The Colossal Walls
Standing on a rocky plateau on a 500 feet high hill, the 700 acre fort went through three sieges, and each time Chittor turned out the loser. But that did not mean that the fort was inferior to any other in Rajasthan. It was just that that the Rajputs had a habit of riding out to meet the enemy outside the safety of their walls instead of allowing the enemy to launch the first assault. The first time the fort was stormed in 1303AD, it was purely for matters of the heart. Alauddin Khilji fell in love with Rani Padmini the moment he heard of her and decided to take Chittor and subsequently Padmini. He did get Chittor but Padmini was nothing more than ashes in a huge jauhar (mass suicide by fire) which left 30,000 women burnt alive by choice.
The second siege came 232 years later in 1535 from Muhammad Shah of Gujarat, and this time it was outright war. Chittor fell again, and 13,000 women and children died in a different kind of jauhar. The fortress was on the brink of being seized by Bahadur Shah and there was no time to arrange for a bonfire. Gunpowder was brought out from the magazines and laid out in excavations in the ground. A tremendous blast took the lives of women and children this time.
The final assault was by Akbar in 1567, and it was fatal for Chittor. The seven gates of Chittor were opened and 8,000 Rajputs rode out in their saffron war robes once again to die at Mughal swords. Tradition repeated itself within the walls of Chittor, and women and children sallied forth into flames. When Akbar entered the fort, it is said that there was not a living soul left inside. After this final sack the backbone of Chittor was broken, and its ruler Rana Udai Singh fled to lay the foundations of Udaipur. Chittor never recovered and the fort was taken over by nature.
Rana Kumbha was the one who officially built Chittor, and his palace is the oldest monument within the fort walls. The palace was built from 1433-68 in plastered stone, and the entrance is through Suraj Pol which directly leads into a courtyard. On the right of Suraj Pol is the Darikhana or Sabha (council chamber) behind which lies a Ganesha temple and the zenana (living quarters for women). A massive water reservoir is located towards the left of Suraj Pol. Ruined houses towards the south of the palace may have been used by lesser nobles, or were probably used by palace attendants. Below the central courtyard is a subterranean chamber where Rani Padmini committed jauhar with the rest of the women of Chittor when Alauddin Khilji besieged the fort. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the palace is its splendid series of canopied balconies. The complex also houses stables for elephant and horses, but is now in ruins.
Near Kumbha's palace is Fateh Prakash, the most modern building in Chittor. Built in the early 20th century, the palace was the home for Maharana Fateh Singh, Chittor's ruler who died in 1930. A part of the building has now been converted into a museum but the rest of it is closed to visitors.
Kunwar Pade ka Mahal
was the palace of the prince of Chittor, and was built in 1450. Interestingly, this palace incorporates for the first time in Rajput architecture the use of ogee arches. These S-shaped arches later became an essential part of Rajput architecture and were widely used in palaces, step wells and temples. In the prince's palace can be seen some of the beautiful blue tiles that went into decorating most of the palaces here. Prolific use of the ogee arch can also be seen in Rana Ratan Singh's palace built from 1527-32. Ratan Singh was Padmini's husband, and his palace is styled on Rana Kumbha's royal residence.
Rani Padmini's Palace
is a compact three storeyed white building, but what is seen today is a 19th century reconstruction of the original. The palace is surrounded by water, and the inevitable chhatris (pavilions) crown its roofs. This was perhaps the forerunner of the concept of jagmahals (palaces surrounded by water), and it was from here that Akbar carried off huge bronze gates and installed them in Agra. Close by is Bhimlat kund, an artificial tank dedicated to the strongest of the Pandava brother, Bhima (see Mahabharata).
Palaces of Jaimal and Patta
The palaces of Jaimal and Patta were the last two buildings to be built in Chittor fort, and calling them palaces is really misleading. Compared to other palaces in Rajasthan, they are small and of not much architectural significance. Both these havelis (houses) are built very frugally, taking into consideration that they were constructed more as simple residences than splendid palaces. Both lie in ruins now, and their facades are minimal and hardly bear any resemblance to the palaces of Rana Kumbha or Padmini.
Towards the south of these two havelies is the three-storeyed tower called Chonda house built in early 15th century, and now in ruins. Chonda was the founder of the Chondawat clan and gave up his throne on the insistence of his father.
