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Published: November 5th 2015
With both legs dangling over the edge of this world heritage site, listening to a faint sound of Indian music in the distance, we sat watching the sun set over the immense city ahead. Looking below us the city was bustling and alive. We however were sat at a height amidst the calm majestic walls of the Chittorgarh fort. This area of the fort was in ruins and was barely standing but somehow it still stood tall and proud as a reflection of the power and glory that once was.
Not managing to say much we sat in near silence trying to absorb what we had seen and learnt at this fort. We were reminded of the rich history that had moulded this fort and the many people who had gave their lives away in honour of it too. It was in that moment that there was no other place we would have rather been but at the top of one of the grandest forts of Rajasthan, watching the sun set.
Getting to Chittorgarh was an easy task given we had booked most of our train tickets online beforehand. Upon arriving, our first impressions of the town was that
"Garh" actually means fort
it was slightly run down with little to no indication that this was a place tourists visited. Having not booked anything in advance, we walked down the street beside the bus station that had a few old and dilapidated guest houses and chose what we considered to be the best of a bad bunch. We made note to avoid placing anything on the floral sticky sofa in the room and removed the woolly blanket off the bed as we doubted it had been washed since the hostels inception.
As soon as we checked in we were back on the streets searching for food. We settled upon a shabby looking Thali street stand that appeared to be popular with the locals. For 40 rupees each we were given a Thali set and had to prevent the cook from continually adding more to our tin plates. As we ate, the cooks and other customers all watched us.
We were used to eating street food by now but we did laugh to ourselves at the fact that if we saw a food stand with similar levels of hygiene back home we wouldn’t dare eat there. They just wouldn’t exist. Plates and
pots left on the walkway needed to be washed, then there was a question of where the water came from that they were washing with. A smell of (well lets leave that to your imagination) and not to forget the cows and their dung that sat out front baking in the sun. Lets hope our stomachs are strong enough by now.
After some negotiation we managed to jump on the back of a shared rickshaw for the local price of 20 rupees each that would take us all the way to the fort itself. We did not realise that it was a bit of a distance so were more than pleased with the local price paid when we arrived 30 minutes later. Sat at the back we took full advantage of the views we had as we as we drove through the vibrant town and along the slopes leading up to the fort, dust in our faces and all. We were surprised that many people on the rickshaw offloaded half way up the slopes of the fort, at built up established areas along the way. It dawned on us that people lived in and around this fort which was
new to us.
Arriving at the top we found ourselves a rickshaw driver willing to take us around the fort until sunset (400rps) giving us brief guide throughout. We learnt that Chittorgarh fort is the largest fort in India built between the 5th
century serving as the capital of Mewar (the province) and covering a mass of 8sq kilometres. All this elevated at the top of a mountain.
Our first stop of the day was a location scattered with many ruins, both Hindu and Jain temples, and a tall tower. One sight that immediately stood out to us was the Vijay Sthamnh (the victory tower), a tall 9 storey tower; intricately and beautifully carved with Hindu deities. With tickets, you had the option to climb it… so we did. This was not for the faint hearted as it consisted of dark steps up a stairway that twisted its way to the top. Climbing the narrow areas you did not feel there was adequate enough space for 2 people to pass by each other. Plus with no consideration of others or for danger, people pushed their way both up and down. Groups of lads ran up and
down jumping, screaming and howling. Really funny! Arriving at the top, we were treated to stunning views over the fort. Getting up there was worth it.
One thing we were beginning to learn in India was that anything was possible. I say this here because despite the barriers preventing entrance to the outside balcony on the top of this tower, this did not prevent people climbing out the roof of this very high tower and down the side to get onto this balcony. Incredible.
Back down on solid ground, we walked around this area slowly trying to take in the varying designs of the temples. One thing that surprised us (as it always does) was the amount of animals wandering this beautiful world heritage site. Monkeys; lots of them, huge cows, and dogs roaming and not forgetting their dung. Is this for real we asked ourselves! We were in India.
