Kumbhalgarh: the home of the magnificent, sun-kissed, cloud-caressed Wall of India
From the mysterious Machchindrapur to Mahore to the present-day majestic Kumbhalgarh Fort, this second-largest continuous wall of India dedicatedly protects the hidden secrets of an ancient desert city, the mysteries of a forgotten era, the unfolding of the royal heritage of an enigmatic land.
This beautifully and architecturally etched edifice of Kumbhalgarh is neatly tucked on the westerly range of Aravalli Hills in the Rajsamand District in Rajasthan. Kumbhalgarh owes a lot for its popularity to the beautiful and historical city of Udaipur that attracts a lot of tourists from all across the globe all through the year.
Kumbhalgarh Fort looks uncannily beautiful form far and form close and acquires an supernatural beauty for a few minutes every evening when it is lit up to exhibit the beauty of this man-made creation at its best. The importance of preserving this World Heritage Site was felt urgently when in the year 2013, the World Heritage Committee declared Kumbhalgarh Fort as a World Heritage Site among other hills forts of Rajasthan such as Amber Fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Gagron Fort, Jaisalmer Fort and Ranthambhor Fort.
Kumbhalgarh is exceptionally popular among tourists and is definitely worth a visit on account of various factors. Some of them can be listed as follows:
- Kumbhalgarh Fort is situated just 82 kilometres from the beautiful desert city Udaipur.
- Kumbhalgarh Fort’s history dates back to the 15th century when this impressive fort was built by Rana Kumbha.
- Kumbhalgarh Fort is the place of birth of one of the greatest historical figures, the brave Maharana Pratap.
- Kumbhalgarh Fort is fortified with a rock face or fort wall, which as amazing 38 kilometres long and at places 15 feet thick. It is the second largest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China.
- Kumbhalgarh Fort is the second largest fort in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh Fort.
- Kumbhalgarh Fort is also fondly and aptly known as the Great Wall of India.
History of Kumbhalgarh Fort
The alluring history of this enchanting fort unfolds an enigma to every innocent traveller who transcends its boundaries and enters its mystical world. The early history of this edifice is shrouded in as deep a mystery as can be nurtured within ancient walls for centuries.
The fort was initially named Machhindrapur and then subsequently christened Mahore by one historian named Sahib Haqim. Historians believe that the original fort was constructed by the Mauryan King Samprati during the sixth century. After obtaining the details of the construction phase, historians find no mention of this fort in history till 1303 AD when again the Kumbhalgarh Fort rose into prominence on account of Alauddin Khilji’s invasion.
The present structure that Kumbhalgarh presents today was built by the then Sisodiya Rajput ruler Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. The fort thus derives its name from the great ruler. The credit of the invincible designing goes to the contemporary and ancient architect Madan. Kumbhalgarh stands tall and unconquerable by virtue of being the most impressive and the largest one among the 84 forts spread all across the empire of Rana Kumbha. The king extended his dominance over the kingdom of Mewar that stretched from Ranthambore to Gwalior, which corresponds to the present day Indian states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Rana Kumbha is credited to have built 32 out of the total of 84 forts within his kingdom.
Kumbhalgarh Fort stands rock hard midway separating the warring Mewar and Marwar. History has its shades of Kumbhalgarh’s triumph when the fort became the safe refuge for Prince Udai, the infant king of Mewar who escaped the attempts of his enemies to kill him to finally succeed to the throne of Mewar and built the princely city of Udaipur. History reveals the glorious shades of the indomitable fort as it saw the rock walls braving many an encounter but failing to bow down to even the toughest of the onslaughts.
Architectural marvel: Kumbhalgarh Fort
The most impressive architectural feature that he fort of Kumbhalgarh presents is the 36 km long massive wall that surrounds the structure protecting the sanctity and secrets of the fort city for nearly half a millennium. The colossal rock wall snakes up and down the desert mountains, the Aravallis, and is built approximately 1,100 metres above sea level. The temples counting around 360, the fortified gateways altogether seven in number, the mysterious ramparts all combine to create the architectural wonder.
