CHITTAURGARH CITY

Of all the former Rajput capitals, CHITTAURGARH (or Chittor), 115km northeast of Udaipur, was the strongest mainstay of Hindu resistance against the Muslim invaders. No less than three mass suicides (johars) were committed over the centuries by the female population of its fort, whose husbands watched their wives, sisters and mothers burn alive before smearing ash from the sacred funeral pyres over their bodies and riding to their deaths on the battlefield below. An air of desolation still hangs over the honey coloured ramparts, temples, towers and ruined palaces of the old citadel. It seems impossible to figure out that such an imposing structure, towering 180m over the Mewar valley on a rocky plateau, could have ever been taken, yet alone three times. As a symbol of Rajput chivalry and militarism only Jodhpur’s Meherangarh Fort compares. Below the fort, the modern town, spread over both banks of the River Ghambiri, holds little to detain travellers beyond the narrow bazaars of its old quarter, and some tourists choose to squeeze a tour of Chittaurgarh into a daytrip, or en route between Bundi and Udaipur. A one night stop, however, leaves time for a more leisurely visit to the fort and a stroll through the town.

 

The entire fort is 5km long and 1km wide, and you could easily spend a whole day up here nosing around the myriad remains, although most visitors content themselves with a few hours. Tours of the fort are most easily made
by rickshaw;  many hang out at the bus station awaiting tourists, though note that rickshaw drivers tend to take visitors to only the most famous monuments rather than around the entire fort, unless specifically requested. An alternative is to just take a rickshaw up to the entrance, and then explore on foot or, perhaps best, to rent a bike from the shop on the road leading west from the crossroads outside the station. It’s a long and steep climb up to the fort, but most of the roads on the plateau itself are flat.

 

While Chittaurgarh’s mid- and upper-range hotels cost a little more than elsewhere, places at the lower end of the price scale are pretty grimy - this is one place budget travellers might want to splash out (if you don’t, there are a few cheap but fairly grim hotels around the train station and in town). Outside Chittor, the peaceful Castle Bijaipur makes an appealing alternative to staying in the town itself.