Chittorgarh, also spelled Chittaurgarh, is in the southern part of Rajasthan, lies on the Berach River, a tributary of the Banas, and is the administrative headquarters of Chittorgharh District. It is 112 km from Udaipur and 182 km from Ajmer. The city served as a capital to the Sisodia clans of Rajputs of Mewar for a long time. The district is a famous tourist destination for its massive fortress, claimed to be the largest of all Rajput forts, and has witnessed the legendary tale of Queen Padmini's act of jauhar that fascinates many historians and travellers.
Historically, the Chittorgarh fort was built by the Maurayans in 7th century A.D. Some accounts say that the Mori dynasty was in possession of the fort when Bappa Rawal, the founder of the kingdom of Mewar, seized Chittorgarh (Chittor Fort) and made it his capital in 734 AD. While some other accounts say Bappa Rawal received it as a part of the dowry after marriage with the last Solanki princess.
The first attack was by Alauddin Khilji in 1303 A.D., 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 A.D. by Alauddin Khilji, Sultan of Delhi who led a huge army. Elderly people then had the responsibility to raise the children. It was recaptured in 1326 A.D. 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.
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 A.D., but was defeated at the Battle of Khanua. In 1535 A.D., Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, besieged the fort, causing immense carnage. It is said that again just like in the case of Jauhar led by Padmini in 1303 A.D., all 32,000 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 A.D.
Chittorgarh is also famous for its association with two very widely known historical figures of India. The first is Meera Bai, the most famous 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.
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. The fort and the city of Chittorgarh also host the biggest Rajput festival, "Jauhar Mela". It takes place annually on the anniversary of one of the Jauhars (though 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 climate of Chittorgarh is quite dry and parched. The summer season extends from April to June and is quite hot. The average temperature in summers falls between 43.8°C to 23.8°C. The winter season lasts from October to February. Chittorgarh weather in the winters is pretty cool. The temperature averages around 28.37°C to 11.6°C. The monsoon season falls during the months of June to August.
As far as climatic conditions of Chittorgarh, Rajasthan in monsoon are concerned, there is only slight rainfall that averages around 60 cm to 80 cm. The best time to visit Chittorgarh is between September to March.
The nearest airport is the Maharana Pratap Airport at Udaipur, about 90 km from Chittorgarh.
Chittorgarh is well connected by rail to other cities and towns of Rajasthan and India. The Chittorgarh railway station connects Chittorgarh to cities such as Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Ajmer, Kota, Udaipur, and Delhi. In addition to this, you also have the option to travel by the Palace on Wheels luxury train.
The completed Golden Quadrilateral highway system will pass through Chittorgarh, connecting it to much of the rest of India. Also crossing the East West Corridor (Express Highway). The Chittorgarh is situated at National Highway No. 76 & 79, both the Highways are crossing at Chittorgarh
Rajasthan roadways (RSRTC) provide a very good service for visiting areas around Chittorgarh. Numbers of private bus services are available in Chittorgarh, connecting all major cities in India. There are regular bus services from Chittorgarh to other cities in Rajasthan and India. Bus services operate for Delhi, Mount Abu, Jaipur, Indore, and Ajmer.
Much of the district, particularly the Chittorgarh Fort, lends itself leisure to explore and trek.
Rent a bicycle to explore the magnificent fort. It is a fairly tough climb up to the fort, but once at the top it is mainly flat. You can climb to the top of this tower and from the top, the view is outstanding.
Alternatively, have a tour by auto-rickshaw costs around ₹125-150, which includes waiting time. You should work out the waiting time in advance. Auto-rickshaws for a tour of the fort can be arranged at the tourist office.
Many of the historical sights are in ruins and within the fortress compound. It takes approximately 3 hours to see everything. If you are planning a full-day tour in the area, a morning visit to the fort followed by visiting some of the nearby attractions makes a good itinerary.
The fort (Admission Fee: ₹5 for Indian nationals, ₹100 for foreign tourists), plainly known as Chittor, was the capital of Mewar and is today situated several kilometres by road south of Bhilwara. Today it's one of the hill forts of Rajasthan inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It sprawls majestically over a hill 180 m (591 ft) in height spread over an area of 280 ha (692 ac) above the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River. A winding hill road of more than 1 km (0.6 mi) length from the new town leads to the west end main gate, called Ram Pol, of the fort.
Within the fort, a circular road provides access to all the gates and monuments located within the fort walls. The fort that once boasted of 84 water bodies has only 22 now. These water bodies are fed by natural catchment and rainfall and have a combined storage of 4 billion litres that could meet the water needs of an army of 50,000. The supply could last for four years. These water bodies are in the form of ponds, wells and step wells.