The frontal walls of the fort are an amazing fifteen feet wide and exhibits an incredible masonry. Legend says that in the year 1443 when the Maharana was attempting to build the fort wall initially there were repeated unsuccessful attempts. So when an astute spiritual advisor was consulted he had advised a performance voluntary human sacrifice to ward off the evil forces causing impediments. This ritual was fulfilled when a pilgrim or probably a soldier or the same religious preceptor who showed light by means of advice had volunteered for a self-sacrifice through a decapitation.
The intriguing Rajasthani folklore spells an interesting story of the burning of massive lamps consuming a humongous fifty kilograms of ghee and an astonishing hundred kilograms of cotton illuminating the work sites to provide enough light for the farmers who slogged in the valleys all through the nights. The mystifying and the alluring enigma of this Kumbhalgarh Fort make it an attractive tourist destination since ages. Thousands of stone bricks are laid skilfully to build this second largest continuous stone wall in this planet.
Important Structures in the Fort
To name some important structures housed by these massive walls would be inane because each stone and each corner of this Fort city boasts of unique artistry and skill, mystery and magic. The impenetrable Ranthambhor Fort consists of seven massive gates and seven strong ramparts weaved together by means of designer walls. This continuous rock line has been strengthened by curved bastions and is punctuated by impressive watch towers that stand guard to the royalty of the edifice. The super wide ramparts of the fort are broad enough to accommodate eight horses side by side.
- The Palace known as the Badal Mahal, as beautiful as the clouds that caress its walls, forms the crowning glory of the Fort architecture. This beautiful Palace of Clouds is also famous for being the place of birth of the great warrior, the Rajput Mahaputra Maharana Pratap. This palace presents stunningly beautiful rooms with euphoric decors of green, turquoise and white that poses a presenting a striking contrast to the rustic earthy flavoured hues and shades of the rest of the Kumbhalgarh Fort. The Cloud Palace offers a spectacular view of the rest of the Fort city spread below.The palace was rebuilt in the late 19th century by Rana Fateh Singh but the original structure still remains intact.
- The shy-high fort walls from across the curtain of clouds overlook the golden sand dunes of the gigantic Thar Desert.
- The Kumbhalgarh Fort sanctimoniously houses more than 360 temples inside the premises, out of which 300 belongs to ancient Jain belief and the rest are Hindu shrines.
- The Shiva Temple houses a huge Shivalinga in the Phallic form and is definitely worth a visit for all curious tourists, exploring the mythic and the gothic.
- The Fort is famous across the pages of history for being impregnable and has provided refuge to the brave Rajputs of Mewar time and again across ages and centuries. The complex Kumbhalgarh Fort architecture hides many a secret ravine and untold secrets in its stone walls waiting to be unfurled by curious travellers.
- Among several structures, the Lakhola Tank deserves mention for being most impressive and measures 5 km by 100 m by 200 m. It was constructed by Rana Lakha during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The original depth of 40 feet of this tank had been eventually increased to 60 feet.
- Aaret Pol or the Western Gate, Hulla Pol that slopes downward from the fort entrance, Ram Pol and Hanuman Pol, Bhairava Pol, Paghra Pol, Top-khana Pol and Nimboo Pol counts up to the major gates of Kumbhalgarh Fort. Hanuman Pol consists of idols that exhibit the details of the construction of the fort. Ram Pol is often appreciated for its architectural brilliance.
- Bad Shahi Bavdi tank with steps is said to have been constructed in 1578 during the invasion of Shahbaz Khan, who was the army general of Mughal Emperor Akbar, for supplying water to the Mughal army.
- One of the earliest temples built within the Fort complex was the Ganesh temple. It acquires its distinction from the fact that it is constructed on a 12 feet high platform.
- Another temple of distinction is the Neel Kanth Mahadeva temple that is located on the eastern side of the fort. This majestic temple was built in 1458 and was rebuilt by Rana Shanga later. The Shiva idol is made of black stone and is depicted with 12 hands. The main shrine can be approached through a rectangular enclosure and a structure notably supported by 24 huge pillars.
- The Jain Temple Parsva Natha was built in 1513. It adorns the eastern side of the Fort complex. The Bawan or fifty two Jain temples along with the Golera Jain temple deserves mention.
- On the South of the famous Neela Kanth Temple stands the Mataji temple, which is also known as the Kheda Devi temple. Some other temples appreciated for their imposing designs are the Mamdeo temple, Pital Shah Jain temple and Surya Mandir or the Sun temple.