Its location had always been Kumbhalgarh’s greatest advantage. Because it was virtually inaccessible in the 15th century, Rana Kumbha of Mewar built this great defensive fortress on a 3,500 feet (1,100 meters) high hill overlooking the approaches from Ajmer and Marwar. Today, precisely because it is within easy reach of Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer, and Pushkar-yet off the well trodden tourist routes-Kumbhalgarh is an attractive destination.
In Kumbha’s time the kingdom of Mewar spread from Ranthambore to Gwalior, including vast tracts of present-day Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Mewar’s rulers became patrons of all that was best in Indian martial and fine arts, architecture, and learning. Of the 84 fortresses defending Mewar, 32 were designed and built by Rana Kumbha. Of these, Kumbhalgarh with its 36-kilometer long wall and soaring towers is the most impressive. Kumbhalgarh stands on the site of an ancient citadel dating back to the second century AD belonging to a Jain descendant of India’s Mauryan emperors. It defined the boundaries between Mewar and Marwar and became a refuge for Mewar’s rulers in times of strife. Its steel gray ramparts encircle the fertile Shero Mallah Valley, with ancient monuments cenotaphs, ponds and flourishing farms. Kumbhalgarh fell only once in its history, to the combined forces of Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, and Raja Udai Singh of Amber, and Raja Udai Singh of Marwar.
A priest is still employed by the present Maharana to care for the shrines of his ancestors. And twice a day the Pandit’s family makes the stiff uphill climb to the castle to light the sacred lamps before vermilion-daubed images of Hanuman, Chamunda, and Ekling. There is an octagonal room in which Rana Pratap was born, apart from, the hall in which his grandson Prince Karan entertained the future Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, the beacon tower from which a flame summoned Mewar’s chieftains to war. The austere chambers, the vast reservoirs kept full by elephant relays, the simple garden court for the royal ladies, the easily defendable narrow staircases all declared that this was primarily a warrior’s hideout, not a palace for princely pomp and show.
The imaginatively designed Aohdi nearby belongs to a descendant of one of those great warrior families, the Rathores of Ghanerao, who enjoyed the distinction of having the only hereditary seat among the premier nobles of both Mewar and Marwar. The Aohdi’s castle-type cottages provide comfort and privacy for those seeking a peaceful retreat, plus a base for horse safari and trekking enthusiasts.
Horse lovers and adventure seekers can enjoy the thrill of riding and camping in the Reserve Forest around Kumbhalgarh. Each group is accompanied by experienced sawars. Horses, tents, food and fodder are provided by the Aohdin on prior notice at a very reasonable cost compared to a hacking holiday in Europe or America.
A hazardous, barely jeepable track takes you to the 586 square kilometer Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. The main attraction here would be panther, sloth bear, wild boar, four-horned antelope or crocodiles, “scientifically bred” in the lake.
The Crocodile Farm has a guesthouse belonging to the Forest Department and overnight stays are possible. Good forest cover, jungle berries, fruits and nuts, water grasses, algae, and fish provide sustenance for thousands of flamingoes, sarus cranes, spoonbills, painted storks, cormorants, purple heron, egrets, duck, and rosy pelican in winter. One also finds plenty of chakor partridge, crow pheasants, jungle warblers, golden orioles, gray jungle fowl, and the usual peacocks; parrots, pigeons, and doves.
How to Reach (North of Udaipur, East of Jodhpur)
Nearest airport Udaipur (84 kilometers), and Jodhpur (102 kilometers). Follow the directions ‘By Road’ after reaching Udaipur/Jodhpur.
Falna is the nearest junction through which trains from Mumbai. Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Ajmer pass. It is recommend for coming to Udaipur or Jodhpur first and then drive a 4 wheeler or 2 wheeler from these cities to Kumbhalgarh fort.
Many Rajasthan Roadways passenger and deluxe buses pass through Kumbhalgarh from Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, and Jodhpur. If you are driving yourself, following directions may come handy:
From Udaipur: Kumbhalgarh sanctuary is located on Udaipur – Ranakpur highway. Ranakpur is one of Jain religions ‘teerth’ and even if you do not follow Jainism, it’s a temple worth a visit. You will be pleasantly amazed looking at the sculpting, carving with magnificent details on white marble. These carvings cover every inch of the temple, from pillars, to walls to corridors to ceiling. When you start from Udaipur, you want to drive to North -West of Udaipur to get to Kumbhalgarh. If you are staying in city then major landmarks you would pass through are chetak circle, sukhadia circle and fatehpura. You want to drive towards a place called ‘iswal’. Iswal is about 11 kms from Udaipur. On Iswal make a right turn toward Kumbhalgarh sanctuary. Follow the directions on the road. Please do note, road is not good all the way and be careful of stray buffalos, cattle and other domestic foul on the road.
