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Why you should be going there - Chittorgarh

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If I were to be absolutely blunt, I went to Chittorgarh with a two point agenda.

One: to acquire a kaavad from a village in the outskirts of Chittorgarh.

Two: to click a photo, a specific photo, which I had seen in one those ‘lists of places to see before you die’.

In all the selfishness it had completely skipped me that I was going to the largest fort in India. That Bundi preceded and Udaipur succeeded this Rajasthan train-trip could also have some bearing on why I had ignored its history and latent charm.

 

We had two days in the city and one of the best decisions that we made in the pre-trip planning was to stay within the fort walls, and give the dusty-characterless town below a miss. The only option available was the Padmini Haveli Guest House. So to say, it is a home stay. But a stylish one at that; minimally decorated yet tasteful; a bathroom that can make bathroom-going a real pleasure; children of the house running around helter-skelter; random Bollywood related graphics and more-randomly placed installations from Hermes, with a big laser-cut serif H. The half owners of this property, Sudhir and Parvati are both powerhouses of historical data regarding the place, splendid storytellers and great hosts. The other half owners are a Swiss couple (the random Hermes connection, perhaps).

We leave in a tuk-tuk on a day-tour of the fort, that once housed a whopping 84 water-bodies (a handful remain now) and 113 temples (some in-shape, some in shambles and a few be-headed) among other famous cenotaphs, towers, palaces and tombs. The impact of last evening’s educative light and sound show is making me curious; I am so full of questions; we hop from one ancient spot to another despite the winter sun that is harsh in the open and kind in the shadows.

One of the most popular sights is the Padmini Palace, a part of which is submerged in water and used to be Rani Padmini’s summer palace. Visitors spend quite a bit of their time in a room that houses the much-famed ceiling mirror, in the reflection of which Ala-ud-in Khilji took a sneak peek at Rani Padmini and had catastrophically wrong desires. However, what stands inside the very frame now, is but a modern mirror.

Due north is another cluster of sights that attracts a big chunk of visitors (us included): Gaumukh, that literally means cow-mouth, is a perpetual spring; Mahasati and Sammidheshwar Temple; and the Victory Tower, that is a122-foot exquisitely carved tower offering nine stories of narrow stairs for you to climb.

Other sights not to be missed (for those with the luxury of time and a motivated historical curiosity) are the Meera Temple, Ratan Singh Palace, and Kirti Stambh, and lastly the light and sound show that plays every evening at the Kumbha Palace.

The fort complex is simply too vast to cover in a day, or two and its effect on me, much greater. I board the train from Chittorgarh to Udaipur in the dawn and I leave with an unexpected feeling. I feel humbled to have brought two such minor agendas to a place with much better plans for me.

To know about the other must visit forts in Rajasthan, click here.
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