LIKE A GIGANTIC brown snake, the great ramparts of Kumbhalarh Fort wind along the rugged contours of the Aravalli Hills for 36 km (22 miles). This massive 15th¬’ century fort, strategically located at a height of 1,050 in (3,445 ft) along the border between Marwar (Jodhpur) and Mewar (Udaipur), was known as “The Eye of Mewar”, because it offered a commanding view of the countryside for miles around. Built by Maharana Kumbha (r.1433-68), who also built the great fort of Chittorgarh  Kumbhalgarh was justly reputed to be the most impregnable fort in Rajasthan. Its ramparts are wide enough for six horsemen to ride abreast, and seven fortified gates, studded with threatening spikes, lead to its entrance.

The crenellated walls of the fort enclose the smaller fortress of Kartargarh, several palaces and temples now in ruins, fields, water reservoirs and stables. Standing at the highest point of the fort is the Badal Mahal, a 19th-century addition with shy chambers painted in pink, green and turquoise, and fine wall paintings of hunting scenes. The 15th-century Neelkantha Temple, which also lies within the fort, has a huge Shivalinga and is still in use. Another interesting temple, the Navachoki Mamdeva Temple, is in a gorge to the east of Kartargarh. It contains several slabs of black granite inscribed with the history of Mewar, the earliest slab dating to 1491. Next to it is the cenotaph of Maharaja Kumbha. Kumbhalgarh was also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap (1540-97), a great warrior king famous for his heroic stand against the armies of the Mughal emperor Akhar.

ENVIRONS: The Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary covers 578 sq km (223 sq miles) of the Aravalli Hills, west of the fort, on the leeward side. Panther, flying squirrel, wolf and many bird species can be seen here. Kankroli, 35 km (21 miles) southeast of Kumbhalgarh, has the 17th-century Dwarkadhish Temple on the southern shore of Rajsamand Lake. The western shore is lined with lovely marble pavilions and ghats. The charming little town of Deogarh, 55 km (34 miles) north of Kumbhalgarh, set among lakes and hills, has the 17th-century Rajmahsl Palace with exquisite wall murals, and the Anjaneshwar Mahadev Temple in a cave in the hillside. Deogarh is also a popular base for horse safaris  which explore this picturesque part of Mewar.

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