History of Chittor
The history of Chittor is one of the most stirring chapters in Indian history for it was there that the flower of Rajput chivalry sprang to life and the immense stretch of its sacred walls and ruined palaces relate the saga of innumerable sieges and heroism which has almost become a myth now.
Chittorgarh was one of the most fiercely contested seats of power in India. With its formidable fortifications, Bappa Rawal, the legendary founder of the Sisodia dynasty, received Chittor in the middle of the eighth century, as part of the last Solanki princess's dowry. It crowns a seven-mile- long hill, covering 700 acres (280 hectares), with its fortifications, temples, towers and palaces.
From the eighth to the 16th century, Bappa Rawal's descendants ruled over an important kingdom called Mewar stretching from Gujarat to Ajmer. But during these eight centuries the seemingly impregnable Chittor was surrounded, overrun, and sacked three times.
In 1303 Allauddin khilji, Sultan of Delhi, intrigued by tales of the matchless beauty of Padmini, Rani of Chittor, of her wit and charm, decided to verify this himself. His armies surrounded Chittor, and the sultan sent a message to Rana Rattan Singh, Padmini's husband, to say that he would spare the city if he could meet its famous queen. The compromise finally reached was that the sultan could look upon Padmini's reflection if he came unarmed into the fort. Accordingly, the sultan went up the hill and glimpsed a reflection of the beautiful Padmini standing by a lotus pool. He thanked his host who courteously escorted Allauddin down to the outer gate-where the sultan's men waited in ambush to take the rana hostage.
There was consternation in Chittor until Padmini devised a plan. A messenger informed the sultan that the rani would come to him. Dozens of curtained palanquins set off down the hill, each carried by six humble bearers. Once inside the Sultan's camp, four well-armed Rajput warriors leaped out of each palanquin and each lowly palanquin bearer drew a sword.In the ensuing battle, Rana Rattan Singh was rescued-but 7,000 Rajput warriors died. The sultan now attacked Chittor with renewed vigor. Having lost 7,000 of its best warriors, Chittor could not hold out. Surrender was unthinkable. The rani and her entire entourage of women, the wives of generals and soldiers, sent their children into hiding with loyal retainers. They then dressed their wedding fine , slid their farewells, and singing ancient hymns, boldly entered the mahal and performed jauhar.
The men, watching with expressionless faces, then donned saffron robes, smeared the holy ashes of their women on their foreheads, flung open the gates of the fort and thundered down the hill into the enemy ranks, to fight to the death.The second sack or shake (sacrifice) of Chittor, by which Rajputs still swear when pledging their word, occurred in 1535, when Sultan Bahadur Shan Of Gujarat attacked the fort.
Rana Kumbha (1433-68) was a versatile man a brilliant, poet and musician. He built mewar upto a position of assailable military strength building a chain of thirty forts that girdled the kingdom But, perhaps more important was a patron of the arts to rival Lorenzo de Medici, and he made Chittorgarh a dazzling cultural center whose fame spread right across Hindustan.
Rana Sanga (reigned 1509-27) was a warrior and a man of great chivalry and honor reign was marked by a series of continual battles, in course of which he is said to have lost one arm and had been crippled in one leg and received eighty-four wounds on his body. The last of his battles was again Mughal invader, Babur, in 1527. Deserted by one ofgenerals, Rana Sanga was wounded in the battle and shortly after.
Maharana Pratap - Mewar's Greatest Hero
Born: May 9, 1540 in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan
Father's Name: Maharana Udai Singh II
Mother's Name: Rani Jeevant Kanwar
Died: January 29, 1597 in Chavand
Maharana Pratap was born on 9th May 1540 in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. His father was Maharana Udai Singh II and his mother was Rani Jeevant Kanwar. Maharana Udai Singh II ruled the kingdom of Mewar, with his capital at Chittor. Maharana Pratap was the eldest of twenty-five sons and hence given the title of Crown Prince. He was destined to be the 54th ruler of Mewar, in the line of the Sisodiya Rajputs.