The fort has seven gates (in the local language, gate is called "Pol"), namely the Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol and the main entry gate of Ram Pol (Lord Rama's Gate). All the gateways to the fort have been built as massive stone structures with secure fortifications for military defense. The doors of the gates with pointed arches are reinforced to fend off elephants and cannon shots. The top of the gates have notched parapets for archers to shoot at the enemy army. A circular road within the fort links all the gates and provides access to the numerous monuments (ruined palaces and 130 temples) in the fort.
Chittorgarh Fort is a large space, and visitors may find it useful to compartmentalise the different sections.
- Kirti Stambha (Tower of Fame). Kirti Stambha ("Fame Tower") is a 22 m (72 ft) high tower built on a 9.1 m (30 ft) base with 4.6 ft (1.4 m) at the top, is adorned with Jain sculptures on the outside and is older (probably 12th century) and smaller than the Victory Tower. Built by a Bagherwal Jain merchant Jijaji Rathod, it is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (revered Jain teacher). In the lowest floor of the tower, naked figures of the various tirthankars of the Jain pantheon are seen in special niches formed to house them. A narrow stairway with 54 steps leads through the six stories to the top. The top pavilion that was added in the 15th century has 12 columns.
- Meera Temple. Built by Maharana Kumbha in 1449, this lord Vishnu Temple has beautiful idols in its sanctum, mendap and pillars. In the same premises, there is a small temple of Lord Krishna. Entry Free.
- Padmini's Palace (Queen's Palace). This palace, a white building, a three storied structure (a 19th century reconstruction of the original), is located in the southern part of the fort. Chhatris (pavilions) crown the palace roofs and a water moat surrounds the palace. This style of palace became the forerunner of other palaces built in the state with the concept of Jal Mahal (palace surrounded by water). It is at this Palace where Alauddin was permitted to glimpse at the mirror image of Rani Padmini, wife of Maharana Rattan Singh. It is widely believed that this glimpse of Padmini's beauty besotted him and convinced him to destroy Chittor in order to possess her. Maharana Rattan Singh was killed and Rani Padmini committed Jauhar. Rani Padmini's beauty is compared to that of Cleopatra and her life story is an eternal legend in the history of Chittor, in particular and of the Mewar state in general. Entry Free.
- Rana Kumbha's Palace. At the entrance gate near the Vijaya Stamba, Rana Kumbha's palace (in ruins), the oldest monument, is located. The palace included elephant and horse stables and a temple to Lord Shiva. Maharana Udai Singh, the founder of Udaipur, was born here; the popular folk lore linked to his birth is that his maid Panna Dhay saved him by substituting her son in his place as a decoy, which resulted in her son getting killed by Banbir. The prince was spirited away in a fruit basket. The palace is built with plastered stone. The remarkable feature of the palace is its splendid series of canopied balconies. Entry to the palace is through Suraj Pol that leads into a courtyard. Rani Meera, the famous poetess saint, also lived in this palace. This is also the palace where Rani Padmini, consigned herself to the funeral pyre in one of the underground cellars, as an act of jauhar along with many the other women. The Nau Lakha Bandar (literal meaning: nine lakh [900 000] treasury) building, the royal treasury of Chittor was also located close by. Now, across from the palace is a museum and archeological office. The Singa Chowri temple is also nearby. [Admission Fee: ₹2 for Indians, ₹50 for foreign tourists. Camera: ₹50 extra].
- Victory Tower. The Vijay Stambha (Victory Tower) or Jay Stamba, called the symbol of Chittor and a particularly bold expression of triumph, was erected by Rana Khumba between 1458 and 1468 to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa, in 1440 AD.
Built over a period of ten years, it raises 37.2 m (122 ft) over a 4.4 m² (47 ft²) base in nine stories accessed through a narrow circular staircase of 157 steps (the interior is also carved) up to the 8th floor, from where there is good view of the plains and the new town of Chittor. The dome, which was a later addition, was damaged by lightning and repaired during the 19th century. The Stamba is now illuminated during the evenings and gives a beautiful view. Free Entry for Indians. For foreign tourist charged ₹50.
- Fateh Prakash Palace (Open daily except Friday (10AM to 4.30PM)). Built by Maharana Fateh Singh, this huge palace is of modern style. This place has been named Fateh Prakesh after Maharana Fateh Singh. There is a big Ganesh idol, a fountain, and different frescoes which are to be seen to be believed. This palace, now a museum, has a rich collection of sculptures from temples and buildings in the Fort. Admission Fee: ₹2/- Photograph prohibited.
