The Speaking Silence.. Kumbhalgarh
“Khammaghani!”, I helloed to my guide and my host from the Rajsamand Forest Dept, flaunting my newly learnt arcadian Marwari slang. Chitchatting with Govindji and a few other forest guards in the 4*4 jeep sent to our disposal, we passed a scenic stretch of roads, a quaint village and a beautiful pond on the way to the forest rest house that waited anxiously behind the shade of a few gooseberry trees.
I was charmed by the petite rest house of grey stone and red terracotta that had tucked itself on a hillock on the fringes of the western ghats. Dumping our bags, we three women musketeers set out to witness the marvels of the Kumbhalgarh Fort that rested mightily in the lap of Aravalis in the Mewad region of Rajasthan. This sturdy fortress boasts of a 38 km long fort-wall, making it the 2nd largest wall after the Great Wall of China and also the 2nd largest fort of Rajasthan after Chittorgarh. Though the early history of Kumbhalgarh is not accurately known, the present form was built by Rana Kumbha. I couldn’t stop myself from sharing this jaw dropping video of Kumbhalgarh by Incredible India, that actually inspired me to plan my trip! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ysh4f1RoI-M
The beauty of Kumbhalgarh is indescribable. The stone path leading to the main gate is at a gradual elevation. One cannot refrain from stopping every once in a while to admire the fifteen-feet thick fortwall that looks like a huge python circumventing the fort.
Kumbhalgarh has close to 360 temple ruins in its womb and presents astounding views from its top. A few meters off the main Darwaza, I came face to face with the rear side of the herculean palace that is believed to have been the birth place of the famous Maharana Pratap. The picturesque views of the entire mountain range from every window at the uppermost deck of the palace blew me off my feet!
After strolling for a good two hours in the fort in the blazing November sun, I paid a quick visit to the Ganesha temple and the Jain temple at the base, then moved on farther for a panoramic glimpse of the fort. Sitting at back seat of the jeep, I just couldn’t take my eyes off the majestic Kumhbalgarh and its serpentine fortwall which now looked hazy from a distance.
After a surprisingly delicious lunch at a small local restaurant, our journey continued into the serene Wildlife Sanctuary of Kumbhalgarh. The ride through narrow and rugged forest trail of stone and mud in the government-run gypsy was quite a bone breaking one. A few kilometres into the forest, the jeep halted briefly in the profound and comforting stillness, intermittently broken by falling dry leaves.
A canary flycatcher busily caught its prey in the air, perching at intervals. Rays of the setting sun sneaked through the foliage and dust, gently caressing my face. We drove deeper on a gradual descend to the base of the forest , crossing a couple of virgin streams on the way. Where a few wagtails were trying to fetch their meal on the wet soil near a merry brook, I saw footprints of deer, bisons and wild boars-perhaps. A barking dear curiously stared at us and briskly went underbrush. With only the last few minutes of sunlight remaining, we head back to the top. I caught sight of a beautiful male Sambar and a Crested Serpent Eagle just before winding up the ride.
I spent a good one hour that night on the roof of the rest house to devour the silence of the world around me. Not a house or a spec of light was in sight. No blinding city lights and no deafening cacophony of horns and wheels. I gazed at the carpet of million stars and galaxies above me as the silence of the night gently creeped over and put me to sleep. I woke up next morning, just at the break of dawn and climbed briskly to the terrace, shivering under my blanket. The faint sky was changing colors like a dancing goddess gently swaying in her robe of blues and yellows over the universe. The Aravali complemented the sky with its vivid shades of grey. A tiny spec of gold arose and within minutes, spread its thousand arms, lighting up the rolling mountains that stretched all the way into the horizon. I was pulled into this magical transformation of darkness into light with the seductive play of colors.
Kumbhalgarh had broken its silence and spoken to me in ways that were beyond the power of a thousand words.
Things to do: Kumbhalgarh Fort, and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Best time to visit : Nov through Jan
Where to stay : Kumbhalgarh Forest Rest house. Contact Rajsamand Forest Dept. Rahul @ 9414156229
Where to Eat : Upbeat restaurant called Aodhi or sumptuous food at a nameless hotel in the vicinity
What not to miss : Evening light show at Fort, sunrise at forest rest house. If time permits, explore the temple ruins inside the fort area. Guided tour recommended.
Must do’s : Travel responsibly. Do not consume alcohol or play loud music in the forest premises. Carry back any litter. Appreciate what the locals and the guides do for you and express gratitude.