About 80 kilometers north of Udaipur lies the fortress of Kumbhalgarh, a sleeping giant having a well deserved rest in the foothills of the Aravalli Range. You will find that Kumbhalgarh is truly remote, with not much to distract from the fantastic history of this former Rajput stronghold.
The area surrounding the fort is, for the most part, the densely forested Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. This large and rugged nature preserve stretches over 600 square kilometers of hills, plains and valleys. Though reports of tiger sightings are not to be trusted, leopards, wolves, sloth bears, antelope, gazelles, deer and more than 200 bird species call the sanctuary home.
Only 12 kilometers west of Kumbhalgarh as the parakeet flies but a 50 kilometer drive otherwise, stands one of India’s most important Jain temples. Ranakpur Temple, a marble monument so intricately carved that it resembles lace, has deeply rooted spiritual history which sharply contrasts against the widely known battle lore of Kumbhalgarh.
Imposing does not begin to describe the fortress of Kumbhalgarh. Second in length only to the Great Wall of China, its 36 kilometer wall takes two days to circumnavigate. The wall is also wide, with room enough in some places for eight horses to walk abreast. Within Kumbhalgarh’s wall are 700 canon bunkers, 360 ancient temples, plus palace ruins, garden courtyards and step wells. The entire structure perches 1,100 meters above sea level guarding the Aravalli Hills.
Built in 1458 by legendary hero Rana Kumbha, and birthplace of great king Maharana Pratap, Kumbhalgarh was the most important Mewar fort after Chittorgarh. It was only conquered once in its entire history, and even then it took three armies to breach its strong defenses. What’s more, those three invading armies only managed to hold Kumbhalgarh for two days.
The Hill Forts of Rajasthan, including Kumbhalgarh and five others, were recognized together by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in June 2013. Kumbhalgarh’s formidable wall, with its stately gates and soaring towers, will forever stand as a monument of the warrior Rajput. The beautiful temples and palaces within and the glorious landscape surrounding remind us of the way of life Kumbhalgarh meant to protect.