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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

On the trail of Maharana Pratap

Rajasthan is most well known for its beautiful palaces and forts. The impressive architecture, the intricate detailing, the royal touch....much has been written about it. However, there is another face of Rajasthan – that of the Rajputs who fought for their land, for their freedom from outside influences. Among them, there is no name that shines brighter than that of Maharana Pratap.

Maharana Pratap... from the museum at Haldighati

Maharana Pratap was the eldest son of the Mewar King, Udai Singh. Though he was the crown prince, he had to live amidst the mountains, hidden from enemies. His star eventually rose, and he ascended the throne, though only symbolically, for he was fated to spend the greater part of his life living rough in the heart of the Aravalli ranges. His greatest triumph was a battle no one believed he would survive. As it happened, he did not win, but neither did he lose. He managed to strike terror in the heart of the enemy, and, till the end, refused to bow before the might of the Mughal Empire. So effective was he, that the Mughals actually retreated from the area he reigned over.

Maharana Pratap was a scion of the royal family of Mewar, and it is in Mewar that he is most remembered. It is impossible to visit the region, and not remember him. Let me take you along on a tour of some of the places associated with the legendary Maharana. 

  •    Kumbhalgarh

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Kumbhalgarh – the fortress bearing the name of one of the greatest rulers of Mewar – Maharana Kumbha, was also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap. That two such personalities should be so intimately connected with the fort shows its importance as well as its strength. Kumbhalgarh is most well known for its long wall – which is said to be second only to the Great Wall of China, and extends over 36 Km. Most of the wall is intact, and is built in such a way that it’s almost impossible to climb from the outside. At the top, it is wide enough for 4 horses to ride side by side!
At one time, the fort had over 360 temples within its walls, both Jain as well as Hindu temples. Today, little remains of this heritage, but a few temples and ruins of others. The palace itself is in ruins, but the women’s quarter, where Maharana Pratap was born on the 9th of May, 1540, has a board informing us of the fact.

Kumbhalgarh is about 60 Km from Udaipur. There are a few resorts near the fort, but it is easier to do a day trip from Udaipur.

I visited Kumbhalgarh in 2008, and wrote a series of posts on the fort. Click here to read them. 

  •  Chittorgarh

Ruins at Chittorgarh

Though born at Kumbhalgarh, Pratap spent most of his life at Chittor. Chittorgarh, like Kumbhalgarh, owes much of its construction and strength to Maharana Kumbha. However, unlike Kumbhalgarh, it was attacked repeatedly by the Mughals. It witnessed not only victory and defeat, but it also witnessed the ultimate sacrifice when defeat was imminent – self immolation by women who did not want to be captured and misused by the Mughals – known as the Johar. Chittor witnessed not one, but three such Johars over several generations. It was during one such losing battle that Maharana Pratap was smuggled away with the king to the forests in the heart of the Aravalli ranges, which set the tone for the rest of his life.

Chittorgarh is about 113 Km from Udaipur. There are plenty of hotels in the area, and it is worth a stay, to attend the sound and light show held in the fort complex every evening.

Click here to read my post on Chittorgarh, published in Travel Thru History.

  • Gogunda

Model of Mandap at Gogunda... from the Maharana Pratap Museum at Haldighati

Today, Gogunda is a small town near Udaipur, but about 500 years ago, it must have been a thick forest. It was to Gogunda that Maharana Pratap and Udai Singh were brought for safe keeping. It was here that Udai Singh passed on, and Maharana Pratap was named the ruler of Mewar on the 28th of February, 1572. The coronation must have been a simple affair, symbolic in nature, and today, there is just a small mandap or pavilion commemorating the event. However, a grand celebration is held here every year on the coronation day.
Gogunda is about 37 Km from Udaipur and about 20 Km from Haldighati. There isn’t much to see, except during the festival time. It can be combined with a day trip to Haldighati.

  •  Haldighati


Haldighati – the turmeric coloured pass – is a name synonymous with Maharana Pratap and his horse, Chetak. This is where, on 21st June, 1576, the guerrilla army led by Maharana Pratap, met the massive Mughal army, for a battle which is remembered even centuries later. The battle was marked by the impressive bravery shown by the tribals and Rajputs led by Maharana Pratap. The battle was inconclusive, as neither side won, but the horse, Chetak, was the true hero of the battle. When the Maharana was injured, the horse, in spite of his own injuries, managed to get his master to safety before succumbing to his wounds. A memorial to Chetak, as well as museum dedicated to the battle keep memories of this famous battle alive.

Haldighati is about 40 Km from Udaipur. The best way to visit it is to make a day trip by car.

Click here to read my post on Haldighati, published on the Club Mahindra Blog.

  • Chawand

A model of the memorial at Chawand - from the museum at Haldighati

After the battle of Haldighati, the Mughals never attacked the Maharana on such a large scale. There were regular minor skirmishes, during which the guerrilla warriors had the upper hand, since they knew the mountains much better. They gave the Mughals a hard time, who eventually left the Maharana and his people alone. Though Maharana Pratap managed to capture back some parts of Mewar from the Mughals, he could never free the entire land from their influence. Since he had vowed not to live a comfortable and royal lifestyle while his land was ruled by invaders, he spent the rest of his life amidst the Aravallis as before, shifting from one place to another. He breathed his last at Chawand, on the 19th of January, 1597. A memorial commemorating him stands here today.

Chawand is located about 60 Km from Udaipur.

All these places are located around Udaipur, and it is best to visit them, keeping Udaipur as a base. 

This post was originally published on the Club Mahindra Blog


  1. Loved your article. Been there just few months ago, I could totally relate to it. Loved it. If you want, you could read my post on Udaipur

    Himanshu Nagpal | Being Traveler

    1. Thanks Himanshu!I did read your post on Udaipur, tho i dont remember if i commented on it

  2. Nice article. Went there last year December. Missed Haldighati but heard its a huge battlefield. Good to read it here.

    Alankar Chandra | Imprints in Color

    1. Thanks Alankar! and you should go to Haldighati sometime. its nothing like a battlefield, but chilling to think of the battle being held amidst these hills.

  3. During my recent trip to Rajasthan, I found it fascinating that Maharana Pratap is not even mentioned in the Marwar region and when you cross the Aravallis into the Mewar region it is only about him and nothing else :-)

    I visited Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh and his memorial in Udaipur and it is hard not to remember school history and also wonder why he is not talked about so much these days. Yes, I know a serial has begun just yesterday, but they have been using backdrops of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur for the promos, a place that the Maharana almost certainly did not visit !

    1. you are so right, Sudha!!! its almost like they are still different countries, not just to the serial, dont get me started... i really doubt he dressed like that, with the kind of financial troubles he faced...


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