Chittorgarh District is a district of Rajasthan state in western India. The historic city of Chittorgarh is the administrative headquarters of the district.
The district has an area of 10,856 km², and a population of 1,802,656 (2001 census). The district is disjunct, divided into a larger western portion and a smaller eastern portion by Neemuch District of Madhya Pradesh. The western portion is bounded by Neemuch, Mandsaur, and Ratlam districts of Madhya Pradesh to the east, and the Rajasthan district of Pratapgarh to the south, Udaipur and Rajsamand to the east, and Bhilwara to the north. The eastern portion is bounded by Bhilwara, Bundi, and Kota districts of Rajasthan to the north and Neemuch District of Madhya Pradesh to the south and west. It is divided into 10 tehsils which are: Chittorgarh, Rashmi, Gangrar, Begun, Kapasan, Rawatbhata, Dungla, bhadesar, Bari Sadri and Nimbahera.
Chittorgarh is the epitome of Chattari Rajput (a Hindu Kshatriya (Warrior) caste) pride, romance and spirit, for people of Chittor always chose death before surrendering against anyone. It reverberates with history of heroism and sacrifice that is evident from the tales still sung by the bards of Rajasthan. Though it can now be called a ruined citadel there is much more to this huge fort. It is a symbol of all that was brave, true and noble in the glorious Rajput tradition.
View of the Tower of Victory, 1927
It was named Chitrakut after Chitrangada Mori, a Rajput chieftain as inscribed on ancient Mewari coins. The fort is surrounded by a circular wall which has seven huge gates before one can enter the main fort area. Some accounts say that the Mori dynasty was in possession of the fort when Bappa Rawal the founder of the kingdom of Mewar seized Chittor garh (Chittor fort) and made it his capital in 734 AD. Some other accounts say Bappa Rawal received it as a part of the dowry after marriage with the last Solanki princess. After that date his descendants ruled Mewar, which stretched from Gujarat to Ajmer, until the 16th century. Chittor was one of the most contested seats of power in India with probably some of the most glorious battles being fought over its possession. It is famous in the annals of the Mewar Dynasty as its first capital (prior to this, the Guhilots, forerunners of the Mewar Dynasty, ruled from Idar, Bhomat, and Nagda), and renowned in India’s long struggle for freedom. By tradition, it remained the Mewar capital for 834 years. With only brief interruptions, the fort has always remained in possession of the Sisodias of the Guhilot (or Gehlot/Guhila) clan of Rajputs, who descended from Bappa Rawal.
The first attack was by Alauddin Khilji in 1303 AD, who was enamoured by the beauty of Padmini of which he had only heard. Rani Padmini preferred death to abduction and dishonour and committed jauhar (an act of self-immolation by leaping into a large fire) along with all the other ladies of the fort. All the men left the fort in saffron robes to fight the enemy unto death. Chittorgarh was captured in 1303 AD by Ala ud din Khilji, Sultan of Delhi who led a huge army. Elderly people then had the responsibility to raise the children. It was recaptured in 1326 by the young Hammir Singh, a scion of the same Gehlot clan. The dynasty (and clan) fathered by him came to be known by the name Sisodia after the village where he was born.
Rana Kumbha (1433–68) was a versatile man, a brilliant poet, and musician. He built Mewar up to a position of unassailable military strength, building a chain of thirty forts that girdled the kingdom. But, perhaps more important Rana Kumbha was a patron of the arts to rival Lorenzo de’ Medici, and he made Chittorgarh a dazzling cultural center whose fame spread across Hindustan.
By the 16th century, Mewar had become the leading Rajput state. Rana Sanga of Mewar led the combined Rajput forces against the Mughal emperor Babur in 1527, but was defeated at the Battle of Khanua. Later in 1535 Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, besieged the fort, causing immense carnage. It is said that again, as in the case of Jauhar led by Padmini in 1303, all 3,200 men then living in the fort donned the saffron robes of martyrdom and rode out to face certain death in the war, and their women folk committed Jauhar led by Rani Karnawati. The ultimate sacrifice for freedom, Jauhar was again performed for the third time after the Mughal Emperor Akbar captured Chittorgarh in 1568. Then, the capital was moved west to Udaipur, in the foothills of the Aravalli Range, where Rana Udai Singh II (the young heir apparent) had established a residence in 1559. Udaipur remained the capital of Mewar until it acceded to the union of India in 1947, and Chittorgarh gradually lost its political importance.
