The extensive and majestic hill forts of Rajasthan together reflect the elaborate, fortified seats of power of Princely States that flourished between the 8th and 18th centuries and their relative political independence. Scattered all around in the state, these forts have a uniqueness of their own, with each one of them narrating a story about its kings, kingdom and colourful culture. Their beautiful structures, enchanting edifices and stunning architecture are beyond any comparison. Recognizing their value, six of thes Hill Forts of Rajasthan have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are, Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amber Fort and Jaisalmer Fort.
In this elaborative article, we shall deal with most prominent Forts & Palaces of Rajasthan and take them up District-wise beginning with Ajmer:
Taragarh Fort, Ajmer
Taragarh fort was first built by Chauhan king Ajaipal on Taragarh Hill. It is also said that Rana Sanga’s brother Prthvi Raj made a portion of for his wife Tara and named it Taragarh. The fort guarding Ajmer, was the seat of the Chauhan rulers and was again believed to be built by Mughal ruler Akbar.
Taragarh is reputed to be one of the oldest hill forts in India and the world.The battlements run along the top of the hill. The walls are two miles (3 km) in circumference and the fort can only be approached by way of a very steep slope. When it fell to the British Raj, the fort was dismantled on the orders of Lord William Bentinck and was converted into a sanatorium for the British troops.
Akbari Fort & Museum, Ajmer
This fort was constructed in 1570 by Akbar and is also called as Daulat-khanna or Magazine. Plans for battle of Haldighati were finalized in this fort in 1576 and Jehangir camped in the fort for 3 years to bring mewar under mughal control. This fort is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture and it is the location from where Salim, as the Emperor Jahangir read out the farman permitting the British East India Company to trade with India. In 1801, control of fort passed to British who converted it into magazine (armory).
Currently, the fort is converted into a state museum and houses a collection of Mughal, Rajput armor and sculpture. The fort also has beautiful paintings and Janana portion has excellent picchkari works.
Kesroli Hill Fort, Alwar
This 14th century fort is best known for its turrets, ramparts and arched verandas. The Yaduvanshi Rajputs, who are said to be descendants of Lord Krishna, built it. Today, the fort has been converted into a heritage hotel.
Bala Quila, Alwar
The Bala Qila (meaning young fort) was built on the foundations of a 10th century mud fort and is a towering structure set atop a hill. Strong fortifications, graceful marble columns and delicate latticed balconies make up the fort. Bala Qila can be entered through six gates, namely Jai Pol, Suraj Pol, Laxman Pol, Chand Pol, Krishan Pol and Andheri Gate.
Alwar City Palace
Raja Bakhtawar Singh built the city palace in 1793 AD. The palace is an amazing mélange of the Rajputana and Islami styles of architecture. The highlight of this palace is graceful marble pavilions set on lotus flower bases in the central courtyard. The palace that once belonged to the Maharaja has been converted into the District Collectorate. Its grand halls and chambers now house government offices.
Neemrana Fort, Alwar
History says that Neemrana Fort was built by the Yaduvanshis, believed to be the descendants of Lord Krishna. Its story is rife with conquests and defeats and it has passed from the Rajputs to the Mughals and the Jats, before finally coming back to the Rajputs in 1775. Today, it is being run as a famous heritage hotel.
Shahbad Fort, Baran
Shahabad fort is one of the strongest forts in Hadoti area. It is located at about 80 km. from Baran. The Chauhan Vanshi Dhandhel Rajput Mukutmani Dev constructed Shahbad fort in the 1521 A.D. (Samvat 1577). This is situated in the dense forest area on the high mountain ranges and is surrounded by Kundakoh valley, waterfalls and a lake. The Topkhana (artillery) has Nawalbaan tope(cannon), Barudkhana and some temples in the forts are still secure.
Shergarh Fort, Baran
Shergarh fort is situated in Atru tehsil, about 65 km. from Baran district headquaters. The fort is located atop a hillock on the bank of Parban river. Shershan named the fort as Koshvardhan. A stone edict of 790 AD proves the antiquity of the place.
Nahar Garh Fort, Baran
The fort is about 73 km. from Baran in Kishanganj tehsil. Fort is an impressive structure in red stone and a fine example of the Mughal architecture.
Siwana Fort, Barmer
Siwana Fort was constructed in 10th century by Narayan Panwar. In local language its name is Gadh Siwana. After the battle of Giri Summel Rao Maldeo took refuge in this fort from Sher Shah. During 1308-09 under reign of Sataldev, the fort was attacked by Allaudin Khilji which resulted in first Jauhar/Saka. In 1597, Akbar with Motaraja Udai Singh attacked Siwana fort at the time of Kalyanmal which resulted in 2nd Jauhar.
Lohagarh Fort, Bharatpur
Lohagarh fort was built by Jat Raja Surajmal in 1733. True to its name, Lohagarh Fort has withstood many attacks by the British, but was ultimately captured by Arthur Wellesley. The famous door of Lohagarh fort was brought by Maharaja Jawahar Singh from Delhi in 1765. Lohagarh Fort differs from others by its aura of rugged strength. The fort is surrounded by a moat which used to be filled with water to keep enemies out. Interesting monuments inside the fort are Kothi Khas, Mahal Khas, Moti Mahal and Kishori Mahal. Raja Suraj Mal built Jawahar Bhurj and Fateh Bhurj to commemorate victories over the Mughals and the British.
