Forts of Rajasthan – 4: Kumbhalgarh Fort

It is a cool and crisp February morning at the Kumbhalgarh Fort.

The mild warmth of the winter sun and a gentle breeze make it the perfect weather for exploring it, and the mesmerising panoramic vista tempts me to stop now and then and admire the view. The blue haze of the distant mountain ranges, birdsong and the ringing of bells from the various temples within the Fort complex adds to the general sense of peace and calm all around.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan Though there is some activity in the settlement below and few early bird tourists like me, it feels like the Kumbhalgarh Fort is all mine, and only mine, to explore. As I stop at one point to look at the view once again, I recall how different the Fort looked the previous evening, when I attended the sound and light show.

The sun was setting when I had arrived at the Kumbhalgarh Fort. I had just enough time to buy the ticket, reach the venue, find a seat and switch off my mobile, when the show began with the rather clichéd, but oh-so-effective, voice-over saying, “Main Kumbhalgarh hoon” [I am Kumbhalgarh], setting the tone for the narration of the story of Kumbhalgarh Fort.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
One of the many temples in the Kumbhalgarh Fort Complex silhouetted against the setting sun

Centuries ago, Kumbhalgarh Fort was the site of another fort known as Macchindragarh, which was supposed to have been built by Prince Samprati, a descendent of Emperor Asoka, in 2nd Century BC. Little else is known of Macchindragarh beyond this and for centuries after its construction it is unclear as to what happened there. One can take a simple guess of kings coming and going, some successions painless and bloody. If there were any extraordinary rulers or events, there is sketchy or no information on them.

And then came the reign of Rana Kumbha of Mewar (1443-1468 CE). Rana Kumbha is credited with having built 32 forts, Kumbhalgarh Fort being one of them.There were many hurdles in the construction of the Fort and it is believed that the Rana almost gave up the idea of building it. Till, one day, a holy man came to him and declared that the Fort could not be built until there was a human sacrifice — his own.

Before his beheading, the holy man gave explicit instructions as to where the entrance to the Fort was to be located, where its various gates were to be built, where the living quarters, stables, armoury, etc were to be, and so on. One of the instructions was the location of the entrance to the Palace Complex, which was to be built on the spot where his head landed !

Kumbhalgarh Fort took 15 years to be built and is considered to be one of the finest forts in the country today. It remains a fort that has been laid siege to, but never conquered. [Perhaps it is for this reason that Udai Singh II, heir to the throne of Mewar and founder of the city of Udaipur sought and was given protection here. Many years later, his son, Maharana Pratap was born in the Fort.] Seven huge and imposing gates protect the Fort as does its 38 km wall, which is considered to be the second longest wall in the world [some accounts put the length of the wall at only 15 km].

It was a full moon night and when the 45-minute sound and light show finished, all lights were switched off for a minute to reveal a magical world bathed in shimmering, silvery moonlight. It was one that made me want to explore Kumbhalgarh Fort right away ! But that remained wishful thinking as the security guards politely ushered us out telling us to come back the next morning.

Next morning, after an early breakfast, I decide to walk the 2 km to the Fort. The leisurely walk turns out to be a good decision as I see a variety of plants, birds and rocks. And that first sight of the Fort in the morning light from the road…

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
The crenulated walls of the Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
The Palace Complex at the top of the Kumbhalgarh Fort

It is a little after 8 am when I arrive at the first of the gates to Kumbhalgarh Fort, just in time to say a quick hello and a bye to a herd of buffaloes as they set off for their day’s grazing. 🙂

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan I buy my ticket (an unbelievable Rs.5/-) and begin the climb to the top of the Fort. As I climb higher, the expanse of the Fort is revealed as is its setting among the Aravalli mountain ranges. It’s famous fortified wall can be seen meandering away into the distance like a river of stone and disappearing from view over a rise, only to reappear some distance away, and disappear yet again. Temple spires, domed structures (probably chhatris or cenotaphs), a village settlement, and other indistinguishable structures can be seen in the distance.