- Gaumukh Reservoir (Gau Mukh Kund). A deep tank filled by a spring coming from a 'cow mouth', situated at the edge of the cliff. It is considered to be sacred where you can feed the fishes.
- Jain Temples. At present six jain temples on the fort of Chittor. The largest and chief among them is the temple of Bhagawan Adinatha with fifty-two devkulikas. The place of this temple is known as ‘Sattavish devri’. It means that at some time in the past, there were twenty-seven temples here. The Digamabar Jain Kirtistambh and seven-storied Kirtistambh are two among them. The seven-storied Kirtistambh was built in the fourteenth century in memories of Bhagawan Adinatha
- Kalika Mata Temple. Across from Padmini’s palace is the Kalika Mata Temple, Chittorgarh Fort. Originally, a Sun temple dated to the 8th century dedicated to Surya -the sun-god, was destroyed in the 14th century. It was rebuilt as a Kali temple.
- Tulja Bhavani Temple. on the west side of the fort is the ancient Tulja Bhavani temple built to worship goddess Tulja, considered sacred. The tope khana (cannon foundry) is located next to this temple in a courtyard, where a few old cannons are still seen.
Some of the popular destinations around Chittorgarh that would spice your stay at Chittorgarh. Rent a car or buy a ticket from conducted travel agents to explore the outskirts of Chittorgarh.
- Barolo (140 km from Chittorgarh) - This town is worth visiting, because of the group of ancient temples situated here especially the ruins of the famous temples of Babaroli.
- Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary (25 km from Chittorgarh) - The wildlife sanctuary covers an area of 50 km2. near Bassi village and house to panther, wild boar, antelopes and mongoose. Migratory birds also visit the sanctuary. For entry into the sanctuary, prior permission is to be obtained from the District Forst Officer, Chittorgarh.
- Bijolia (50 km east of Chittorgarh) - The place has three ancient Central Indian-style temples. The Undeswara Temple has a yoni and linga in the inner sanctums, and some excellent carvings.
- Deogarh (125 km from Chittorgarh) - The 16th century fort near Pratapgarh, is famous for the palaces, their murals and Jain temple.
- Menal (90 km from Chittorgarh) - One of the excavated area consists a group of well-preserved 12th century temples.
- Nagri (20 km from Chittorgarh) - One of the most important townships of the Mauryan era situated on the banks of River Bairach. The place which flourished during Maurayan and Gupta era now consists excavations and ruins unearthened.
- Sanwariyaji Temple (40 km from Chittorgarh) - The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, situated on the Chittorgarh - Udaipur highway. This is not a very old structure and is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre.
The prime tourist attraction in Chittorgarh is the fort of Chittogarh, which is located on a steep hill beside the main township. The chhatris or memorials of Jaimal and Kalla which mark the spots where they fell while bravely defending the fort during a siege in 1586 speaks for the valor of Rajputs. Rana Kumbha Palace is an important spot and it is believed that Queen Padmini had performed jauhar in one of its cellars. The Archeological Museum, the Singa Chowri Temple, and the Fateh Prakash Palace and Museum adjacent to Rana Kumbha Palace are worth visiting. The Victory Tower or Vijay Stambh is one of the main tourist attractions of the fort. The Tower of Fame or Kirti Stambh is another important monument. built in 12th century and is dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara (spiritual leader).
To feel the existence of Rani Padmavati, stroll down the marble gallery of Padmini Palace, also watch the reflection of yours on the crystal clear water of the Pond inside the Palace.
Fairs and festivals
Jauhar Mela [Annual Fair. February - March]: The fort and the city of Chittorgarh host the biggest Rajput festival called the "Jauhar Mela". It takes place annually on the anniversary of one of the jauhars, but no specific name is given to it. It is generally believed that it commemorates Padmini's jauhar, which is most famous. This festival is held primarily to commemorate the bravery of Rajput ancestors and all three jauhars which happened at Chittorgarh Fort. A huge number of Rajputs, which include the descendants of most of the princely families, hold a procession to celebrate the Jauhar. It has also become a forum to air once views on the current political situation in the country.
Chittorgarh has many bazaars that sell various items including metalwork, fabrics, Thewa jewelry, leather shoes and handmade toys. Thewa jewelry is made up of golden designs that are later embedded in glass. Some of the best places to shop around are Sadar Bazaar, Rana Sanga Market, New Cloth Market, Fort Road Market, Gandhi Chowk, and Station Circle. The Akola printed fabrics that are made from vegetable dyes is one of the major draws and is available only in certain parts of India.
