Tuesday, 21 May 2013

All lit up! - Kumbhalgarh fort, Rajasthan.

Photo: All lit up! - Kumbhalgarh fort, Rajasthan.

Kumbhalgarh is a Mewar fortress in the Rajsamand District of Rajasthan state in western India. Built during the course of the 15th century by Rana Kumbha, and enlarged through the 19th century, Kumbhalgarh is also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the great king and warrior of Mewar. Occupied until the late 19th century, the fort is now open to the public and is spectacularly lit for a few minutes each evening. Kumbalgarh is situated 82 km northwest of Udaipur by road. It is the most important fort in Mewar after Chittaurgarh.


The Kumbhalgarh was built and ruled by Kumbha and his dynasty who were Sisodia descendents.
Kumbhalgarh in its present form was developed by, and said to be personally designed by Rana Kumbha. Rana Kumbha's kingdom of Mewar stretched from Ranthambore to Gwalior and included large tracts of erstwhile Madhya Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. Out of the 84 forts in his dominion, Rana Kumbha is said to have designed 32 of them, of which Kumbhalgarh is the largest and most elaborate.
Kumbhalgarh also separated Mewar and Marwar from each other and was used as a place of refuge for the rulers of Mewar at times of danger. A notable instance was in the case of Prince Udai, the infant king of Mewar who was smuggled here in 1535, when Chittaur was under siege. Prince Udai who later succeeded to the throne was also the founder of the Udaipur City. The fort remained impregnable to direct assault, and fell only once, due to a shortage of drinking water, to the combined forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar, and the Sultan of Gujarat.


Like Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh Fort was also built under the rule of Rana Kumbha and is equally accessed through a series of seven gateways, here named Aret Pol, Halla Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ram Pol, Vijay Pol, Nimboo Pol and Bhairon Pol. Only five of these gates are located inside the property boundaries; the outermost, Aret Pol, is excluded and Halla Pol is situated in the buffer zone. The outer walls of Kumbhalgarh Fort were constructed between 1443 and 1458, on the base of pre-15th century wall structures. The complete perimeter extends to a length of 14km, most of which consists of ramparts between 3-5m in height, enforced by circular structures constructed in rubble and brick masonry laid in lime mortar, which are plastered in some parts. All gates leading towards the palace compound on the western side of the fort are roofed and flanked by additional structures. Characteristic elements of Mewar defensive access are the zigzagging turns of the pathway between the gates, the small side cells and chambers for guards, as well as the trabeated stone construction of the gates. The palace area consists of the Kumbha Mahal (1443- 1468), integrating both men’s and women’s apartments, and the much later Badal Mahal (1884-1930), built under Rana Fateh Singh, which occupies the highest point of Kumbhalgarh Fort. Among the religious structures are Hindu and Jain temples of different periods, ranging from the earlier, such as the Mataji Temple from the 13th century, to later examples such as the temples of the Golera, a group of Hindu and Jain temples constructed up until the 18th century. Kumbhalgarh Fort also includes memorials, pleasure pavilions in the historic gardens, stores and noteworthy water structures, such as the Badva Bund, a 15th century dam, or the Langan Baori, a 15th century step-well. The Kumbhalgarh component of the property is currently inhabited by approximately 300 persons, who inhabit five rural houses near the Golera Temples and a recent Muslim community settlement, which has developed around the main entrance to the fort.


The fort is entered from the south through a gate known as Aret Pol, followed by gateways known as Halla Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ram Pol and Vijay Pol. The Hanuman Pol is significant as it enshrines an image of Hanuman which was brought by Rana Kumbha from Mandavpur. The palatial complex at the top is approached further through three gateways viz., the Bhairon Pol, the Nimboo Pol and the Paghra Pol. One more gateway is situated on the east which is known as Danibatta. This gateway connects Mewar region with Marwar.