I am elated to present this story about the lost Indian city Chandrawati.An important town linking Gujarat to Northern India several centuries ago, Chandrawati is now a ghost town. Its temples, ponds, fortifications, and palaces have a mysterious effect on the travelers.
Read this account of a town that is more than 1,500 -years old.
Before I begin, let me express my heartfelt thanks to Shri Krishan Jugnu Ji, who has inspired me to write this travel story.
The lost Indian city Chandrawati- reaching there
Rajasthan is a favorite travel destination for many travelers. The cities of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer are incredibly beautiful and many overseas travelers are attracted to them. But Rajasthan is much more than just these wonderful cities.
Let me now take you to the hauntingly beautiful ‘town’ of Chandrawati. A ghost town, this settlement is located near Abu Road railway station in the Sirohi district. Most of the trains going from Ahmedabad to Delhi stop at Abu Roadrailway station.
Alternately, you can take a cab or a bus from Udaipur or Ahmedabad to reach Abu Road. The settlement of Chandrawati is a few kilometers south of Abu Road.
How old is Chandrawati?
Dr. Jugnu estimates that this town is at least 2,300 years old. According to him, Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India, has mentioned this town in his ‘Indica’.
Many other historians say that the lost Indian city Chandrawati is at least 1,500 years old. According to archaeologists, this town became an important Indian city in the 11th and 12th centuries and was the capital of the Parmars of Abu.
Parmars were an important ruling dynasty in Central India. The most well known Parmar was Raja Bhoj who built the city of Bhopal.
There were several families of Parmars, and one of them was living in the Abu Road area nearly 1,000 years ago.
According to experts, there was an earlier settlement at Chandrawati before the Parmars came and made this place as their capital.
Older than Dhar, Paramount of the Desert
Another interesting fact about Chandrawati is that it is older than even Dhar, one of the important towns of the Parmar. Dhar is at least 1100 years old and was the capital of the legendary Raja Bhoj.
Chandrawati became a metropolis of Western India and was the overlord of the nine desert forts of Rajasthan. According to archaeologists, the size of this town was no less than 50 hectares. Indeed, Chandrawati was a very big Indian town in the 11th and 12th centuries. Dr. Jugnu says that this town had a perimeter of 32 kilometers! That is fantastic, isn’t it, by modern standards.
Chandrawati had different owners from time to time.It was sacked for the first time in the 11th century by Mohammad Ghazni while he was going to Anhilwada Patan, the capital of the Chalukyas. This dynasty had taken control of Chandrawati somewhere in the 10th century after defeating the Parmars.
The Chauhan rulers of Ajmer captured the city in the early 12th century but I am not sure whether they controlled it directly or let the local king govern Chandrawati.
After the fall of the Chauhans, Chandrawati was sacked and destroyed by several Muslim kings like Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, and Altmash. But after every sacking, Chandrawati sprang up like a phoenix. The city and its people sure had resilience.
Chandrawati lost its independence in the 15th century to the Muslim rulers of Gujarat. Ahmed Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate took away a lot of construction material of the city as well as its artisans and sculptors to make his new city of Ahmedabad.
The final death blow to Chandrawati happened when the Devada ruler of Abu shifted his capital from Chandrawati to Sirohi.
Since then, this beautiful town has been whispering its stories to travelers and passers-by
People have known about the lost city of Chandrawati for very many years. In the mid-19th century, an English traveler, Colonel James Tod visited this ruined city and sketched its various palaces, temples, and pillars. You can download his book, Travels in Western India to know more about this incredibly beautiful city that is now ruined. To read more about Tod’s travels in Chandrawati, please read this book
Even before Tod, another English traveler, Charles Colville had visited Chandrawati and found several beautiful pillars in existence. Those columns were richly decorated and no two pillars were of the same design.
A government journal of the 19th century tells us that at that time there were ruins of a temple that had two Shivas, one of them had twenty arms. The other Shiva had a buffalo to His left (Nandi?) and His right leg was raised and rested on an eagle ( Garuda). The same temple which had an image of a god with three heads and a goddess resting upon her knee. The same image had a goose which is considered to be the carrier of the Goddess of Learning or Saraswati.
The same journal says that the best image was that of several dancing women who had garlands around their necks and musical instruments in their hands.
But alas, many of the Chandrawati treasures are now lost to us. Ahmed Shah was not the only person who looted Chandrawati. The local villagers also stole away the columns of the magnificent temples for building their own places of worship. What was left was destroyed while laying down railway lines in the later part of the 19th century.
You may also read- The Haunted City of Madhyamika Nagri
All is not lost, though. A few years back, the lost city of Chandrawati started showing her past glory again.
A team of archaeologists from Udaipur in Rajasthan has recently unearthed several hidden treasures like palaces, plinths of temples and other structures. Most of these are made of bricks which is surprising because the area around Abu Road has granite rocks.
The researchers have found three fortified enclosures in two different regions of the Chandrawati settlement. You would be surprised to know that a palace of six rooms has also been discovered among the ruins. Researchers believe that this palace might have been a ladies’ quarter where only the royal women were allowed to live. Not only that, archaeologists have also found remains of 3 dozen temples.
Chandrawati also had a water discharge system in its heydays, as per a news report from the Times of India.
The team believes that the Parmar capital was built on the remains of an ancient settlement. Was this the settlement that Megasthenes talks about in his Indica?
This excavation happened in 2015, so I hope that by now the researchers have come to the conclusion about the exact age of the lost city of Chandrawati.
I have never been to this ancient place so will not give the exact advice about where to stay in Chandrawati. My guess, however, is that the best thing to do in such a case is put up at Mount Abu, drive down to Abu Road, and then further drive on to Chandrawati or Chandotri. Once you have finished examining the ruins, you can come back to Mount Abu.
That’s it ,folks.
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