Ill climb the hill, you follow me. The point where I stop, there you build the main entrance of the fort. Ill 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 forts 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 kings 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 kings 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 forts 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. Whats more? There are 360 temples within the fort 300 of them are Jain temples and the rest are Hindu temples.
Heres what to keep in mind when planning a trip to Kumbhalgarh.
Where to stay
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 dcor, the lodge is surrounded by the forest on two sides and open farmlands on the other two.
Unlike other jungle camps in Rajasthan, the property is a modern retreat with seven simple-yet-tastefully-designed rooms and an in-house restaurant.
Located less than 5 kms from the Ghanerao village, one can experience an authentic rural Rajasthani lifestyle through their interactions with the local tribals and artisans in the area. Go on nature walks, treks, jeep safaris, take birding tours, or just stay at the resort taking in the quietness of the jungle around.
Explore the giant Kumbhalgarh Fort during the day and unwind, sitting by the swimming pool by the evening. V Resorts Royal Castle Ghanerao is an over 500 years old property located in the quiet town of Ghanerao, and home to the Mertiya Rathores – the royal family still residing in this marvellous marble and stone structure.
Every room in the resort is uniquely-designed and is aesthetically-decorated to transport its guests to the bygone era. The beautiful marble-carved Badi Mahal and an inviting swimming pool only add to the charm of the castle.
Located midway between Udaipur and Jodhpur, while Ghanerao village offers guests a unique opportunity to see the unassuming nature of a local Rajasthani household, the resort, with its proximity to the Kumbhalgarh National Park and the Kumbhalgarh fort and its adjoining Crocodile lakes always has a variety of experiences on offer.
Best time to visit
Located in one of the hottest states of the country, Kumbhalgarh enjoys a warm temperature for most of the year. It is advised to visit the fort between the months of October and March for a more pleasant climate.
How to reach
Dabok Airport (168 km) in Udaipur is the closest airport, while the nearest railway station is in Rani (35 km), Pali. Although there are no direct bus routes to Kumbhalgarh from major cities, the nearest bus stand can be found in Nathdwara, some 64 km away.