We started in the early hours on an August morning in 2011.
We – three couples – Ashok & Sunitha, Prabhakar & Seema, Revathi and I, set out on a driving tour of Rajasthan.
This was Revathi’s and my first road trip to this state. On a cloudy dawn in August we set forth in our trusty Toyota Innova.
The planning for the trip was totally done by Revathi, scheduling of stay – where, how long and with whom. On our earlier trip – we had experimented by staying in a homestay at Udaipur and we enjoyed the experience so much that Revathi booked us in home-stays throughout this trip after carefully screening and vetting the hosts and convenience of location of the home-stays.
Speaking on home-stays, we did our booking through indianhomestays.org and we were not disappointed and based on our experience we would recommend this site to book for your home-stay experience. Of course since then AirBnB has entered the Indian Market, but for unique personalized home-stay experience, try out indianhomestays.org. Sanjai Saxena of Indian Homestays is very helpful and is always accessible on the internet and mobile.
Note: I have often been accused (by well meaning friends) that I bring too much of the past into the present, but I believe the past is reflected in our present and if we cannot recognize or accept it we are so much the poorer, the sense of identity that our history gives us is crucial. Often the peoples’ who have denied their own past and try to assume or re-create a new identity for themselves have or are failing as a nation or people. So now, be ready for your brief history lesson.
Entirely on the road, encountered terrible roads in Maharashtra after Mumbai – road work in progress combined with the periodic monsoon that turned into excellent cemented roads immediately on crossing the border into Gujarat.
The drive was uneventful with Prabhakar and Ashok getting accustomed to driving the Innova.
Breakfast was at Kamats type Motel after Virar, Lunch at Ahmadabad, and we halted for dinner and night stay on the Rajasthan Gujarat border on the Gujarat side (pure vegetarian food and non-alcoholic beverages).
We drove into Rajasthan and our preconceived notion of Rajasthan as a sandy, dry and drab area albeit with glamorous forts and palaces was to take a hammering. A hammering it was, the torrential downpour we encountered actually caved in the roof of my Innova, forcing us to seek shelter in a roadside dwelling till the worst was over.
Since then I have always recommended travel to Rajasthan during monsoons, the rains create a carpet of green everywhere except the desert.
We reached Jaisalmer our first destination by late afternoon. A fairy tale destination, the first view of the worlds only living fort was magical, set against the setting evening sun. The homestay we booked could not have been more ethnic with distinct medieval architecture and warm Rajasthani welcome and hospitality.
Prior reaching Jaisalmer, we had a couple of interesting memories, one was an encounter with a very interesting chaiwallah on Day 2 in a small town just after crossing into Rajasthan – in the days before chaiwallah became fashionable and depending on your convictions politically correct or incorrect. The chaiwallah in question was sourced out by none other than our own “Lucknowi Nabob” – Prabhakar Srivastava.
The other unique experience was the thunderstorm, that for even experienced “Mumbai Monsooner’s” was a chilling reminder of the power of wind and rain in open spaces. This forced us to take a break and also the first set of photos in Rajasthan a la Titanic
Sunitha and Ashok
Seema and Prabhakar
We spent the evening chilling out on the terrace of our homestay, and after an evening walk up to the fort, we put off exploring the fort for the next day.
A must see destination, the romance and history of the place seeps into you and you can sense and visualize the ghosts of long dead warriors, beautiful damsels, imperious queens and gallant princes rubbing shoulders with you as you walk through the narrow by-lanes within the Jaisalmer fort.
The fort city is itself fascinating, and during our walk through the fort-city we came across some families who had not ventured out for generations.
Jaisalmer Fort is situated in the city of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan. It is believed to be one of the very few (perhaps the only) “living forts” in the world, as nearly one fourth of the old city’s population still resides within the fort. For the better part of its 800-year history, the fort was the city of Jaisalmer. The first settlements outside the fort walls, to accommodate the growing population of Jaisalmer, are said to have come up in the 17th century.
Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, built in 1156 AD by the Rawal (ruler) Jaiswal from whom it derives its name, and stood at the crossroads of important trade routes (including the ancient Silk Road).
