It has long been a dream of mine to visit Chittor Fort in Rajasthan. In the new year I was able to do it. For me the biggest draw was the Vijai Stambha built by Rana Kumbha, the rest of the Fort was a bonus. It is one of the largest forts of India and declared World Heritage Site in 2013 by UNESCO. It encloses many temples and religious pilgrimages sites. The most sanctified of this is the Gaumukha Tirthshala.
A perennial natural stream falls into a kund named the Gaumaukha Kund and it is considered the most sanctified area in the Chittorgarh Fort. We find many temples in its vicinity.
Rana Kumbha also built his Vijay Stambha in its North-east corner in 1448 to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Khilji of Malwa.
This 37.19 m high temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the tower. It is is divided into nine storeys.
The uppermost storey has an inscription giving chronological details of life and achievements of rulers of Chittor . This was composed by Rana Kumbha’s court scholar Atri and was later completed by his son Mahesh.
The chief architect was Sutradhar Jaita along with his three sons Napa, Puja and Poma and their names are also inscribed in the fifth storey.
There is an internal staircase to reach the top but that has now been closed.
There are some comparisons to the Qutub Minar and though the Qutub Minar is also referred to as a victory tower in some accounts that is where the resemblance ends.
The Chittor Vijai stambha is not a tapering cylindrical shaft with circular and angular flanges, but rather “a series of vertically stacked, closed temple halls.”
The most surprising discovery is ( and since I made it later I did not check for it on the stambha) is an article by Prof M. Athar Ali: Encounter and Efflorescence: Genesis of the Medieval Civilization
“when Rana Kumbha built his famous victory tower, he had the word ‘Allah’ in Arabic recorded nine times on the third storey and eight times on the eighth storey, on pillarettes in excellent workmanship. This led the English observer (1883-4) to say:
‘This discovery opens up a problem of which the only solution which presents itself to me is that the barrier dividing Hindus and Musalmans three (rect. four) centuries ago, w less impassable than it is at the present day.”
The Allah medallions could be a reference that his army was blessed by Allah also since this is a victory tower over Sultan of Malwa.
This tower is indeed an example of religious pluralism as the topmost storey also features an image of the Jain Goddess Padmavati.
steroscopic view 1903 @ British library
Painting by Marianne North, 1857