Chittorgarh is India’s largest fort. Dating as far back as the 7th century, it has a rich history and was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.
History of Chittorgarh
Originally named Chitrakut, the fort’s exact circumstances of construction are unclear but it was certainly a fort of strategic importance by the mid 8th century, when legend has it, the fort was captured by the Guhlia ruler, or the Arabs, depending on which version you believe.
In 1303, Chittorgarh was besieged by the Delhi Sultanate for 8 months, slaughtering 30,000 local Hindus shortly after the city was captured. Some stories say that the women of Chittorgarh, including the queen Padmini, committed suicide by jauhar (mass self-immolation) but there does not seem to be evidence to prove this.
The fort continued to be an important site throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, which saw the construction of the iconic Tower of Victory, erected by Rana Kumbha in the 1440s in commemoration of a military victory. It wasn’t until 1509, however, that Chittorgarh reached its zenith, under Rana Sanga, who strengthened the kingdom of Mewar. In 1535, the fort was sacked and besieged: according to the rules of chivalry and honour, 13,000 Rajput women committed jauhar and a further 3,200 Rajput warriors rushed out of the fort to their deaths on the battlefield.
From the early 17th century, relative peace was restored to Chittorgarh.
The fort is on a 500ft elevated plateau, and it’s a huge 4 miles long – expect to cover at least 8 if you want to see everything that’s on offer, and allow a full day if that’s your plan. Guides are available for hire at the entrance, and if you’re worried about the distances to be covered, you can always hire a 4WD to help out.
Located southeast of the Rana Kumbha Palace, the temple is built in a classic, ornate Indo-Aryan style, with characteristic tall spires. Meerabai is a mystic-poetess who survived a poisoning attempt by her brother-in-law through the intercession of Krishna: the temple is closely associated with her. The next dooor Kumbha Shyam Temple is specifically dedicated to Vishnu.
Tower of Victory
Also dedicated to Vishnu, the Tower of Victory is 37m, with 157 narrow stairs inside to reach the top. It’s well worth climbing for glorious views of the area, and to appreciate the detailed carvings inside. The Mahasati area below the tower is testament to some of Chittorgarh’s more grim history: it’s fulled with sati stones, and was where the 1535 jauhar took place.
Tower of Fame
The Tower of Fame also dates to 1301, but stands only 24m high. It was commissioned by a Jain merchant, and is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (teacher). Like the Tower of Victory, you can ascend the narrow stairs inside to the top for good views.
Getting to Chittorgarh
The town of Chittorgarh is in southwest Rajasthan: take highway 48 or 27 to get there, depending on where you’re coming from. It’s about 300km south of Jaipur and 90 minutes south of Bhilwara. The nearest station is Chittaurgarh Junction, which has trains running from Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Agra amongst others. It’s about 6km from the station to the fort itself- plenty of eager autorickshaws will be waiting outside the station should you want to make use of them.