In 1567, when Crown Prince Pratap Singh was only 27, Chittor was surrounded by the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar. Maharana Udai Singh II decided to leave Chittor and move his family to Gogunda, rather than capitulate to the Mughals. The young Pratap Singh wanted to stay back and fight the Mughals but the elders intervened and convinced him to leave Chittor, oblivious of the fact that this move from Chittor was going to create history for all times to come.
In Gogunda, Maharana Udai Singh II and his nobles set up a temporary government of the kindom of Mewar. In 1572, the Maharana passed away, leaving the way for Crown Prince Pratap Singh to become the Maharana. However, in his later years, the late Maharana Udai Singh II had fallen under the influence of his favorite queen, Rani Bhatiyani, and had willed that her son Jagmal should ascend to the throne. As the late Maharana's body was being taken to the cremation grounds, Pratap Singh, the Crown Prince decided to accompany the dead body of the Maharana. This was a departure from tradition as the Crown Prince did not accompany the body of the departed Maharana but instead prepared to ascend the throne, such that the line of succession remained unbroken. Pratap Singh, in deference to his father's wishes, decided to let his half-brother Jagmal become the next king. However, knowing this to be disastrous for Mewar, the late Maharana's nobles, especially the Chundawat Rajputs, forced Jagmal to leave the throne to Pratap Singh. Unlike Bharat, Jagmal did not willingly give up the throne. He swore revenge and left for Ajmer, to join the armies of Akbar, where he was offered a jagir - the town of Jahazpur - in return for his help. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Pratap Singh became Maha Rana Pratap Singh I, 54th ruler of Mewar in the line of the Sisodiya Rajputs.
The year was 1572. Pratap Singh had just become the Maharana of Mewar and he had not been back in Chittor since 1567. His old fort and his home beckoned to him. The pain of his father's death, and the fact that his father had not been able to see Chittor again, troubled the young Maharana deeply. But he was not the only one troubled at this time. Akbar had control of Chittor but not the kingdom of Mewar. So long as the people of Mewar swore by their Maharana, Akbar could not realize his ambition of being the Jahanpanah of Hindustan. He had sent several emissaries to Mewar to get Rana Pratap to agree to sign a treaty but the letter was only willing to sign a peace treaty whereby the sovereignty of Mewar would be intact. In the course of the year 1573, Akbar sent six diplomatic missions to Mewar to get Rana Pratap to agree to the former's suzerainty but Rana Pratap turned down each one of them. The last of these missions was headed by Raja Man Singh, the brother-in-law of Akbar himself. Maharana Pratap, angered that his fellow Rajput was aligned with someone who had forced the submission of all Rajputs, refused to sup with Raja Man Singh. The lines were completely drawn now - Akbar understood that Maharana Pratap would never submit and he would have to use his troops against Mewar.
With the failure of efforts to negotiate a peace treaty in 1573, Akbar blockaded Mewar from the rest of the world and alienated Mewar's traditional allies, some of whom were Maharana Pratap's own kith and kin. Akbar then tried to turn the people of the all-important Chittor district against their king so they would not help Pratap. He appointed Kunwar Sagar Singh, a younger brother of Pratap, to rule the conquered territory, However, Sagar, regretting his own treachery, soon returned from Chittor, and committed suicide with a dagger in the Mughal Court. Shakti Singh, Pratap's younger brother now with the Mughal army, is said to have fled the Mughal court temporarily and warned his brother of Akbar's actions.
