Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Udaipur, Udaipur city, Chittorgarh, fort, Rajasthan

Defaced ruins of architecture and statuary, like the wrinkles of decrepitude of a once beautiful woman, only make one regret that one did not see them when they were enchanting.

~ Horace Walpole

The view of Udaipur City through the broken walls of Chittorgarh Fortone of the famous Hill Forts in Rajasthan and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Udaipur, Udaipur city, Chittorgarh, fort,  Rajasthan

Published in response to Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken.

Jaisalmer – the essence of earthly Rajasthan

jaisalmer, cityscape, rajasthan, explore the elements, photo contest

After a wonderful day in Mount Abu our next destination was Jaisalmer as per our  itinerary – Jaipur – Pushkar (via Ajmer Sharif Dargah) – Udaipur (via Chittorgarh) – Mount Abu (via Haldighati) – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur.

I was well acquainted with the name Jaisalmer and some of its characteristics since childhood just like every other Bengali kid who has seen the movie Sonar Kella by Satyajit Ray at least once in their schooldays. 🙂  Scenes like Feluda and company chasing a train through the desert mounted on camels or the little boy Mukul searching for his home of the past life inside the fort are unforgettable.

jaisalmer, cityscape, rajasthan, explore the elements, photo contest

Anyway, it was a tiring 10-hour long bus journey through the scorching desert land. We reached Hotel Sudarshan, a budget hotel with room rates ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 700, at around 7 pm. The rooms were small but appointed with all the necessary furniture. There was a spacious marbled bathroom with hot and cold water supply. The most notable thing about Hotel Sudarshan is it’s traditionally designed interior and exterior. Jaisalmer Fort was clearly visible from the hotel’s rooftop dining hall.

jaisalmer fort, sonar kella, rajasthan

Rajasthan is a large province and a versatile place with its exotic landscapes, rich cultural heritage and a plethora of remarkable architecture spread across its various cities and towns. If you want to experience Rajasthan beyond its royal legacy Jaisalmer is the place to visit.

Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort is the oldest living fortified town in India. Today it is the main attraction of the place. The fort is now popularly called Sonar Kella or Golden Fort after Satyajit Ray’s movie Sonar Kella which was mostly shot in Jaisalmer. Our guide Mr Raju Sharma said Jaisalmer Fort was popularized because of Ray’s movie the story of which revolves around this fort mentioned as “sonar kella” several times in the movie.

When we reached the main gate of the fort its gleaming sandstone exterior turned golden yellow under the glaring desert sun.

sonar kella, jaisalmer fort, golden fort, jaisalmer, rajasthan

Established in 1156 AD by the Rajput king Rawal Jaisal on top of Trikuta Hill Jaisalmer Fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort is dotted with a number of temples and mansions (called haveli in vernacular). We started the walking tour with the Jain temple decked in intricate stone detailing on exterior walls and columns. Inside you’ll see the statues of sacred Jain preachers (tirthankar) including the last and most well known Mahavira. The interior artwork is equally beautiful and reminded me of Dilwara Temple in Mount Abu.

jain temple in jaisalmer fort

We wandered along the zigzag lanes of the fortified town, visited some of the merchant havelis and Sonar Kella movie shooting spot, bargained at a craft shop and not to mention took a lot of photographs.

patwon ki haveli, Jaisalmer fort, jaisalmer

ornate balcony, jaisalmer fort, jaisalmer

ornate balcony, haveli, courtyard, jaisalmer, jaisalmer fort

sonar kella, sonar quila, shooring spot, jaisalmer fort

craft shop, Jaisalmer fort, jaisalmer, rajasthan

Some portions of the fort are in dilapidated state while some buildings and structures stood the test of time.

ruins, jaisalmer fort, rajasthan

haveli, mansion, jaisalmer fort, jaisalmer

pigeon, Jaisalmer fort, jaisalmer, rajasthan

While we made our way to the main gate of the fort we came across this narrow alley which reminded me of Varanasi, the oldest living city in India.

alley, lane, jaisalmer fort

Gadisar Lake

Gadisar Lake is another must see in the fort premise. The lake was created to store rainwater. Our guide said it is one of the largest manmade lakes in Rajasthan.

Gadisar lake, jaisalmer

Note: The guides charge to show the lake, temple and fort was Rs 400 for our group of 28 people.

Camel Ride and Sunset

The evening was reserved for the most coveted as well as exciting event – camel ride and sunset watch in Thar Desert.

camel ride, thar desert, jaisalmer, rajasthan

sunset, thar desert, jaisalmer, rajasthan

Folk Dance Performance

Next was an enthralling folk dance performance at Oasis Camp Resort. From dancing on a small metal platter while carrying 6-7 earthen pots stacked on top of their heads to walking on burning camphor the dancers did it all with their extraordinary skills. The entire show was mind blowing! I returned to hotel in complete contentment that night.

folk dancer, oasis camp resort, jaisalmer

Note: The total cost of camel ride at the desert and folk music show was Rs 330 per person. The entire arrangement was done by our hotel’s travel desk.

Rambling in the Ruins of Chittorgarh

Chittor, chittorgarh, ruins at chittor, chittor attractions, things to see in chittorgarh

Chittorgarh – the name instantly invokes a mixed feeling of awe, veneration and thrill. The moment I read the name in our itinerary the names like Rana Pratap, Mira Bai, Rani Padmini thronged my mind. Chittorgarh is a place full of historical sagas of chivalry, sacrifice and spirituality.

way to Chittorgarh, Chittorgarh Fort, entering chittorgarh fort

Our Rajasthan tour plan was like this – Jaipur Pushkar (via Ajmer Sharif Dargah) – Udaipur (via Chittorgarh) – Mount Abu (via Haldighati) – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur.

