Since ages, the rich culture and heritage of India has magnetically drawn tourists from all across the globe. From the mystical gullies of Varanasi to the architectural charm of New Delhi, there are innumerable sights to see and countless experiences to enjoy. The forts and palaces of India, even today, resonate with the glories of the past. It seems like the stories of the conquests and defeats of the Maharajas are captured in the walls of these monuments for eternity.
Introducing the 12 most popular Indian forts and palaces:
1. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Photo credit - Icekrish - wikicommons
The Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India. Situated on the top of a hill, it has impressive walls that tower over the palaces built inside. At a height of 400 feet, the fort overlooks the city of Jodhpur. There are several beautiful palaces inside the boundaries which are known for their architectural grandeur, expansive courtyards and intricate carvings.
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The structure has about seven gates, the most notable being the Jayapol and Fattehpol, both meaning victory. The Jayapol was built by Maharaja Man Singh to mark his victory over the Jaipur and Bikaner armies whereas the Fattehpol was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to commemorate the defeat of the Mughals.
A must see is the Mehrangarh Fort is its museum which is one of the well-stocked museums in the country. On display are a number of paintings, costumes, period rooms and a grand domed gilt Mahadol palanquin that was won in battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730.
It is in this very fort that the shooting of movie The Dark Knight Rises took place. Apart from that, the fort is a popular venue for several music festivals. While at the Mehrangarh Fort, do not forget to visit the Chokelao Mahal Terrace which serves delectable Rajasthani cuisine.
2. Amber Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan
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The Amber Fort (also known as Amer Fort) is situated in the town of Amer, 11 kms away from Jaipur. The fort was built by Maharaja Man Singh and is one of the largest among the forts and palaces of India.
Made of red sandstone and marble, this structure is best noted for its splendid architectural style and aesthetic beauty. Most famous are the Diwan-e-Aam, which is the Hall of Public Audience; the Diwan-e-Khaas, which is the Hall for Private Audience; the Sheesh Mahal; the Jai Mandir and the Sukh Niwas.
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The construction of the fort was initiated by Maharaja Man Singh in about 1592 and was carried on by subsequent rulers. The royal family continued to live in the palace till Jaipur was built. Attractive features of the palace include cobbled and expansive courtyards, halls and gardens.
Stunning is sight of the Sheesh Mahal with its glittering walls and ceilings. Today, the Amber Fort is one of the most popular tourist destinations among Indian forts and palaces. Another attraction of the fort is that you get to ride an elephant to the gate of the palace in the mornings. This facility is available only in the morning hours, though. So make sure you reach early to enjoy an elephant ride!
3. Udaipur City Palace, Rajasthan
The Udaipur City Palace is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the city of Udaipur. The palace was built as the capital of the Sisodia Rajput clan by Maharana Udai Singh after he moved out of Chittor. It stands as an excellent example of an amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles and is believed to be one of the largest of its types in the country.
The beautiful palace is situated on a hill top from where the entire city can be viewed. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the Lake Pichola, the Lake Palace and the Monsoon Palace from the Udaipur City Palace.
A part of the palace is still occupied by the royal family today. The magnificent structure also houses a Museum which comprises the Mardana Mahal (King’s Chamber) and the Zenana Mahal (Queen’s Chamber). As the construction of the City Palace began in 1559 and continued over four and a half centuries, there are influences of Mughal and British architectural styles. This City Palace is the oldest part of the City Palace Complex.
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The Museum here houses some wonderful artefacts and paintings of the yore. It also has some very valuable artwork on display depicting the history of Udaipur even before it got its first camera. Tour by the world’s first silver museum and a gallery of royal musical instruments here. The most interesting part of the museum is that it is built like a maze which was done to defend the fort.
4. Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan
Photo credit: Ana Raquel S. Hernandes - flickr
The Jaisalmer Fort is one of the biggest forts in the world and one of the most interesting among forts and palaces of India. Among all the forts and palaces in Rajasthan and in India, the Jaisalmer Fort is the only living fort in India. The fort is home to about 4000 residents and a business ground for about 40 hotels and restaurants.
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The glorious history of the fort is reflected in its palace complex which displays architectural excellence. There are also some havelis of rich merchants inside the fort and several temples of religious and architectural importance. The fort is a major hub of activities in Jaisalmer and is a must-visit destination.