Fort entry ticket RS.10/- (for Indian).
ENTRY TIME: 0800 hrs to 1800 hrs.
Duration 2 to 3 hrs.
The Kumbhalgarh Fort is quite a climb, make it a point to wear your sports shoes when heading here and carry plenty of liquids.
For interested parties, a Light and Sound show is organised here in the evenings between 1845 hrs to 1730 hrs. Ticket is Rs. 100/-.
Attractions at Kumbhalgarh Fort:
1. Massive Entrance, Ram Pol:The massive entrance gate of the fort is known as Ram Pol. This gate itself is a symbol of the sheer grandness of this fort.
2. Nearby Temples that include Ganesh Temple, Swami Narayan Temple, Neelkanth Mahadeva Temple, Vedi Complex etc:After entering through the main entrance, you come across the group of temples at both sides of the main entrance. At the left hand side there is a Ganesha Temple and a Swami Narayan Temple. At the right hand side, there is a Vedi Complex, Neelkanth Mahadeva Temple, Parsvanath Temple etc. Many of these temples were built during the reign of Rana Kumbha.
3. Palaces that include Kumbha Palace, Badal Mahal and the Birthplace of Maharana Pratap:There are mainly three palaces inside the fort at different heights. A road from the main entrance leads towards the palaces along the Ganesha Temple and Swami Narayan Temple. After passing through a gate known as Pagda Pole, you come across the first palace, Kumbha Palace. This palace, two storeyed edifices, consisting of two rooms, a corridor and some open spaces, are now in a highly ruined state.
Near Pagda Pol, along the Kumbha Palace, there is another mansion known as Jhalia ka Malia or the Palace of The Queen Jhalia. This is the place where Maharana Pratap was believed to be born. The traces of old painting can still be seen on the wall.
Badal Mahal or The Palace of Clouds was built by Rana Fateh Singh and named so because of its situation at the highest point of the fort. The palace had a separate section for males and females. In the female section, there were stone windows with jalis, so that the queens and other ladies could see the court proceedings and other events in privacy.
4. Temples beyond the entrance gate that include Gole Rao Group of Temples, Jain Temples etc:Beyond the entrance gate, about 2 kms away, there are many temples scattered in the fort area. If you are lacking of time, then better to click them from the top of the Badal Palace. If you have time, you can walk on a paved road going along the Vedi Complex and Neelkanth Mahadeva Temple. Located in the middle of hilly terrains and surrounded by thorny bushes, these temples are a perfect place to spend some moments.
There are about 360 small and big temples scattered inside the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Of these 360 temples, about 300 temples belong to Jain Deities and about 60 temples belong to Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Things to do:
- Sit on the top of Badal Palace and see the expansion of wildlife sanctuary and the fort area:Badal Palace is situated on the top of the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Roof of this palace offer an excellent view of Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary spreading over the Aravali Hills.
2. Click the pictures of The Great Wall of India:The outer wall of this fort is believed to be the second longest wall after the Great Wall of China. They are about 36 kms long and about fifteen feet thick. (However some sources say it is only 15 kms long now). From the top of the Badal Palace, you can click many good pictures of this Great Wall of India.
3.Locate numerous temples from a higher point: At the top of the Badal Palace or any other higher point, you can check your knowledge about the temples and other monuments inside the fort, by simply locating them in that wilderness.
4. Walk on the massive wide walls of the fort:Not all forts in India are as grand as Kumbhalgarh Fort and only few of them provide an opportunity to walk on the outer walls. Kumbhalgarh Fort is mightiest and grandest and you can also walk on its 15 feets thick outer walls near the main entrance beyond the Vedi Complex.
5. Admire this fort from the view point:About one km before to the main entrance of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, you will find a notice board pointing towards the Kumbhalgarh Fort View Point. That point provides an excellent outer view of this grand fort and its mighty walls.
6. Enjoy Sound and Light Show:Every evening the Kumbhalgarh Fort is illuminated with flood lights and a special Sound and Light show starts at 6.45 PM on the story of Rajput Royals.The show is only in Hindi language and organised by The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp. The ticket cost is INR 100 per person for the Indian Nationals (Perhaps INR 250 for the foreigners). This 45 minutes show is highly recommended , provided that you are planning to stay there in the night.
7. Trek to Ranakpur Jain Temples:The best way to explore the wildlife sanctuary, Kumbhalgarh Fort and Ranakpur Jain Temples. If you have time, please try this trek once, and to experience the best try it with Youth Hostels.
Where to Stay?
There are very few hotels (about 8-9) in Kumbhalgarh area and they are basically high-end heritage hotels or resorts. So from a backpacker’s point of view, those hotels are very expensive. It is better to stay in Udaipur and have a one day trip to Kumbhalgarh to return back by evening.