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Did a human sacrifice go in to the making of Kumbhalgarh Fort?

Romita Saluja

January 31, 2018

“I’ll climb the hill, you follow me. The point where I stop, there you build the main entrance of the fort. I’ll further climb up and when I stop for the second time, just behead me then and there. Build a temple where my head falls, my rest body will continue to walk and fall to mark the limit point of the wall.”

It was the year 1443. The incessant attacks by Alauddin Khilji and other powerful forces over the past two centuries had bludgeoned the Mewar kingdom of present day Rajasthan to a relatively insignificant position. Several battles, leadership vacuum, and an assassination later, here it was Rana Kumbha, assisted by Ranmal Rathore of Mandore, facing another series of attacks, fighting another series of battles. Mahmud Khalji, sultan of Malwa, had attacked.

But the year saw another significant historic development. With an aim to construct the largest fort of the area, some 85 kilometres from the present day Udaipur, Rana Kumbh and his team of designers, architects and construction workers had embarked on a journey to creating what we today call the second-largest continuous wall of the world, the Great Wall of India- the mighty Kumbhalgarh Fort.

If early historians are to be believed, it was King Samprati of the 6th century Maura Age, who actually laid the foundation stone of the fort. However, it is Rana Kumbha and his team who is considered responsible for the fort’s modern design.

The legend has it that as the construction of the mighty citadel started, it would mysteriously, inexplicably crumble down to the ground after sunset. Mutiple times, the king’s team laid down bricks and stones. Multiple times, they fell to the ground. It was after repeated failures that the king consulted a saint who suggested that a human sacrifice be made to continue with the construction. Following the king’s orders, an announcement was made throughout the kingdom asking people to volunteer. After nobody turned up, the saint himself offered to sacrifice himself. It was at that time that the saint spoke the lines written above and hence, a temple was created towards the main gate, Hanuman Pol, to commemorate the sacrifice.

Another version of the legend says that the king dreamed of Kuldevi, the family goddess, who told him to sacrifice a human. Following an announcement by the king, a man named Mehar or Mer volunteered to sacrifice his life on three conditions- a) The fort be named after him, as Kumbhalmer Fort (as it was initially called), b) a temple be built where his head falls, c) a palace be built where his rest of the body falls.

It took the king 15 long years to build the fort. It's hard to find out how much the legends hold truth but today, the fort’s wall stands tall, impenetrable, having shielded Mewar rulers in refuge several times. In fact, the fort was inhabited by the royal family until the 19th century, before it became open to visitors. The extremely popular historical figure Maharana Pratap is also known to have been born here. 

Today, having a 36 km-long wall encompassing hills, temples, and stepwells, Kumbhalgarh attracts fort-lovers, history-lovers, or any traveller in search of some peace from around the world. Set in the Aravalli range, at an elevation of 1,100 m above the sea level, it has 15-feet-thick walls. What’s more? There are 360 temples within the fort! 300 of them are Jain temples and the rest are Hindu temples.

Here’s what to keep in mind when planning a trip to Kumbhalgarh.

Where to stay

V Resorts Jungle Lodge Ghanerao

When you are done exploring the magnanimous structure of Kumbhalgarh, sit by a bonfire surrounded by wilderness and relax. Located at the foothills of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, V Resorts Jungle lodge Ghanerao is an over 100 years old hunting ground of the royal family of Ghanerao.

Built with a modern yet earthy décor, the lodge is surrounded by the forest on two sides and open farmlands on the other two.