My Kind of Place: Chittogarh, India
The city, located in the windswept Mewar, in eastern Rajasthan, is steeped in the romance of Rajput history, which reverberates with tales of chivalry and tragedy. It was attacked three times by powerful enemies and each time, while the men rode out to battle, its courageous women and children chose death before dishonour, performing self-immolation.
Built in the 7th century AD, Chittorgarh has the largest hilltop fort in India, spread over 700 acres, which is now a Unesco heritage site. The fort has Hindu, Muslim and Jain architecture, including the commemoration tower called Vijay Stambh, built in 1448.
Chittorgarh is associated with another famous historical figure of India — Meera Bai, the mystic poet whose devotional compositions called bhajans are popular throughout North India. A great respite from the overwhelming history can be found in the nearby Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can spot anything from a panther to a crocodile.
A comfortable bed
Stay at the Bassi Fort Palace, a 16th-century royal home converted into a heritage hotel. With a picturesque location surrounded by hills, the rooms have ethnic décor and period furniture. Double rooms start at 4,500 rupees (Dh250) for a night with breakfast (www.bassifortpalace.com).
Another option is the 16th-century Castle Bijaipur located in the Vindhyanchal Hills and surrounded by forests, overlooking a valley.
It has an ambience of a traditional Rajput home with meals made from fresh produce from the village. Double rooms start at 5,000 rupees (Dh276) per night with breakfast (www.castlebijaipur.co.in).
For an away- from-it-all feeling, stay at JusTa Lake Nahargarh Palace, situated in the middle of an artificial lake and surrounded by hills and forests. Double rooms start from 6,500 rupees (Dh360) per night with breakfast (www.justahotels.com/lake-nahargarh-palace-chittorgarh-rajasthan).
Find your feet
Start at the Chittorgarh Fort built by the Rajputs. Admission is 100 rupees (Dh5). The gargantuan fort has 22 water bodies, palaces and towers. Visit the commemoration towers Vijay Stambh built in 1437 to celebrate the victory over the armies of Mohammed Khilji. It rises nine storeys, accessed through a narrow circular staircase of 157 steps, and is a symbol of religious unity, covered with intricate carvings of Hindu deities. Another showstopper is the Kirti Tower. Built in the 12th-century, it is 22 metres high with 54 stairs and was built in honour of Sri Adinath Rishab Deo, who was the first Jain saint.
Explore the Rana Kumbha Palace, built in the 14th-century by the Maharana Kumbha. It is the location of famous historical events like the birth of Maharana Udai Singh and his rescue in a fruit basket by the faithful nanny Panna Dai. Drive up to the spectacular eastern side culminating in the Suraj Pol Gate, for a glimpse 183 metres below where battles were fought.
Book a table
Have a local Rajasthani meal of dal bhatti churma, lal maas, gatte ki sabzi, kair sangri, kadhi pakodi, bajre ki roti and khichdi, pyaz and mawa kachori and makhaniya lassi at Pratap Palace. Prices from 200 rupees (Dh11) per person.
Enjoy a typical Rajasthani thali set meal at Chokhi Dhani Family Restaurant.
Prices from 200 rupees (Dh11) per person.
Castle Bijaipur serves typical rustic Rajasthani Mewari food as well as continental food. A meal for two cost 1,200 rupees (Dh66).
Meet the locals
Gurumukhi reservoir is a deep tank at the edge of a cliff, filled by an underground spring that resembles the mouth of a cow. Locals flock here, feeding the fish and enjoying a relaxing time. The reservoir is one of the most important water tanks of Chittorgarh Fort.
The city is famous for its metalwork, fabrics, Thewa jewellery, leather shoes, miniature paintings and handmade wooden toys from Bassi village.
Thewa jewellery is made up of golden designs embedded in multicoloured glass.
Pick up a kawad — a sort of miniature altar in wood painted with scenes from epic stories, which folds like a book. Some of the best places to shop are Sadar Bazaar, Fort Road Market, Rana Sanga Market and Station Circle. Jutis footwear made from camel leather is another good buy.
Don’t miss a visit to the Fateh Prakash Palace, an imposing heritage palace atop the fort that has been converted into a museum. From magnificent stone sculptures and paintings of historic times, ancient coins, to a gallery dedicated to armours and weapons and even the uniforms of the mighty soldiers of Chittorgarh, this is time travel at its best. Entrance 10 rupees (Dh0.5).
What to avoid
The summer heat in Chittorgarh is intense, so bring sun protection. Wear comfortable walking shoes while climbing the Chittorgarh Fort. Hire a taxi for the day, as walking from one site to another can be strenuous.
Fly Jet Airways to Udaipur via Mumbai. Chittorgarh is a two-hour drive from there. Economy return tickets are about Dh1,300 (www.jetairways.com).