A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chittorgarh Fort is an historical and architectural masterpiece constructed in the 7th century AD by the local Maurya ruler. Spread over 691 acres and standing almost 180 meters atop a hill, it is one of the largest forts in India and exemplifies Rajput architectural style. The fort has witnessed the rule of three rulers – Alauddin Khalji (Sultan of Delhi) who defeated Rana Ratan Singh (ruler of Mewar kingdom) in 1303 AD; Bahadur Shah (Sultan of Gujarat) who defeated Bikramjeet Singh in 1535 AD; and Akbar (Mughal Emperor) who defeated Udai Singh II (Maharana of Mewar) in 1567 AD. After every defeat, the women committed self-immolation or Jauhar. Wrapped in tales of love, valour, passion and sacrifice of Rajput men and women, this historic fort is reason enough alone to visit Chittorgarh.
Also referred as the ‘Water Fort’, it consists of 22 ponds and lakes, seven gates and several temples and palaces, some of which may lie in ruins, but worthy of a visit. You can catch the reflection of its ruins in the stunning waters.
One of the noteworthy palaces within the Chittorgarh Fort is the Rana Kumbha Palace, which is the oldest palace of all – and it is also allegedly the most haunted palace in Rajasthan. It was here Rani Padmini (wife of Ratan Sen) along with many other women committed self-immolation to protect their honour from invading Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khalji, and their spirits are said to roam the premises. This palace may lie in ruins, but it continues to stun visitors with its ghost action and the spectacular series of canopied balconies.
Other must-visit palaces include the Padmini’s Palace, which is a three-storey structure with dome-shaped pavilions atop the palace and water moat on all sides and the Fateh Prakash Mahal that stands out with its modern architecture and even houses a museum filled with murals, wall paintings, historical artefacts and sculptures.
An unmissable spot and the most striking feature of the fort is its two memorial towers – 37.2-meters high Vijay Stambha (tower of victory) and 22-meters high Kirti Stambha (tower of fame). Both the towers have intricate carvings and look especially mesmerising during the evening when illuminated. The Victory tower is a nine-storey tower decorated with Hindu deity sculptures, while the fame tower is a seven-storey tower adorned with the sculptures of several tirthankar of the Jain pantheon.
Near the Vijay Stambha lies the Meerabai temple that impresses visitors with its Indo-Aryan architecture, the intricate artistic detailing and tales of true love. Dedicated and named after an avid devotee of Lord Krishna, Meerabai (or Meera), this temple stands as a testament to the utter love and devotion she had for the Lord.
Another much-loved temple is the 15th century Kumbha Shyam Temple located close to the Meera temple. Dedicated to Varaha (an avatar of Lord Vishnu), the temple is especially notable for its pyramid-shaped roof and intricately detailed artwork on the walls.
Between the Padimini’s Palace and Vijay Stambha lies the 14th century Kali Mata Temple that is dedicated to Goddess Kali. To the west side of the fort is the Gaumukh Reservoir, which is also worth a look. It’s one of the most important water bodies in the fort, and considered to be a sacred site.
Located near to the Fateh Prakash Palace is the Sathis Deori Temple, an imposing structure that houses about 27 Jain temples. Constructed in the 11th century, the temple’s carved and sculpted pillars and domes along with the spiritual vibe that permeates the air attracts architecture aficionados and spiritual seekers alike.