Haunted by Chittorgarh

When we returned from Rajasthan, our minds were full of the beauty of the place; the colourful markets of Jaipur, the beautiful City Palace, the magnificent sandstone castle at Jaisalmer, the mystical desert sand dunes and the adventurous camel ride.

But the one place that kept haunting me was Chittorgarh.

The Chittorgarh fort was attacked time and again for its strategic location. The eerie silence and the vast open ruins tell a tale a bloodshed and honour, of sacrifice and integrity.

As our guide took us around the 700 acres of ruins, I was struck by the story of 2 Rajput women; women who didn’t fight battles but whose bravery and sacrifice no less changed the destiny of Chittorgarh.

History talks about the cunning king Alauddin Khilji who was so enamoured of Queen Padmini’s beauty that he wished to meet her. And after seeing her reflection in a mirror, he waged war on Chittorgarh to capture the fort and the queen.

As we walked into the fort, we actually saw a mirror placed so cleverly on the wall that from the steps outside, Khilji could have just seen a reflection of the beautiful queen and not see her actual face. And we saw a wide open barren ground where thousands of Rajput women along with Padmini had given up their lives and hopes.

What did Padmini really feel when she let herself be stared at in the mirror by the lustful king; when she saw her husband rush to defend the honour of the fort and realized that defeat and dishonour were inevitable?

When she dressed in her finery and gazed at her husband one last time and together with other wives in the fort jumped into the fire to embrace death rather than dishonour? I stared at the large ground in awe and sadness, the beautiful queen was certainly no less brave than the warriors who defended the fort.

Years later, one more woman, not a queen, but a humble servant, created history in Chittorgarh. The beauty of Udaipur enthrals all but little do people know that Udai Singh who created Udaipur would have never lived to build the city if he had not been saved from death in childhood.

Amongst the ruins, we saw a tall window of the fort. And there in the dark of the night, brave Panna Dhai, Udai Singh’s nursemaid, sacrificed her own son to be killed by attacker Banbir and saved the king Udai Singh instead as she fled with him and carried him away from Chittor to safety.

A mother, and she had to watch her son being killed for the sake of the loyalty to the king’s family. Can there be valour higher than that?

Yes, Rajasthan is a beautiful place but amidst all the beauty that can be seen, lie the magical ruins of Chittorgarh. In Chittorgarh one cannot see anything but vast stretches of ruins. But one can imagine the faces of the two brave women who sacrificed everything they loved for Chittorgarh.

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