Thursday, 27 October 2011

Fort Of Kumbhalgarh: The Place of Royalty and Chivalry

Kumbhalgarh Fort is the second most important fort of Rajasthan after Chittorgarh. Kumbhalgarh is a famous 15th century fort at a distance of around 84 km from Udaipur in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan. The fort city is well connected to the other parts of Rajasthan by road. This unconquerable fortress is secured under the kind protection of the Aravali ranges. Kumbhalgarh Fort was built by Maharana Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. Kumbhalgarh is also the place where the great king and warrior of Mewar, Maharana Pratap was born.

I visited Kumbhalgarh fort on my trip to Udaipur and I was amazed to see the beauty and serenity of the place. The fort is hemmed in by three mountain peaks which add more charm to it. Standing tall at an altitude of 1100 m, the fort has walls extending up to 36 km in length which makes it the third longest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China and the Great Wall of Gorgan in Iran. The huge complex of the Fort has numerous palaces, temples and gardens making it more magnificent.

On our way to Kumbhalgarh fort, a few kilometers before, we found ourself on a zigzag road going through deep ravines and thick forests.  It was a a great experience. This road took us to  the Arait Pol, where we traced  the watch-tower and then Hulla Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ram Pol, Bhairava Pol, Paghra Pol, Top-khana Pol and Nimboo Pol also followed in that track.

Our guide told us that in Kumbha's time the kingdom of Mewar spread from Ranthambore to Gwalior, including vast tracts of present-day Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Mewar's rulers became patrons of all that was best in Indian martial and fine arts, architecture, and learning. Of the 84 fortresses defending Mewar, 32 were designed and built by Rana Kumbha. Of these, Kumbhalgarh with its 36-kilometer long wall and soaring towers is the most impressive. Kumbhalgarh stands on the site of an ancient citadel dating back to the second century AD belonging to a Jain descendant of India's Mauryan emperors. It defined the boundaries between Mewar and Marwar and became a refuge for Mewar's rulers in times of strife. Its steel gray ramparts encircle the fertile Shero Mallah Valley, with ancient monuments cenotaphs, ponds and flourishing farms. Kumbhalgarh fell only once in its history, to the combined forces of Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, and Raja Udai Singh of Amber, and Raja Udai Singh of Marwar.

The impregnable Fort boasts of seven massive gates, seven ramparts folded with one another with designed walls toughened by curved bastions and huge watch towers. The strong structure and solid foundation of the Fort made it unbeatable till date. The hefty walls of the fort are broad enough to stand eight horses side by side. There are not less than 360 temples inside the complex of the Fort. Amongst all of them, Shiva Temple is worth visiting that comprises a huge Shivalinga (Phallic form).

There is an octagonal room in which Rana Pratap was born, apart from, the hall in which his grandson Prince Karan entertained the future Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, the beacon tower from which a flame summoned Mewar's chieftains to war. The austere chambers, the vast reservoirs kept full by elephant relays, the simple garden court for the royal ladies, the easily defendable narrow staircases all declared that this was primarily a warrior's hideout, not a palace for princely pomp and show.

 The imaginatively designed Aohdi nearby belongs to a descendant of one of those great warrior families, the Rathores of Ghanerao, who enjoyed the distinction of having the only hereditary seat among the premier nobles of both Mewar and Marwar. The Aohdi's castle-type cottages provide comfort and privacy for those seeking a peaceful retreat, plus a base for horse safari and trekking enthusiasts.

The Fort is also known for its famous palace that resides on the top of structure. This beautiful palace is known as 'Badal Mahal' or the Palace of Cloud. It is also accredited to be the birth place of great warrior Maharana Pratap. This palace has beautiful rooms with lovely color combination of green, turquoise and white presenting a bright contrast to the earthy colors of the Fort. This place gives the appearance of being wandering in the world of clouds. Cloud Palace also offers a fantastic panoramic vista of the down town.

In the late 19th century, Rana Fateh Singh once again took the initiative to rebuild this remarkable palace. In the times of dissension, the fort also offered refuge to the rulers of Mewar. Even, the baby king Udai Singh was kept here safe during the time of battles. The large complex of the Fort offers ancient remnants to explore and one can spend a pleasurable evening while strolling through the ravines of Kumbhalgarh Fort.
How to reach:
Air – Udaipur is the nearest domestic airport. One can take flights to other important tourist destinations of the region like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Mumbai, and Delhi. The nearest international airport is in Delhi.
Rail – Udaipur is also the nearest railway station from Kumbhalgarh. There are trains for Delhi, Chittaur, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Ajmer, and Jodhpur from Udaipur.

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