India has a rich cultural heritage and history, and what better way to experience its royal 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.
Here is the list of 33 Forts in India: Majestic Palaces and Forts to Marvel over
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 hospitable and robust heritage and culture, and the City Palace, to this date, stands 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 armoury and weapons through ages, and housed within the museum in the palace premises that make the place a delight to visit for tourists, history buffs and children as well.
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 seven distinct gates, one of which still has cannonball imprints 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.
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 the 20th century. Tucked away very accessible 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.
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, thus famous 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. This fort in India also went on to become a huge symbol of perfected architecture to various structures designed in the neighbouring states.
Referred to as 'the pearl amongst fortresses in India' by the Mughal emperor Babur, the Gwalior Fort is one of the most impenetrable fortresses located in the entire northern and southern India and is a place you definitely must visit. Situated on the top of a vast rocky mountain near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh in central India, the fort comprises of a defensive structure and two main palaces. This imposing structure that dominates the entire city of Gwalior is, simply put; an architectural marvel that bears testimony to the excellent craftsmanship that existed during those times. Touching the skyline of Gwalior, this prominent building is of extreme importance to the rich history and heritage of the country.
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 exciting features of this opulent 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 kilometre away at the Bala Hisar pavilion. You can only visit this place to know more.
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 labour 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 a soothing end to the quiet city. The twin forts and project city are a sight to behold, should you ever find yourself in Agra!
The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur was constructed for the queens and princesses of the royal household to observe the city outside, the colourful bazaars 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.
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 achieved victory 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 Muhammad 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.
One of the largest forts in India and in the world, with the strongest fortifications, the Jaisalmer Fort stands proudly 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 sunset, a strong gold haze develops on it, from where it also gets the name of Sonar Kila or the Golden Fort.
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 fortress, 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 four 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.
The Warangal Fort is a specific site not to 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 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 unknown black stone. If stone carvings and rich heritage are what you’re looking to learn more about, do not miss the Warangal Fort in India.
Known For : Rajbari | Madan Mohan Temple | Sagardihi
Renaissance architecture, majestic yet subtle colour 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.
Best Time : Throughout the year
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 well mannered and courteous guides. 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.
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.
One of the most ridiculously royal and privately owned heritage residences 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.
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.
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 the water and eventually had to abandon the Fort and city.
Erstwhile ‘Chintamani’, Junagarh Fort is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan that hasn’t been constructed on a hilltop. This is a crucial fort for the locals because the city has evolved and grown around the fort making it a unique fort in India surrounded by the city. The fort museum is known for the post-medieval arms.
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!
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.
Murud Janjira Fort is a mighty fortification located on an island off of the coastal village of Murud in Maharashtra. Towering up from a massive rock amidst the stretching azure of the Arabian Sea, this fort in India has stood the test of time as well as the test of resilience in the past. The mighty fortress stands upon the sands of a modest beach, and the gentle palms swaying in the breeze exude the most serene vibes. Standing against the backdrop of the glistening sea and charming blue skies, this destination is awe inspiring. This fort is a must visit if you are travelling along the Konkan coast in Maharashtra.
Jaigarh Fort is a grand structure perched on the top of the 'Cheel ka Teela' hills in the Pink City of Jaipur. This magnificent edifice was commissioned by Sawai Jai Singh II in the year 1726 to protect Amer Fort. Cradled on the top of the cliff, it is a palatial structure bounded by verdant greenery and massive battlements. This magnificent fort in India is connected to Amer Fort through subterranean passages and is famously known as the 'Fort of Victory' as it was never conquered. The fort currently houses the world's largest cannon on wheels - 'Jaivana' and offers a magnificent view of the Jaipur city.
Constructed in the year 1354, the Taragarh fort is one of the most impressive structures in the city of Ajmer, in the northern state of Rajasthan in India. Popularly known as the 'Star Fort', the attraction is located on a steep hill and offers a panoramic and breathtaking view of the entire city of Bundi situated in the Nagpahari of Aravalli ranges. The fort was described by the famous author Rudyard Kipling as "more the work of Goblins than of men". Sadly, time took its toll on this magnificent structure, and most of the majestic and fascinating architecture of this fort in India is now in ruins. You can, however, still appreciate the features of the fort that exhibit the grandeur of the Rajput rule to this day.