Another sight here of interest here was the Gaumukh Kund a lake fed from an underground tank. This lake was for us in some ways like a huge infinity pool as it was perched at the edge of the mountain with views of city behind and below
it. For many people the dirty coloured lake accompanied with a layer of sloppy green gunk is considered holy and people were washing themselves with it, some even collecting it to drink. Noo we cried to ourselves.
We moved on to the next sight Kalika Mata Temple. We took off our shoes as we entered and were pushed along the passageway as people made their way to the shrine area. As they passed through they would ring the hanging bells. You could feel the religious ambience of this place and although the whole pushing was a nuisance it was actually calming to be there.
Along many of the sites visited here we would say our favourite stops include the 7 gates and Rani Padmini’ palace.
One with an interesting story behind it was Padmini Palace. Like many tales in India’s history it is about lust over a beautiful woman. The queen and wife to the ruler of Mewar. The story goes that this woman’s beauty was so striking that word got around about it. The sultan of Delhi (a muslim ruler) at the time, desperate to get a glimpse, cut off the forts food supply in order
to come to an agreement with the ruler of Mewar to witness this beauty he had heard of. The king of Chittorgarh eventually agreed to a complex system of mirrors inside a tower so that she could be seen. After getting this mirrored view, the Sultan of Delhi went back on his agreement, this was not enough he wanted more. He wanted the queen.
The battle began. 30,000 rajputs were killed and Chittorgarh defeated. Following this many women (wives of fallen soldiers) committed suicide before they were captured (in line with the death before dishonour culture). This was a harrowing thought to think that the women including the queen walked to their death in the form of burning in fire. The idea of Death before Dishonour was chilling.
One interesting stop was at some cliffs overlooking beautiful fields and flat plains in the distance. Our rickshaw driver explained that it was here that 3 battles were lost at this fort with many men who had lost their lives defending this fort as it was overthrown. It was hard to believe that this fort was overthrown given the magnitude. But it was. 3 times.
Before our final stop
at the fort we were keen on reaching a viewpoint that we had seen on photos. A view of the fort whereby you could see the fort walls that clung to the edge of the mountain, with a view of temples and towers in the distance and the lake (viewed earlier) that had somehow found itself at the edge of the mountain.
For some reason our driver was reluctant to take us to this viewpoint but after some insistence he took us to unambiguous roadside location and told us to walk across the field and along a path. After wearily doing so we found it and were given what we were looking for. Incredible views of the fort and the city. This viewpoint was hidden and we were fortunate to be among the few that must have made it here. While we were at the viewpoint there were no others. We laughed and smiled to ourselves agreeing how incredible this whole place was.
Hopefully our pictures will give you a hint of how majestic this place truly was.
So let us finish where we started off…
We ended our incredible tour of Chittorgarh fort at Kumbha
palace where we were treated to not the best sunset we have ever witnessed in terms of actual sunsets but what felt somehow magical and one of the most memorable for us. In such a majestic setting where we were reminded of the power and glory of this fort. Single walls stood tall without support and windows framing the ruins were still standing. We were in awe. Angkor Wat eat your heart out.
As we sat there, a group of Indian domestic tourists sat in the distance playing music and chatting amongst themselves. For a good while, there was no one else but us, dangerously sat at the edge of the fort wall beside the fort tower feeling incredibly grateful we were able to witness such an incredible place. As the sun moved further to the horizon, it often disappeared and reappeared behind the clouds before it disappeared for good that evening. After it did we gazed out at the amazing pink and blue streams of sky lights in total satisfaction which provided the perfect ending to such an interesting day.
Oh wait no, the day ended with a delicious meal at Chokhi Dahani Garden family
restaurant whereby Chris ordered Dum Aloo (potato curry) and P a Paneer Masala curry. One of the best we had both tasted. Delicious.
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