Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rajasthan by road - day 9, Chittorgarh

On day #9, we visited Chittorgarh which is about 105 km from Udaipur.  Chittorgarh, the first capital of the Mewar Sisodia clan, is famous for the largest fort in India, the Chittorgarh Fort. The fort is surrounded by a circular wall and one has to pass through seven gates to enter the main fort area.  It is also famous for the beauty of Rani Padmini, the devotion of Meerabai and her love for Lord Krishna, and the valour of Maharana Pratap Singh.

Legend has it that Rani Padmini, queen of Chittor, was so beautiful that Ala-ud-din Khilji lusted for her. He wanted to have one glimpse of the beautiful queen, and so he sent a message to Rana Rawal Ratan Singh that he looked upon Rani Padmini as his "sister" and wanted to meet her.  Rani Padmini refused to come face-to-face with an outsider.  So it was arranged that Ala-ud-din Khilji would see her reflection in a mirror. The mirror was so strategically placed that Khilji could look at the reflection only with his back towards the princess.  Rani Padmini was seated on the steps of her Lake Palace and even if Khilji turned to look in the direction of the Rani, he could not see her as her place of seating was below his frame of view. Guards were positioned behind him with orders to chop off his head if he even chanced to glance in the direction of the Rani.

Ruins of  Rana Kumbha's palace
The mirror used to show Rani Padmini's reflection to Ala-ud-din Khilji

Rani Padmini's Lake Palace

Ala-ud-din Khilji was so enamoured by Rani Padmini's beauty that he decided to make her his own and attacked Chittor.  When after a long-drawn battle, Chittor was on the verge of facing defeat, Rani Padmini along with all the womenfolk of Chittor, lit a pyre and committed Johaur or the divine suicide.  They preferred Jauhar to being dishonoured at the hands of the army of Ala-ud-din Khilji.

Chittorgarh is also famous for Meerabai and her love for Lord Krishna. Married to Prince Bhoj Raj, the eldest son of Rana Sanga of Chittor, Meerabai had eyes only for Lord Krishna and considered herself to be married only to the lord.  
Statue of Meerabai with Lord Krishna's idol
Meerabai's temple
Upon Bhoj Raj's death in a battle, Meerabai left the palace and started staying at a  temple, singing the praises of Lord Krishna.  Surviving various attempts of murder by her brother-in-law, Meerabai is said to have traveled all over North India, singing the praises of Lord Krishna.  She is said to have finally epitomized her love for Lord Krishna by entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in Dwarka in a singing ecstasy after which the doors of the sanctum are believed to have closed on their own.  When the doors were later opened, it is said that Meerabai's sari was seen enwrapped around the idol of Lord Krishna, denoting that she had entered the idol and culminated as one with the Lord.

Vijay Stambh or Tower of Victory
Vijay Stambh or the Tower of Victory was built by Maharana Kumba in 1440 AD to commemorate the victory of the kingdom over the intruder Mohammed Khilji.

In 1533, when Bahadur Shah attacked Bikramjeet of Chittor, Rani Karnavati, a Bundi Princess, committed Jauhar along with her female consorts. Her own infant son, Udai Singh, was smuggled out by Panna Dai who sacrificed the life of her own son to save the infant king.  When Akbar seized Chittor in the 16th century, he razed the fort to rubble.  Chittor was never inhabited again but it always asserted the heroic spirit of Rajput warriors. Udai Singh built his new capital in Udaipur.

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