Chittorgarh Fort (Hindi/Rajasthani: चित्तौड़ दुर्ग Chittor Durg) is one of the largest forts in India and probably the grandest in the state of Rajasthan. It is a World Heritage Site. The fort, popularly known as Chittor, was the capital of Mewar and is today situated in Chittorgarh City. It was initially ruled by Guhilot and later by Sisodias, the Suryavanshi clans of Chattari Rajputs, from the 7th century, until it was finally abandoned in 1568 after the siege by Emperor Akbar in 1567. It sprawls majestically over a hill 180 m (590.6 ft) in height spread over an area of 280 ha (691.9 acres) above the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River. The fort precinct with an evocative history is studded with a series of historical palaces, gates, temples and two prominent commemoration towers. These monumental ruins have inspired the imagination of tourists and writers for centuries.
The fort was sacked three times between the 15th and 16th centuries; in 1303 Allauddin Khilji defeated Rana Ratan Singh, in 1535 Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat defeated Bikramjeet Singh and in 1567 Emperor Akbar defeated Maharana Udai Singh II who left the fort and founded Udaipur. Each time the men fought bravely rushing out of the fort walls charging the enemy but lost every time. Following these defeats, Jauhar was committed thrice by more than 13,000 ladies and children of the Rajput heroes who laid their lives in battles at Chittorgarh Fort, first led by Rani Padmini wife of Rana Rattan Singh who was killed in the battle in 1303, and later by Rani Karnavati in 1537 AD.
Thus, the fort represents the quintessence of tribute to the nationalism, courage, medieval chivalry and sacrifice exhibited by the Mewar rulers of Sisodia and their kinsmen and women and children, between the 7th and 16th centuries. The rulers, their soldiers, the women folk of royalty and the commoners considered death as a better option than dishonor in the face of surrender to the foreign invading armies.
In 2013, at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Chittorgarh Fort, along with 5 other forts of Rajasthan, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
Chittorgarh Fort is considered to be the largest fort of India in terms of area. It is stated that the fort was constructed by the Mauryans during the 7th century AD and hence derives its name after the Mauryan ruler, Chitrangada Mori, as inscribed on coins of the period. Historical records show Chittorgarh fort as the capital of Mewar for 834 years. It was established in 734 AD by Bappa Rawal, founder ruler in the hierarchy of the Sisodia rulers of Mewar. It is also said[by whom?] that the fort was gifted to Bappa Rawal as part of Solanki princess’s dowry in the 8th century. The fort was looted and destroyed at the hands of Emperor Akbar in 1568 AD and subsequently never resettled but only refurbished in 1905 AD. Three important battles were fought for control of the fort; in 1303, Ala-ud-din Khilji besieged the fort; in 1535, Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah besieged the fort; and in 1567, Mughal Emperor Akbar attacked the fort. Not that there were only defeats at the fort. Excluding the periods of siege, the fort had always remained in possession of the Sisodias of the Guhilot (or Gehlot/Guhila) clan of Rajputs, who descended from Bappa Rawal. There were also success stories of establishment of the fort and its reconstruction after every siege, before it was finally abandoned in 1568, all of which are narrated.
Chittor is cited in the Mahabharat epic. It is said that Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers of Epic Mahabaharata fame, known for his mighty strength gave a powerful hit with his fist to the ground that resulted in water springing up to form a large reservoir. It is called Bhimlat kund, an artificial tank named after Bhima. Folk legend also mentions that Bhima started building the fort.
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