Rustic Beauty Exploring the Forts & Palaces of India
A glorious past and a rich cultural heritage etched in the history of India, it is a land of mystic tales and valiant wars fought for kingdom, jewels and people. Testimonial of which are the elegant palaces and magnificent forts that stand tall even today. Forts and palaces of India have a unique story attached to it.
A story which is a marvelous blend of aristocracy and valor interspersed with tradition and ritual. This is what makes India a fantastic lesson in history. Right from the richly studded Rajasthan which is proudly known as the land of palaces and fortress to Maharashtra the land of Shivaji and the national capital Delhi; every state is home to history, forts, and palaces. Other parts of the nation have a fair share of this too. Artfully situated these forts and palaces in every state of the country stand tall not only as symbols of ancient civilization but also keep us rooted and close to our rich history and take us down memory lane to the days of yore.
Let's visit the prominent ones starting from the bedecked state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is home to some of the most gorgeous forts and palaces. More than thirty forts and palaces are situated in Rajasthan. Each with a majestic past breathes of a royal cultural heritage of Rajputs and Maharajas. Some of the prominent ones are Mehrangarh Fort, Amer Fort, Chittorgarh fort, Nahargarh Fort, Neemrana, and Jaisalmer fort.
These forts and palaces are not just historic symbols of great architecture and valor but also serve as living examples of history. Not just good for sightseeing, the forts and palaces of India have become a part of the syllabus of some of the most renowned architecture institutes and history lessons in school.
Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur stands tall at 400 feet and houses numerous, intricately carved palaces in it. It was built by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate his victory over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. It also has one of the most richly stocked museums in Rajasthan. The fort is not just picturesque but also is of great cinematic significance. Parts of renowned Hollywood films like The Dark Knight were shot at this fort.
Burnished red sandstone and its invincible and daunting structure make the fort not only mysterious and eerie but also associate a haunting beauty to it. It is by far one of the most well-preserved forts in India. Rudyard Kipling, a famous poet has described this fort as "A Palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun".
Amer Fort in Amer is a great tourist attraction. Known for its aesthetic class and exquisite ambiance, it is built of red stone and marble. This opulent fort is located on a hill overlooking the Maota Lake was again built by Maharaja Mansingh.
Known as the precious gem of Rajasthan, its rustic exterior boasts of a traditional and Shiney interior because of the presence of 'Diwan-i-Aam', the 'Sheesh Mahal' and even the 'Sukh Mahal'. The Amer Fort has traces of both Hindu and Muslim architecture. It also has the 'Shila Devi' Temple and the 'Ganesh Pol' which is a gate that leads to the private palaces of the kings.
This is the towering highlight of the state. It is the largest and most opulent fort of India. The fort is a testimonial of medieval valor of the people of Mewar displayed between the 7th and the 16th centuries when the fort was under siege thrice. Built by the Mauryans in the 7th century AD, in ancient times the people and the families of the king would take refuge in the fort at the time of war. True to the meaning of 'fort' it served as a shield for its people when deadly attacks were made in the past. This fort is truly a symbol of royalty and class.
According to some sources the origins of the fort have been traced back to the pays of the Pandavas of the Mahabratat and it is said that one of the Pandavas Bhima had got this fort erected. Standing on a 180-meter high hill it is spread across a 700-acre area. It is known as the "pride of Rajasthan". Some people also know it as the Water Fort because it houses 84 water bodies out of which only 22 are existent today.
This fort is at the edge of the Aravalli range and overlooks the pink city of Jaipur. Like Amer and Jaigarh fort this one too was constructed to be a part of the defense ring of the city by Maharaja Jai Singh II
Situated on a hillock, Neemrana fort is surrounded by great scenic beauty. It is located 122 km from Delhi on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. The fort has now been converted into one of the most famous resorts in northern India.
Last but not the least, and the grandest of them all is the Jaiselmer fort. Proudly touted as the largest fort in the world, Jaiselmer fort is situated in the heart of the Thar Desert and was built by Rao Jaisal. Built of yellow sandstone, when the rays of sun fall on the fort it glistens in a golden hue and hence is also called the Golden fort.
Our magnificent history is well preserved in our regal forts and our artful palaces. The best palaces of India are in the state of Rajasthan. The state is known for its culture, traditional ethos, forts, and also its colorful and exquisite palaces. The crowning glory of the state is the city palace of Udaipur palace and the city palace of Jaipur.