Famous for the historical ruins and the ghost stories, Bhangarh has been regarded as the most haunted place in the country. It is located on the way between Jaipur and Delhi. The Bhangarh Fort is a 17th Century fort built in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. This fort in India was built by one of the Navratans of Akbar's court, Man Singh I for his grandson Madho Singh I. It was named by Madho Singh after his grandfather Man Singh or Bhan Singh. As soon as you enter through the main gate of the ruined fort city, also known as Bhoot Bangla, it gives a chill down your spine. Within the fort, there are temples, palaces, and Havelis.
Located at Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the Lohagarh Fort indeed stands true to its name and has survived solidly and battled the attacks of military forces as well as the ravages of time for centuries. The fort was constructed by the Bharatpur Jat rulers. Maharaja Suraj Mal used all his power and wealth to a good cause and built numerous forts and palaces across his kingdom, one of them being the famous Lohagarh Fort. This is one of the forts in India that is an architectural marvel that has especially captured the interests of architecture students and historians.
Perched upon a lush green plateau, the Visapur Fort is a very popular excursion destination for adventure mongers as well as nature lovers. This fort in India stands majestically tall and ruggedly firm at the height of 1084 meters above sea level offering a panoramic view of a wide range of hills covered in a thick blanket of green. The majestic fort is a very popular destination for trekking activities. With an eventfully historic backstory and an unmatched view of nature at its best, the Visapur fort is indeed a treat for all- history buffs, adventure mongers and nature enthusiasts.
A bastion of history and beauty - Chapora Fort is in North Goa and is located 10 km away from Mapusa. The Fort is undeniably one of the most famous forts in Goa. Built by the Portuguese in 1717, Chapora Fort has a long and fascinating history attached to it. History tells us that the fortifications around the current location of the fort had existed long before the Portuguese even landed in Goa. However, the fort was known by a different name then and was reconstructed by the Portuguese. The fort gets its name from Chapora River that flows right alongside it. In the current times, however, this fort in India has gained a place of importance as 'Dil Chahta Hain' Fort and was so named after the 2001 blockbuster that was shot here.
Located 15 km away from the main city of Aurangabad, Daulatabad Fort is an ancient fortification that rises formidably from the midst of verdant greenery. Often hailed as one of the 'seven wonders of Maharashtra', this architectural marvel is believed to have been built in the 12th century. Perhaps the most enchanting qualities of the Daulatabad Fort is its location, from the zenith of which you can capture a mesmerising view of the entire city. You need to hike some 750 odd steps up to the top, but the view down below is a wonderful thing to behold.
Fort Aguada is an epitome of Portuguese architecture built in the 17th century. Its lighthouse and the fort itself have braved the ravages of time and stand like silent sentinels on the Sinquerim Beach, approximately 18 km from Panjim. Built in 1612 as a protection from Dutch and Marathas, it was the most prized and crucial fort for the Portuguese and covers the entire peninsula at the southwestern tip of Bardez. The view from the fort is breathtaking as it overlooks the confluence of Mandovi River and the Arabian Sea.
The 15th-century palace, Neemrana Fort, is an epitome of immense beauty. It finds itself in the Aravalli ranges which are the oldest fold mountains in the world. Now turned into a luxury resort, the palace was once under the reign of Rajput Maharaja Prithvi Raj Chauhan III. Built in 1464, it became the third capital of the king's descendants. The majestic fort in India almost covers 10 hectares of the area over the hill. It showcases a perplexing blend of traditional Rajasthani and modern styled interior. Since the time it had opened itself to the public, the palace has become the favourite place for weekend getaways.
Rajmachi Fort is a very famous attraction known for its ancient remains and strategic location. It lies at a distance of 15 kilometres from the hill stations of Khandala and Lonavala. It comprises of two fortresses namely Shrivardhan and Manaranjan and is surrounded by a vast plateau and can easily spot the Bor Ghat which was a significant trade route between Mumbai and Pune. The Rajmachi fort, also known as 'Bale Killa', is constructed on top of the Shrivardhan Peak at the height of about 3000 feet to keep an eye on the activities taking place in the Konkan Area. Rajmachi is one of the many historical forts in India located amidst the Sahyadri mountains, and it is a popular destination amongst nature lovers and tourists for trekking.
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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!