There are many roadside local joints to eat. Some of the most popular places to eat are:
- Bassi Fort Palace, ☎ +91 1472 225 321. Serves paranthas, vegetarian food & regional dishes.
- Castle Bijaipur, Bassi District, ☎ +91 94141 11510. Poolside restaurant serves traditional Rajasthani food.
- Hotel Meera, Scheme No. 7, Neemuch Road (Near Railway Station), ☎ +91 1472 240 466. Serves both Indian and Mughal meals.
- Hotel Padmini, River View, Near Sainik School, Bhilwara Road, ☎ +91 1472 241 712. Serves pure vegetarian meals.
- Pratap Palace, Bijaipur House, Near H.P.O, ☎ +91 1472 240 099. Serves continental, Indian & Chinese as well as local dishes (dal-baati-choorma and Lal Mas)
Most of the bars belong to the high end hotels in the town. Visitors can visit these bars to enjoy the night time.
- Hotel Chetak, NH 79, Pratap Nagar (Opp Chittorgarh Railway Station, Chittorgarh), ☎ +91 1472 241588.
- Hotel Gaurav Palace, Sector1, Gandhi Nagar, near Apsara Talkies (500 mi from the bus depot). ₹300-₹400.
- Hotel Natraj, Near Bus Station, Chittorgarh, ☎ +91 1472 241009.
- Rituraj Vatika & Restaurant, Near Collectorate Office, Chittorgarh, ☎ +91 1472 241 450, +91 1472 240 850.
- Hotel Padmini, Near Sainik School, Bhilwara Road. Chittorgarh, ☎ +91 1472 241 712. A good and scenic location on the outskirts of Chittorgarh, alongside the river and with a panoramic view of the fort. ₹2,000-₹9,000.
- Hotel Shree Ji, Near Railway Station, Chittorgarh (Raj.) (300 mi from the Railways Station), ☎ +91 1472 - 249131, +91 1472 240431. The hotel comprises 31 rooms with attached bathrooms , fully a.c., Open Balcony and High quality of accessories. A vegetarian hotel equipped with dining hall.
- RTDC Hotel Panna, Udaipur Road, Pratap Nagar, Chittorgarh (700 mi from the Railway Station), ☎ +91 1472 241238. The hotel is just like standard hotel, but it has all the facilities you need. A/c, room heater, room service, restaurant and a helpful staff. ₹1,000-₹1400.
- Bassi Fort Palace, PO Bassi Village (24 Kms from Bassi on Kota-Bundi-Chittorgarh-Udaipur road), ☎ +91 1472 225 321. A heritage hotel owned by the Welcome group, it has 16 well appointed rooms and suites. The hotel is also a treasure house of many historical deeds and artifacts. ₹3,000-₹6,000 (taxes applicable).
- Castle Bijaipur, Bijaipur Village (Located in the Vindhyanchal Hills, 34 km West of Chittorgarh). Calm and tranquil. Excellent place to relax and unwind amidst nature. ₹4,000-₹5,000.
The heat in Chittorgarh can be torturous and one would need sufficient sun protection such as shades and caps. It would also do to bring along a sunscreen lotion for those with delicate skin to avoid heat burn. Wear a strong pair of shoes while climbing the Chittorgarh Fort to avoid getting hurt and spraining your ankles.
The monkeys at the fort generally do not harm anyone but always keep a safe distance as they are unpredictable creatures. Besides be careful while resting under a tree as some monkey sitting above might just drop their excreta on you!
The fort is massive and hiring bicycles would ensure that your exploration of the place is not as tiring. One could get lost in the fort, so make sure that you travel in groups and with local guides.
- Ajmer - An ancient town located 191 km from Chittorgarh is famous among the spiritual and religious sects for the shrine of Khwaja Ajmer Sheriff and the only Brahma temples by the banks of Lake Pushkar.
- Bhilwara - The administrative city of Mewar region located 58 km from Chittorgarh. The city contains some of the exquisite neolithic temples that adorn the Nagar style of architecture.
- Bundi - An ancient town located 140 km from Chittorgarh inhabited by local tribesmen famous for its historical fortresses and kunds (holy wells).
- Jaipur - The capital city of Rajasthan located 318 km from Chittorgarh also known as Pink City is the house of magnificent forts and fortresses and the splendid Hawa Mahal.
- Udaipur - The princely state of Mewar (pre independence) located 113 km from Chittorgarh is famous for its lakes and palaces. A current tourist favorite, especially for up-market Westerners.