India has a rich cultural heritage and history, and what better way to experience its regal lineage, than to visit the majestic palaces and forts in India? These structures that were crafted ages ago, still stand testimony to the test of time they have undergone and the beauty they have maintained throughout these years. Here is a comprehensive guide to the best palaces and forts in India, that will leave an indelible mark on you.
1. City Palace, Jaipur
City Palace, Jaipur (Source)
The City Palace of Jaipur was constructed in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber, and till the 20th century, many structures were added into the palace by subsequent rulers of the city. The palace is a beautiful amalgamation of various styles of architecture, namely the Mughal, Rajputana and European styles. Jaipur is a city known for its strong and hospitable heritage and culture, and the City Palace, to this date, stands a testimony to that. The integrated pink walls and structures are a part of that heritage, which gives the city its label of the Pink City. On display is a magnificent collection of armory and weapons through ages, and housed within the museum in the palace premises that makes the place a delight to visit for tourists, history buffs and children as well.
2. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
The Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur is considered to be one of the largest forts in India. The unique thing about the fort is that it is situated at an elevated platform of and very thick walls as boundaries, thus making the fort look very imposing. The fort has 7 distinct gates, one of which still has cannonball imprints so as to signify the wars of the past. Now, there is a museum inside the fort which documents the rich history of the ‘Rathores’ elaborately in the form of paintings, attires, arms, etc.
It’s also interesting to know that a small part of the movie – ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was shot in this fort.
3. Maharaja’s Palace, Mysore
Maharaja’s Palace, Mysore (Source)
The Maharaja’s Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Mysore, and one of the biggest palatial complexes in south India. The official residence of the rulers of Mysore, also known as the Wodeyars who ruled the city from 14th to 20th century. Tucked away very accessibly in the heart of the city facing the Chamundi Hills, the palace is composed of about 14 Hindu temples, gardens and courtyards as well, the palace has some of the most rarely designed rooms. The Gombe Thotti, (Doll’s Pavilion) is a hall designed specially to house Indian and European sculptures, and one of the crown jewels of the collections is a huge wooden elephant that is adorned with 84 kgs of gold. This fort in India is a must visit for those who like exploring the south Indian Royal Heritage.
4. Red Fort, Delhi: One of the most popular forts in India
Red Fort, Delhi (Source)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Fort in the Indian capital is the apex of Mughal architecture, and hence, one of a kind structures in the country. It is one of the most well preserved, hence popular forts in India. Made completely out of red sandstone, the fort has been maintained in an excellent condition, and that is why the fort still has not lost its scarlet tinge. Crafted majorly using Islamic architectural sensibilities, the structures within the fort also exhibit strong elements borrowed from the Hindu, Timurid and Persian architectural styles. The fort also went on to become a huge symbol of perfected architecture to various structures designed in the neighboring states.
5. Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh
Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh (Source)
The Gwalior Fort is one of the most majestic forts of central India, not only because of its strong, military style architecture, but also because of the aesthetically painted fortress wall, that sports a bright and royal blue color in the carving. The fort brings together extremely diverse religious faiths, with altars dedicated to Buddhism and Jainism, while the architecture draws freely from the Mughal and Rajput style, and has been home to various dynasties, from the Suris, Mughals and Rana Jats to even the Marathas. The fort developed into a multipurpose fortress-cum-architectural marvel that continues to stand strong and attract history enthusiasts from around the country.
6. Golconda Fort, Telangana
Golconda Fort, Telangana (Source)
The Golconda was essentially the chief mine from which major gemstones of the world were believed to be mined. The fort has one of the richest histories in the monuments of its time. If it is some south Indian glory you wish to uncover, give Golconda a day or two to open up to you. The fort itself has a boundary wall that is about 10 kms long. The intricately carved domes, pillars, entrances, mosques and temples are a delight to discover. One of the most interesting features of this rich fort in India is the engineering marvels hidden in the nooks and crannies of the fort. For instance, The Fateh Darwaza has an unbelievable acoustic effect. A clap at this entrance, can be heard a kilometer away at the Bala Hisar pavilion. You can only visit this place to know more.
7. Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh
Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh (Source)
Fatehpur Sikri surprises the eyes as a sudden but subsequently mellow fusion of Persian architecture with Indian embellishments. Mughal emperor Akbar put in a lot of research and labor into the making of the whole city. The photogenic sandstone boundary walls, along with the separate complexes for the king and the queen exhibit distinct masculine and feminine architectural sensibilities. To explore more about the city and the palace, one can head north to Fatehpur village which hosts a crafts bazaar, or to the south to Sikri village for an soothing end to the quiet city. The twin forts and project city are a sight to behold, should you ever find yourself in Agra!
8. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur (Source)
The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur was constructed for the queens and princesses of the royal household to observe the city outside, the colorful bazars and fairs while undetected from the people. The engineering of the windows is such, that the person on the inside of the palace cannot be seen, and hence is considered one of the most advanced architectural marvels of its time. The name of the palace is also derived from the fact that the hundred installed windows make it very breezy. The palace sports some of the most exquisitely designed stained glass windows and carved corridors and staircases that make it a must visit pit stop in your Jaipur trips.
9. Agra Fort, Agra
Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh (Source)
The Agra Fort is more appropriately referred to as a walled city, than as a fort because of its area, spread over 94 acres. This fort in India has a rich history, it was here from here the Kohinoor diamond was seized by the Mughal ruler Babur. He was a victor in the first battle of Panipat. Babur’s successor Humayun was crowned here and defeated and the fort was captured again. It is through a history of usurpation that the fort came to increase in area and structures. Three of the most aesthetically designed complexes in the fort are the Khas Mahal, the Shish Mahal, and the octagonal tower of Muhammam Burj. Shah Jahan is said to have died in the magnificent marble balcony of the Musamman Burj, overlooking the Taj Mahal, during the time he was held captive by his son Aurangzeb.
10. Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan
One of the largest forts in India and in the world, with the strongest fortifications, the Jaisalmer Fort stands proud on the Trikuta Hill in the Thar Desert, and has witnessed innumerable battles of every possible magnitude and has seen quite some bloodshed in its time. During its capture by Ala-Ud-Din Khilji, the women of the royal family committed Jauhar, or suicide, to save themselves from having their modesty enraged by the invaders. The fort now, is a sight to behold. Atop the hill, it has a lion yellow shade on it, and during the sunet, a strong gold haze develops on it, from where it also gets the name of Sonar Kila, or the Golden Fort.
11. Chittorgarh Fort and Padmini Palace, Rajasthan
Chittorgarh Fort and Padmini Palace, Rajasthan (Source)
Chittorgarh Fort is the biggest fort in India, and also a World Heritage Site. Spread over about 2.8 kms and 400 acres and the highest elevation in the fort is at about 1075 metres. The two distinct pillars in the fort, the Kirti Stambh and the Vijay Stambh are extremely preciously carved with the most intricate artwork found in the region. Without about twenty water bodies, nineteen temples and 4 palace complexes and memorials, this is one historical site that needs quite some time for exploration and will leave a lasting impression on you for a while.
12. Warangal Fort, Andhra Pradesh
Warangal Fort, Andhra Pradesh (Source)
The Warangal Fort is a specific site to not miss if the Kakatiya lineage of south India interests you. What remains of the Warangal Fort are chiefly ruins, that include gateways, shrines and tablets, but with adequate knowledge of the Kakatiya throne, the ruins are a one lifetime of an experience to witness the rise and fall of the bloodline. The chief attraction is the thousand pillar temple which is usually not accessible to the general public, and the smaller sculptures carved from an unidentified black stone. If stone carvings and a rich heritage is what you’re looking to learn more about, do not miss the Warangal Fort.
13. Cooch Behar Palace, West Bengal
Cooch Behar Palace, West Bengal (Source)
Renaissance architecture, majestic yet subtle color coordination and the culture of Bengal, is what is embodied in the Cooch Behar Palace in West Bengal. The palace is designed entirely on the model of the Buckingham Palace. The Corinthian columns and the arcaded verandahs are a delight to walk around in on a vacation afternoon.
14. Amber Fort, Rajasthan
Amber Fort, Rajasthan (Source)
The Amber Fort, also called the Amer Fort, because it is situated in the city of Amer, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jaipur. It has come to be one of the best promoted and still well maintained forts in India. Elephant rides to the fort are available, as are good mannered and courteous guides. The Ganesh Pol entrance is one of the most aesthetically pleasing and intricately carved portions of the fort. Dated carvings of the Sheesh Mahal and the embossed door of the Sila Devi Palace are absolute delights to explore. The private quarters of the king and his family are entered through the Ganesh Pol, and have a magnificent view of the Maota Lake. The Sheesh Mahal, or the Glass Palace, is a quarter with its ceiling embedded with concave glass pieces set in intricate carvings. There is a lot of rich cultural history to the Amer Fort that is pleasing to the eye and a real treat for people all ages as well.
15. Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
Rambagh Palace, Jaipur (Source)
The Rambagh Palace is where the tradition of culture and royal hospitality is still maintained, since the First Family of Jaipur stays here. It functions as a hotel under the Taj chain but is open for general visitation as well. The Palace was built initially as a quarter for the queen’s handmaiden, by the then King, Sawai Man Singh I, and turned into its glorious self by his grandson Sawai Man Singh II and in the 1930s, witnessed exuberance and royalty and its finest and highest. The Palace has a very affluent past, and continues to be graced by dignitaries from around the world.
16. Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur
Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur (Source)
One of the most ridiculously royal and privately owned heritage residence is the Umaid Bhavan in Jodhpur. The palace is divided into three parts, the hotel chain run by the Taj group, the private residential complex of the royal family and the museum. One of the must visit parts of the Palace is the vintage car collection of the royal family, on display here.
17. Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
This World Heritage Site was built in the 15th Century by Rana Kumbha of the Kumbha dynasty. It is one of the offbeat forts in India. Situated 80km off of Udaipur, the fort was built to be impregnable. Kumbhalgarh Fort has remained one of the most important sites at Mewar.
18. Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad
Daulatabad Fort was the capital fort of the Tughlaqs, under Muhammad bin Tughlaq. This hotly debated and argued upon fort in India, built upon a whim, remains a sight to witness. Muhammad bin Tughlaq forcibly moved the whole population of Delhi to here, and before he knew it, they ran out of water and eventually had to abandon the Fort and city.
19. Junagarh Fort, Bikaner
Erstwhile ‘Chintamani’, Junagarh Fort is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan that hasn’t been constructed on a hilltop. This is an important fort for the locals because the city has evolved and grown around the fort. The fort museum is known for the post medieval arms.
20. City Palace, Udaipur
The City Palace complex was built over a period of 400 years and doesn’t it exude magnificence! It is known for the fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal influenced architecture. The panoramic view of the city from the palace is surreal. It has also been a favourite destination for shooting movies!
21. Sindhudurg Fort, Maharashtra
Sindhudurg Fort is located in the Malvan town of Sindhudurg District (Konkan region) of Maharashtra, 500 km south of Mumbai. It was constructed by Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and is a fort in India of daunting size. Iron was used for casting after the foundation was laid. Presently, most tourists visit the fort because of the well established scuba-diving and snorkelling attractions nearby.
These magnificent forts in India exude gallantry, royalty and exuberance, and all of them have a long and unique story to tell. These architectural marvels are sure to leave a mark on visitors for all the time to come!