|HOME | TRAVEL | TRAVELOG|
Chittaurgarh in Rajasthan was the stage for some dramatic events in Indian history. And what better time to visit the historical town than in the monsoon, when the desert around gains a soft, green cover.
We inaugurated this series with an overview of Tranquebar, then offered the Orissa beach resort, Gopalpur-on-Sea, and the hill towns of Mirik and Kurseong, south of Darjeeling. And last week Rediff Travel presented beautiful Sarahan in eastern Himachal.
Chittaurgarh was the home of Princess Padmini, one of the most romantic figures in Indian history. This fortress city was under siege by Muslim forces thrice between the 1300s and 1500s, and on all three occasions the brave Chittaurgarh-wallahs, including the women folk, preferred death to capitulation.
In 1303 it was Alauddin Khilji, the monarch of Delhi, who cast his greedy eyes towards Chittaurgarh. The beauty of Padmini, the wife of Bhim Singh, the ruler's uncle, was famed, both near and far. Khilji wanted her for himself. When she refused, Khilji sent his powerful armies to Chittaurgarh. In a charge, similar to that of Tennyson's hapless light brigade, five-and-a-half centuries later, the brave Rajput army marched into battle, clad in saffron robes, knowing they were doomed. Inside the fort, the women including Padmini committed jauhar. Death before dishonour.
Many of the palaces, towers, gates, zenanas and temples of this erstwhile capital of Mewar exist intact today. History lives on in the haunting, crumbling sandstone ruins.
Chittaurgarh was founded, historians say, as early as 700 BC. The fort was constructed on a high hill that commanded a strategic view of the plains and approaching armies. Much of the fort now is in ruins. Modern Chittaurgarh spreads and expands at the foot of the hill.
Seven impressive gates guard the approach to the fort. A ramble around the ruins reveals the king's palaces, the queen's apartments, stambhas, wells, temples, the stables and even the spot where Padmini committed suicide. The history of the valiant Rajputs seeps from the medieval ruins. A grand chronology of chivalrous, romantic, heroic people.
It is possible to step back into time as one views Padmini's palace, the 11th century Sat Bis Deori Jain temple, the Nau Lakha Treasury, the saintly Mirabai's quarters , the Mahasati Terrace (where ranas were cremated and their wives committed sati) and the Gomukh Kund, a spring that travels through the sculpture of a cow's mouth. It takes about four hours on foot to absorb these ruins and their lessons of royal history.
Drives out of Chittaurgarh are scenic. Towards the south the road travels through fields of poppy, crop for a legal opium industry.
The best time to visit Chittaurgarh is during the rains from July to September, or in winter from November to early March.
Hotel Pratap Palace, near the bus stand. Tel # 01472-40099. Fax # 01472-41042. Basic AC double rooms for Rs 580 a night. Suites for Rs 850 a night. Decent accommodation. In-house restaurant serves good meals -- Rs 100 for breakfast, rs 180 for lunch and Rs 225 for dinner.
Hotel Padmini, near Bearch river. Tel # 01472-41718. Rs 400 for a decent, clean double room a night. Rs 800 for a deluxe, AC double room a night. Rs 1,200 for a suite a night. In-house restaurant serves veg food.
Indian Airlines flies into Udaipur from New Delhi on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. The flight departs at 1710 hours and arrives in Udaipur at 1930 hours. The one way economy fare is Rs 2,760.
Indian Airlines flies into Udaipur from Bombay daily. The flight departs at 1640 hours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and arrives in Udaipur at 1800 hours. The flight departs at 1720 hours on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays and arrives in Udaipur at 1930 hours. The one way economy fare is Rs 3,230.
It is possible to reach Chittaurgarh from New Delhi or Bombay via Udaipur by rail. The Chetak Express and the Garib Nawaz Express from/to Udaipur pull into Chittaurgarh daily.
INFOTECH | TRAVEL | LIFE/STYLE | FREEDOM | FEEDBACK