Kumbalgarh stretches into the horizon
It is almost dusk as we climb the way up the Kumbalgarh fort. The soft hues cast lights up the perimeter walls as my eyes trace its 36 km length, running all around it. It is said to be the second longest in the world after the Great Wall of China, says a tourist to another, wishing he could go for a walk along the wall.
Standing almost at the roof of the fortress , I see a 360 degree landscape of modern day Rajasthan spanning out in front of me. More groups of tourists join in and pose for photographs against the setting sun.
And then a guide walks in with a story: Idhar se aap dekhenge toh aapko puri Mewar dikhayi degi… aur udhar se Marwar. The guide, Firoze, smiles as a translator takes over: He is saying that you can see all of Mewar from here and from there, Marwar.
Kumbalgarh fort, built in the 15th century by Rana Kumbha in the Aravali Range had forked Mewar and Marwar and was a political asylum for many princes, including Rana Udai Singh who later founded Udaipur, about 90 km away from here. Firoze informs us that Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Kumbalgarh form Mewar, while Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer is Marwar. And then he tells us a story.
Rana Kumbha attempted to build the fort many times, but failed until he met a saint who offered himself as a human sacrifice. The martyr apparently advised the king to construct the fort after his death. He told Kumbha to build a temple where the head fell and the main fort where the body lay and a wall was built along the entire stretch. We pause as Firoze shows us the two spots which are now places of worship. Another legend goes that this was built on the ruins of a palace of a Jain king, Sampranti, descendants of the Mauryan dynasty who ruled here in the 2nd Century BC.
There are nine gates to the fort and each of them tells a story be it the Hanuman Pol or the Nimboo Pol or the Hulla Pol. The entrance is guarded by two massive gates the Ram Pol and the Vijay Pol. Firoze tells us that there are three stone sculptures in between them that speak of a treachery. It is believed that three women helped an enemy king to enter the fort and they were buried alive here. The statues were reminders for anyone who would think of conspiring against the king. The citadel is massive, built at a height of more than 1000 metres and houses more than 300 buildings in the form of temples, towers and palaces within its complex.
We walk around and hear many tales. According to a legend, Rana Kumbha used to light a massive lamp which used to shine brightly across all of Mewar. It was a symbol of power and attracted even the queen of Jodhpur to abandon her husband and come here, Firoze remarks. The story however did not end up like that of Helen of Troy, as the Rana apparently made the queen his sister and a war was averted.
This is where the legendary Rana Pratap was born as well. The narration continues. I hear another story of how Prince Uday, the founder of Udaipur, was smuggled and brought in here as an infant.
Meanwhile, tourists are lost in the mahals around the fort. One group is pointing to a set of walls that make a few rooms as many tourists photograph it. Here you can see the royal queens rooms, including her toilets, I hear one of them remark irreverently.
Amidst laughter, we walk towards a small temple, overlooking the fort and sit on the steps. And then the fort relives its glory, even if for only a few minutes as the lights come on. We take in the scene as silence reigns.
Photos credit: Wikimedia Commons