Rajasthan : Chittorgarh to Bundi | Horn please, OK?

Rajasthan : Chittorgarh to Bundi

Day 7 : Chittorgarh to Bundi
When : January 2015 | How far : 210 kms | How long : 3.5 hrs 

Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh was to Rajasthan what King's Landing is to Westeros, minus the good weather. Its the star of Rajasthan's historical monuments and today we were going to find out why. 

Lake Nahargarh Palace, Chittorgarh

A bit of bad planning had us booked at Lake Nahargarh Palace the previous night. 
Its a bad ripoff of the Lake Palace at Udaipur. 

A view of Lake Nahargarh Palace in Chittorgarh

The rooms were tacky and the corridors smelt of pee. It didn't help that there was a large party of men who had descended from Kota to celebrate something.  We couldn't get away fast enough. 

The hotel while in Chittorgarh district is at least 50 kms away from Chittorgarh Fort. So if you're looking for a place near the fort, this is not it. 

Inside Lake Nahargarh Palace

Travel tip: Don't get misled by the pictures on Tripadvisor or the hotel's own website. You're better off paying a fraction of the room tariff and staying at a 2 star hotel in Chittorgarh town.

NH 76

NH 76 is a well maintained, divided 4 lane highway and it leads straight to Chittorgarh fort. 

NH 76 to Chittorgarh

The highway has a nice broad shoulder, great for stretching your legs and taking in the rustic views around. Fog still lingered in the air. It wasn't as thick as the previous night instead it gave everything a blurry outline.

Rural Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh Fort

We reached our destination well before Chittorgar's daily market had a chance to spread itself out. The road leading up to the entrance looks like an obstacle course at any other time of day.

Chittor or present day Chittorgarh was the capital of the state of Mewar from the 7th century to the 16th century. The fort at Chittorgarh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most awe inspiring forts in Rajasthan and is revered almost like a site of pilgrimage by present day Rajputs. 

Chittorgarh fort, the largest in India by area, is built on a hill spread over 700 acres. It is entered by driving through a 1 km long steep road marked by 7 gates (called Pols). 

Chittorgarh Fort Entrance

Jorla Pol, Chittorgarh Fort

Half way up the road we noticed that we had a retinue of leather jacketed bikers. A few of them were trying to get our attention so we rolled down our windows to find out what they wanted. They were 'local guides' trying to sell us their services! And boy were they aggressive. There wasn't much room to shake them off so we continued the rest of the way with a growing wake of bikers.

Travel Tip: Always pick a government registered tourist guide. They're better informed and have a standard fee. Ask to see their registration papers. 

At the ticket booth we were all but accosted by touts and guides yelling over each other to be heard. We ignored them and found ourselves a government approved guide, a woman who knew what she was talking about. 

Within the fort walls lie 65 structures, an assortment of palaces, temples and memorials interspersed with 22 water bodies. For history lovers its like being a kid in a candy store. Its possible to spend days exploring the fort grounds but with half a day at our disposal, our guide helped us pick the important spots and we set off. 

Travel Tip: The fort is best seen by driving through the ruins. If you don't have your own vehicle you can rent an auto rickshaw or a six seater at the fort. 

Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh Fort 

Kumbha Palace named after Rana Kumbha (of Kumbhalgarh Fort fame) is more than a 1000 years old and the oldest of the still standing structures within the fort. It was home to some of Indian history's most famous figures - Udai Singh II who founded Udaipur , Rani Padmini and Mirabai. 

Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

Ruins of Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

Mirabai was said to be Lord Krishna's greatest devotee and is famous for the poems or 'bhajans' she wrote in praise of him. There's a mystery surrounding her death. She is believed to have disappeared into an idol of Lord Krishna at the temple in Dwarka while praying to him. 
She started off life as a Rajput princess born in to the Rathore clan. Her great grand father was Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur and she was married to Bhoj Raj the ruler of Chittor in the early 1520s.  As a queen of Chittor, she lived within the fort in a palace built within Kumbha Palace.

Mirabai's Palace, Chittorgarh

Betrayals and the threat of attack were common features of royal life. Hidden chambers and secret passages were safeguards against these and Kumbha Palace had its fair share of them. Our guide pointed out a trapdoor that opened in to an underground passage used by Rani Padmini to go to the Goumukh Kund when Chittorgarh was attacked by Allaudin Khilji.

Udai Singh II, the founder  of Udaipur was born in Chittorgarh. The fort was attacked when he was a baby. His nurse Panna Dai saved his life by sacrificing her own son claiming that he was the baby prince. Udai Singh was whisked away in a basket to Kumbhalgarh where he spent his childhood. 

Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

The fort was defeated thrice in battle. The first time by Allaudfin Khilji, then by Bahadur Shah the Sultan of Gujarat and finally by Akbar. The skeletal remains of Kumbha Palace looked like an exotic stage set outlined against the sky

Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

Across the road from Kumbha Palace stands the Naulakha Bhandaar. The Bhandaar or treasury was said to always contain at least 9 lakh rupees which is how it got its name. 

Naulakha Bhandaar, Chittorgarh Fort

Chittorgarh has a number of Jain monuments owing to Jain merchants who lived in the fort. This Jain temple was sacked and destroyed by the Mughals in the 16th century.  A trademark of theirs was to deface the sculptures and tear down the roofs. The roof was later replaced by a dome, a signature element of Mughal architecture. 

Jain Temple, Chittorgarh Fort

Defaced Jain Temple inside Chittorgarh Fort

Kalika Mata Temple, Chittorgarh

The syncretic Kalika Mata Temple in Chittorgarh fort was originally built for the Sun God in 8AD. Sometime in the 14th century it was converted to a temple for Kali. More recently, descendants of Chittorgarh's erstwhile rulers have placed an idol of Radha Krishna inside. Like much else even faith is mutable.

