Enter Mewar and look around – you will find yourself surrounded by forts to the point your eyes may stretch & beyond that. These forts are generally accompanied by lakes, ponds or bawris (stepped wells) now tended by localites who would don colorful attire from top to bottom. While ladies will be seen in tye-dye (bandhej), male members would more often than not, be dressed in pure white with a colorful turban.
Theses colors when experienced with the clear of water bodies next to the brown & beige of forts under the azure sky; you are often left craving for more. That’s when a thin, tall guy, wearing the badge of the local guide, will open a bag full of stories & hand you a bunch. These stories glorify life of olden times & make yours worthwhile today for you get to be a part of those long lost legends even if vicariously.
Mewar, alone, boasts of 84 fortresses, of which 32 were built by Rana Kumbha. He also built Kumbhalgarh fort with the longest wall, second to that of China. In 15th century, Rana Kumbha was far ahead of his time & envisioned a Mewar that would not only be the pride of Rajasthan but also bejewel the country of Koh-i-noor.
The tower of victory: Vijay Stambh
Back then, when he won the dual battles against Gujarat & Malwa, he commemorated his victory by erecting a 9 storey tall & mighty Vijay Stambh (Victory tower) that is still standing high today – untouched & unbent – much like the Rajputs of Mewar who would prefer Jauhar-Saka any day over matrimony alliances.
When Allaudin Khilji attacked Chittaur in the 13th century followed by the battlefield sacrifice of Rana Ratan Singh & Jauhar committed by Rani Padmini, Chittaur died a silent death too. Its loved ones were gone & it had no one that could be called as family. With each passing day, Chittaur became gloomier & vanished a bit more until Rana Kumbha came in.
When Chittaurgarh was brought to life by Rana Kumbha:
A century went by from the time the fort walls witnessed the Jauhar-Saka of Rani Padmini & Rana Ratan Singh, Chittaurgarh was left alone – silent & sad. It was long dead with no hope of rising again because its family was gone forever.
But Chittaurgarh did come to life when Rana Kumbha came. In 15th century, Rana Kumbha not only brought Chittaurgarh back to its glory, but also fought winning battles with the neighbouring states. The boundaries were expanding now & Chittaur could look at the vantage point with pride because all it could see, was his.
Rana Kumbha went a step further & gifted brother – Kumbhalgarh fort – with the largest fort complex second to Chittaur & the largest wall second to that of China. Mewar was thrilled & was growing taller & fuller with each passing day.
Not only did Rana Kumbha construct 32 forts during his reign but also gave a boost to music, poetry & art. This unmatched and unparalleled combination of battlefield prowess & love for the softer arts was only found in abundance in Sisodias. And that’s why Mewar held his head high always, perhaps!
Mewar saw its best days with Rana Kumbha & prepared itself for the glory that was yet to come. Unfortunately, the lust of power engulfed the royal family & Rana Kumbha was murdered by his own son, Uday Singh. Uday Singh could not defend Mewar like his father did & lost many territories. His reign was short-lived too because of his untimely death by lightening.
Mewar was grieving the untimely demise Rana Kumbha. But this grief was going to come to an end for Mewar was to witness the great battles with the Mughal forces once again. And this time also, the Rajput warrior was going to earn a name like no one else & live forever in the history of India.
Next in series: The immortal warrior of Mewar: Rana Sangha