Chittorgarh is one of the most beautiful cities in the desert state of Rajasthan. Chittorgarh was the centre of Rajput pride and honour, the capital of the kingdom of the Chittorgarh Rajputs, well known for their bravery and courage. Located on the confluence of the Gambhiri and Berach Rivers, the city is home to the Chittorgarh Fort, a citadel that guarded the Rajputana honour for centuries. Chittorgarh, the crown jewel of Mewar, was known for the bravery and pride of the Rajputs who ruled the land since the end of the 11th century. The city was under siege thrice and each opportunity brought with it tales of valiant warfare and sacrifice.
Chittorgarh became famous when its queens Rani Padmini and later Rani Karnavati led the womenfolk to commit Jauhar (self immolation) rather than face dishonour at the hands of enemies. The history of Chittorgarh is embellished with tales of the exemplary leadership and valour displayed by warriors like Gora and Badal. Maharana Pratap, the scion of the Sisodia kings, became immortal in history due to his valiant efforts to reclaim Chittorgarh.
In recent years, Chittorgarh has been one of the favourite destinations of tourists from the world over. Not only is it one of the more picturesque and green regions of Rajasthan, it is also one of the best centres showcasing the rich and colourful Rajasthani culture and cuisine.
Rani Padmini Beauty, Brains, and Bravery
Rani Padmini, the wife of the King of Chittorgarh (Mewar) Rawal Ratan Singh, was renowned for her beauty and graceful charm. In fact, it was this beauty that attracted Ratan Singh to the Singhal king’s land where Padmini was the princess. Ratan Singh wooed and wed Padmini and received a huge dowry. Ratan Singh’s courtier Raghav Chetan incurred a reputation as a sorcerer. It may have been this or his demand of a share in the dowry – whatever the reason – the king banished Raghav Chetan who promised to exact revenge. He made his way to the court of Alauddin Khilji in Delhi. Raghav Chetan tried to entice an anti-Hindu Khilji to attack Chittorgarh, but his plans didn’t seem to work well. It was only when he started to describe Rani Padmini’s beauty that Khilji considered attacking the state and taking the queen forcefully.
When Khilji laid siege to Chittorgarh, he realized that the well fortified kingdom would not surrender. He sent message to the king that he would withdraw his siege if allowed to look at Rani Padmini once. The queen assented to showing her reflection on a mirror. The sly Khilji, however had other plans. While his accomplices took note of the fort’s entry points and security arrangements, Khilji abducted the King who had accompanied him to the gates. Padmini, known for her ingenuity, sent a regiment of soldiers dressed as women in palanquins to enter the Khilji camp. Ratan Singh was rescued but the siege continued to drain Chittorgarh’s scant resources.
Hearing that King Ratan Singh planned to storm out and face the odds of fighting a much larger army, Queen Padmini and the womenfolk of Chittorgarh prepared a sacrificial pyre and committed Jauhar (self immolation or ritual suicide) rather than facing dishonour at the hands of the enemy. The king and his men, infuriated by the loss of their family decided to commit Saka – a fight unto death, dressed in the ochre robes of ascetics or monk warriors. While Khilji’s army ultimately won the battle, the disappointment that faced them as they entered the fort robbed them of the pleasure of victory.
Rani Padmini Palace
Right at the heart of the Chittorgarh Fort, the garrison that the Rajputs cleverly built to take advantage of the naturally rocky terrain, stands the Rani Padmini Palace. The once beautiful and stately, albeit small structure is now in an advanced state of disrepair. And yet, it stands out as a touch of femininity in the midst of what is obviously a soldier’s world. The fort itself stands atop a 180 metre tall hill, making use of the natural settings to make it impregnable. Spread over about 700 acres, the Chittorgarh fort is believed to have been originally constructed in the 7th century.
Rani Padmini’s Palace makes for a visual treat. It is one of the earliest palaces constructed in India to be completely surrounded by water. The queen’s ill-fated but legendary beauty is reflected in the lotus pool that surrounds her small but stunning palace. The architectural style is distinctly Rajasthani, but hints of the Persian influences that had started to make their presence felt in India at the time. While there are certainly many parts of the Chittorgarh Fort that may be listed on tour guides and perhaps cry out for attention, the queen’s palace combined with its history make this an unforgettable and attractive part of the fort.
How to get to Chittorgarh?
The city of Chittorgarh is at a distance of about 567 kilometres from the national capital, New Delhi, and about 310 kilometres from the state capital, Jaipur. Udaipur, Kota, and Ajmer are other nearby towns that are also famous tourist centres. The city is well connected by road with Delhi, Jaipur, Ajmer, and Udaipur. Regular state bus services and coaches ply regularly to Chittorgarh. Many of the tourists visiting Chittorgarh prefer to hire cars and visit Chittorgarh and nearby towns.
Chittorgarh is also a major train junction and has regular trains connecting it with the major towns of north India. The Maharana Pratap Airport or Dabok Airport of Udaipur (UDR) at a distance of 70 kilometres from Chittorgarh is the nearest airport with international and domestic air connectivity.
Places to see in & around Chittorgarh
- Vijaya Stambh
- Meera Temple
- Gurmukh Reservoir
- Rana Kumbha Palace
- Kirti Stambh
- Sanwariaji Temple
- Fateh Palace
- Ram Pol
- Kumbha Shyam Temple
- Tulja Bhawani Temple
- Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary
- Bhainsrodgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
- Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary
- Nagari Village
Due to the high footfall of tourists, Chittorgarh and most of Rajasthan has a number of tourist centres and offices that are keen to help visitors with tours and travel arrangements.