Panna Dhai ka balidan!
Do you remember this childhood story? The story your boring Hindi teacher narrated in the class while you slept? What sounded boring in the class evokes strong emotions when you stand right outside the room where Panna Dhai made a ‘brave choice’ of leaving her son behind on the deathbed in order to protect the Kingdom of Mewar.
We embarked on a long journey from Kanyakumari towards Mumbai. The plan was to halt at Mumbai for a day, meet our touring parents who were on their #TeenDham Yatra, and then leave for Udaipur. The sole purpose of including Udaipur in our itinerary was to visit the battleground that gave birth to the legend of Mahrana. Arguably the greatest warrior Indian soil has ever produced.
Chetak disguised as an elephant. Maharana against Mansingh, Akbar’s Commander in the Battle of Haldighati.
Kumbhalgarh Fort – A Warrior is Born
The fort of Kumbhalgarh is an ASI protected monument located in the Aravali Hills about 80 km northwest of Udaipur. Located atop a hill that overlooks the entire landscape, a thin road leads to the main entrance of this fort.
The route to Kumbhalgarh passes through hilly terrain and colorful villages. The final approach to the fort is quite dramatic as the road rises like a coiled serpentine and bulbous ramparts of the fort appear to be keeping a constant vigil on every move you make. The fort has a huge boundary wall of 36km that once guarded the fortified Universe built by Maharaja Kumbha in 1458.
It takes not less than thirty minutes from the entrance gate to badal mahal; palace in the clouds. The boundary walls are wide enough to accommodate six horses side by side. To the right of the entrance gate lies the fortified remnants of the Royal Palace whereas the right side hosts as many as 365 Hindu and Jain Temples. The temples are spread all across the fort and each one them is an architectural marvel.
One can hire a guide from Udaipur or get one at the fort itself. We were approached by a little girl who claimed to know everything there was to know about the fort. We happily agreed to let her show us around. And she did a decent job. She
wanted forced us to take slefies and left with no choice, we had to make pout face to pacify her.
Meet our guide Devi, 11 years old, articulate and smart enough to be a guide.
Maharana Pratap was born at Kumbhalgarh in 1540 and he ruled Mewar from 1572 to 1597. It is believed that Maharana weighed 100+ and his combined weight with armour was 200+. That sounds exaggerating but Udaipur Palace has his armoury on display and going by the size of his swords and spears, he for sure was one hell of a warrior. Reminds me of arsenal of Guru Gobind Singh at Mandi and Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara.
He inherited a weak state that was rendered resourceless and powerless by tyrannical Mugal invaders. Maharana started reunification of Mewar Kings and that started a long war against Akbar that lasted until 1597.
Maharana Pratap, fought his long and lone battle until the day he died. His only motive; to keep Mewar independent forever. And that brings us to the Battle of Haldighati. A road has been carved out through the battleground that was once known as Haldighati. A museum has been set up where not only Maharana but his loyalists too are remembered.
The soil of Haldighati is yellowish in color and soft in texture. Locals believe that it’s the blood of brave Mewar warriors who fought for six long hours, against all odds, to keep their motherland free from the tyrants. The road passes through a narrow gully cut across a mountain. Once in a while, a vehicle crosses. The ensuing silence is filled with galloping of Chetak, the loyalist who did everything to fulfill Maharana’s dream.