In preparation for the inevitable war with the Mughals, Maharana Pratap altered his administration. He moved his capital to Kumbhalgarh, where he was born. He commanded his subjects to leave for the Aravali mountains and leave behind nothing for the approaching enemy - the war would be fought in a mountain terrain which the Mewar army was used to but not the Mughals. It is a testament to the young king's respect amongst his subjects that they obeyed him and left for the mountains. The Bhils of the Aravalis were completely behind him. The army of Mewar now raided Mughal trade caravans going from Delhi to Surat. A section of his army guarded the all important Haldighati Pass, the only way to get into Udaipur from the North. Maharana Pratap himself undertook several penances, not because his finances forced him to do so, but because he wished to remind himself, and all his subjects, why they were undertaking this pain - to win back their freedom, their right to exist as they wished. He foreswore that he would eat from leaf-plates, would sleep on the floor and would not shave. In his self-inflicted state of penury, the Maharana lived in mud-huts made from mud and bamboo.
In 1576, the famous battle of Haldighati was fought with 20,000 Rajputs against a Mughal army of 80,000 men commanded by Raja Man Singh. The battle was fierce though indecisive, to the Mughal army's astonishment. Maharana Pratap's army was not defeated but Maharana Pratap was surrounded by Mughal soldiers. It is said that at this point, his estranged brother, Shakti Singh, appeared and saved the Rana's life. Another casualty of this war was Maharana Pratap's famous, and loyal, horse Chetak, who gave up his life trying to save his Maharana.
After this war, Akbar tried several times to take over Mewar, failing each time. Maharana Pratap himself was keeping up his quest for taking Chittor back. However, the relentless attacks of the Mughal army had left his army weaker, and he barely had enough money to keep it going. It is said that at this time, one of his ministers, Bhama Shah, came and offered him all this wealth - a sum enabling Maharana Pratap to support an army of 25,000 for 12 years. It is said that before this generous gift from Bhama Shah, Maharana Pratap, anguished at the state of his subjects, was beginning to lose his spirit in fighting Akbar.
In one incident that caused him extreme pain, his children's meal - bread made from grass - was stolen by a dog. It is said that this cut into Maharana Pratap's heart deeply. He began to have doubts about his resolute refusal to submit to the Mughals. Perhaps in one of these moments of self doubt - something each and every human being goes through - Maharana Pratap wrote to Akbar demanding "a mitigation of his hardship". Overjoyed at this indication of his valiant foe's submission, Akbar commanded public rejoicing, and showed the letter to a literate Rajput at his Court, Prince Prithiraj. He was the younger brother of Rai Singh, the ruler of Bikaner, a State established some eighty years earlier by the Rathores of Marwar. He had been compelled to serve Akbar because of his kingdom's submission to the Mughals. An award-winning poet, Prithiraj was also a gallant warrior and a longtime admirer of the brave Maharana Pratap Singh. He was astonished and grieved by Maharana Pratap's decision, and told Akbar the note was the forgery of some foe to defame the Mewar king. "I know him well," he explained, "and he would never submit to your terms." He requested and obtained Akbar's permission to send a letter to Pratap, ostensibly to ascertain the fact of his submission, but really with a view to prevent it. He composed the couplets that have become famous in the annals of patriotism.
The hopes of the Hindu rest on the Hindu; yet the Rana forsakes them. But for Pratap, all would be placed on the same level by Akbar; for our chiefs have lost their valour and our females their honour. Akbar is the broker in the market of our race: he has purchased all but the son of Udai (Singh II of Mewar); he is beyond his price. What true Rajput would part with honour for nine days (nauroza); yet how many have bartered it away? Will Chittor come to this market ...? Though Patta (an affectionate name for Pratap Singh) has squandered away wealth (on warfare), yet he has preserved this treasure. Despair has driven man to this market, to witness their dishonour: from such infamy the descendant of Hamir (Hamir Singh) alone has been preserved. The world asks, from where does the concealed aid of Pratap emanate? None but the soul of manliness and his sword ... The broker in the market of men (Akbar) will one day be surpassed; he cannot live forever. Then will our race come to Pratap, for the seed of the Rajput to sow in our desolate lands. To him all look for its preservation, that its purity may again become resplendent.