The fort was built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal. The city of Jaisalmer was named after the ruler and the Jaisalmer Fort is one of the grandest forts of the country. The beautiful structure, also known as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort, stands proud and tall on the sands of the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.
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Built with yellow sandstone, the fort dazzles in a tawny yellow colour during the daytime and turns into a beautiful golden hue at sunset. The place is one of the most stunning monuments among the forts and palaces of Rajasthan.
However, the fort is facing serious problems due to illegal construction. Sewage systems are choked, causing water tp seep into the walls of this beautiful monument. In order to curb the damage, the government has announced that it will ban all restaurants and hotels inside the fort.
5. Jaipur City Palace, Rajasthan
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The Jaipur City Palace is situated in the old city of Jaipur and was built by the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II between 1729 and 1732, after he moved from Amber to Jaipur. The ruler had to shift from Amber due to growing populations and increasing water shortage.
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Although the palace was built years ago, subsequent rulers kept making additions to the beauty of the palace till the 20th century. Today, most of the palace has been converted into a large, spacious and well-stocked museum named after Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. The royal family still resides in a part of the palace called the Chandra Mahal and the flag with the royal family’s emblem can be seen flying atop the palace.
The most attractive part of this palace, which is one of the finest among all forts and palaces in Rajasthan, is the Pitam Niwas Chowk. It is an alleyway which leads to the Chandra Mahal. This is decorated with beautiful paintings and artefacts that reflect the glorious past of the rulers that lived here once. Other features include beautifully painted doors representing the four seasons and dedicated to Hindu gods such as Ganesha, Shiva and Vishnu.
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If you are interested in seeing the interiors of the Chandra Mahal, you will be taken on a tour at an extra cost. Foreign nationals are charged Rs 2500 for the tour while Indians are charges Rs 2000 for the tour inside the Chandra Mahal.
6. Maharaja’s Mysore Palace, Karnataka
Photo credit: Kelman Chiang
The Maharaja’s Palace or the Mysore Palace is relatively new as compared to other forts and palaces of India. It was built by a British architect named Henry Irwin and was the royal residence of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore.
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The Wodeyar kings first built their palace in Mysore between 1897 and 1912. The predecessor of the Mysore Palace built it in wood and showcased excellent styles of the Hindu architecture. However, the palace got destroyed in a fire. The present palace is a beautiful combination of the Rajput, Mughal and British architectural styles and hence is well known for its architectural grandeur.
The palace has beautiful marble domes that glisten and gleam in the sun light, which lend a mesmerising aura to the palace. The palace has a number of private and public halls, a gallery of antique dolls, a marriage hall, a collection of sculptures and artefacts, a gallery showcasing royal paintings etc.
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The most interesting and attractive aspect of the Mysore Palace is that it is lit up using about 100000 bulbs in the evening, momentarily after the sound and light show. The palace is lit up using these bulbs every Sunday evening and it stays so on all nights during the famous Mysore Dasara festival.
7. Nahargarh Fort Jaipur, Rajasthan
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The Nahargarh Fort is one of the most imposing forts among forts and palaces of India. Situated atop the Aravalli Hills, the fort overlooks the Pink City of Jaipur and presents an amazing view of the sunset.
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The fort formed an important link in the defense ring, along with the Amber Fort and the Jaigarh Fort, for the city of Jaipur. It was also to be used as a place of retreat for the royal family of Jaipur. A major portion of the fort was built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734. It was later extended under the reign of Sawai Ram Singh in 1868.
The fort was originally named as Sudarshangarh. It is believed that the spirit of a certain Nahar Singh Bhomia haunted the construction site to obstruct it from being made. To pacify his spirit, a temple was built in the premises of the fort. Today, it is known as the Nahargarh Fort.
Although the structure did not experience any attacks itself, it stood witness to several important events in history such as the treaties with the Maratha forces that had been warring with Jaipur in the 18th century. The fortress also served as a hideout for several Europeans during the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
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The beauty of the fort is incomparable along with that of the sunset viewed from its premises. There is a small cafe called the Durg Cafe where you can enjoy the beautiful sunset with a beer in hand.
8. Red Fort, Delhi
Photo credit: Paolo Mutti - flickr
The Red Fort in Delhi is one of the most important among forts and palaces of India. Also known as Lal Qila, it was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, when he shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi. The construction of the fort was commenced in 1638 and completed in 1648. The credit of its architectural grandeur is given to Ustad Ahmed.
