Thursday, April 07, 2005

A fabulous fort.

Le mot du jour: 'Garh' means fort in Hindi. And today we're off to see Chittorgarh, definitely worth a visit. Unlike Chittor, the town that lays in its shadow, certainly worth a miss.

We hopped on an early train from Udaipur and arrived in Chittor around midday. I seized the opportunity to do some physical exercise, and after dumping our gear in the Railway Retiring Rooms, we went in search of bicycles. With an annoyingly overbearing and bellicose auto-rickshaw driver in tow - 'no bicycle, not possible, shop closed' - I strengthened my resolve to rent three bikes and we were soon on our way through the old town and up the steep incline that led to the entrance gate of the fort.

Young people are disappointingly unfit these days. That's all I have to say on the matter.
Arriving at the top first (there is no second place, only fisrt loser), I waited impatiently until the others arrived and then it was off to explore the ruined city that lay within 28 kms of impregnable stone walls - buildings and fanstastic constuctions that make you wonder exactly why it is that a country producing such magnificent architecture then constructs among the world's worst now. Heady stuff. Maybe funding from the Department of Planning had dwindled over the last several hundred years. Just like Health and Education under the Liberals, I guess.

In any case, the crenellated walls of the fort enclose the numerous palaces, temples and towers that were once the pride of this city. Especially enchanting is Padmini's palace, where the gardens have been restored and it's tragic story is worth recounting. It goes like this:
Maharaja is married to beautiful woman. Other man glimpses reflection of Maharaja's wife in lake. Wife now becomes obsession of the Peeping Tom. He's just got to have her. War is declared, victory evident, since the man who wants Padmini has a much stronger armed force that the man who currently owns her. But, just to piss everyone off, the Maharaja has nobly resigned to ride out to certain death before the enemy, and his chick and her mates throw themselves into the flames. Death before dishonour and all that. I like it, it's a tale with class and style and an iota of voyeurism.

We stayed until the fading rays of the sun cast a spookly glow over the orange sandstone, ponds and gardens, got speed wobble on the way down the hill and battled the congested night traffic.

Can't write any more since the hotel employee wants his computer back. Now.

Does anyone stop at a red light in India? The answer is no.

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