Kumbhalgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Overview
The Kumbhalgarh Fort is among the 5 Rajasthan hill forts that UNESCO in 2013 declared as world heritage sites. Located in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is at a distance of 82 km from Udaipur city. The Kumbhalgarh Fort is surrounded by 13 mountain peaks of the Aravalli Hills, built amidst the foothills of the mountains at a height of 1,914m above sea level. The fort is in the centre of a forest that has now been converted into a sanctuary for local flora and fauna. Among the Rajasthan Mewar forts, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is ranked second in terms of size and importance, after the Chittorgarh Palace.
In Rajasthan during the rule of the Mewar Kings, the stately Kumbhalgarh Fort was built between 1443-1458 AD by Rana Kumbha under the directives of a famous architect of the time, Mandan. The new fort was built on the grounds where a castle had previously been situated which had been built by a Jaina prince Samprati in 2nd century BC. The Kumbhalgarh Fort is named after the then king Rana Kumbha and was built on top of a hill so as to offer the Mewar kings a strategic position against enemy attacks. The positioning and design of Kumbhalgarh Fort have led to its recognition as the second most important Rajasthan fort.
As the Kumbhalgarh Fort is situated on one of the Aravalli Hills, it provides viewers with a panoramic glimpse of the Thar Desert and surrounding sand dunes. One of the most famous and powerful kings of Mewar, Maharana Pratap was born at the Kumbhalgarh Fort. The Badal Mahal was built inside the fort by one of the most renowned builders at the time, Rana Fateh Singh. The fort included multiple buildings including the Kumbha Palace, Brahmanical, baoris, water reservoirs, Jain temples, and chhatris, in addition to the Badal Mahal.
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History Of Kumbhalgarh Fort
According to legend, there is an inspiring story that is behind the building of the Kumbhalgarh Fort. When Rana Kumbha started the construction of the fort, he is said to have faced many difficulties due to which he even considered quitting the project. However, one day he came across a holy man who advised the king to have hope and that the king’s problems would all be solved if a pure-hearted man gave up his own life in sacrifice willingly. The king was initially disappointed, but then the holy man personally proffered his life to the king, telling the king that where he would be beheaded, the Fort entrance should be built, and sites where the man’s body would fall, palaces should be built. The king did as told and the fort was successfully built.
Kumbhalgarh served as a marker for territories between Marwar and Mewar and during times of attack, it was a safe zone to escape to. The founder of Udaipur, Prince Udai also ruled Kumbhalgarh Fort. The strategic Kumbhalgarh Fort was could not be conquered throughout its active usage, but fell when there was a water scarcity when Akbar, King Udai Singh of Marwar, King Man Singh of Amber and the Mirzas of Gujarat were at the fort.
In 1457, the Kumbhalgarh Fort was attacked by Gujarat’s Ahmed Shah I, but the fort could not be breached. There was a belief among locals that a Banmata deity was present in the Kumbhalgarh Fort, and that was why the fort was protected. Subsequently in 1458, 1459 and 1467 Mohammad Khilji attempted to conquer the fort but was unsuccessful. Finally, in 1576 Akbar’s forces were able to take over the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Later on, the fort passed into the hands of the Marathas, with the residential areas and temples intact to this day.
Architecture of Kumbhalgarh Fort
The Kumbhalgarh Fort, situated at a height of 1,100m above sea level, lies on the lofty top of a hill, granting it a strategic position and scenic views. The massive Fort gate is called the Ram Pol or Gate. In total, the Kumbhalgarh Fort has 7 gates and 360 temples out of which 300 are Jain and others are Hindu, including a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva with a huge Shiva Linga. Expansive views of sand dunes in the Thar Desert are easily seen from the fort.
In diameter, the Kumbhalgarh Fort walls measure 36 kilometre, due to which the walls are among the longest in the world. The Kumbhalgarh Fort’s front walls measure 15 ft in thickness. A Lakhola tank can also be found on the Western side of the fort, made between 1382-1421 AD by Rana Lakha with a length of 5 km, a width of 100-200m and depth of 12-18m. The other major gates of the Kumbhalgarh Fort are Ram Pol, Hanuman Pol, Halla Pol, and Aaret Pol. The Hanuman Pol is inscribed on the bottom with details regarding its construction. The Ram Pol is an architectural marvel as all the other buildings can be seen from there easily. The Bad Shahi Bavdi stepped tank was built in 1578 at the time of Shahbaz Khan’s invasion of India.
Kumbhalgarh Fort Wall – The Great Wall of India
The Kumbhalgarh fort’s grand wall which continues throughout the entire complex is said to be the second-longest wall in the world, ranking after the Great Wall of China. As a result, the Kumbhalgarh fort wall is often known as the ‘Great Wall of India’. The wall covers a distance of 36km with a width of 15m that is wide enough for 8 horses to cross together.