Main Gate Ways To Fort
A limestone bridge supported by ten arches across the Gambheri river leads into the fort. Nine of these arches are pointed, and by some mishap one was built as a curve. The road to Chittor is arduous and a kilometer long, with seven imposing gateways forming defensive entrances. Padal Pol the first gate, is where Bagh Singh was cut down in the second siege by Bahadur Shah in 1535.
Here it must be remembered that gateways to a fort in Rajasthan were no diminutive ones - they were massive stone structures with reinforced doors to ward off elephants and even cannon shots. The gates of Chittor are of special architectural interest, for it was here that for the first time that defense surpassed décor. The arches are pointed, and the top of the gates are notched parapets from where archers could shoot at their tormentors.
None other than Emperor Akbar dedicates two of the seven gates to Chittor's brave defenders. Bhairon Pol was where Jaimal fell by the Emperor's bullet, and Patta died at Ram Pol, the fort's main gate which was built in 1459. It is crowned by two little chhatris (pavilions), and the roof is supported by a corbeled arch. Each side of the gate consists of a small hall. On returning to Agra Akbar ordered the construction of statues of the valiant warriors to commemorate their deaths. Cenotaphs for both Jaimal and Patta were also built by Rajputs at each gate. A statue of a Rajput warrior on horseback, lance in hand, is Jaimal's cenotaph, while another colonnaded cenotaph lies nearby, dedicated to Raghudeva of Mewar.
The eastern wall is entered through Suraj Pol (Sun Gate). Hanuman Pol lies before Ganesh Pol, and then come two gates joined together in a peculiar manner. The upper arch of the Jorla (Joined Gate) is connected to the base of Lakshman Pol, a feature never seen anywhere else in India.
In the western side of the fort is an ancient Tulja Bhawani temple in honour of goddess Tulja, held sacred by the scribes of Chittor. Adjacent to this temple is an open courtyard, the tope khana (cannon foundry) of yester years where a few old cannons can still be seen.
Naulakha Bhandar- Treasure Store
The Naulakha bhandar (nine lakh treasury) built by Rana Kumbha is a small citadel in itself, and it was here that all the wealth of Chittor was hoarded. The bastion once had lofty walls and towers to guard it, but now lies in ruins. The Naulakha bhandar is also said to have been the residence of Banbir, the usurper.
Shringar Chaori Jain Temple
In northeastern corner there is a small domed temple called the Shringar Chaori with detailed carvings of gods and goddesses on the outside. This richly sculpted Jain temple was built into the fort wall in 1448 in honour of Shantinath, a Jain fordmaker.
The palace of the Ranas, built by Rana Raimal, is a plain edifice with notched battlements, following the style of original Rajput architecture devoid of any Mughal influence. This palace was the home for the very first rulers of Chittor, or that of the Moris from whom Chittor was seized.
Within the courtyard surrounding the palace is another temple, this one for Devji. Rana Sanga had a special affinity for Devji, and on each of his forays outside Chittor to engage the enemy he would first visit the temple. On a victorious return, Sanga would once again pay homage to the deity (see Chittor introduction).
Mira Bai Temple
Jain TempleTwo massive temples also lie within the fort. One was built by Rana Kumbha and the other by Mira Bai, the saint-poetess and Krishna's devotee. The masonry for these temples was brought from the ruins of ancient shrines near Chittor. Rana Kumbha's Vrij temple (1450AD) is dedicated to Varah, the god with the body of a man and the head of a boar. Near these temples are two kunds or reservoirs, each measuring 125 feet in length, 50 feet across and 50 feet deep. However, they were not meant to store water and were constructed for the wedding of a Chittor princess to a prince of Gagron. They were filled with oil and ghee (clarified butter) which was served out to attendants and guests.
Near Mirabai's temple is the cenotaph of Mirabai's guru Shri Rai Das. Inside the cenotaph is a statue depicting five human bodies fused together with one head, signifying that there are no caste differences and even outcasts can reach out to god.
