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The historic vibe: Kumbhalgarh was a creation of Mewar’s ruler Kumbha

, ET Bureau|
Sep 27, 2018, 05.19 AM IST
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​Kumbhalgarh Fort
Weird but true
Kumbhalgarh Fort, built in the 15th century, separates Mewar from Marwar. It resembles the Great Wall of China due to its 36 km long perimeter of walls and is considered the second longest in the world.

There’s something indomitable about a fort’s seemingly never-ending walls. Most of which stretch from hill to hill, like a stone anaconda waiting to spring. While most Indian forts either have a hill-top vantage point or a forest as a protective cover, this one at Kumbhalgarh has both. It stretches across a hill range, giving watchmen a clear line of vision till miles away, it also lies in the heart of what is now a wildlife sanctuary. Kumbhalgarh is one of the six hill-forts of Rajasthan, which enjoys a UNESCO World Heritage status. Although, it isn’t as popular as the forts of Amer (Jaipur) and Jaisalmer’s forts. Distance and accessibility have played a major role in driving footfalls - the fort’s location is 90 kms north of the nearest town and airport, at Udaipur. As a visitor drives north from Udaipur, the road begins to swing through hills after a point. An hour of drive through the lush vegetation across the hills brings one closer to a faint glimpse of the fort. Although it not be large in scale, it still leaves a person in awe.
Bhairav Temple
The Bhairava Temple sits inside the fort

The first sight of the fort’s front is of massive, battle-mented walls coming along a long hill range, and sheilding the palace complex. If one were to arrive here a little after sunrise, the buildings of the palace complex glow in the sun. A large gate in the battle-mented walls allows people to enter the fort. Most vehicles are parked just outside this gate with only a select few being allowed access within. Walking past a couple of temples on the left, one enters a gateway leading inside the palace complex. Unlike the elegant palace complexes of Udaipur, this one is simpler and more functional in nature. The emphasis is again on height and a winding pathway leads up, with a flight of stairs leading to the higher levels. At the very top is the Badal Mahal, an apt name for a place that seems built to touch the clouds. Most of the rooms in the complex are bare, the exception being a set of rooms bearing an elaborate pattern of fighting elephants on their walls. The palace complex is an interesting place, built and added by generations of rulers.

Apart from residential rooms, there are several courtyards within, some with small shrines and others with water tanks or gardens. Monkeys leap across the courtyards in places, looking for a spot to munch their meal in peace. Various points in the palace complex offer an incredible view of the countryside around. In an earlier era, guards stationed here could alert the garrison of an attacker from miles. Today, for a visitor, it is the view provided by the palace complex of the inside of the fort that makes the place truly exciting. From the palace complex’s windows and turrets, the fort spreads itself out in front of you. A group of large shrines on the right, a cluster of older temples on a hill in front, a few temple shikharas peep from behind a hill, an irrigation tank’s wall is visible on another side - the fort seems alive with temples.
Temple inside Kumbhalgarh Fort
Temple inside Kumbhalgarh Fort

The fort walls too seem to go on endlessly. The 36 kilometres long outer walls of the fort make it the second longest wall in the world. Kumbhalgarh is not an abandoned fort, but a lived-in one, with pockets of houses in various corners. According to historians, there are as many as 360 Hindu and Jain temples inside the fort. You’ll find temples are indeed everywhere in the fort -amidst thick vegetation, on small ridges, in clefts between hills. The fort of Kumbhalgarh, in its current shape and form, was a creation of Mewar’s ruler Kumbha in the 15th century. Kumbha, however, was the only building on the site of a pre-existing fortification. According to historians, the first defensive structure here was built as far back as the 6th century. Over centuries, the fort that Kumbha built proved a tough nut to crack. In its history, it is believed to have been captured only once, that too caused by a shortage of drinking water and only when surrounded by a Mughal force accompanied by armies from Amer, Marwar and Gujarat. Since World Heritage status has been achieved, visitors to the area have increased manifold, attracted both to the fort and to the wildlife sanctuary. Hotels in the area are rapidly increasing. One hopes that amidst this change, the peace of this area is not irrevocably shattered. Supposedly peaceful visitors should not shatter what attacking armies could not.
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