The fort’s massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason it is also known as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort. The fort stands amidst the sandy expanse of the great Thar Desert on Trikuta Hill. It is today located along the southern edge of the city that bears its name; its dominant hilltop location making the sprawling towers of its fortifications visible for many miles around.
Legend has it that the fort was built by Rawal Jaiswal, a Bhati Rajput, in 1156 CE. It superseded an earlier construction at Lodhruva, with which Jaisal was dissatisfied. Thus, a new capital was established when Jaisal founded the city of Jaisalmer.
Around 1293-94 CE, Rawal Jethsi faced an eight to nine year siege by Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi, who is said to have been provoked by a Bhati raid on his treasure caravan. By the end of the siege, facing certain defeat, the Bhati Rajput women committed ‘Jauhar’, and the male warriors met their fatal end in battle with the Sultan’s forces. For a few years after the successful siege, the fort remained abandoned, before being eventually reoccupied by some surviving Bhatis.
During Rawal Lunakaran’s reign, around 1530 – 1551 CE, the fort was attacked by an Afghan chief Amir Ali. When it seemed to the Rawal that he was fighting a losing battle, he slaughtered his womenfolk as there was insufficient time to arrange a jauhar. Tragically, reinforcements arrived immediately after the deed was done and the army of Jaisalmer became victorious in its defence of the fort. In 1541 CE, Rawal Lunakaran also fought Mughal emperor Humayun when the latter attacked the fort on his way to Ajmer. He also offered his daughter in marriage to Akbar. Mughals controlled the fort till 1762.
The fort remained under the control of Mughals until 1762 when Maharajah Mulraj took control of the fort. Due to its isolated location, the fort escaped the ravages of the Marathas. The treaty between the East India Company and Mulraj on 12 December 1818 allowed the Mulraj to retain control of the fort and provided for protection from invasion. After the death of Mulraj in 1820, his grandson Gaj Singh inherited control of the fort.
The walk through the fort-town is a walk that is indescribable and can only be experienced.
The fort is 1,500 ft (460 m) long and 750 ft (230 m) wide and is built on a hill that raises above a height of 250 ft (76 m) above the surrounding countryside. The base of the fort has a 15 ft (4.6 m) tall wall forming the fort’s outermost ring, within its triple ringed defence architecture. The fort’s upper bastions or towers form a defensive inner-wall perimeter that is about 2.5 mi (4.0 km) long. The fort now incorporates 99 bastions, of which 92 were built or substantially rebuilt between the period of 1633-47. The fort also has four fortified entrances or gates from the townside, one of which was once guarded by cannon. Other points of interest within the fort’s walls and grounds include:
- Four massive gateways through which visitors to the fort must pass, situated along the main approach to the citadel.
- The Raj Mahal palace, former residence of the Maharawal of Jaisalmer.
- Jain Temples: Inside Jaisalmer Fort there are 7 Jain temples built by yellow sandstone during 12-16th century. Askaran Chopra of Merta built a huge temple dedicated to Sambhavanatha. The temple has more than 600 idols with many old scriptures. Chopra Panchaji built Ashtapadh temple inside the fort.
- The Laxminath temple of Jaisalmer, dedicated to the worship of the gods Lakshmi and Vishnu.
- Numerous Merchant Havelis. These are large houses often built by wealthy merchants in Rajasthani towns , with ornate sandstone carvings. Some Havelis are many hundreds of years old. In Jaisalmer there are many elaborate havelis carved from yellow sandstone. Some of these have many floors and countless rooms, with decorated windows, archways, doors and balconies. Some havelis are today museums but most in Jaisalmer are still lived in by the families that built them. Among these is the Vyas haveli which was built in the 15th century, which is still occupied by the descendants of the original builders. Another example is the Shree Nath Palace which was once inhabited by the prime minister of Jaisalmer. Some of the doors and ceilings are notable examples of old carved wood from many hundreds of years ago.
The fort has an ingenious drainage system called the ghut nali which allows for the easy drainage of rainwater away from the fort in all four directions of the fort. Over the years, haphazard construction activities and building of new roads has greatly reduced its effectiveness
With the advent of British rule, the emergence of maritime trade and the growth of the port of Bombay led to the gradual economic decline of Jaisalmer. After Independence and the Partition of India, the ancient trade route was totally closed, thus permanently removing the city from its former role of importance in international commerce.