The now-famous letter led to Pratap reversing his decision and not submitting to the Mughals, as was his initial but reluctant intention. After 1587, Akbar relinquished his obsessive pursuit of Maharana Pratap and took his battles into Punjab and India's Northwest Frontier. Thus for the last ten years of his life, Maharana Pratap ruled in relative peace and eventually freed most of Mewar, including Udaipur and Kumbhalgarh, but not Chittor. Bhagwat Singh Mewar: "Maharana Pratap Singh (was) called the light and life of the Hindu community. There were times when he and his family and children ate bread made of grass." Maharana Pratap became a patron of the Arts. During his reign Padmavat Charita and the poems of Dursa Ahada were written. Palaces at Ubheshwar, Kamal Nath and Chavand bear testimony to his love of architecture. These buildings, built in the dense hilly forest have walls adorned with military-style architecture. But Pratap's broken spirit overpowered him in the twilight of his years. His last moments were an appropriate commentary on his life, when he swore his successor, Crown Prince Amar Singh to eternal conflict against the foes of his country's independence. Maharana Pratap was never able to win back Chittor but he never gave up fighting to win it back.
In January 1597, Rana Pratap Singh I, Mewar's greatest hero, was seriously injured in a hunting accident. He left his body at Chavand, aged 56, on January 29, 1597. He died fighting for his nation, for his people, and most importantly for his honor.
Rani Padmini - A legendary beauty
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sultanate of Delhi - the kingdom set up by the invaders was nevertheless growing in power. The Sultans made repeated attack on Mewad on one pretext or the other. Here we may recollect the story of Rani Padmani who was the pretext for Allah-ud-din Khilji's attack on Chittod. In those days Chittod was under the Rule of King Ratansen, a brave and noble warrior-king. Apart, from being a loving husband and a just ruler, Ratansen was also a patron of the arts. In his court were many talented People one of whom was a musician named Raghav Chetan. But unknown to anybody, Raghav Chetan was also a sorcerer. He used his evil talents to run down his rivals and unfortunately for him was caught red-handed in his dirty act of arousing evil spirits.
On hearing this King Ratansen was furious and he banished Raghav Chetan from his kingdom after blackening his face with face and making him ride a donkey. This harsh Punishment earned king Ratansen an uncompromising enemy. Sulking after his humiliation, Raghav Chetan made his way towards Delhi with -the aim of trying to incite the Sultan of Delhi Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor.
On approaching Delhi, Raghav Chetan settled down in one of the forests nearby Delhi which the Sultan used to frequent for hunting deer. One day on hearing the Sultan's hunt party entering the forest, Raghav-Chetan started playing a melodious tone on his flute. When the alluring notes of Raghav-Chetan flute reached the Sultan's party they were surprised as to who could be playing a flute in such a masterly way in a forest.
The Sultan despatched his soldiers to fetch the person and when Raghav-Chetan was brought before him, the Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji asked him to come to his court at Delhi. The cunning Raghav-Chetan asked the king as to why he wants to have a ordinary musician like himself when there were many other beautiful objects to be had. Wondering what Raghav-Chetan meant, Ala-ud-din asked him to clarify. Upon being told of Rani Padmini's beauty, Ala-ud-din's lust was aroused and immediately on returning to his capital he gave orders to his army to march on Chittor.
But to his dismay, on reaching Chittor, Allah-ud-din found the fort to be heavily defended. Desperate to have a look at the legendary beauty of Padmini, he sent word to King Ratansen that he looked upon Padmini as his sister and wanted to meet her. On hearing this, the unsuspecting Ratansen asked Padmini to see the 'brother'. But Padmini was more wordly-wise and she refused to meet the lustful Sultan personally.
On being persuaded by her husband Rana Ratansen, Rani Padmini consented to allow Ala-ud-din to see her only in a mirror. On the word being sent to Ala-ud-din that Padmini would see him he came to the fort with his selected his best warriors who secretly made a careful examination of the fort's defences on their way to the Palace.
