Temples of Chittorgarh Fort are all over the fort. I do not recall standing at a place where I could not see the Temples of Chittorgarh in the fort. One can only imagine that Temples of Chittorgarh fort must have been an integral part of life here. Before I landed in Chittorgarh the only temple I was keen to see was the Mira Bai temple – for I have heard so much about her Bhakti or devotion. The place where she sang and danced and composed all that beautiful poetry must be very special. However, I discovered that Mira Bai temple was just one of the many Temples of Chittorgarh Fort and each has a story to tell.
There are as many Jain temples and Hindu temples in Chittorgarh. Beyond the heritage precinct of the Chittorgarh Fort, there are living temples where you can see hints of their ancient origin along with their journey through the various eras that they have seen.
Temples of Chittorgarh Fort
This 11th CE temple dedicated to Shiva in his Trimurti avatar is probably one of the oldest temples in this complex. Standing next to the Gomukh pond this temple has a pyramidal roof that is usually seen in Jain temples. The base of the temple is an inverted lotus. And a human life story is carved on a panel above it. The stone shows the signs of aging and the impact of climate over centuries. But the artist’s craftsmanship still shines through the stories carved in stone.
A unique part of this temple is its giant three-headed idol of Shiva. Thankfully they allow you to take pictures inside this temple. When you stand in the small temple you can feel the antiquity of it with walls showing the signs of age-old devotion. There are yantras and inscriptions on the inner walls of the temple. Again, I wish someone would explain what is written there. I am sure it must be a documentation of the eventful history of the temple.
There is a small Nandi temple in an open pavilion like all Shiva temples.
There are many big and small temples scattered around this temple mostly in a dilapidated state.
The Kumbhaswami is one of the best-preserved Chittorgarh Fort Temples. It is a unique temple dedicated to Boar or the Varaha Avatar of Vishnu. This temple was built sometime in 16th CE. In a typical North Indian Nagar style of temple architecture with carvings everywhere. The mandapa of the temple has a pyramidical roof. While Garbh Griha has a tall Shikhara. There is a Pradakshina path or circumambulation path that goes around the sanctum. All the walls of this are also intricately carved.
The image of Varaha can only be seen at the back of the Garbhagriha. As a new image of Krishna & Balaram has been placed in the main sanctum, which is decorated with colorful clothes in a very contemporary way.
An interesting feature of this temple is a Garuda Mandapa in front of the temple. Now we usually see a Nandi Mandapa in front of Shiva temples. Sometimes we do see a Garuda Dhwaja in front of Vishnu temples. But I do not recall seeing a proper Garuda mandapa anywhere else.
Mira Bai Temple
The Mira Bai’s temple is a rather small temple located in one corner of the Kumbhaswami temple complex. It has a large contemporary image of Mira Bai in her trademark saffron Sari. Holding ektara in hand and lost in the Bhakti of Krishna. We have heard so much about Mira Bai and her devotion to Krishna. Her singing and dancing in the temples that when you see this temple, you are a bit disappointed. This temple looks too small for it. I reconciled that this may have been a temple meant only for Mira Bai and her Bhakti. And maybe she just sang and danced for herself here.
I sat in the temple, listening to the Mira Bai’s bhajans being played. Observed the Pujari interacting with the visitors – honestly, I did not get the vibes of devotion. I did not feel the presence of Mira Bai there. The only image of devotion was an old woman sitting on the stairs and singing songs in the hope of getting some tip.
Opposite the temple is a cenotaph dedicated to her Guru. I could not gather anything more about who this Guru was.
Saatbees Jain Temple
Bang opposite the Kumbhaswami temple is the Saatbees Jain temple. If you are curious about the name, Saatbees means 27 and it refers to the 27 mini temples that exist inside this one single temple. Similar to Ranakpur Jain temple but 200 years older than that. This is a temple which is dedicated to all the Teerthankaras of Jains.
There is one temple in the center and all other 26 temples are on three sides of this temple. Each has a profusely carved silver door. I looked at a few doors intently and found mostly auspicious symbols. And the symbol of that particular Teerthankar carved on the door. Inside the temple was a small or mid-sized idol of the Teerthankar and nothing else. The circular ceiling of the main temple is so intricately carved that you can get lost in it. There are dancing girl brackets on the ceiling that rises up like a pyramid.
Two smaller temples exist at the back of this main temple. What I like about this temple is the series of Shikharas that you see in the temple instead of a single shikhara in most temples. It is also one of the cleanest temples I have seen, not a speck of dust. It was such a pleasure to walk barefoot on the temple premises.
You are allowed to take pictures in this temple except that of the idols.
From the heritage area, I started walking towards the village. I passed by Nagina Bazaar and Moti Bazaar – small shops like structures and the rest of it, you have to imagine. What I gathered while walking through this area is that this must have been a buffer area between the royal quarters and the villages where the general public lived. These markets may have been a common meeting point for both of them. And must have catered to the day to day needs of both the royals and their subjects.
I walked through the narrow lanes of the village. Visited a few temples that are still managed by the Brahmin families. These small temples show the signs of continued living. Though in some of them I saw Shikhara replaced by a Dome. No one could answer how that happened. But I guess that it may have been done during the repairs. Or during the times when fort fell to Islamic rulers, people may have replaced Shikharas with domes to protect the temples. On the walls, I could see fresh paintings – both outside the houses and outside the temples.
At one place two temples stood bang opposite each other and were called Saas-Bahu Mandir. The specialty was that you could see both the temples from either of them. There was another set of two temples dedicated to Durga and Annapurna avatar of Devi. I had a lovely conversation with the women managing the temple. They were not really bothered about the antiquity of the temple and only knew that these temples have always been there.
What mattered to them was the fact that the temple rituals are followed. And that the deity whom they referred to as ‘Ma’ or simply the mother. They firmly believed that the goddess will take care of their lives. One would ensure they always have food on their plate. While the other one will protect them from the danger of any kind. This conversation made my attempts to interpret the iconographies and date the temples so futile. It is the faith of the devotee that makes a temple or even its deity powerful.
Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple
Near the Ratan Singh Palace, I saw a small but beautiful Ratneshwar Mahadev temple. Next to a pond with lovely carvings. Near Ram Pol, I saw a Janaki temple – and tried recalling how many temples have I seen dedicated to Sita. All I could recall was Panchvati in Nasik. In the park opposite the Kumbha Palace, I saw many small temples with domes. All these temples were locked. So I could admire only the sculpted outer walls.
While visiting all these temples, I did miss the Kalika Devi temple. That was a Sun temple once upon a time. But somewhere down the line got re-aligned to the divine feminine.
Chittorgarh Fort is like a small temple town. Temples dedicated to almost all major Hindu deities. India never ceases to amaze me.
Recommend you to read about more Tourist destination Forts & Temples of Rajasthan, that I have visited and blogged on IndiTales.