Even though the town of Jaisalmer no longer serves as an important trading city, or as a major military post, the town is still able to earn revenues as a major tourist destination. Initially the entire population lived within the fort, and today the old fort still retains a resident population of about 4,000 people who are largely descended from the Brahmin and Rajput communities. With the slow increase in the area’s population, many of the town’s residents gradually relocated to the foot of the Trikuta Hill. From there the town’s population has since largely spread out well beyond the old walls of the fort, and into the adjacent valley below.
Above the Haveli we stayed in @ Jaisalmer.
The highlight of the stay was Prabhakar educating the cook on the “propah” way to beat eggs to cook fluffy omelette. Unfortunately, the cook was not as interested in the procedure as Ashok was.
Salted tea, camels, sand dunes, folk dancers and musicians – add to this camel rides across the dunes – this made for an exotic evening.
We bid farewell to Jaisalmer and proceeded to Ajmer.
Ajmer is one of the major and oldest cities in the state of Rajasthan. It is located at the centre of Rajasthan and is an important tourist spot.
The city was established as “Ajayameru” (Translated as ‘Invincible Hills‘) by a Shakambhari Chahamana (Chauhan) ruler, either Ajayaraja I or Ajayaraja II, and served as the Chahamana capital until the 12th century CE.
Ajmer is surrounded by the Aravalli Mountains. It is the base for visiting Pushkar (11 km), an ancient Hindu pilgrimage city, famous for the temple of Lord Brahma. Ajmer had been a municipality since 1869. The nearby town of Kishangarh is known as one of the largest markets for marble and marble products.
One of the early meetings between the Mughal King Jahangir and the Ambassador of the Court of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Thomas Roe, took place here in 1616.
Ajmer has been selected as one of the heritage cities for the HRIDAY – Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana and Smart City Mission schemes of Government of India.
Reached Ajmer in the afternoon, in the evening we visited the Saraswati Temple, Brahma Temple and Pushkar lake, culminating with the visit to the Ajmer Dargah.
Surprisingly neither the Brahma Temple nor the Ajmer Dargah, impressed me. On the other hand the visit to the Saraswati temple was memorable, an exhilarating climb, a serene place of worship and a bird’s eye view of the town below.
We left Ajmer in the early hours and reached Jodhpur in the afternoon.
We spent two days with our hosts at their beautiful bungalow in Jodhpur.
According to the Rajasthan District Gazetteers of Jodhpur and the Hindu epic Mahabharata (composed up to the 4th century AD), Ahirs were the inhabitants of Marwar and later on the Rathore clan established the Marwar Kingdom. There may have been small settlements before Rathore rule.
The Jodhpur city was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a Rajput chief of the Rathore clan. Jodha succeeded in conquering the surrounding territory and thus founded a state which came to be known as Marwar. As Jodha hailed from the nearby town of Mandore, that town initially served as the capital of this state; however, Jodhpur soon took over that role, even during the lifetime of Jodha. The city was located on the strategic road linking Delhi to Gujarat. This enabled it to profit from a flourishing trade in opium, copper, silk, sandalwood, dates and other tradeable goods.
After the death of Rao Chandrasen Rathore the state became a fief under the Mughal Empire, owing fealty to them while enjoying internal autonomy. During this period, the state furnished the Mughals with several notable generals such as Maharajah Jaswant Singh. Jodhpur and its people benefited from this exposure to the wider world as new styles of art and architecture made their appearance and opportunities opened up for local tradesmen to make their mark across northern India.
Aurangzeb briefly sequestrated the state (c.1679) after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, but the prior ruler Maharaja Ajit Singh was restored to the throne by Veer Durgadas Rathore after Aurangzeb died in 1707 and a great struggle of 30 years. The Mughal empire declined gradually after 1707, but the Jodhpur court was beset by intrigue; rather than benefiting from circumstances, Marwar descended into strife and invited the intervention of the Marathas, who soon supplanted the Mughals as overlords of the region. This did not make for stability or peace, however- 50 years of wars and treaties dissipated the wealth of the state, which sought the help of the British and entered into a subsidiary alliance with them in 1818.
