One of the most beautiful forts in the world, Chittorgarh, located in India's northwestern province of Rajasthan, is absolutely huge. Sprawling over 700 acres and perched on a stunning hill, it has stood proud for nearly 1500 years and bears a truly romantic legacy. 

Chittorgarh's most famous legend revolves around a medieval sultan of Delhi, a guy named Ala-ud-din who was so self-confident that he dubbed himself the "Second Alexander." But he didn't limit his conquests to his own vassals, attempting to take Chittorgarh...but for love! In 1303, Ala-ud-din sent out a bunch of different armies to areas across India; he headed the forces going to  Chittorgarh, capital of the principality of Mewar. 

At this time, the fortress wasn't just famous for its own beauty, but also for the beauty of the wife of its ruler! Chittorgarh's ruler was Rana Ratan Singh, married to a stunner named Padmini. According to some accounts, Ala-ud-din marched on Chittorgarh in part to take Padmini for himself; he tricked her hubby into coming outside the fort and captured him. 

                          Sultan Ala-ud-din, depicted in an old Afghani textbook. 

The queen sent Ala-ud-din a message. She offered herself in exchange for Rana Ratan Singh, so long as she could bring her attendants with her. But this was a clever trick; she'd filled her litters with warrior slaves, who then proceeded to slaughter Ala-ud-din's soldiers and free their king! 

Another tale has Ala-ud-din besieging Chittorgarh futilely and telling Rana Ratan Singh he'd exchange for a glimpse of Padmini's face. But a modest married woman wouldn't reveal her face to a man not her husband, so the story goes, but it was arranged for him to see her reflection in a mirror. 

Rani Padmini's "Water Palace" at Chittorgarh. Image via Sangita Pujara/Wikimedia Commons.

His passions enflamed, Ala-ud-din tried to capture her, but the queen demanded 700 litters for her servants, which wound up being all filled with soldiers! The conqueror barely escaped, but then he besieged the fort again, defeating the king, who died in battle; Padmini threw herself on her hubby's pyre rather than submit to Ala-ud-din, so the tale went.

The sultan put his own son, Khizer Khan, only seven or eight at the time, on the throne of Mewar, and renamed the town after the puppet prince. But the youngster abandoned Chittor less than a decade later. Who was the new monarch? The rightful heir, Rana Ratan Singh's son!

This specific alt-Romeo and Juliet saga is probably not true, as the romantic version of this siege appeared for the first time in 1540. But Ala-ud-din did attack Chittorgarh, and he apparently had a really personal interest in its conquest. According to one of his chroniclers, present at the siege, he, in an out of character action, ordered the deaths of 30,000 of the surrounding area's Hindu residents.

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