Our bike trip in Rajasthan started with Kumbhalgarh Fort. The massive fort is second to the Great Wall of China in terms of the length of its wall!
Hindustan Times had featured an edited version of this article
After visiting the beautiful and fascinating city of Jodhpur, one should visit the fort town of Kumbhalgarh. There are certain places where merely the first footsteps itself would transport you to the times of clanging swords, neighing horses, soldiers with helmets and a king whose story is steeped in valour . One amongst them is Kumbhalgarh. The history of Kumbhalgarh is fascinating with large dollops of mystery, unbelievable tales and extreme valour.
Kumbhalgarh lies 182 kms to the south east of the princely city of Jodhpur. If Jodhpur & Chittaurgarh can be called the seat of royalty entwined with tales of a queen’s beauty and heroism, then Kumbhalgarh would be called the fort amongst forts and its ruler , hero amongst heroes. The fort is built on the Aravalli ranges.
Ram Pol- Kumbhalgarh fort
Rana Kumbha after whom the fort is named is the hero. The ramparts of forts run for a length of 36 kms. It is said that the length of the rampart is second only to the Great Wall of China.
Aerial view of serpentine ramparts -Kumbhalgarh fort
The entry to the fort is quite dramatic. One has to go through numerous pols (which means arched gates) Ram pol being the main one. The story behind the visualization and the construction of the fort is unbelievable. Rana Kumbha embarked on an ambitious plan to build an impregnable fort. The lore is that the fort used to crumble to the ground so frequently that the king began to regard the fort as a jinx. Here, the tale takes a fascinating turn. A hermit was consulted and he suggested human sacrifice to please the Lords. Apparently, nobody amongst the subjects came forward to offer their life and the hermit finally suggested that the King accept his life instead!! The hermit had only one condition. The first pol was to be built on that very spot where his head falls and the main complex of the fort to be built where his body would finally rest !! One can still come across a small temple where the severed head landed and a temple at the point where the torso found resting place a good 2 kms away on top of the fort!! Generally, forts are built based on a top down design while in this case, the gates were built first and then the main complex. So much for the quirks of a fort! The Rajput nobles often sought sanctuary in Kumbhalgarh whenever they felt Chittaurgarh or Udaipur was not safe.
The fort is a warrior’s fort. The builders had no time for intricate designs . The living quarters of the king is plain and strategically located to get all round view. There is a small temple one would come across while climbing up the fort. The temple was built by the King to please the goddess and where he would pay his obeisance before going to battle.
Remains of a watch tower – Kumbhalgarh fort
We met an old lady whose ancestors were the priests to the temple. There are Jain temples inside the fort complex. The Jain temples pre dates the fort by several centuries. There is also a story where the queen of the ruler of Jodhpur was so fascinated by the stories of prowess and glory of Rana Kumbha that she embarked on a journey to meet him!! Her husband was so enraged that he banished her from his kingdom and passed a firman that she may never come back. Rana Kumbha mediated between them and later offered a part of Mewar as dowry to the king as a token of his brotherly affection he had on the queen !!
Siva temple-Kumbhalgarh fort
After a breathtaking trip of the fort one comes to the base to visit a beautiful Siva temple. The Siva lingam is about 4 feet tall. The lingam is still worshiped and beautiful. The fable is that the king could easily offer prayers to the deity by sitting cross legged on the floor and to do that, the king had to be atleast 8 feet tall!! Our guide then quietly told us that Rana Kumbha was assassinated inside this very temple by his son Udai Karan. The fort is also the birthplace of Rana Pratap. The room where he was born still exists.
One can justify a visit to the fort only if you are able to spend atleast 4 to 5 hours. You would be well served if you enlist services of a guide. One may get in touch with Mr. Chanderpal who was our guide and impressed us with his knowledge about the fort .
If you are planning a road trip from Jodhpur or Udaipur, you would love driving on the narrow roads leading up to Kumbhalgarh especially from Jodhpur.
Nearest railhead : Jodhpur & Udaipur
Nearest Airport: Udaipur
Accommodation : Decent accommodation at Udaipur, Ranakpur & Kumbhalgarh
Other places to see near Kumbhalgarh :Jain temples of Ranakpur about 50 kms from Kumbhalgarh.