During the British Raj, the state of Jodhpur had the largest land area of any in the Rajputana. Jodhpur prospered under the peace and stability that was a hallmark of this era. The land area of the state was 90,554 km2 (34,963 sq mi) its population in 1901 was 44,73,759. It enjoyed an estimated revenue of £ 3,529,000. Its merchants, the Marwaris, flourished and came to occupy a position of dominance in trade across India. In 1947, when India became independent, the state merged into the union of India and Jodhpur became the second largest city of Rajasthan.
At the time of division , the ruler of Jodhpur, Hanwant Singh, did not want to join India, but finally due to the effective persuasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Home Minister at the time, the state of Jodhpur was included in Indian Republic. Later after the State Reorganisation Act, 1956 it was included within the state of Rajasthan.
We visited the city and chilled out downtown Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort, located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is one of the largest forts in India. Built in around 1460 by Rao Jodha, the fort is situated 410 feet (125 m) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. A winding road leads to and from the city below. The imprints of the impact of cannonballs fired by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. To the left of the fort is the chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot defending the Mehrangarh fort.
There are seven gates, which include Jayapol (meaning ‘victory’), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol (also meaning ‘victory’ won by the Maharaja Ajit Singhji when he defeated Mughals. The palm imprints upon these still attract much attention.
The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. In one section of the fort museum there is a selection of old royal palanquins, including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period.
Rao Jodha, the chief of the Rathore clan, is credited with the origin of Jodhpur in India. He founded Jodhpur in 1459 (Jodhpur was previously known as Marwar). He was one of Ranmal’s 24 sons and became the fifteenth Rathore ruler. One year after his accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the safer location of Jodhpur, as the one thousand years old Mandore fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient security.
With the trusted aid of Rao Nara (son of Rao Samra), the Mewar forces were subdued at Mandore. With that, Rao Jodha gave Rao Nara the title of Diwan. With the help of Rao Nara, the foundation of the fort was decided on 12 May 1459 by Jodha on a rocky hill 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) to the south of Mandore. This hill was known as Bhakurcheeria, the mountain of birds. According to legend to build the fort he had to displace the hill’s sole human occupant, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the lord of birds. Cheeria Nathji was a man with local population as his followers and hence influential in the region.When requested to move he refused categorically. This happened many times. Rao Jodha then took extreme measures and sought help from another more powerful saint, the female warrior sage of Charan caste Shri Karni Mata of Deshnok. On request of the king she came and asked Cheeria Nathji to quit immediately. Seeing a superior power he left at once but cursed Rao Jodha with words “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!”. Rao Jodha managed to appease the hermit by building a house and a temple in the fort. Seeing the influence of Karni Mata Rao Jodha then invited her to lay down the foundation stone of the Mehrangarh Fort and the same was carried out by her. Today only the forts of Bikaner and Jodhpur remain in the hands of Rathors, both had their foundation stone laid by Shri Karni Mata. All other Rajput forts of Rajasthan were abandoned for some or the other reasons by the respective clans. Only the Rathors of Jodhpur and Bikaner have their forts with them till date. This fact is considered a miracle by the local population and is attributed to Shri Karni Mata. Rao Jodha also granted villages of Mathania and Chopasni to the two Charan warlords who were sent by him to request Shri Karni Mata to come to Jodhpur.
To ensure that the new site proved propitious; he buried a man of meghwal caste called “Raja Ram Meghwal”, who offered his services voluntarily, alive in the foundations as this was considered auspicious those days. “Raja Ram Meghwal” was promised that in return his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day his descendants still live in Raj Bagh, “Raja Ram Meghwal’s” Garden.
Mehrangarh (etymology: ‘Mihir’ (Sanskrit) -sun or Sun-deity; ‘garh’ (Sanskrit)-fort; i.e.’Sun-fort’); according to Rajasthani language pronunciation conventions,’Mihirgarh’ has changed to ‘Mehrangarh’; the Sun-deity has been the chief deity of the Rathore dynasty. Though the fortress was originally started in 1459 by Rao Jodha, founder of Jodhpur, most of the fort which stands today dates from the period of Jaswant Singh of Marwar (1638–78). The fort is located at the centre of the city spreading over 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) on top of a high hill. Its walls, which are up to 36 metres (118 ft) high and 21 metres (69 ft) wide, protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan.
