Considered as one of the largest forts in India, the Chittor Fort, also known as Chittorgarh, is located on the top of a180 m hill in Rajasthan state of western India. Situated on the banks of river Gambhiri and Berach, the fort (Garh) still stands as a testimony of the Rajput pride and valour, written in blood and sacrifice. According to the local legends, Chittorgarh was named after its builder Chitranga and was originally known as ‘Chitrakut’. However, there is another story which says that, it was built and ruled by the local Mauryas, before the onset of the 7th century. Subsequently, it was ruled by the Sisodia and Gahlot kings and became the capital of Mewar, ruled by the Sisodia and Gahlot kings.
In the course of history, the fort had to face several attacks from outside. It is said that, Allaudin Khalji, the second and the most powerful ruler of the Khalji Dynasty, who ruled the Delhi Sultanate from 1296 to 1316, was obsessed by the heavenly beauty of Rani Padmini, wife of Rana Ratan Singh and desired to possess her at any cost. However, the story of Padmini, also known as Padmavati, is actually based on a well-known long poem composed by an Awadhi poet named Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540, singing the praises of Rajput bravery with special mention of Queen Padmini, which surfaced 200-years after the death of Alauddin Khilji. Nevertheless, the fact is, Allaudin Khalji attacked and captured Chittorgarh on 26 August 1303 after a fierce battle.
During 1535, when Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujrat attacked Chittorgarh, the Rajputs made an appeal to Humayun for help and the queen, Rani Karnavati sent him a Rakhi. A Rakhi is an ornamented cotton bracelet, which a girl or woman ties in the wrist of her brother or someone she considers as one, who in his turn must treat her as a sister and protect her in case of need. The Mughal Emperor accepted the Rakhi, gave up his campaign in Bengal and rushed towards Rajasthan. Unfortunately, before he could reach to help the Rajputs, Bahadur Shah completed his victory on 8 March 1535.
However, after the death of Humayun, his son Akbar tried his best to persuade Mewar to accept the Mughal sovereignty, but Rana Udai Singh bluntly refused his proposal with utter despise. Ultimately Akbar found no other way but to besiege the fort of Chittor in 1567 and entered the fort after killing no less than 30,000 people.
Thrice in history, the brave women of Chittorgarh committed Jawhar Brata and sacrificed their lives in the burning pyres to keep their honour from the attacking Muslims and each time the brave Rajputs fought fiercely till their last breath. The unbelievable bravery of Gora and Badal in the war against Allaudin Khilji, the sacrifice of Rao Jaimal, Patta and Rana Protap in the war against the Mughals, all have become legendary. Rani Padmini, alias Padmavati, led the first Jawhar Brata in 1303, followed by Rani Karnavati in 1535. It was also performed in 1568, just before the Mughal Emperor Akbar could capture Chittorgarh in 1568.
Surrounded by a massive circular wall, accessible through seven huge gates, Chittorgarh was built in the 7th century, covering a total area of 700 acres. The gigantic gates, locally known as Pols, are named as the Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol and the main gate, the Ram Pol, which was named after the name of Lord Rama. All the gates are equipped with strong iron spikes to fend off elephants and cannon shots. The top of the gates have parapets, which were used as watchtowers by the vigilant guards. Inside the massive walls, the fort houses various well-designed and decorated palaces, along with the tall towers, temples and splendid cenotaphs.
The three-storeyed palace of Rani Padmavati is adorned with pavilions at the top and surrounded by water moats. According to the legend, Alauddin Khilji was allowed to watch the reflection of the queen through a mirror, while the beautiful queen was in the balcony of this palace. Rana Kumbha’s Palace, one of the most massive structures in the fort is believed to have underground cellars where Rani Padmini committed Jawhar, along with other Rajput women.
Apart from the palaces, the fort complex also houses 19 Hindu and Jain temples. The Hindu temples include, among others, the Mira Bai Temple of Lord Krishna, the Kumbha Shyam Temple, the Kshemankari Temple, the Adbuthnath Temple, the Ganesh temple and an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. However, built in the 8th century, the said Kalika Mata Temple was originally a Sun temple. The Sathis Deori, Shringar Chauri and Sat Bis Devri are important among the Jain temples.
Chittor has two towers and both are Jain monuments. The 72 feet tall well decorated Kirti Stambh was built in the 12th century by Biherwal Mahajan Sanaya of Digambar group. It was dedicated to Rishabhanatha, also known as Adinathan, the first Tirthankara. The other tower, Vijay Stambh, or the Tower of Victory, was built by Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over the rulers of Malwa and Gujarat in 1440. Adorned with carvings and sculptures, the 122 feet tall tower stands on a ten feet high base. The nine storey tower is equipped with an inside stairs with 157 steps to go to the top.
Today, Chittorgarh with a long history behind it is a ruined citadel. Yet, it still stands proudly as a witness and a symbol of Rajput valour, dignity and glorious tradition. In 2013, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with five other forts of Rajasthan, as a group called the Hill Forts of Rajasthan.