Almost everybody has heard of the famous Great Wall of China, but surprisingly few know that in India there exists an ancient and beautiful wall of similar architectural significance. Shorter than the Great wall of China but quite its equal in presence, staggering design and history.
The structure, affectionately known as the Great Wall of India, surrounds the ancient fortress of Kumbhalgarh.
The Kumbhalgarh fortress is situated in Southern Rajasthan, in the west of India. This pronounced World Heritage site was constructed in the 15th century by Rana Kumbha, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mewar (1433 – 1468 AD). The ancient fortress was later expanded in the 19 century.
Legend has it, that in 1443, Rana Kumbha initially failed in many early attempts to complete the construction of the wall encircling the fortress. Thus, he sought advice from a spiritual priest who told the great King that a voluntary sacrifice would remove any obstacle.
In addition, the priest advised the king to construct a temple on the precise location where the head of the volunteer sacrifice rested. And the fortress at the place where his body fell. Naturally it was not easy to find a willing sacrifice. However, one day, a travelling pilgrim asked to see the great King and volunteered his body to protect the fortress.
Still today, at the main gate of the fortress, there is a tomb and a shrine commemorating the great sacrifice of the unknown pilgrim.
The huge defensive but beautiful wall of Kumbhalgarh took almost a century to build. Maharana Kumbha lit large lamps, consuming over fifty kilos of butter and a hundred kilograms of cotton enabling the peasants to work tirelessly through the night during the construction.
Surrounded by thirteen high peaks, the wall spans over 36 km around the fortress and varies in width from 15 to 25 feet. It consists of thousands of beautiful stone tiles and is adorned with lavish ornaments along its top.
In the face of dangerous attacks from outsiders, the fortress was designed to provide a safe haven for the Mewar rulers and their people.
It is said though that, this so called invincible fortress, has been subject to attack only once, incredibly from the inside. It happened when a traitor poisoned the fortress’s internal water supply system. This incident made it possible for Emperor Mogul Akbar and other forces from Delhi, Amer, Gujarat, Marwar to infiltrate the fort.
Adding to the dominant presence of the wall, on the approach of Kumbhalgarh, there are seven impressive solid gateways. And inside the fortress there are more than 360 ancient temples, mostly dedicated to the Jain and Hindu faiths. From the front of the palace, you can see the length and breadth of the Aravalli Mountain range in its spectacular glory. The sand dunes of the Thar Desert can also be seen from the top of the fortress walls. Standing amid the magnificent and splendid construction, an array of magnificent scenery would unfold before our eyes.
The Great Wall of India is the second largest wall on the planet, after the Great Wall of China. Despite this and despite its splendor, it is shamefully barely known to the outside world.