City Palace of Udaipur
Built by Maharana Udai Singh, it is a flamboyant structure combining both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The palace offers a panoramic view of the city and the water bodies around. A number of tourist locations like the Lake Palace, Jagdish Temple, etc are visible from this palace. It is by far one of the most resplendent tourist locations in Rajasthan and has a huge role to play in Udaipur getting the claim of being the "Venice of the East".
This exquisite complex of palaces situated in the pink city of Jaipur houses both the Chandra Mahal and the Mubarak Mahal and serves as the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. It is a unique and captivating concoction of several palaces, pavilions, gardens, and temples. The most prominent and most frequented structures in the complex are the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Maharani's Palace, Shri Govind Dev Temple, Mukut Mahal, and the City Palace Muse.
Continuing with our architecture tour of India and doing a deep dive in its history and architecture let us know to explore the royal palaces of India and forts in the northern region.
Two forts in north India have received world heritage acclaim from UNESCO. These are the red fort and the Agra fort. Before we elaborate on these, it is important to go back in history and understand the origins of forts in general. So far we have spoken about medieval Forts and palaces of Rajasthan built by the maharajas in the medieval times. These forts and palaces were abundantly decorated and had an intricate architecture which was a fusion of Mughal and Rajasthani craftsmanship. Another type of forts is the ones built by the Britishers like Fort William in Kolkata and Fort St George in Chennai. These were simply built. However, a touch of French architecture is visible in Fort St George, thanks to the French dominance in the south.
Moving up north and talking about the stalwarts: Red fort and Agra fort form the main forts in north India
The red fort stands tall as a testimony of the Mughal dynasty. It was the residence of the Mughal emperor for two decades before 1857. It derives its name from the red sandstone used in the construction of the fort. Today, it is a symbol of the Indian republic and is a national site on the republic and Independence Day of the country. Red Fort received the world heritage acclaim from UNESCO in 2007.
Famously known as the walled city, it was built by the Mughals in the 11th century. The fort has been the center of a number of Mughal rulers right from the first battle of Panipat up till the Indian rebellion of 1857 which ended the British East India Company's rule.
Whilst, we spoke of Rajasthani architecture which had a tinge of Mughal flavor in the forts in Rajasthan; these two were purely reflective of Mughal architecture and were the front runners amidst the Mughal rule in India.
Every region of India is adorned with some of the most royal palaces of India. Going ahead with our architecture tour of India, we will now explore the forts of central India. Here the two most promising ones are the Golconda Fort and the Gwalior Fort.
Situated 11km from Hyderabad, Golconda fort was built in the reign of the Qutub dynasty. This fort is also said to have stored the famous Kohinoor and Hope diamond. Golkonda is a famous site for mining diamonds.
Built-in the 8th century the fort is situated in Madhya Pradesh and has been controlled by a number of rulers over the period of time. The fort has two structures Gurjari Mahal and Man Madir and was built by Man Singh Tomar.
Moving ahead with our journey of forts and palaces in India, let us explore the forts of south India. Though some of the most royal palaces of India are found in the southern region of the country, Mysore fort is one such fort that deserves special mention before we get into the places out there.
Known as the city of palaces, Mysore houses one of the most resplendent palaces of southern India, The Mysore Palace. This was the residence of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore. Made of marble domes, it's a unique amalgamation of different architectural styles:
Mughal, Rajasthani, Gothic, and British. Breathtaking splendor of Mysore resonating with the Wodyer rule of over 500 years is intricately blended in the ambiance of the palace. Designed by, Henry Irwin, an English architect, the Mysore Palace rules the skyline of Mysore.
India is a rich diversity of not just religious and cultural ethos but also of superb craftsmanship and intelligent architectural styles. It can serve to be a perfect case study for a history and architecture travel planner. Right from Leh palace in Ladakh to Lake palace in the west and Mysore palace in the south, the country is dressed with beautiful palaces across the length and breadth of the nation.
The rich history of India is captured in these forts and palaces and is preserved for posterity. It is these forts and palaces of India that take us down memory lane and narrate the tales of wars, kingdoms, rulers who have governed our land and in some way shaped our present.