Reverberating forever in a din of what makes for one of the most oft explored architectural marvels that travelers and tourists routinely scout out in their many wanderlusting trails around the world is a certain phenomenon of epical proportions- the giant serpentine presence of the Great Wall of China. The longest wall in the world spanning a main line length of some 3640 km, this monument of ancientry has so fascinated people the world over that it is recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And while that is all only very ‘obvious’ a manifestation of the gargantuan might which it guards, the fact that the Great Wall of China is so famous a feature of the world and also so popular a tourist attraction however doesn’t make it the only such known structure of impressive dimension to have been ever constructed. Particularly surprising therefore is the running of a similarly grandiose trail of formidability just a few thousand kilometers apart, within the landmass that makes up the same Asian continent in which China resides, but which remains hitherto unexplored, unsurprisingly however since its identity remains shrouded in relative obscurity despite the fact that it is not located at all in some really remote corner of the world.
Our allusion is to a wall again, running this time through the length of the Indian nation, gigantic enough in stature that has earned it therefore the epithet of the Great Wall of India. The second longest continuous wall running anywhere in the world, next only after the ‘illustrious’ Great Wall of China is this closely guarded Indian secret of a time that goes back to the 15th century. In the royal Indian land of Rajasthan, this magnificent wall runs a length of 36 kilometers along the perimeter of the ancient fort of Kumbhalgarh, identifying itself therefore conveniently as the Kumbhalgarh Wall as well. Along its winding in serpentine length through the valleys nestled in the greeny mountainous terrain of the state, perched perfectly between thirteen towering peaks of the Aravalli range, the Kumbhalgarh fort and its associated wall offers no less scenic a view to behold to the many curious travelers who are embarking on this road less travelled, majestic and daunting, even when it is only a fraction of the length of what its predecessor in China ensnares. But the premises on which the wall stands and the precincts of what it guards, the imposing structure itself that the Kumbhalgarh Fort happens to be is what indeed makes the Great Wall of India no any less greater a phenomenon to witness in all its serpentine glory and historical splendor, specifically and particularly since it has its own place of prominence as a heritage structure, being a part of the six Hill Forts of Rajasthan that have been cumulatively recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built by the then Rana of Mewar Rana Kumbha on a hilltop some 1000 meters above sea level, the fort itself is a structure of enormous substance, both in its history and in its architectural brilliance, as well as in its legacy that which sees sustained importance as being the birthplace of the illustrious Maharana Pratap. Among the largest fort complexes of the world, the history of the structure however is probably more ancient, believed to have existed in some form and in some identity as long back as the 6th century. But the wall that gaudily defends the fort itself and that which has lend it a place even more steeped in significance was constructed only over the course of its later, more prominent timeline. Particularly to shield his empire from the onslaught of the 14th century emperor of the Delhi Sultanate, Alauddin Khilji, Rana Kumbh considered it appropriate to put in place a defence mechanism that would be impenetrable and within the confines of which the Rajput kings could seek refuge. Thus ensued the process of construction of what would go on to be known as the Great Wall of India, snaking through terrain for miles and miles altogether much like what the Great Wall of China conjures up a vision of in its enormity. But at a fraction of length of the latter, the wall encircling the Kumbhalgarh fort also took only a fraction of construction time- a decade and a half against the nearly two millennia that it took for the Chinese fortification to take shape. The largest of the 32 forts that Rana Kumbh would go on to construct during his reign, the origins of the Kumbhalgarh fort however resides somewhere along the lines of the sinister as the story of its stemming goes. Failing multiple times in his attempt to construct the fort wall some few kilometers away from the present spot, the Rana was advised by a saint to offer some human as a form of sacrifice before commencing with the process of fortifying the empire. But with no volunteers offering themselves up for sacrifice, it was the said saint who came to lay down his life to put in place an architectural specimen of immense wonder and magnificence that which is as remarkable a presence in its numerous elements of housing as in its stealthy case of defence. As chief architect Mandan set about to work out his vision of this institution of deterrence while strictly adhering to the principles of Vastu Shastra, what emerged was a long snaking course of considerably lengthy authority with the fifteen feet thick frontal walls beautifully masoned with tons of thousands of stone bricks and decorations as they stretched out from hill to hill. The seven fortified gateways of the fort are no less imposing structures in all their massiveness, providing ample glimpse into what lies hidden within as ramparts and bunkers, step wells and tanks and some 360 temples as well, even as a spectacular Palace of Clouds, the Baadal Mahal graces the premises of this strategic but aesthetic piece of construction built entirely out of sturdy blocks of stone, allowing it to gleam in the glow of its rich legacy and exquisite architectural manifestation alike.
Intact still throughout the ages, the Kumbhalgarh fort and the encompassing Great Wall of India nestled in the Rajasmand district of Rajasthan have proved to be worthy guards of its people, breached just once by the mighty Mughals along with a convoy of scheming forces and that too by means of deceit. And indeed, with its numerous sharp turns and congested stairways and unassuming traps, the fort is no less than a maze of perplexing diversity for enemies to lose their way in. The red bricked wall on the other hand is also a strong line of defence but also as strategic a means for the king’s soldiers to gain themselves the upper hand in battle, allowing for the comfortable passing of eight horses side by side along its rampart, making it therefore in all expansiveness a really clever ploy of safety and security. Somewhat surprisingly therefore, despite all the colossal complexity of it, the Great Wall of India has remained long shielded from the greater world view as the second longest wall in the world even when it has found inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest fort wall to ever have been!
Today though, the Kumbhalgarh fort is gaining on the popularity of its humongous facade skirted by a wall that bears striking resemblance to the Great Wall of China. Very similar in design, and in appeal as well to its more well known Asian still counterpart, the Great Wall of India makes for quite a sight to savour, winding through its length in majestic flair, partially obscured in the shadow of the mighty mountains along which it courses, only to re-emerge as even more daunting a prospect in grandeur, granting access to such sights and views of the royal aura of the Rajasthani sands that really is an ode to the very regal identity of the state. From the sand dunes of the Thar desert to the glory beckoning from the Aravalli range, the magnitude of grandeur encompassed by the Great Wall of India encircling one of her greatest forts unfolds as an experience that is as dignified as its centuries old existence brimming with storied legacy. Believed to have been illuminated every single evening by massive lamps burning with fifty kilograms of ghee and a hundred kilograms of cotton to provide light for the farmers who worked during the nights in the valley is this fort of exuberance that stands as a testimony to the many ways it has strived to serve its people. A trek through this length of trailing glory is what would grant a really comprehensive account of the amazingly jaw dropping essence of its existence, encountering as you would along its extensive kilometers pits and bumps and valleys and cliffs along which it meanders as one beautiful poetry in motion. The rhetoric might be too flowery for a structure that one would conceive as only an identity in brick and stone, that too perhaps lacking in something to have evaded the world view for so long despite its prime position, both in history and of geography, manifesting its presence right there at the heart of the Indian experience as a wondrous giant tracing its steps back in time, which is exactly what allows this tale of imposition the luxury of being accorded a status in beauty that matches so well its power of captivation. For, only few things of the world can come close to being strikingly similar to one of its most exceptional of the seven wonders and the Great Wall of India truly deserves a special mention in travelogues for its encompassing of a legacy that contends worthily with that forever ravishing phenomenon called the Great Wall of China.