Kalika Mata temple front view

Kalika Mata temple side view

Kirti Stambh, Chittorgarh

The Kirti Stambh in Chittorgarh was built in the 12th century by a Jain devotee to honor Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara (savior of sorts). It's 52 stories high and has started leaning slighty like the Tower of Pisa. Visitors aren't allowed to climb to the top but the view from below of its marvelously sculpted balconies and ledges are all you really need to see.

Kirti Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort

Kirti Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort

Padmini Palace, Chittorgarh

Padmini was the wife of Rana Ratan Singh, one of the rulers of Chittorgarh. She was known for her beauty and wit. Allauddin Khilji who had his eye on Chittorgarh demanded that he be allowed to meet her and in return would spare the kingdom. They arrived at a compromise where Allauddin Khilji was allowed to see Padmini's reflection in the water from a tower nearby. Padmini's Palace was built in the middle of the lake supposedly in 10 days, to fulfill this compromise.

Padmini's Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

Padmini's Palace, Chittorgarh Fort

Allauddin Khilji, not a man of his word, betrayed Ratan Singh's trust and captured him on his way out of the fort. Rani Padmini, a strategist, offered herself up to Allaudin Khilji in return for her husband's freedom. But she had a condition. She would be accompanied by 700 of her handmaidens to his camp. Allauddin Khilji acceded to this request. Rani Padmini and her 700 handmaidens who were actually soldiers in disguise entered Khilji's camp and wrought havoc and destruction. Ratan Singh was killed in the tussle and Rani Padmini committed jauhar (sacrificial act of jumping into a burning pyre) to protect her honour.     

Samadhishvara temple, Chittorgarh

The Samadhishvara temple goes back all the way to the 11th century. It was restored 300 years later by Mokal and holds the strangest looking idol of the trinity of Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh.

Samadhishvara temple, Chittorgarh Fort

This 1000 year old idol inside the Samadishvara temple made us think of the Easter Island statues. Unlike any Hindu idols we've seen, it made us wonder what was underneath the painted eyes.

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh in Chittorgarh Fort

Vijay Stambh, Chittorgarh

The Vijay Stambh has come to symbolise the valour, bravery, and spirit of Chittorgarh. It was built in the mid 15th century by Rana Kumbha to commemorate the victory of Mewar in a battle against Mahmud Shah and the armies of Gujarat and Malwa. 

Vijay Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort

Unlike the Kirti Stambh, this 37m tall tower still allows entry to the curious. As a mark of respect visitors are asked to take their shoes off before entering the monument. The cold was a huge deterrent and we satisfied our curiosity by walking around the tower admiring its intricate carvings and inscriptions. 

Vijay Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort

Adjacent to the Vijay Stambh is a massive flat platform like structure said to be the site of one of 3 jauhars that took place in Chittorgarh. Every year, the town celebrates the bravery of those Rajput women who sacrificed their lives to protect their honour by organising a mela.

Vijay Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort

Gaumukh Kund, Chittorgarh

This reservoir gets fed by spring water through a structure in the shape of a cow's mouth which is how it got its name. It used to be the only source of fresh water in Chittorgarh at one time. There's a secret tunnel connecting it to Kumbha Palace which was used by its queens when the fort was under siege

Gaumukh Kund, Chittorgarh Fort

We found ruins of a temple nearby. This doorway frames a lovely view of the city of Chittorgarh sprawled out below

Ruins of a temple near Gaumukh Kund

Chittorgarh is fascinating even for those uninspired by history. Our drive through the fort felt like a class 8 history lesson, in technicolor. Maybe it was our guide's storytelling skills or maybe its that every rock in the fort has played a part in shaping the story of India. 

Travel Tip: If you're looking for a place to get a quick meal, stop by at Hotel Pratap Palace. They have a great lunch buffet thats a nice break from the heavy Indian food 

Drive to Bundi

Bundi was the last stop on our 8 day road trip across Rajasthan. Its relative obscurity keeps away the tourist hordes. 

NH 76 from Chittorgarh to Beejoliya was a smooth drive. We missed the turning to Bundi and stopped at a teashop to ask for directions. They pointed us to a potholed road (SH 29) leading off the highway.  We've driven down village roads near neglected border areas that are in a better condition. 

Travel Tip: Avoid SH 29. It may seem shorter but its not. Take the route that goes via Kota. Your back and your car will thank you for it.

The road got so bad at one point that we contemplated turning back. Backtracking down the same road was going to be too painful so we put on our brave faces, gritted our teeth and forged on. 

The road joined NH12 10 kms from the exit to Bundi. And then we saw this.

Taragarh Palace & Fort, Bundi
Taragarh Palace & Fort, Bundi
Any misgivings we had flew out of the window.  

Stories from the entire trip
Day 1 -> Gurgaon to Bikaner via Mandawa & Fatehpur
Day 2 -> Bikaner to Sam sand dunes
Day 3 -> Sam sand dunes to Jaisalmer 
Day 4 -> Jaisalmer to Jodhpur
Day 5 -> Jodhpur, the blue city
Day 6 -> Jodhpur to Chittorgarh via Kumbhalgarh
Day 7 -> You just read it
Day 8 -> Bundi to Gurgaon
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Manoj Radhakrishnan said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. I came here looking for the best route to Bundi from Chittorgarh. Thanks for the tip to take Chittorgarh - Kota - Bundi instead of SH29. I hope Kota - Bundi is in reasonable condition.

Trip-a-doodle said...

Hey Manoj,

We're so happy that you found useful information on our blog!
Did you take the Kota-Bundi route and what was the condition of the road?

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