Kallika Mata temple
Bappa Rawal built the Kallika Mata temple sometime during the 8th century for Surya, the Sun god. Alauddin Khilji destroyed it in the first sack of Chittor, but Rana Hammir rebuilt it as a Kali temple in the 14th century. The temple consists of five chambers, all devoid of their original roofs. The walls of this temple are plain but the cornices are decorated with lotus symbols. The inner sanctum's walls depict the Sun god Surya in nichés surrounded by consorts and angels. The moon god Chandra is also shown in sculptures in the walls which rise up into a flat ceiling supported by quadrangular pillars, also intricately carved and bracketed at the top. The doorframe of the inner sanctum has four ornamental bands with Surya forming the central theme of its carvings. The entire frame is flanked by an elaborate panel in which are carved figures of deities around a main figure of the sun god. The temple still retains the flavour of the Gupta style of architecture, and an inscription within the edifice informs us that it was built by king Manabhanga.
The Kumbhashyama temple is similar to the Kallika temple but in is honour of the god Krishna. Simplicity is the main theme, but nichés in the walls are filled with diamonds and carry images of gods and goddesses as well as the eight regents of Chittor. The upper walls are decorated with a frieze of entwined loops. A major part of the temple seems to have been restored, but the inner chamber still retains its originality.
The 16th century Adbhutnath temple demonstrates a style which emerged in the 10th century. Here, images of gods tend to be differently portrayed than in other temples. Heads are almost circular and the statues' limbs form a tubular shape, making the images look like crude toys. The main image of Mahesha or Lord Shiva is made of wood and is an unrefined depiction of the Destroyer god. His face is flat and two more adjoining faces are turned forward in an obvious display of the lack of dimension.
Rana Kumbha's Brahma temple is not really that of the Creator of the Universe, and is in honour of Kumbha's father, Mukul. Apparently Brahma was never worshipped here, and the temple was only named after him since a bust of Mukul stands in the centre of the solitary chamber. Adjoining this temple is Charbagh, a garden of cenotaphs where the ashes of each one of Chittor's rulers - from Bappa Rawal to Udai Singh II, the founder of Udaipur - are kept.
The Ranas of Chittor were cremated in the Mahasati, a small terrace surrounded by stones marking satis (widows burnt with the bodies of their husbands).
Beyond the Charbagh is Gaumukh, a perennial fountain formed in the mouth of a 'cow'. The 'cow' is actually a cleft in a rock face through which water flows out into a reservoir. Near the Gaumukh is the Rani Bindar tunnel which leads into the subterranean chamber where Rani Padmini committed jauhar during Alauddin Khilji's siege of Chittor.
Within the same complex is the Sammidheshwara temple in which light enters from four different directions. The temple walls are short and take the form of blind balustrades. Small pillars support the roof on the outside while columns support the dome of the inner chamber. This central chamber is largely open on all sides and its columns meet in arches in the upper reaches.
Towers of Glory
Towers of GloryThe most imposing monuments in Chittor are the dual towers that stand as a grim reminder of the jaded grandeur of Chittor. Vijaystambha or Victory Tower was erected by Rana Kumbha from 1457-58 after he defeated the combined armies of Malwa and Gujarat. The tower is 122 feet high and its summit spans an area of more than 17 feet. Nine storeys ascend into the sky from the 35 feet broad base on a 42 feet broad platform. Each of the nine storeys have doorways leading into colonnaded balconies. Designed by an architect called Jaita in the Jain revivalist style, the tower is built of quartz and compact limestone abundantly found in Chittor. The colonnaded top storey has a statue of a kanya (young girl) surrounded by gopis (milkmaids) in dancing postures playing various musical instruments. Black marble tablets in this floor contain shlokas (verses) tracing the genealogy of Chittor rulers. However, most of the slabs have been defaced and only one is still in its original condition. The fifth floor contains reliefs of the builders of the tower, and a simple staircase which leads right up to the top connects all the storeys.
The secondary tower in Chittor is the huge Kirtistambha (Tower of Fame) originally dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain saint. 75 feet high and 39 feet wide at the base, the Kirtistambha is also richly decorated with Jain motifs. Similar to Vijaystambha, this tower is also built of quartz, is seven storeys high with a chunkier façade. A number of Jain inscriptions can be found within and outside the tower, dating it to 896AD.
Mohair Margi is a little hill raised under orders from Akbar during his siege of Chittor in 1567. The Mughal army was engaged to raise a hill as high as the fort walls so that they could fire cannons into Chittor. For this purpose earth was excavated and dumped near the walls. Legend has it that Akbar paid one gold mohur (coin) for each basket of mud since the task meant certain death. Eventually the mound did reach as high as the fort walls and Akbar was able to seize Chittor.