Entry to the fort is gained though a series of seven gates. The most famous of the gates are:
- Jai Pol (“Gate of Victory”), built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 to celebrate his victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner.
- Fateh Pol, built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals in 1707;
- Dedh Kamgra Pol, which still bears the scars of bombardment by cannonballs;
- Loha Pol, which is the final gate into the main part of the fort complex. Immediately to the left are the handprints (sati marks) of the ranis who in 1843 immolated themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband, Maharaja Man Singh.
Within the fort are several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces. These include, Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana and Daulat Khana. The museum houses a collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes and furniture. The ramparts of the fort house preserved old cannon (including the famous Kilkila), and provided a breath-taking view of the city.
Unfortunately very few photos of our stay in Jodhpur esp. of the impressive Mehrangarh Fort have survived the onslaught of various computer viruses and hard disc crashes. If I am able to track down some photos with Prabhakar or Ashok, I will add them later. The picture of the Mehrangarh fort is copied from the Wikipedia.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
History of building the Umaid Bhawan Palace is linked to a curse by a saint who had said that a period of drought will follow the good rule of the Rathore Dynasty. Thus, after the end of about 50-year reign of Pratap Singh, Jodhpur faced a severe drought and famine conditions in the 1920s for a period of three consecutive years. The farmers of the area faced with famine conditions sought the help of the then king Umaid Singh, who was the 37th Rathore ruler of Marwar at Jodhpur, to provide them with some employment so that they could survive the famine conditions. The king, in order to help the farmers, decided to build a lavish palace. He commissioned Henry Vaughan Lanchester as the architect to prepare the plans for the palace; Lanchester was a contemporary of Sir Edwin Lutyens who planned the buildings of the New Delhi government complex. Lanchester patterned the Umaid Palace on the lines of the New Delhi building complex by adopting the theme of domes and columns. The palace was designed as a blend of western technology and Indian architectural features.
The palace was built at a slow pace as its initial objective was to provide employment to the famine-stricken farmers in the area. The foundation stone was laid in 1929. About 2,000 to 3,000 people were employed in its construction. Occupation of the palace by the Maharaja came after its completion in 1943, and close to the period of Indian Independence. There was some criticism for embarking on an expensive project but it had served the main purpose of helping the citizens of Jodhpur to face the famine situation. The estimated cost of building the palace was Rs 11 million. When it opened in 1943 it was considered as one of the largest royal residences in the world.
The site chosen for the palace was on a hill known as Chittar hill in the outer limits of Jodhpur, after which the palace is also known, where no water supply was available near by and hardly any vegetation grew as hill slopes were rocky. The building material required was not close by as sandstone quarries were at quite a distance. Since the Maharaja had the foresight to bring his project to fruition, he built a railway line to the quarry site to transport the building material. Donkeys were inducted to haul soil to the site. The sandstone transported by rail was dressed at site into large blocks with interlocking joints so that they could be laid without the use of mortar.
The palace was built with “dun-coloured” (golden – yellow) sandstone with two wings. Makrana marble has also been used, and Burmese teak wood has been used for the interior wood work. When completed the palace had 347 rooms, several courtyards, and a large banquet hall which could accommodate 300 people. The architectural style is considered as representing the then in vogue Beaux Arts style, also known as Indo-Deco style. However, for many years the palace did not fully function following tragic events in the royal family. Umaid Singh who stayed in the place for only four years died in 1947. Hanumant Singh who succeeded him also died at a young age; he had just won in the 1952 General Elections and was returning home after this win when his plane crashed and he died. Gaj Singh II who succeeded his father then decided in 1971 to convert a part of the palace in to a hotel.
Jodhpur to Udaipur with a detour at Chittor
The Chittor Fort or Chittorgarh is one of the largest forts in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort was the capital of Mewar and is located in the present-day town of Chittorgarh. It sprawls 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. The fort precinct has several historical palaces, gates, temples and two prominent commemorative towers.