I spend a wonderful couple of hours within the Palace Complex, with its shrines, empty stables, painted walls, staircases leading into spooky and dank passages, windy terraces, breathtaking views, echoing rooms… Presenting some captures from the time spent there:

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
Some of temples in the Fort complex. There are reportedly 360 of them in the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Note the undulating Fort wall in the background
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
An inner wall surrounding the Palace Complex. I just loved the steps running along the wall and the way the wall mimics the natural curve of the rock base it is built on
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
The Bhairon Pol through which one enters the Palace Complex
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
Ruins of Rana Kumbha’s Palace can be seen on the left. Doesn’t it appear like the Palace has emerged from the rock itself?
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
Birthplace of Maharana Pratap
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
The ridged walkway or ramp to aid horses
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
On top of the Fort: The domes of the Badal Mahal, the highest structure in Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
The Fort wall appears to flow away like a river of stone (View from Badal Mahal)

Kumbhalgarh Fort is one of those places that appear to be suspended between here and there. Not entirely empty of inhabitants, yet desolate. Desolate, but not neglected. Not neglected, yet forgotten. Forgotten by all, but the most persistent tourists or those breaking their journey on the way to more exciting places like Jodhpur or Udaipur.

Kumbhalgarh Fort appealed to me like no other — architecture, history, desolation, expanse, setting… everything. I wish I had got the time to spend more time to explore the Fort beyond the Palace Complex and visit some of the temples, the wells and the dam. And walk along the Fort wall. Not the whole length, mind you, just a little bit.

I want to go visit Kumbhalgarh Fort again, but don’t know when that’ll be. Till then, it is this image of the Fort that will keep me working towards that wish 😀

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Travel, Forts of Rajasthan
Silver and Gold: Full moon and a lit-up Kumbhalgarh Fort

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Forts of Rajasthan Series

38 thoughts on “Forts of Rajasthan – 4: Kumbhalgarh Fort

  1. Lovely post, yet again. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it! 🙂

    The pic of the temple silhoutted against the sunset is brilliant. And I can’t over the gorgeous, gorgeous blue of the sky in some of the pics!

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    1. Thank you very much, TGND 🙂 The gorgeous blue sky is for real and a wee bit enhanced due to the auto contrast mode in Picasa that I use for all my photographs. Kumbhalgarh had the bluest skies I saw in Rajasthan – maybe it was the mountain air and lack of pollution that made it so blue 🙂

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  2. Very well written Sudha. Also, very thought provoking. The willingness of the holy man to offer himself as a sacrifice. Ever since you narrated this to me, I have wondered at the man’s convictions and philosophy………Was it a way of getting immortalised forever? Or, was it a deep – rooted regard for his king and God? Or, a combination of both. My head is full of questions…
    The grandeur of the fort and its palaces and temples are captured beautifully in your photographs. My Rajasthan trip is yet to take off and you keep tempting me with your wonderful posts!!

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    1. Thanks, Neena. I don’t know if the human sacrifice was really willing to give up his life or whether it was forced. It is wuite possible that there was no human sacrifice and this is only a local legend. True or false, it definitely is a fascinating one.sn’t it?

      After visiting so many Forts in Rajasthan, I can confidently and unabashedly say that Kumbhalgarh is my favourite. I loved it 🙂

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    1. The full moon was unbelievable and I was just lucky to be there at the right place and right time as well. (Psst. Hope you didn’t notice that the last pic is also terribly out of focus)

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    1. Punit, this is a perfect place to ride to as well. Saw quite a few bikers doing the Aravalli route during my trip. 🙂 And do go on a full moon if you can manage it; it is an unbelievable sight.

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    1. Welcome here, Satyender and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Very happy that you liked the post. I was also part of an organised tour, and there was the option of seeing the Kumbhalgarh National Park or the Fort. Though I chose the latter, I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to and we had to leave for Udaipur as well !

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    1. Yes, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is really beautiful and grand and till one sees it for oneself, it cannot be imagined. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Shiya. Glad you liked the pictures.

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  3. Sudha, this post comes at a very ill-suited time. I am dying to go on a vacation and this travelogue is to die for as well! Fabulous pictures and fabulous ride through time.

    P.S.: I love the header!

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    1. Thank you, Deboshree. I hate to tell you this but Rajasthan in this season is quite beautiful, having just come back from Jaisalmer, and since it is off season it is not even crowded. This is the best time to visit the Marwar region of this state. And try and take a short break if you can – Jaisalmer and Bikaner are doable over the weekend from Delhi 🙂

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