Located 84 km north of Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, in western India, Kumbhalgarh Fort is the second most important citadel after Chittorgarh in the Mewar region. Cradled in the Aravali range and surrounded by thirteen elevated mountain peaks, the fort was built during the 15th century by Maharana Kumbha and is one of 32 forts built by the Rajput ruler of the Mewar kingdom. The fort is surrounded by a perimeter wall that is an astounding 36 km long, and varies in width from 15 to 25 feet. Historical accounts claim that eight horses could ride side by side over it. While there are many gigantic walls constructed by rulers to protect their kingdoms, building such a large protective boundary around a single fort was unheard of. No wonder, the massive wall at Kumbhalgarh took nearly a century to construct and made the fort virtually impregnable. Some claim it to be the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China. Many fondly call it The Great Wall of India.
The impregnable Fort boasts of seven massive gates and seven ramparts strengthened by rounded bastions and immense watchtowers. Inside the protective walls are over 360 Jain and Hindu temples and a magnificent palace at its pinnacle aptly named “Badal Mahal” or the Palace of Cloud. From the palace top, it is possible to see kilometers into the Aravalli Range. The sand dunes of the Thar desert can also be seen from here.
Legend has it that when the fort was being built, Maharana Kumbha encountered numerous construction difficulties. A spiritual advisor was consulted who decreed that a voluntary human sacrifice would enable the project. A volunteer was eventually found and according to the advice of the spiritual advisor, a temple was built where the decapitated head fell. The shrine to this unknown volunteer can still be found near the main gate. According to popular folklore, Maharana Kumbha used to burn massive lamps that consumed fifty kilograms of ghee and a hundred kilograms of cotton to provide light for the farmers who worked during the nights in the valley.
During times of danger, the fort provided refuge for the rulers of Mewar. A notable instance was in the case of Prince Udai, the infant king of Mewar who was smuggled here in 1535, when Chittaur was under siege. Prince Udai later succeeded to the throne was also the founder of the Udaipur City. The great warrior Maharana Pratap was also born inside the fort in Badal Mahal.
The fort remained impregnable to direct assault, and fell only once, when a traitor poisoned the fort’s internal water supply allowing the Mughal Emperor Akbar and forces from Delhi, Amer, Gujarat, and Marwar to penetrate its defence.
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