Beginning in the 7th century, the fort was controlled by the Mewar Kingdom. From the 9th to 13th centuries, the fort was ruled by Paramara dynasty. In 1303, the Turkic ruler of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji defeated Rana Ratan Singh’s forces at the fort. In 1535 Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, defeated Bikramjeet Singh and took the fort. In 1567 Akbar defeated Maharana Udai Singh II’s troops. The fort’s defenders sallied forth to charge the attacking enemy but yet were not able to succeed. Following these defeats, the women are said to have committed jauhar or mass self-immolation. The rulers, soldiers, noblewomen and commoners considered death preferable to the mass rape and pillaging that followed the surrender to the Sultanate forces.
Chittorgarh (garh means fort) was originally called Chitrakut. It is said to have been built by the local Maurya ruler Chitrangada Maurya. the Moris (Mauryas) were ruling at Chittor when the Arabs (mlechchhas) invaded north-western India around 725 CE. The Arabs defeated the Moris, and in turn, were defeated by a confederacy that included Bappa Rawal. The Guhila ruler Bappa Rawal is said to have captured the fort in either 728 CE or 734 CE. According to some versions, Bappa Rawal captured the fort either from the mlechchhas or the Moris.
In 1303, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji led an army to conquer Chittor, which was ruled by the Guhila king Ratnasimha. Alauddin captured Chittor after an eight-month long siege. According to his courtier Amir Khusrow, he ordered a massacre of 30,000 local Hindus after this conquest.
Alauddin assigned Chittor to his young son Khizr Khan (or Khidr Khan), and the Chittor fort was renamed “Khizrabad” after the prince. As Khizr Khan was only a child, the actual administration was handed over to a slave named Malik Shahin.
Khizr Khan’s rule at the fort lasted till 1311 AD and due to the pressure of Rajputs he was forced to entrust power to the Sonigra chief Maldeva who held the fort for 7 years. Hammir Singh, usurped control of the fort from Maldeva and Chittor once again regained its past glory. Hammir, before his death in 1364 AD, had converted Mewar into a fairly large and prosperous kingdom. The dynasty (and clan) fathered by him came to be known by the name Sisodia after the village where he was born. His son Ketra Singh succeeded him and ruled with honour and power. Ketra Singh’s son Lakha who ascended the throne in 1382 AD also won several wars. His famous grandson Rana Kumbha came to the throne in 1433 AD and by that time the Muslim rulers of Malwa and Gujarat had acquired considerable clout and were keen to usurp the powerful Mewar state.
There was resurgence during the reign of Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. Rana Kumbha, also known as Maharana Kumbhakarna, son of Rana Mokal, ruled Mewar between 1433 AD and 1468 AD. He is credited with building up the Mewar kingdom assiduously as a force to reckon with. He built 32 forts (84 fortresses formed the defense of Mewar) including one in his own name, called Kumbalgarh. But his death come in 1468 AD at the hands of his own son Rana Udaysimha (Uday Singh I) who assassinated him to gain the throne of Mewar. This patricide was not appreciated by the people of Mewar and consequently his brother Rana Raimal assumed the reins of power in 1473.After his death in May 1509, Sangram Singh (also known as Rana Sanga), his youngest son, became the ruler of Mewar, which brought in a new phase in the history of Mewar. Rana Sanga, with support from Medini Rai (a Rajput chief of Alwar), fought a valiant battle against Mughal emperor Babar at Khanwa in 1527. He ushered in a period of prestige to Chittor by defeating the rulers of Gujarat and also effectively interfered in the matters of Idar. He also won small areas of the Delhi territory. In the ensuing battle with Ibrahim Lodi, Rana won and acquired some districts of Malwa. He also defeated the combined might of Sultan Muzaffar of Gujarat and the Sultan of Malwa. By 1525 AD, Rana Sanga had developed Chittor and Mewar, by virtue of great intellect, valour and his sword, into a formidable military state. But in a decisive battle that was fought against Babar on 16 March 1527, the Rajput army of Rana Sanga suffered a terrible defeat and Sanga escaped to one of his fortresses. But soon thereafter in another attack on the Chanderi fort the valiant Rana Sanga died and with his death the Rajput confederacy collapsed.