So we left Pushkar early in the morning and reached Chittor in the afternoon on our way to Udaipur. The fort is situated on a hill and you can take a tour of the entire fort area by auto rickshaw. We booked autos from the auto stand near Hotel Padmini. It took Rs. 100 per head. The cost included auto fare and guide’s charge for our group.

Chittorgarh was a fortified town in time of Rajput rulers. I assume it took years to build such a huge fortified town which is also the largest fort in India. The guide said there are total 113 temples inside the fort apart from palaces and monuments. Once the capital of Mewar Rajputana (Southern part of Rajasthan) Chittorgarh is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was ruled by Guhilot and Sissodia dynasties from 7th Century AD until captured by Emperor Akbar.

chittor, chittorgarh, chittorgarh ruins,  UNESCO World heritage site

Unfortunately, it was already 5 pm and we had too little time to explore the entire fort area. This is one of the downsides of joining conducted tour by travel agencies. Ours was a large group and you know the proverb … too many cooks spoil the broth. 😛 We always fell short of time. Anyway, I roamed around and explored the palaces, memorials and temples as many as I could before the dusk.

Sun Temple

Surya Mandir or Sun Temple in Chittorgarh is the place where Rajput kings offered worship to sun god. The temple erected in 8th century stood the test of time for over a millennium. The intricate stone detailing on the temple walls and columns is a treat to the eye.

Chittor Sun Temple, Surya mandir, Chittorgarh, chittor attractions

Krishna Temple (Kumbh Shyam Temple)

This is the temple of Mira Bai. It was built separately beside the sun temple. The Rajput rulers were worshipper of Surya (the sun god). But Mira Bai despite being a Rajput daughter and the queen of Chittor was a devotee of Lord Krishna and later chose the life of a saint.

meera temple, kumbh shyam temple, chittorgarh, chittor, krishna temple, chittor attractions

Mira used to sing devotional songs and won people’s love with her soulful singing and sacrifices. This is the temple where Mira Bai contemplated for the last time and nobody had seen her after that. The legend says her mortal body was merged to the icon of Lord Krishna in the temple.

Mira bai temple, kirshna temple chittor, Meera Bai at the temple, chittorgarh, chittor attractions

Vijay Stambha

We started our Chittorgarh tour with Vijay Stambha (Tower of Victory) which is the emblem of Chittor’s glorious past of valor and heroism in protecting their motherland. The monument was built by Rana Kumbha (1458 AD-1468 AD) to celebrate his victory over the Sultan of Malwa in 1440 AD. The tower has over 150 steps to the top balcony. I bet if you can make it to the top it will be the most rewarding experience to enjoy a 360 degree view of the fort.

Vijay Stambha, tower of victory, Chittor, chittorgarh, fort, chittor attractions

Rani Padmini Mahal

Queen Padmini’s Palace is situated in the middle of water. The path through the garden entrance led us to the room where Allauddin Khilji is said to have a glance at the reflection of Rani Padmini on a mirror while the queen stood at the gate of her palace.

rani padmini mahal, chittor, chittorgarh, rajasthan tour, chittor attractions

It is said that Padmini the wife of Rana Ratan Singh was so beautiful that the story of her ravishing beauty reached the ear of Nawab Allauddin Khilji and he came all the way from Delhi to Chittor to see her. But it was against the dignity of Hindu Rajputana that an outsider will look at the queen. Again, they didn’t have the choice to refuse Khilji who had a strong armySo they arranged it liked that.

rani padmini mahal, chittorgarh, chittor, rajasthan, chittor attractions

Jauhar Kund

Later in 1303 Allauddin attacked Chittor and killed Rana Ratan Singh to possess his queen. But the queen and all other female royals committed suicide by burning to death called Jauhar. This was a custom meant for Rajput female royals. Whenever the kingdom was defeated and captured by the enemy (especially Mughals) they committed Jauhar to avoid the shame and indignity at the hand of enemy. The huge pyre where women jumped into the fire was called Jauhar Kund.

jauhar kund chittorgarh, jauhar, rajput custom, chittor, chittor attractions

Bramha Temple

The Brahma Temple in Chittorgarh was built by Rana Kumbha to honour his father. The adjoining garden called Charbagh houses the cenotaphs containing the ashes of Chittor’s kings starting from Bappa Rawal to Udai Singh, the founder of Udaipur.

Bramha temple chittorgarh, charbagh, chittor, chittor attractions

Gaumukh Reservoir

Built adjacent to Bramha Temple this reservoir holds water for sacred functions and worship. As the name reveals the shape of the reservoir resembles the mouth of a cow, the sacred animal in Hindu religion. The cascading structure with the reservoir at the bottom creates a wonderful vista.

gaumukh reservoir, chittor, chittorgarh, chittor attractions

Other Attractions in Chittorgarh

Apart from this there are Rana Kumbha Mahal or the Palace of Rana Kumbha, Kirti Stambh, Fateh Prakash Museum, Naulakha Bhandar or the ‘Nine Lakh Treasury’ established by Rana Kumbha are some of the main attractions of Chittorgarh. Fateh Prakash Museum opened in the residence of Maharana Fateh Singh, is located near Rana Kumbha Palace. The museum remains open from 10am to 4pm daily except Fridays.

After about 2 hours of rambling in the ruins of Chittorgarh it was time for us to leave for Udaipur. 😦 The stone edifices looked mysterious in the dying daylight. I wished I could stay there for some more time. But Udaipur was beckoning. It looked even more beautiful in the light of setting sun.

Udaipur city, udaipur from Chittor

What I realized is that you need at least one day to explore and enjoy the beauty of Chittor. The place has so much to offer that it is an unjust attempt to accommodate everything in a single post. I wish to share more glimpses of Chittorgarh Fort in future. 🙂