Extending from the Aravali mountain range in northwest to Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region in the southeast, encompassing regions in Gujarat and Rajasthan, lied the majestic kingdom of Mewar, ruled by the Rajputs for many centuries starting from 530 AD. To defend herself over these many centuries, Mewar had an impressive collection of 84 fortresses. The crown jewel amongst these and one of the most massive forts ever built was Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajsamand near Udaipur. Built on the highest hill in Rajasthan, equipped with the second longest fort wall in the world. After the Great Wall of China, this 15 feet wide 36 km long fort wall of Kumbhalgarh has earned the moniker of – The Great Wall of India.
Imposing a menacing presence on its surrounding, standing high and mighty at 1100 m (3600 ft) above sea level, this formidable testament to rich Rajput history is a UNESCO World Heritage site under the Hill Forts of Rajasthan. Listed as one of the seven unknown architectural wonders in the world by bbc.com in 2015, this is the second largest fort in India after Chittorgarh Fort that served as the capital of the Mewar kingdom. Kumbhalgarh fort served as a place of refuge for the rulers of Mewar at times of danger, like when their capital Chittorgarh Fort was under siege.
‘Early historians believe that the foundation of the Kumbhalgarh fort was laid long before Rana Kumbha was born, by King Samprati of Maura Age during the 6th century. However, it’s present day form and thereby its name are attributed to Rana Kumbha of the Sisodia clan who is also responsible for the construction of 32 other forts in the Mewar kingdom.
It is said that the Kumbhalgarh fort separated the regions of Mewar (Chittorgarh and Udaipur) and Marwar (Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer).
Historically, the Kumbhalgarh fort is also famous as the birthplace of the legendary warrior Maharana Pratap, the 13th king of Mewar. It is also known as the haven that gave protection to young prince Udai Singh, who was brought here by his selfless maid Panna Dhai.
It took 15 years of meticulous planning and execution by teams of dedicated masons, architects, and labourers to build Kumbhalgarh. The almost impregnable fort wall took almost a century to be completed! The walls huge size and thickness made it nearly impossible for the enemy to scale. The wall served to protect, not only the people, but the fertile land and the 360 fort temples that it housed. Locals say that during the days of the kings, innumerable lamps in the walls used to be lit, enabling the local farmers to work in their fields in the day as well as night.
A legend of the fort wall says that each time the wall was built, it would collapse. The king consulted a hermit who suggested that a human be sacrificed. Where his head falls, there be a temple and where his body would fall, the wall begin there. After attempts to find volunteers failed, the hermit offered himself and was decapitated. The construction proceeded smoothly after this, and true to his words, Rana Kumbha built a temple where the hermit’s head had fallen.
In and around the fort
Standing at the gates of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, staring at the colossal structure before you, craning to see where the walls end, there will be at that moment, a new found curiosity about everything about the fort, triggered within you! Be rest assured, the local guide at the fort will ensure that you go home, not just more learned, but also with respect to history instilled!
As you begin your journey through the fort, it is not uncommon for the mind to start wondering about how the fort layouts were planned; how did they decide where to place the entry gates (pols), the courtyards, the turrets, canon shelters, the water storages, the temples; what all did they consider before planning the granary storages for the huge armies; how they got their materials so high up from the plains; how did they cut the stone and many more such questions. These only deepen one’s respect and awe of the Kumbhalgarh Fort!
There are seven pols or gates in the fort. The Ram Pol is the main entrance gate flanked by two enormous bastions. Just standing in front of these gives one a first experience of the fort’s grandiosity. The other gates are the Arait Pol in the south, Hanuman Pol with Lord Hanuman’s image, Hulla Pol, Bhairon Pol leading to the top of the fort, Nimboo Pol, Paghara Pol for the cavalry to assemble and Danibatta. As one ascends further up, passing through the different gates, the views get breathtakingly beautiful. Sprawling green valleys, chain of mountains and the serpentine, more anaconda-like wall of the fort, rolling down as far as you can see, as if to meet the horizon. Shades of green, a waterfall, a drizzle, cool weather accompanied by a gentle breeze are some add-ons that you can expect if you have planned your visit during the monsoon season.
The final gate brings one to the Kumbha palace and the Badal Mahal. Badal Mahal, as its name suggests remains half enveloped by fluffy clouds. A recent addition by Rana Fateh Singh, the panoramic 360 degree view that its terrace offers will make your climb to it completely worthwhile. Both, the Kumbha palace and Badal Mahal have corridors with separate areas for men and women with carved stone screens or jaalis for women to see the court proceedings. The walls of both palaces are adorned with paintings.
Praying in any of the innumerable Jain or Hindu temples within the fort, be it the Ganesh temple with the idol installed by Rana Kumbha himself, the Neelkanth Mahadev temple, Golerao Group of Temples or the Bawan Devi Temple are spiritual moments with a difference. The feeling of standing at the very place where the mighty warrior kings of Mewar might have stood before heading out to battle are to be experienced.
The Kumbhalgarh Fort fell into the hands of the enemy only once, an event caused more by water shortage! Akbar had the fort’s water supply poisoned, leaving the armies short of water and unable to put up a winning fight against his attack. This happened in 1576 and Akbar’s general took control of the fort, only to have it recaptured by Maharana Pratap in 1585. This unassailable fort has withstood many futile attempts to be conquered in the past by Ahmed Shah I, Mahmud Khalji. In 1818, it was captured by the Marathas.
Plan a trip
A two and half hour picturesque drive from Udaipur, the Kumbhalgarh fort is around 90 km from there. Timings are 9 am to 6 pm. Tourist ticket counters are situated near the Ram pol gate where parking is also available. A light and sound show depicting the history of the fort takes place every evening. The fort is also lit up for an hour at that time.
You can combine your trip to the Kumbhalgarh fort with a visit to Kumbhalgarh wildlife sanctuary and/or the Ranakpur Jain Temple.
Try this itinerary while you visit Kumbhalgarh
Jodhpur – Ranakpur Jain Temple – Kumbhalgarh fort – Udaipur
Jodhpur to Ranakpur Jain Temple – 154 km
Ranakpur Jain Temple to Kumbhalgarh fort – 55 km
Kumbhalgarh fort to Udaipur – 90 km
- Cover picture – flickr Ajith Kumar
- Rana Kumbha – https://royalkingsofindia.wordpress.com/rana-kumbha/
- Birds eye view – Heman kumar meena [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
- Ram pol – Aryarakshak at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
- Bhairav Mandir in Badal Mahal – By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32824179
- Jain temple – Solariseknight [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
- Fort with lighting – Kunal 3405 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
- Aerial video footage – PixelDo on youtube