The Best of India: Top Forts in India
India is a country rich with history, considered as a country by some as one of the most ancient and living civilizations. Over the Centuries India has been ruled by number of dynasties each of which have left their mark creating what is today considers historical sites. The Forts, Palaces and Monuments carrying stories and legacies of their rule, existence and splendor right through the years while still standing tall today.
No trip to India is complete without visiting some of these forts. While Rajasthan has the most number of forts in India, other forts are dotted across many of the other Indian states and are equally enchanting with their architecture and history.
Here’s a guide to some of the Major and Top Forts in India you must include in your itinerary if you get a chance.
Lal Qila (or Red Fort), Delhi
One of the most impressive sights in Delhi is the Red Fort, otherwise known as Lal Qila. Built in 1639 by Emperor Shah Jahan, this Fort has been a mute witness to innumerable conspiracies, scandals, battles in it’s time. The Red Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
The Red Fort is a brilliant show of Architecture with its Islamic inspired octagonal shape and rampart walls covering a perimeter of 2.41km. Completed within a span of nine years, its construction cost about ten million rupees, most of it going towards the building of the palaces with the fort. The main entrance to the Lal Quila is through the Lahori Gate. Beyond the gate, there is a roofed passage, flanked by arcaded apartments leading to the palaces, known as Chhatta Chowk. These apartments are now used as shops. The Fort included a number of buildings with it like the Mumtaz Mahal Palace, Moti Masjid mosque and many splendid halls and structures. Unfortunately some do not stand as they were centuries ago and are in ruins.
Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer- Rajasthan
One of the finest in the country, the Jaisalmer fort is located bang in the middle of the Thar Desert in the State of Rajasthan. Built in 1156, its literal meaning ‘abode of the dead’ the Jaisalmer Fort is rather incongruous given the desolation around it. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion color during the day, turning to a magical honey-gold as the sun sets and camouflages the fort making it appear a part of the picturesque yellow desert which is why it is also known as the Golden Fort.
This splendid Rajput fort built by the ruler Rawal Jaisal is one of the largest of desert forts of the world. With 3 solid layers of walls the fort contains the Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples, Laxminath temple, 4 massive gateways and merchant havelis (large houses built by wealthy merchants in Rajasthani towns and cities in North India, with beautiful, ornate sandstone carvings). Just as the Taj Mahal in Agra is worth visiting on a full moon night, Jaisalmer fort by nightfall is a sight to behold and experience.
Amber Fort, Amber-Rajasthan
11 km from Jaipur City the capital of Rajasthan is the sprawling Amber Fort in all its Rajput glory. With its unique artistic style it brings about a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Built in 16 the century by Raja Man Singh, the fort seems to grow out of the rugged hills with its mighty gates, temples, huge ornate halls, palaces, pavilions, gardens and even a ramp that takes you to the hilltop palace! Beautifully- caparisoned elephants go up and down carrying visitors to and fro making it a fascinating experience you cannot miss if you’re in Rajasthan.
Amber Fort is divided into four sections. Each is accessible via large staircases from a central location, or from a broad pathway leading to each of the sections. The walls of the interior of the fort are covered lavishly with murals, frescoes, and paintings depicting various scenes from daily life. Other walls are covered with intricate carvings, mosaic, and minute mirror work that are splendid works of art.
Golconda Fort, Hyderabad
This Deccan Fort built atop a granite hill is known for its magical acoustic system. Also referred to as Golkonda constructed by the Qutub Shahi kings in the 13th centaury. The wonderful acoustic system of Golconda fort speaks volumes about the architecture of the fort. This majestic structure has beautiful palaces and an ingenious water supply system. Sadly, the unique architecture of the fort is now loosing its charm.
Golconda is also known as ‘Shepherd’s Hill’ or ‘Golla Konda’, in Telugu. According to a legend, a shepherd boy found an idol on the rocky hill called ‘Mangalavaram’. This news reached the Kakatiya king, who was then ruling Golconda. He ordered the construction of a mud fort around the holy spot. Later, the fort was expanded by the Qutub Shahi kings into a huge structure made of granite. The highlight of the Golconda fort today is the sound and light show which depicts the glorious past of this grand fortress. This audio – visual extravaganza is presented in English, Hindi and Telugu.
Shaniwar Wada, Pune- Maharashtra
The Shaniwar Wada Palace Fort of the Maratha Dynasty lies in the heart of Pune city. It covers six and a quarter acres in central Pune. Constructed in 1732 as the seat of the Peshwa (prime ministers of the Maratha Empire) it remained the political capital of the Empire until its annihilation. While the Palace was destroyed in a big fire in 1827, the mammoth structure of the walls survived the fire.
Shaniwar Wada is a real specimen of Maratha culture and the architectural design shows the influence of Mughal style and the feature of Maratha artistic styles. The 21 feet tall massive door of the palace known as Delhi Darwaza is one of the remains of the grand old Palace.
Ranthambhore Fort, Rajasthan
In the heart of the Ranthambhore Nation Parts lies a Colossal Fort surrounded by jungles built in 994AD by Sapaldaksh Chauhana to thwart invasions by Persian invaders. It went on to be taken over by the Rajputs and then the Mughals . Then came Alauddin Khilji, a ruler of Afghan descent. The Rajputs had mastered the art of guerilla warfare and countered to hold out against the Sultanate, but had not contended with Khilji’s military tactics. Alauddin Khilji captured Ranthambhore fort in 1303 and destroyed the temples within its walls.
Having passed through the hands of so many dynasties the fort tells many tales. Today is visited by many because of its great location in the center of the National Park home to many varieties of India’s Wildlife including the much diminishing Bengal Tiger (Indian Tiger).
Agra Fort, Agra
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Argra Fort about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.
This brick Fort was held by the Rajputs and was home to the Sultan of Delhi. After he was killed in the battle of Panipat, the Mughals captured the fort and its vast treasure which included the diamond that was later named as the Koh-i-Nor diamond
The Fort includes a number of important buildings and sites including: The Jahangiri mahal built by Akbar for his son Jehangir, The Khas Mahal a white marble palace with beautiful paintings on the marble, The Musamman Burj – a large, octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal, Mina Masjid (Heavenly Mosque), Pearl Mosque, Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) a mosque especially designed for the ladies of the court, featuring the Zenana Mina Bazaar (Ladies Bazaar) Naubat Khana (Drum House) – a place where the king’s musicians played and lots more.
Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan
The biggest fort in Asia, this Fort is situated on a hilltop near Chittorgarh town in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is one of the most historically significant forts not only of Rajasthan but of the whole of North India. This colossal fort covers an expanse of 700 acres. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the palace fort is its splendid series of canopied balconies. The complex also houses stables for elephant and horses, but is now in ruins.
This fort includes a number of temples like the Naulakha Bhandar (nine lakh treasury), the Shringar Chaori Jain Temple with detailed carvings of gods and goddesses on the outside, the Mira Bai Temple, the Brahma Temple and many more. The most imposing monuments in Chittor however are the dual towers that stand as a grim reminder of the jaded grandeur of Chittor.