The ‘Great Wall of India’ wall of Kumbhalgarh Fort is made out of stone bricks and moves through the valley regions of the Aravalli Hills, culminating at the hilltop. Although certain patches of the wall have deteriorated with the passage of time, there is still remarkable likeness to China’s Great Wall, and it is a tourist spot in its own right.
Main Monuments Inside Kumbhalgarh Fort
Within the Kumbhalgarh fort, there are many important monuments, including:
1. Ganesh Temple – One of the first temples to be built inside the Kumbhalgarh fort is considered to be the Ganesh temple, that is made on top of a 12-foot platform. On the eastern end of the fort is located the Neelkanth Mahadeva temple which was built in 1458 AD. A rectangular enclosure is surrounded by 24 pillars with a shrine for Lord Shiva in the centre, featuring a black stone Shiva idol with 12 hands.
2. Vedi Temple – Located near Kumbhalgarh fort’s Hanuman Pol gate towards the west is the 3-storeyed Jain temple ‘Vedi Temple’ constructed by Rana Kumbha. The octagonal temple is positioned on a raised platform that can be accessed by climbing steps, with 36 pillars supporting the temple’s ceiling. The Vedi Temple was built to perform rituals after the construction of the main fort was complete. Later on, the temple was renovated by Maharana Fateh Singh.
3. Parsvanatha Temple – Built in 1513 on the eastern side of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the Parsvanatha, Bawan and Golera temples are the major Jain temples in the fort. On the southern side of the Neelkanth temple are located the Mataji or Kheda Devi temple. Other prominent temples include Surya Mandir, Pital Shah Jain temple and Mamdeo temple.
4. Bawan Devi Temple – The Bawan Devi Temple complex has been named so because of the presence of bawan or 52 shrines in the complex. There is a single entrance to the temple which features the image of a Jain Tirthankara carved on the driveway, and 52 shrines within. Among the total 52 shrines, two are the biggest and are positioned in the centre while the other smaller shrines are placed around the outer wall. There is a sanctum, in the bigger shrine, along with an open mandap and an antarala.
5. Kumbha Palace – An exemplary specimen of Rajput architecture, the Kumbha palace, situated close to the Pagda Pol gate, is a 2-storeyed building with a stunning blue darbar hall. A corridor within the palace separates the mardana or men’s areas from the zanana or women’s areas. The rooms in the zanana are decorated with intricate paintings of camels, crocodiles and elephants with a rounded temple for Ganesha in the corner of the courtyard. An interesting aspect is the washrooms, which even in that time had an active ventilation system bringing fresh air inside.
6. Badal Mahal – The 2-storied Badal Mahal is the highest point of the Kumbhalgarh fort, and can be reached after climbing up to the terrace. Constructed by Rana Fateh Singh, the Badal Mahal has pastel-shaded interiors and similar to the Kumbha Palace, it is divided into two sections, the Mardana palace for men and the Zanana palace for women. Wall paintings from the 19th century decorate the walls of the palace and intricate friezes can also be seen. Stone jaali screens in the Zanana palace enabled the queen to view events and the activities of court with privacy. The Badal Mahal also has scenic views of the jungle land and the deserts of the Marwar region.
Things To Do at Kumbhalgarh Fort
1. When visiting the Kumbhalgarh fort, explore the Badal Mahal that is located on top of the fort, providing a panoramic view of the entire surrounding sanctuary grounds and the Aravalli Hills. The picturesque views from Badal Mahal are an ideal backdrop for taking pictures.
2. Experience the history of the royal Rajputs first hand by attending the special light and sound show at the Kumbhalgarh fort that traces their story. The 45-minute show begins at 6:45 PM and tickets are available for INR 100 for Indians and INR 250 for international tourists.
Tips For Visiting Kumbhalgarh Fort
1. One of the highlights of the Kumbhalgarh Fort is the sound and light show, so you’re your visit around the show timings.
2. As the Kumbhalgarh fort is considerably large in size and will require extensive walking, it’s advised to wear comfortable shoes to avoid discomfort.
How to Reach Kumbhalgarh Fort
The Kumbhalgarh fort is situated in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, around 84km from Udaipur and is easily accessible from all modes of transport. The state government runs regular and deluxe bus services that can be used to reach up to 50 km from the fort where you can then take a taxi to reach the fort. If you are a fan of trekking, another fun mode of reaching the Kumbhalgarh fort is by joining the trekking trip organized by the Youth Hostels Association of India annually. The trip is for 5 days/4 nights and covers the Kumbhalgarh Fort and Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, for a distance of 40.5km overall at a cost of INR 3010.