It was always going to be a long day, catching the 0600 train there in order to have time to see it and return to Udaipur for my overnight bus to Bombay. I just hoped that I hadn’t finally reached Fort Saturation Point and it would be a disappointing waste of energy.
Again, there was no need to worry. Chittaurgarh is great. Just look at this awesome picture, taken from a vantage point I didn’t bother going to.
This photo is useful for a sumary of the major features. The modern town of Chittaurgarh is on the plain at the bottom of the cliff, to the left of the picture. The walls run for about 8 miles up and down the long narrow plateau. At the top left is the entrance gate and ruins of Kumbha Mahal palace. In the middle top, the Kumbhaswamin Hindu temple. Top right, in the background, is a 20th century palace building, now converted into a museum which wasn’t open the day I went. In front of it is the Vijay Stambh or Victory Tower. In the centre is a cluster of other temples and ruins, leading right and down to the Garmukh reservoir.
I hired an autorickshaw for a few hours to take me around all the sights of the fort. We zigzagged up the hill, through several massive archways, and reached the first one: the ruined palace of Kumbha Mahal, named after Maharana Kumbha of Mewar, a man who loved forts and built lots of them. As well as extending and adding to Chittaurgarh, he built the self-named and awesome Kumbhalgarh.
It’s a pile of rambling ruins, not prepped for visitors in any way – in either a tourist or Health & Safety sense. It’s just there: some parts standing up to five storeys high, others disappeared completely. Stairs, walls, even buildings stop abruptly where they’ve partially collapsed. Rather than being led around a planned route, like a child, you’re free to wander and climb among them as you like. It’s satisfying to interact more viscerally with a place, not just following the tourist path and experiencing the ruins by sight alone. It’d be an amazing place to do parkour. I made do with some inelegant scrambling.
Next were a couple of Jain temples. Not as big or impressive as Ranakpur, though similarly decorated. I like how smiley all the naked girls are. It’s nice to see they’re happy to be so underdressed. One problem with being so voluptuous, though, is that apparently your boobs can get knocked off.
After the Jain temples come the Hindu ones. Look, I’m sorry, Hindus. Your doctrine that absolutely anything can be a representation of God, if regarded in the right way, may be theologically admirable, but it doesn’t make for very interesting places of worship.
In the Kumbhaswamin, or Kumbha Shyam Temple, the notable features are smallish statues of Garuda (a mythical bird-man ridden by Vishnu) and Varaha (Vishnu’s boar incarnation). Yeah, yeah, seen it all before. In the Samadhisvara or Samiddhesvara Temple, it’s a trimurti, a combined representation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Great. Three big faces side by side. It’s not even executed particularly artistically.
Sometimes it’s barely worth the effort of putting your shoes off and on again to go inside. Which is what I decided for the Kalika Mata Temple, and didn’t bother.
Off to the side of one of the temples is a smaller shrine dedicated to Meerabai, a late-medieval female devotional poet. It’s a shameless commercial exercise. In front of the tacky statue of Meera, and to the accompaniment of popular Bollywood tunes, priests flog postcards and other tat to the faithful.
The Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower) was worth climbing, and even worth cracking my head on a lintel halfway up (despite being specifically warned to watch my head by the guard at the bottom), for the views around the area. The smaller Kirti Stambh on the other side of the fort might have given similarly good views in the other direction, but wasn’t open. Finally, the Padmini Palace at the south end of the fort is quite dull, with plain buildings and courtyards, and a view over some stagnant water.
While I was looking at some moderately diverting detail of a building, a teenage boy walked past me, pointed his camera phone right in my face, and took a picture. As a foreigner (and even more if you’re female), it’s a pretty common occurrence for Indians to want to take trophy photos of you. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they don’t. This instance was particularly rude and invasive, so I decided to teach him a lesson. I spent the next ten minutes or so following him around, getting as close to him as I could and repeatedly taking his photo. I think he got the message. I deleted them all later, so I won’t be posting any here, even if I wanted to give him any kind of promotion, which I don’t.
And that was Chittaurgarh Fort done, just in time to catch my afternoon train back to Udaipur. I felt as tired as these pigs near the Vijay Stambh.