The Chittor Fort: Closely Entwined with Rajput History
Chittor fort lies in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It stands like a sentinel and is a constant reminder that this was one place where the Rajouts made a gallant stand. The fort has an ancient origin and is reported to have been built by the Sisodia rulers in the 7th century AD. That makes the fort almost 1400 years old. During this period the fort was attacked by Muslim invaders from Delhi and the Rajputs put up a stout resistance.
Two of the most famous attackers were Allauddin Khilji and Akbar. The last named carried out a massacre of 30,000 Hindus and made a pyramid of their skulls. The fort was supposed to be impregnable and yet it fell, that is itself a sad story, but does not detract from the valor and bravery of the Rajputs.
History of the Chittor Fort
The Fort at Chittor has a checkered history. It was constructed when Hindu rule was omnipotent in India and traces its origin to the 7th century. The fort is surrounded by desert but is located on a hill and thus had excellent defensive features. It was the capital of the Sisodia and Gahlot kings. These kings ruled Mewar between the 8th and the 16th century. The Chittor Fort was named after Chitrangada Maurya. Thus for almost 800 years the fort remained as a bastion of Rajput power.
The Muslim rulers from Delhi coveted this fort. The fort was attacked thrice by Muslim invaders. The first invasion took place in 1303 in an expedition mounted by Allauddin Khilji. the genesis of this invasion was the infatuation of the Delhi sultan for the queen of Chittor, named Rani Padmini. She was as per descriptions available by poets and writers of that period, a very beautiful woman. If modern parlance can be used she can be said to have tremendous sex appeal. Allauddin heard of her beauty and wanted to make her part of his harem.
Consumed by lust Allauddin mounted an invasion to capture Padmini. He conquered the fort but the Rani committed ritual death by burning called Jauhar. Allauddin went back a dejected man
The fort was again attacked in 1535 by the Gujarat Sultan Bahadur Shah. But he was defeated and had to turn away empty handed.
In 1567, the Mughal emperor Akbar decided to storm the fort . He wanted to pressurize Maharana Udai Singh the ruler to accept him as the shan e shah ( king of Kings).. In a severe battle Akbar could prevail with a much larger force, but when he entered the fort he was incensed to see fires burning all around as the ladies committed Jauhar. An angry Akbar now slaughtered 30,000 Hindus as revenge . It was a terrible act and no apologist of Akbar has been able to explain this massacre.
Do you feel the Rajput ladies were right to commit Jauhar ( ritual death by burning) when the Muslims attacked ?
Features of Chittor Fort
Chittor Fort is the largest fort of India. In Rajasthan there is no other fort that matches the grandeur of this fort.. The fort extends to a length of 3 km and has a perimeter wall that is 13 km in length. It encompases a total area of 700 acres.
Such a massive fort needs a number of exit and entry points and the designers incorporated 7 gates. These are massive and can allow an elephant to enter the fort. The gates are called Pols.
The doors of these gates are made of massive oak wood which have iron spikes embedded in them. This was to deter attacks by elephants.
The main gate was called Surya pol or Sun Gate. This gate was used for ceremonial entry and was exclusive to the ruler of the fort.The second most important gate used by the lesser nobles was the ‘Ram Pol’ dedicated to Lord Rama. Nearby to this gate there is also a temple dedicated to god Rama.
Palaces in the Fort
The Chittor Fort has many palaces inside. Access to these palaces is from the 7 gates or Pols.. The Rani Padmini Palace is located in a small pond and was the place where the beautiful queen Padmini resided. There is also the Rana Kumbha Palace. This has underground cellars where Rani Padmini committed Jauhar..
The palaces as well as the fort is now maintained by the ASI ( Archeological survey of India). The palaces are denuded of their luxury and one has to imagine how the Queens and kings must have lived.
Temples inside the Fort
No Hindu fort will be complete without a temple. In the Chittor fort also there are many temples. Their are temples dedicated to Mahavira( Jain temple) and Ganesha Temple, Kalika Mata temple, Sammidheshwara Temple, Meerabai Temple (or Krishna Temple), Kumbha Shyam Temple and Neelkanth Mahadev Temple.
There are thus a plethora of temples and all the temples have intricate carvings and images of Gods and their consorts. There are also 2 water tanks inside the fort .One of these water tanks has clear water that can reflect an image. Rani Padmini was shown to Allauddin as a reflection here and led to the terrible war.
The Chittor fort is an architectural paradise and one can spend hours inside this massive fort. Along with the temples and Palaces the fort also has 2 towers that rise up. They also served as observation towers.
The grandeur of Rajasthan can be surmised from a visit to this fort. The fort for long remained in ruins before it was restored during the days of the Raj