Bharatpur Palace and Museum
Located within the premises of the Bharatpur Palace is Kamra Khas, a museum that contains a vast number of antiques, over 581 stone sculptures, 861 local art and craft wares and ancient scriptures that depict the art and culture typical of Bharatpur. The palace itself was built in stages by various Maharajas and is a fine fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture. The various apartments in the palace have a variety of richly patterned floor tiles decorated with exquisite designs.
Mandalgarh Fort, Bhilwara
Mandalgarh Fort Bhilwara is believed to have been built by Rana Kumbha and is the 3rd fort of Mewar region, the other two being Chittoragrh and Kumbhalgarh.However, According to Veer Vinod, the fort had been constructed by Mandiya Bhil and Chanana Gurjar. The fort is located on a part of Aravali hill range along confluence of Banas, Berach & Menali.
Badnore Fort, Bhilwara
Badnore Fort is situated at asind road and distance is 70 km from Bhilwara.
Junagarh Fort, Bikaner
Junagarh Fort was constructed in the year 1588 A.D by Raja Rai Singh, one of Emperor Akbar’s most distinguished generals.. It is believed that crocodiles were bred in the water moat surrounding the formidable fort. The construction is a fine blend of Mughal, Gujarati and Rajput style of architecture. The picturesque courtyards beautify the fort. The fort complex houses some magnificent palaces constructed in red sandstone and marble like Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Hawa Mahal, Dungar Mahal, Diwan-e-khas and Ganga Mahal.
The fort also houses a Prachina Museum which contains royal costumes, textiles and accessories of Rajasthani royalty.
Lalgarh Palace, Bikaner
Lalgarh Palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the year 1902 in memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh Ji. The red sandstone construction is a fine blend of Mughal, Rajput and European architectures styles. The design was conceptualised by Sir Swinton Jacob.
The first floor of the Palace houses Sadul Singh Museum. The lives and the passions of the three successive kings of Bikaner are reflected in the art museum. The rare artifacts, Georgian paintings, and the photographs seen here stand proof of the interests and the heroics of the three kings namely Maharaja Ganga Singh, Sadul Singh and Karni Singh.
Gajner Palace, Bikaner
The Gajner Palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh ji of Bikaner in the year 1784, and then completed by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the banks of the lake. The palace served as retreat after hunting for the royal family. The red sandstone construction is a glowing example of stunning architecture. The palace is situated in the thick of forest and you could view migratory birds flock in great numbers.
Taragarh Fort, Bundi
Taragarh Fort was constructed by Rao raja Bair Singh in 1354 on a hilltop 1426 feet high. In the centre of the fort is located Bhim Bhurj on which was once mounted a particularly large cannon called Garbh Gunjam, or ‘Thunder from the Womb’. With its curved roofs topping pavilions, excess of temple columns and elephant and lotus motifs, the palace is a tribute to Rajput style. The fort includes Hazari Darwaza, Haathi Pol, Nau Dhaan, Ratan Daulatkhana, Darikhana, Ratan Niawas, Chatra mahal, Badal Mahal & Moti Mahal.
Sukh Mahal, Bundi
Sukh Mahal, a small, two-storied palace was a summer retreat of past rulers. Located on banks of JaitSagar lake, the palace was constructed by Rao raja Vishnu Singh in 1773 A.D. Today, it is quite famous for being the place where Kipling wrote ‘Kim’. Many credit the palace as a having played muse to the renowned novel. In fact, part of a movie based on the novel was even shot here.
Chittorgarh Fort is the largest fort in Asia. The Fort of Chittorgarh is strategically located on the top of a high hilly outcrop of the Aravallis about 180 mabove the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River. The fort also contains Gaumukh Reservoir, which is a deep tank fed by a spring. The spring emerges from a rock formation resembling a Gaumukh or ‘cow’s mouth’. The tank is considered sacred by the locals.
Padmini’s Palace, Chittorgarh
The Padmini palace is Amazing place to visit in Chittorgarh. It was the residence of Rani Padmini who was known for her gorgeous beauty. The palace is a popular tourist attraction because of its rich architecture and association with the Rajput heritage and history.There is a lotus pond near this palace.Ala-ud-din saw the reflection of Queen Padmini in this pool. He was so captivated and entranced by her that he fought a furious battle with Maharana Ratan Singh (husband of Maharani Padmini). This battle changed the history of Chittorgarh.
Rana Kumbha Palace, Chittorgarh
Rana Kumbha palace is 15th century palace where Rana Kumbha lived and spent his royal life. This historic monument is very popular among tourists due to its charming and artistic architecture.The founder of Udaipur, Maharana Udai Singh was born in this same palace. Rana Kumbha palace have the cellar where brave Rani Padmini performed an act of jauhar along with other women during an attack of Khilji.
Bhainsrorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh
Bhainsrorgarh is an impregnable fort, inhabited from at least the 2nd century BC. It is dramatically positioned between two rivers, the Chambal and Bamani. It had passed through the hands of several clans before becoming the seat of a premier noble of Mewar, the large region around Udaipur and Princely State of the Sisodia clan. It contains five tanks, temples to Devi Bhim Chauri, Shiva, and Ganesh. The present fort is around 260 years old and was built in the 1740s.
Churu Fort was constructed by Thakur Kushal Singh in 1649 A.D. In 1814, Surat Singh of Bikaner attacked this fort and after ammunition was exhausted, Thakur Shiv Singh fired Cannon balls made of silver in defense of fort. Shiv Singh also constructed Gopinath temple inside the fort.
Visit: Part II
Images credit: Wikipedia Commons