rooms. The adjacent second rectangular courtyard is provided with a circular hall in the southern side over looking the reservoir. There is a third rectangular courtyard provided with double storeyed room on the south. According to a legend, Ala-ud -Din Khalji saw Padmini’s reflection in a mirror here.
Shringar Chauri: Shringar Chauri situated in the centre of Banbir’s wall, is a Jaina temple dedicated to Santhinatha. There are two doors in the temple on the north and the west, while the two sides are closed with geometrical jali work. There is an elevated square platform in the middle of the floor, upon which are four carved pillars carrying four beams. The pillar close to the western door bears an inscription mentioning that the temple was built by one Velaka, son of Kola, the treasurer of Maharana Kumbha in VS 1505(AD 1448). It was dedicated to Santinatha and was consecrated by one Jaina Sagar Suri of Kharatara-gachchha.
Sat Bis Deori: The group of twenty seven shrines, locally known as Sat Bis Deori, is built within the compound wall in VS 1505 (AD 1448). This temple complex stands on a high jagati and comprises a shrine with the mandapa facing west, a minor shrine to its north and south and corridor with cell shrines surrounding the central shrine and its courtyard. Both sanctum and mandapa have projection adorned with sculptures. Miniature niches with figures appear even on the plinth in western Indian style. Over the sanctum rises a tower with cluster of elements; portions of the original decoration of arch-like motifs are still intact. The mandapa is roofed with a restored corbelled dome; finally carved ceiling panels incorporate bracket figures. The mandapa walls are embellished with lattice work.
Rana Kumbha’s Palace: This magnificent palace occupying a large area, is a plain building but in excellent taste and is typical of the domestic architecture of the Rajputs before the Muslim invasions. The original building was extensively enlarged by additions carried out by Maharana Kumbha. Even in its ruined condition it provides faint glimpses of the pristine glory of this three storeyed structure where the poetess Meera Bai (AD 1498-1546), wife of Bhoj Raj, the eldest son of Rana Sanga lived and sang in devotion of lord Krishna. The walls are ornamented with artificial battlements and turrets, balconies and varandahs with balustrades. The principal entrance to the palace is through Badi Pol. The second gate is Tripolia which leads into an open courtyard. In the courtyard an underground entrance leads to the vaults where Rani Padmini alongwith other women is said to have performed the jauhar during the first sack of the fort.
Bhama Shah’s Palace: It is a three storeyed building, the middle storey having a broad arch in its centre. This arch has an emphatic ogee. The third storey has a rectangular opening. Vertical and horizontal projections make up the design. The whole structure is crowned by a single broad, semi circular dome. The construction is of rubble masonry. It is stylistically datable to the early fourteenth century AD.
Banbir Wall: Banbir was the son of Prithviraj, who occupied the throne after attempting to kill Udai Singh. He erected the wall in AD 1535. This citadel wall could not be completed as he was ousted by Udai Singh in AD 1540.
Water Reservoirs:There are many water reservoirs and holy tanks within the fort complex viz. Gaumukh Kund, Chitrangad Talab, Surya Kund, Hathi Kund, Bhimlat, Kukreshwar Kund, Sukhadiya Talab, Annapurana Talab, Fatta tank, etc. The description of some of the important ones are as under:
Gaumukh Kund: Originally called as Mandakini Kund or the heavenly Ganges, located south of Mahasati enclosure. Here, water issues from the cow’s mouths carved in stone set up in the wall of a pillared hall and a little chamber to the north of it.
Chitrangad Talab: It is said to be built by Chitrangad Mori, founder of the fort, It is irregular in shape and provided with a masonry embankment on the southern side, of which niches harbour images of Hindu gods and goddesses.
Kukreshwar Kund:: It is on the west of Kukreshwar temple abutting to the fortification wall and is one of the perennial sources of water for the habitants. It is built in AD 755 and subsequently repaired by Maharana Kumbha (AD 1433-68)
Sukhadia Talab: This reservoir is located on the south of the Bhimlat and east of Padmini palace. It has massive masonry built embankment on the northern side with recessed niches harbouring the figure of Hindu divinities.
Bhimlat: This masonry built tank is situated on the eastern margin of the fort. It has stepped embankment on the east and broad stairs leading to the bottom of the reservoir. There are two ruined temples built on the eastern and western side of the reservoir and dedicated to Vishnu and Siva respectively. A large number of Sati pillars are erected around the reservoir.
In the evenings, Vijay Stambh is illuminated and looks all the more mesmerizing. Chittaurgarh Fort welcomes many a tourists around the world to its complex every year. Moreover, the history of this majestic fort makes the visit to this place more interesting. The magnificent monuments of this fort are definitely worth spending some time in seclusion pondering over the heroism of Mewar rulers. This heritage fort of Rajasthan is definitely a 'must-visit' place that cannot be afforded to miss.