On seeing Padmini, in the mirror, the lustful 'brother', Allah-ud-din Khilji decided that he should secure Padmini for himself. While returning to his camp, Allah-ud-din was accompanied for some way by King Ratansen. Taking this opportunity, the wily Sultan deceitfully kidnapped Ratansen and took him as a prisoner into his camp and demanded that Padmini come and surrender herself before Allah-ud-din Khilji, if she wanted her husband King Ratansen alive again.
The Rajput generals decided to beast the Sultan at his own game and sent back a word that Padmini would be given to Ala-ud-din the next morning. On the following day at the crack of dawn, one hundred and fifity palaquins (covered cases in which royal ladies were carried in medieveal times) left the fort and made their way towards Ala-ud-din's camps The palanquins stopped before the tent where king Ratansen was being held prisoner. . Seeing that the palanquins had come from Chittor; and thinking that they had brought along with them his queen, king Ratansen was mortified. But to his surprise from the palanquins came out, not his queen and her women servants but fully armed soldiers, who quickly freed ; Ratansen and galloped away towards Chittor on horses grabbed from Ala-ud-din's stables.
On hearing that his designs had been frustrated, the lustful Sultan was furious and ordered his army to storm Chittor. But hard as they tried the Sultans army could not break into the fort. Then Ala-ud-din decided to lay seige to the fort. The seige was a long drawn one and gradually supplied within the fort were depleted. Finally King Ratnasen gave orders that the Rajputs would open the gates and fight to finish with the besieging troops. On hearing of this decision, Padmini decided that with their men-folk going into the unequal struggle with the Sultan's army in which they were sure to perish, the women of Chittor had either to commit suicides or face dishonour at the hands of the victorious enemy.
The choice was in favour of suicide through Jauhar. A huge pyre was lit and followed by their queen, all the women of Chittor jumped into the flames and deceived the lustful enemy waiting outside. With their womenfolk dead, the men of Chittor had nothing to live for. Their charged out of the fort and fought on furiously with the vastly Powerful array of the Sultan, till all of them perished. After this phyrrhic victory the Sultan's troops entered the fort only to be confronted with ashes and burnt bones of the women whose honour they were going to violate to satisfy their lust.
These women who committed Jawhar had to perish but theirmemory has been kept alive till today by bards and songs which glorify their act which was right in those days and circumstances. Thus a halo of honour is given to their supreme sacrifice.
Let’s travel through the various tourist spots of Chittorgarh.
The fort is an important landmark in Chittorgarh and is a must visit for tourists on a tour of Chittorgarh. The fort is believed to date back to the times of the Mauryas in the 7th century. The fort offers panoramic view of the area.
Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower)
This tower was built by Rana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Khilji of Malwa in 1440 A.D. This 37 mtr High tower is 9 storeyed and has a number of balconies at each storey which gives a nice view of the monuments within the fort.
Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame)
The 22 mtr high Tower of fame was built by a wealthy Jain merchant in the 12 century A.D. and is dedicated to Adinathji, the first of the Tirthankaras. The tower is decorated with Jain Pantheons.
Rana Kumba Palace
The palace is another popular tourist attraction in Chittorgarh. The palace was the site of the last jauhar, when Akbar attacked Chittor. The palace houses a beautiful Shiva Temple and the royal stable.
Fateh Prakash Palace
You can also visit Fateh Prakash Palace, which was built by Maharaja Fateh Singh in 1920. Built beautifully, the palace now has been converted into the government museum.
Built beside a pool, this is a magnificent palace. It was here that Rana Rattan Singh showed a glimpse of Rani Padmini to Allauddin Khilji. Rani Padmini stood in the Zenana Mahal, and her reflection was visible to Khilji in a mirror placed in the main hall. Khilji, after having a glimpse of the queen, was smitten by her beauty and with the passion to posses her invaded Chittaur.