Wednesday, August 03, 2005

lanD oF fortS

Cloaked in the mists of time and legend, in a distant land of deserts and fortresses, there lived a king called Rana Ratan Singh, who once ruled the kingdom of Mewar. Nestled by the dazzling dunes of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, Mewar was one of the mighty empires of the Rajputs. Rana’s consort Rani Padmini was famous for her legendary beauty. So much so that it brought the great Delhi Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji himself to Mewar. But Rana didn’t allow Khilji to see his wife. And Khilji decided to conquer Mewar for the queen. But he couldn’t defeat the fort which was situated on a massive hill at Chittaur and protected by seven gateways. Khilji didn’t withdraw either and besieged the fort for about six months.

An outside view of Chittaur fort.

When the supply of the fort ended, Rana was forced to go for a truce with Khilji. Khilji demanded to see the Rani to stop a war. Finally Rana agreed and Khilji was invited, fully unarmed, to the fort. The Rani was shown to Khilji through the reflection in a mirror as she stood on a small palace constructed at the centre of a small lake. Yes! At last Khilji saw the Rani as a reflection in the lake, that also, through a mirror! Besotted by her beauty, Khilji detained Rana down the fort on their way back, and demanded Rani Padmini for the Rana. The brave Rani sent 700 palanquins with Rajputs hidden inside, to the base camp of Khilji with Rana's brother kept in her place, to liberate Rana. In the subsequent battle all the Rajputs were killed. To avoid molestation and the ignominy of defeat, Rani with her servants entered into a holy pyre called Jauhar!!

The palace where Rani Padmini stood & her reflection on the lake was shown to Khilji through a mirror.

This happened long back in AD 1303. Man! How beautiful would have been that Rani then? :-) And Damn it! Why wasn’t photography invented that time, so that we would have been able see how she looked like. Well, jokes apart we a gang of 8 were thrilled for reasons obvious to see this kingdom and the fort and to explore the stories and folk lore sleeping peacefully in that soil. According to history books this story is some what different, but it is the one that has been passed on for generations in Rajasthan and is pleasant to hear. :-)

Udaipur Observatory located at the center of a lake

We set start on a cold December night, after our end-term exams, to celebrate the new year with glory in the land of forts. It was also for a break-away from the dry-state of Gujarat to enjoy our lives with the sacred fire-water. ;-) (Liquor of any kind is banned in Gujarat by law)

Ajmer Lake

The places we visited were Udaipur – Palace of Rana Uday Singh, Chittaurgarh – Fort of Rana Ratan Singh, Ajmer – Famous for Ajmer Dargah where Pakistan President Musharaf paid a visit when he came to India and Pushkar – The only Brahma temple in this world.