Bahadur Shah who came to the throne in 1526 AD as the Sultan of Gujarat besieged the Chittorgarh fort in 1535. The fort was sacked and, once again the medieval dictates of chivalry determined the outcome. Following the escape of the Rana, his brother Udai Singh and the faithful maid Panna Dhai to Bundi, it is said 13,000 Rajput women committed jauhar (self immolation on the funeral pyre) and 3,200 Rajput warriors rushed out of the fort to fight and die.
The final Siege of Chittorgarh came 33 years later, in 1567, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar invaded the fort. Akbar wanted to conquer Mewar, which was being ruled by Rana Uday Singh II. In September 1567, the emperor left for Chittor, and on 20 October 1567, camped in the vast plains outside the fort. In the meantime, Rana Udai Singh, on the advice of his council of advisers, decided to go away from Chittor to the hills of Gogunda with his family. Jaimal and Patta were left behind to defend the fort along with 8,000 Rajput warriors and 1,000 musketeers under their command. Akbar laid siege to the fortress, which lasted for 4 months. On 22 February 1568, Jaimal was killed by a musket shot fired by Akbar himself. Jauhar was committed in the houses of Patta, Aissar Das and Sahib Khan. Next day the gates of the fort were opened and Rajput soldiers rushed out to fight the enemies. In the ensuing battle, 8,000 Rajputs were killed alongside 20,000-25,000 civilians and Chittor was conquered.
In 1616, after a treaty between Jahangir and Amar Singh Chittorgarh was won back to him by Jahangir on the condition that it will be repaired.
At Chittor, we ran across our guide in the town below, a young boy in his early twenties, who had a winning and charming manner and bowled the ladies over. Moreover his knowledge of the site, it’s history and manner of showing the sights and the commentary was impressive, he is probably the best guide I have met in India.
The Vijay Stambha (Tower of Victory) or Jaya Stambha, called the symbol of Chittor and a particularly bold expression of triumph, was erected by Rana Kumbha between 1458 and 1468 to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa, in 1440 AD. Built over a period of ten years, it raises 37.2 metres (122 ft) over a 47 square feet (4.4 m2) base in nine stories accessed through a narrow circular staircase of 157 steps (the interior is also carved) up to the 8th floor, from where there is good view of the plains and the new town of Chittor. The dome, which was a later addition, was damaged by lightning and repaired during the 19th century. The Stambha is now illuminated during the evenings and gives a beautiful view of Chittor from the top.
Kirti Stambha (Tower of Fame) is a 22-metre-high (72 ft) tower built on a 30-foot (9.1 m) base with 15 feet (4.6 m) at the top; it is adorned with Jain sculptures on the outside and is older (probably 12th century) and smaller than the Victory Tower. Built by a Bagherwal Jain merchant Jijaji Rathod, it is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (revered Jain teacher). In the lowest floor of the tower, figures of the various tirthankars of the Jain pantheon are seen in special niches formed to house them. These are digambara monuments. A narrow stairway with 54 steps leads through the six storeys to the top. The top pavilion that was added in the 15th century has 12 columns.
The grounds where the queens and noble Rajput ladies committed Jauhar rather than face the shame of defeat and captivity. Some sources put the place of Jauhar in the underground cellars.
The temple where the famous Meerabai said to have lived and prayed in. History and local folklore have idolized this saintly lady, but I choose to side with the fictional version as narrated by Kiran Nagarkar in his book “The Cuckold”.
As we bid goodbye to this beautiful historic yet tragic fort, it gladdened my naturalized Maharashtrian heart at the love and respect that the Rajasthani’s have for Shivaji Maharaj.
We reached Udaipur late evening after this thrilling encounter with the past in Chittorgarh.
Day 9 & 10
Udaipur is arguably the most beautiful city in Rajasthan, I have written about this city in my earlier blog, and I shall confine myself to a pictorial display of this beautiful city.
Apart from the magnificent palaces, the city too has a character of its own.
We visited an emporium of artificats, the name of the emporium and its owner eludes me, but the contents and the manner of display totally floored me and I went on a photo spree – some are displayed below including the photo of the owner.
Night 10 culminated with an evening out for Ashok’s favorite “Laal Maas”, a traditional Rajasthani Dish.
We commenced our drive back to Mumbai with an overnight halt between Baroda and Ahmadabad.