It was a long dusty day, and the sweltering summer heat and AC-less car ensured that we were drenched in sweat, mud and sand. In the pre-bottled water era of the mid nineties, we were carrying water in a huge Milton container. At the same time, dad and me were also trying to convince amma and sis that we should take a detour to Chittorgarh, instead of going directly to Udaipur. That day we both failed, when faced with the unrelenting women in the family.
I thought of all this and more as I called my sis (now married with two kids) and told her that I was finally in Chittorgarh and sipping chai right in front of Vijay Stambha (Victory Tower), one of the most enduring landmarks from the fort town. We both remembered and laughed about that day, but she was really happy that I was finally here. It took me 16 full years before I could do what I wanted to do as a school going kid...
In one word, Chittorgarh is simply stunning! One of the oldest surviving forts in India, it was originally built by the Mauryas approximately in the first Century AD. Since then it has changed hands numerous times, but its grandeur only increased with time. It was only in the beginning of the last century that the consistent repair work on the fort stopped and it was left to die a slow death. Today its a fort in decay, yet the marvelous past will meet you at every single building that you visit.
I was traveling alone and reached the fort well before the town got up completely (i.e. around 6 am). I was keen on staying within the fort itself and so had to stay at the Birla Dharmashala, the only option for accommodation on top (I realised later that there are also no restaurants within the fort, so lunch or dinner unless you inform the Dharmshala in advance). At Rs. 200, it was decent room, though I left it before 7, ready to explore!
The Chittor fort is simply huge and if you intend to go beyond the usual tourist places, you would surely need time as well as a guide. I had time, and took a guide (something I usually skip). Prakashbhai was great, always ready to help me out, whether I wanted to climb up a gate, a wall, or simply walk on the fort wall in the rain. He was on a fast, and I had to u unitentionally skip all meals as I had no clue about the lack of food within the fort. I drank cups and cups of tea, till I managed to find a shop selling packaged chips, and later a kirana store selling five star bars!