Chittorgarh is also associated with two very widely known historical figures of India. The first, Meera Bai, is the most famous female Hindu spiritual poetess, whose compositions are still popular throughout North India. Her poems follow the Bhakti tradition and she is considered to be most passionate worshipper of lord Krishna. Folklore says that her love for Krishna was epitomized by her final disappearance in the temple of Krishna in Dwarka. She is believed to have entered the sanctum of the temple in a state of singing ecstasy after which the sanctum doors are believed to have closed on their own. When they were later opened, the sari of Mirabai was seen enwrapped around the idol of Lord Krishna, symbolizing the culmination of her union with her Lord.
The great Maharana Pratap, son of Rana Udai Singh II, is regarded as a personification of the values Rajputs cherish and die for. He took an oath to spend his life living in the jungles and fighting until he could realize his dream of reconquering Chittorgarh from Akbar (and thus reclaiming the glory of Mewar). It was the dream greatly cherished by Maharana Pratap, and he spent all his life to achieve this goal. He underwent hardships and a life of eating breads made of grass while fighting his lifelong battle. Maharana Pratap is the greatest hero in the eyes of the Rajputs of Mewar. In the absolute dark era of Rajput history, Maharana Pratap alone stood firmly for his honour and dignity, never compromising his honour for safety. With the reputation of a brave man of great character even among his enemies, he died free in 1597.
Chittorgarh remains replete with historic associations and holds a very special place in the hearts of Rajputs, as it was a bastion of the clan at a time when every other stronghold had succumbed to invasion. It is often called as the “Bhakti aur Shakti ki nagari” (land of devotion and strength). The fort and the city of Chittorgarh also hosts the biggest Rajput festival “Jauhar Mela”. It takes place annually on the anniversary of one of the jauhars, not the one by Padmini which is most famous. This festival is to commemorate the bravery of Rajput ancestors and all three Jauhars which happened at Chittorgarh. A huge number of Rajputs which include the descendants of most of the princely families do a procession to celebrate the Jauhar. The fort at Chittorgarh also contains the ancient and beautiful temple to Goddess Kali called the Kalika Mata Temple.
Places of Interest at Chittorgarh District, Rajasthan
The Chittorgarh Fort seated on a 180 metre hill, covers an expanse of 700 acres (2.8 km2). It was constructed by the Mauryans in the 7th century AD. There is also a belief that it was constructed by Bhima of the Pancha Pandavas. This fort was the citadel of many great Indian warriors such as Gora, Badal,Rana Kumbha, Maharana Pratap, Jaimal, Patta, etc.
Kalika Mata Temple
Kalika Mata Temple was originally built in the 8th century for Sun God and was later converted to a temple for mother Goddess, Kali in the 14th century.During the festival days of Navaratri, fairs are organised and pilgrims from different places come here to pay obeisance at the temple.
Vijay Stambha, is a huge nine storey tower which was built by Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over the Muslim rulers of Malwa and Gujarat in 1440. The tower is 122 ft (37 m) high and stands on a 10 ft (3.0 m) high base. There are sculptures and carvings on the exterior walls of the tower. The tower is visible from any section of the town below. And for reaching tower top one have to climb 157 steps, one can take great view of the surroundings. The inside walls of the tower are carved with images of Gods, weapons, etc.
Kirti Stambh of Chittorgarh District, Rajasthan
Kirti Stambh is tower is dedicated to Rishabha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism. It was built by a merchant and is decorated with figures form the Jain pantheon.It is a seven storied pillar which was built by Biherwal Mahajan Sanaya of Digambar Jain sect during 12th century AD. On its four corners are engraved idols of Shri Adinathji in Digambar style which each are five feet (about 1.5meters) high and elsewhere are engraved several small idols consecrated to Jain lineage of deities.
Rana Kumbha’s Palace of Chittorgarh District, Rajasthan
Rana Kumbha’s Palace is near the Vijay Stambh. This is the birthplace of Maharana Udai Singh, the founder of Udaipur. His life was saved by the heroic act of the maid Panna Dhay, who replaced her son in place of the prince, with the result that her son was killed by Banbir. She carried the prince away to safety in a fruit basket. Rani Meera Bai also lived in this palace. This is the place where Rani Padmini committed jauhar with the other ladies in one of the underground cellars.
Rani Padmini’s Palace
Rani Padmini’s Palace is from which Alauddin Khilji (one of the rulers of Khilji dynasty during the sultanate rule over India) was allowed to watch a reflection of the Rani by replacing the mirror at such an angle that even if he turned back he could not see the room. Khilji had been warned by the Rani’s husband Rawal Ratan Singh that if he turned back they would cut his neck.