Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chitorgarh Forts speak history over the deserted pavilion

chitor fort

A silence hangs over the lonely pavilions and ruined walls of Chitorgarh. History says three times the Sisodia princes of Mewar led their warriors from its walls to carry death to the besiegers or meet it in the field. Three times they left behind them the terrible johar, the voluntary immolation of their women and children. Death for all before dishonor.

From the point of view of architecture, Chitorgarh Fort displays the finest medieval Hindu defense work to survive in any degree of completeness. Though the merlons in the crenellation have a typically Musli ‘pointed arch’ profile, the embrasures splay out from narrow slits below a string course to produce rare wedge-shaped forms. There is one northern gate and four on the eastern wall. But the main approach is from the west and here, across the sinuous route, are seven massive gates: Badal, Bhairon, Hanuman, Ganesha, Jarlan, Lakhama and finally, the vast Ram Pol, built in 1459 on a richly moulded base of three friezes like those of the Hindu temples. There are barbicans, but a mandapa, a temple hall provided shelter for the guard. Crosswalks link the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth gates to the main ramparts.

History of Chittorgarh Fort

chittorgarh fort

The heights of Chitor were the key to Rajasthan and its occupation was the first objective of any would-be potentate. Early in the 8th century the Guhilot Bappa Rawal overthrey the Mori ruler there. The Guhilots were dislodged in the 9th century by the Pratiharas; they in turn gave way to Rashtrakutas and the Paramaras. The Guhilots late in the 11th century wrested Chitor back again, only to become subject to the Solankis of Gujarat and Tughlaqs. 

In 1303, when young Rana Lakhuar Singh was the reigning chief of Mewar, the Sultan of Delhi, the Tartar Ala-ud-din Khilji, laid siege to Chitorgarh. After months of deadlock of Sultan offered to lift siege on one condition: that he be allowed a glimpse of the fabled beauty of Padmini, wife of the Rana’s regret and uncle. The japuts finally agreed, but the sultan was not to be permitted to gaze directly on Padmini – he might see her reflection only. 

The palace of Padmini stands in a pool of water. Softly she trod the steps down to the water’s edge; rippling in a gentle breeze, slowly it stilled to reveal her lovely face to the Sultan, waiting above. Her husband then escorted his noble guest to Chitor’s outer gate; but Ala-ud-din had hidden men among the bushes and Rana Bhim Singh was ambushed and carried away to the enemy lines. The price for his freedom was the hand of the fair Padmini.

Exultant, Ala-ud-din learned that she would come to hi, provided she might bring her court of ladies. Under cover of their palanquins, a body of Rajput warriors entered the Sultan’s camp. In the battle the Rana and Padmini escaped but his followers died almost to a man. 

The final nail on the coffin was done by Mughal Emperor Akbar who defaced every building, every vestige of grandeur destroyed or carried back to Agra, and 30,000 of the country people who had taken part in the defense were put to the sword. The Sisodias never came back. Chitorgarh, scene of a thousand years of heroic valour, romance and adventure, was left desolate, to become the haunt of tigers. 

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