The Fort of Triumph: Kumbhalgarh

A visit to Kumbhalgarh fort is a perfect day out from Udaipur, from where it is 2 hrs away. The route to Kumbhalgarh is scenic and beautiful with curved roads, villages and greenery and the fort itself is an impressive, overwhelming presence. Read on about this recent Indian addition to the World Heritage Site list.

Rajasthan is popular not only for its spectacular architectural marvels but also, its hill forts that have had a rich legacy of history, folklore, culture and tradition. Although history text books tell us about the heirlooms of the Rajasthani emperors, a little is known about their engineered masterpieces that have in so many ways helped create useful war strategies and stand even today in all their glory.  The Kumbhalgarh Fort is no exception.

Regarded as the birthplace of the legendary warrior and ruler MAHARANA PRATAP SINGH and also housing THE GREAT WALL OF INDIA which is the second largest wall in the world, the Kumbhalgarh Fort stands magnificently in the Aravali Hills at 3600 ft. above the sea-level. It is thus bound to end up in the itinerary if one travels to the state of Rajasthan today. Situated at a distance of 64 kilometers in the North West of Udaipur, it is the second largest and the second most important fort of Rajasthan after the hill fort of Chittorgarh. Although the locales believe that this fort was built in the second century, historical records suggests that its building was started in the year 1443 by Maharana Azad and was funded and ruled  by Rana Kumbha, the descendant of The Sisodia clan. Legends say that Rana Kumbha’s initial attempts to build the fort were fruitless. But then he consulted a spiritual mentor who suggested that a human sacrifice would be the solution to all his troubles. A devoted pilgrim offered to give his life and the construction of the fort was finally completed in 1443. According to the tourist guides of the fort,

He told Kumbha to build a temple where the head fell and the main fort where the body lay and a wall was built along the entire stretch. Another legend goes that this was built on the ruins of a palace of a Jain king, Sampranti, by the descendants of the Mauryas in the second century. However archaeological and historical evidences support the former argument.

The fort of Kumbhalgarh is said to separate the regions of MEWAR (present day Chittorgarh and Udaipur) AND MARWAR (present day Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer).

The wonderful Kumbhalgarh Fort
The wonderful Kumbhalgarh Fort

Rana Kumbha was a prolific ruler and designer whose kingdom stretched all the way from Ranthambore to Gwalior. He is credited to have built 32 out of his 84 palaces of which the Kumbhalgarh fort is the largest, the most detailed and the strongest as it is surrounded by the 13 towering mount crests that make the fort almost impregnable.

Built on the principles of Vastu Shastra the unconquerable fort has 7 gargantuan gateways namely the Hulla Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ram Pol, Bhairava Pol, Paghra Pol, Top-khana Pol and Nimboo Pol each which has a different story to tell. For instance the entrance gates, the Ram Pol and the Vijay Pol have three stone sculptures in between them that are symbolic to three women who were buried alive there for helping a rival king to enter the fort.

Fortifications and intentional barricades, hard edged bent citadels and the firm and robust walls of the fort have made Kumbhalgarh indisputable. The grandeur of the fort is enhanced by the pools, secret alleys, columns, emergency exit doors, edifices, sacrificial altars and elegant temples. The brawny rock-hard walls of the fort are wide enough to let 10 horses bolt on the fortress wall at the same time and it has thus came to be called as THE GREAT WALL OF INDIA. The ridges of this fort wall broaden to 36 kilometers lengthwise. This wall has managed to do something even the Great Wall of China couldn’t- kept the enemies failing hopelessly to break into the kingdom. A lot of emperors from other princely states have tried to conquer Kumbhalgarh, but all attempts were futile.  Only once was the Mughal King Akbar successful in laying siege to the fort in 1568 given the shortage of water. This was done with help from the combined forces of The Sultan Of Gujarat, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh. The fort was captured for a brief period. Later his son Salim too tried recapturing it but failed due to the soaring elevation of the fort.

To protect the kingdom from Muslim intervention that was largely being observed in the Nagaur and Jalore regions of Rajasthan from 1433, Maharana Kumbha heightened the fortifications. Immense care was taken to protect the fort from the rivals and many military tactics were established. The fort has said to offer shelter to many royal Hindu families of Mewar during the times of rebellion. The founder of Udaipur, King Udai too was sheltered here as an infant during the time of combats. According to a popular folklore, Maharana Kumbh burned massive lamps that consumed tons of resources only so that his farmers could work in the fields during the night. Such was could work in the fields during the night. Such was his dedication to keep his kingdoms one of the safest and the richest.

The_boundary_walls_of_Kumbhalgarh_fort,Udaipur
The boundary walls of Kumbhalgarh fort,Udaipur

The Kumbhalgarh Fort has around 360 temples each dedicated to a different deities with the most prolific being the Shiv temple having a huge Shivlingam. A lot of scriptures and inscriptions of spiritual text and god-goddesses’ carvings have been found on the walls of these temples. This has been important in understanding the religious beliefs of the people which mainly pointed towards Jainism and Hinduism. The Kumbh Place which was the dwelling of Rana Kumbha lying close to the Pagda Pol has amazing Jharokas and stone stud walls. The most fascinating part of the Kumbhalgarh Fort is the Badal Mahal or the Kingdom of Clouds which is the birth place of Maharana Pratap. It was built by Rana Fateh Singh and has two interconnected yet distinct portions namely the Zanana Mahal and the Mardana Mahal each abundantly decorated with paintings. The Zanana Mahal had jail like structures that allowed the queen to watch the court proceedings on privacy.  The palace is still intact and the tourists can still visit its beautiful rooms dipped in the shades of green and turquoise providing a contrast to the earthly colours of the fort. One of the highest points of the fort, standing here gives a perception of floating among the clouds as well as a flabbergasting panoramic view of the town below.

Badal_Mahal_Palace, Kumbhalgarh Fort Udaipur
Badal Mahal Palace, Kumbhalgarh Fort Udaipur

This Mewar fortress in the Rajasmand district was renovated and enlarged under the rule of Maharana Fateh Singh in the 19th century. Now the fort is made accessible to the public by The Rajasthan Government.

What makes the fort of Kumbhalgarh extremely special today is that it is still intact and maintained in all its glory. The tourists travelling and trekking through the lush greenery and deep ravines don’t regret one bit, as they get to view the fort the way it was. It attracts hundreds of tourists every single day who feel that they are travelling back in time as they visits the courtooms,the bedrooms, the temples all of which have been restored in their former splendor and most importantly the Great Wall of India that offers a view to both the sides of the fort. To carry the tradition forward, The Rajasthan Tourism Department organizes a three day annual fest to remember and recognize Maharana Kumbha’s zeal towards art and architecture. The fest includes a sound and light show in the backdrop of the fort, heritage walks, turban tying, tug-of war, dance performances and mehendi mandana.

Owing to its rich history, grandeur and impeccable maintenance, the fort of Kumbhalgarh has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO in the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Tourism, Art & Culture Minister, Ms. Bina Kak said:

The selection of the forts is a reflection of our work done in the past. We stand by our commitment towards conservation and protection of our rich cultural heritage, of which we are immensely proud.

The Kumbhalgarh Fort is a live example of the spectacular Rajput military hill architecture that has withstood the test of time and still stands mighty in all its triumph, untouched and unshaken.

SOURCES:-

Article by – Devyani Nigoshkar

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GoUNESCO is a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that make heritage fun! Currently these include global travel challenges, a student program, Go Heritage Runs and 'Make Heritage Fun!' events.

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