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Built with red sandstone, the towering building is a stunning example of the Mughal architectural styles. It is situated near the River Yamuna which fed the moats that surrounded the fort. The structure was originally called the ‘Qila-i-Mubarak’ or the Blessed Fort as it was to serve as the royal residence.
The Red Fort is not only important because of its history, but also has great cultural significance. On every Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag at this place and delivers his address to the nation.
This fort has been given high security to prevent it from terror attacks. Tourists can visit the fort five days a week, except on Mondays. A light and sound show is held for visitors to share information about the Mughal period. The Red Fort is one of the grandest monuments amongst the forts and palaces of India and has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
9. Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh
Photo credit: Manuel Menal - flickr
The Gwalior Fort is one of the most outstanding and imposing monuments in Madhya Pradesh. This beautiful fort was initially built around 525 AD, but did not rise to prominence till the Rajput Tomar dynasty took over.
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During the reign of Maharaja Man Singh Tomar, several important additions were made regarding it. The fort has two main parts, the main fort and the Gurjari and Man Mandir Palace. The Gurjari Palace was built by the king for his favourite queen Mrignayani. It has now been converted into an archaeological museum.
The Man Mandir Palace was built between 1486 and 1516. The most attractive feature of the palace is that it has stunning blue mosaic tiles on its exterior walls and rows of yellow ducks lining the walls. The fort was later taken over by the Mughals and used as a prison.
Spread over three square kilometres, the fortress has a lot to offer in terms of sight-seeing compared to other forts and palaces ofIndia. There are number of historic monuments within the walls such as Hindu and Jain temples. The entrance gates are a specimen of remarkable architectural styles, the most significant being the Hathi Pol.
10. Chittorgarh Fort and Padmini Palace, Rajasthan
Photo credit: Santosh Namby - wikicommons
The Chittorgarh Fort is the largest fort in India and is reminiscent of the history of the Rajput rulers who resided in the fort. The structure is situated at a distance of about 100 km from Udaipur and sprawls majestically on a hillock overlooking the plains of the Berach River.
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The fort has a number of palaces, gates, temples and commemoration towers within its walls. It once belonged to the Mewar rulers and was subject to a number of attacks. This fort was taken over by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, after he defeated Maharana Udai Singh II. Following this, Maharana Udai Singh II moved his capital to Udaipur.
Later, Emperor Shah Jahan returned the fort to the Mewars in 1616, but they never resettled there. The place is also known for its cremation ground where more than 13,000 women and children performed Jauhar or self-immolation after the king was defeated by the Sultan of Gujarat in 1535.
The Padmini Palace is situated on the southern part of the fort. The palace overlooks the Padmini Talab, in the centre of which is the Khattan Mahal. The Padmini Palace is known after Rani Padmini whose beauty mesmerised Alaudin Khilji and finally led to the siege of Chittor. During the attack, Raja Rattan Singh was killed and Rani Padmini committed Johar.The fort spans over a large area and it is best that you allocate at least two to three hours in exploring it.
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11. Golconda Fort - Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Photo credit: Sanyam Bahga - wikicommons
The Golconda Fort is situated at a distance of about 10 km from the capital city of Hyderabad. Although the original mud fort was built around the 13th century, the fort as it stands today was built by the Qutub Shahi dynasty from 1518 to 1687. It was founded by the kings of the Kakatiya dynasty of Waranga.
During the 17th century, the region rose into prominence due to its diamond mines and diamond markets. Some of the world’s most precious gems such as the Koh-i-Noor, the Darya-i-Noor and the Hope Diamond have been mined from here.
The fort has a number of gateways, stables, apartments and halls, mosques and beautiful temples within its premises.What sets it apart from other forts and palaces of India is its acoustic design. If you stand at a certain location near the dome at Fateh Darwaza and clap, you can hear its echo till more than a kilometre away. This is believed to have been a system of warning the royal family of attacks.
12. Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh
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The Agra Fort is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India. The fort originally belonged to a certain segment of Rajputs, but was captured by Emperor Akbar, who later on decided to shift his capital there in 1558. It was Shah Jahan, Akbar’s son, who later made the fort into a palace. Unfortunately, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son in this very castle later on. This magnificent structure was also witness to the Mutiny of 1857.
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The most attractive feature of the Agra Fort is the Delhi Gate. The beautiful marble work on the gate makes it look stunning and one of the most attractive amongst forts and palaces of India. However, it is not open to the public anymore.