FORTS OF RAJASTHAN (KUMBHALGARH)
KUMBHALGARH, situated on a high peak of the westerly range of Aravalli Hills, on the borders of Mewar and Marwar, is a stupendous monument of the military and constructive genius of Maharana Kumbha. In later times his successors repaired to this fortress whenever they found Udaipur unsafe and Chitor untenable.
There are a number of gates on the approaches to the fort. The first gate is Aretpol which serves as a barrier. This is followed by Hullapol, Hanumanpol, Vijaypol and Rampol. From Rampol starts the strong high walls and beyond it is the fort proper. But on the road from Rampol to the main wall there are five gates Bhairavpol, Neebupoi, Chaugan- pol, Pakhadapol and Ganeshpol. Thus several gateways with winding approach and a series of walls with battlements and bastions provide ample defence. The surrounding battlemented wall is very thick and allows eight horsemen to ride abreast at a time. The formidable bastions in the battlemented wall of the fortifications are peculiar in shape and are so built that the enemy cannot scale them by means of ladders.
According to tradition, Kumbhalgarh, known as Machindrapur, was built centuries ago by a Jain king Samprati. Mahmud Khaiji laid a siege in 1442, but the fort proved Invincible. Aa a safe-guard for future, Maharana Kumbha erected fortifications. The reconstruction started in 1443 and was completed in A.D. 1458. It appears that Kumbha gave it the name of Kumbhalmer which came to be popularly known as Kumbhalgarh.
Ahmed Shah of Gujarat also attacked but realised the futility of storming the fort. Sultan Qutbuddin of Gujarat also marched against Kumbhalgarh in 1457 and besieged Kumbhalgarh, but when considerable time lapsed he gave up the siege. However, in the misaprehension that the deity of the temple Banmata situated near the fort protected the fortifications, he destroyed the temple. Later attempts by Mahmud Khaiji in 1458-59 and 1467 also proved abortive He suffered heavy losses and returned to his capital.
Kumbhalgarh is said to have been taken by ShahbazKhan, Akbar's general, in 1576.In 1818 an armed band of Sanyasins who had formed a garrison were pacified by Tod, the then political agent and the fort was taken over and restored by him to the Marathas.
The Maharanas of Mewar constructed buildings in the fort. The main structure however remained as it was built by Maharana Kumbha. The residential buildings inside the fort are simple in construction but these were well provided with necessary accessories like store houses, waterways for the inmates as also for withstanding sieges. Kumbhalgarh also contains quite a number of temples.
Kumbhalgarh stands as a true representative of medieval Indian military architecture and an enduring contribution of the scholar king Maharana Kumbha. Here one may really see the individuality of architecture in combining technique with environment but without sacrificing the aesthetics.