India’s many remarkable forts and citadels stand as a testament to its rich and turbulent history. These towering monuments, the majority of which are castles, fortified palaces , or fortresses, recall the times of the Maharajas and Emperors. They have witnessed powerful rulers, epic battles, foreign takeovers, and sometimes tragic endings.
Hundreds of forts are spread across India, most of them situated on hilltops that command a view of the surrounding regions. The majority of India’s forts are located in Rajasthan, where they were built by clans of warrior rulers, before being invaded by the Mughals.
Adorned with fine mosaics, frescoes, latticework, and incredible craftsmanship, the forts are architectural marvels and many of them are recognized as such by being inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Source: Roop Dey / Adobe Stock. Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded as the capital of Mughal Empire in 1571 by Emperor Akbar, serving this role from 1571 to 1585, when Akbar abandoned it due to a campaign in Punjab and was later completely abandoned in 1610. After occupying Agra in 1803, the East India Company established an administrative center here and it remained so until 1850. In 1815, the Marquess of Hastings ordered the repair of monuments at Sikri.
Ancient ruins of Fatehpur Sikri Fort, India. Source: Marina Ignatova / Adobe Stock.
The Red Fort in Delhi at sunset, India. Source: Sagittarius Pro / Adobe Stock. Also known as Lal Qalʿah, the Red Fort was built in the 1630s and was the center of Indian government for centuries. It contained the court and the private residence of the Emperor, inhabited by Mughal royalty, officials, and their families. During the Indian Mutiny (1857-1859) rebels seized the fort. It was retaken by the British and the last of the Mughal dynasty was sent into exile. The Red Fort continued to be used as a fort by the Indian Army until 2003.
The Red fort, Delhi, India. Source: Dmitry Rukhlenko / Adobe Stock
Amer (Amber) Fort, Rajasthan, India. Source: Dmitry Rukhlenko / Adobe Stock. Amber Fort was first established in 967 AD when the ruler of the Chanda clan of Meenas arrived in the region. In 1592, ruler of the Kachwaha Rajputs built upon the foundations of the earlier structure. It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.
Amber Fort, Rajasthan, India. Source: Aliaksei / Adobe Stock
Amber Fort in Rajasthan, India. Source: jura_taranik / Adobe Stock
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Source: Dmitry Rukhlenko / Adobe Stock. Mehrangarh Fort is located on a hilltop in Jodhpur and covers an area of 1,200 acres (486 hectares). It was constructed in 1459 AD, though most of the existing structure is from the 17th century. In 2008, a human stampede occurred at a temple inside the fort, in which 249 people were killed and more than 400 injured.
Mehrangarh Fort located in Jodhpur, India. Source: jura_taranik / Adobe Stock.
Jaigarh fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Source: pikoso.kz / Adobe Stock. Jaigarh Fort overlooks the Amber Fort and was built in 1726 to protect the Amber Fort and its palace complex. The fort, similar in structural design to Amber Fort, is also known as Victory Fort. Jaigarh Fort and Amber Fort are connected by subterranean passages and considered as one complex.
Picturesque Chittorgarh Fort , India. Source: Marina Ignatova / Adobe Stock. Chittorgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a hill fort located in Chittorgarh (known also as Chittor), a city in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. It is the largest fort in Rajasthan, and one of the largest in India. The fort’s colorful history stretches back to the 7th century BC. Today, Chittorgarh no longer serves a defensive purpose. Instead, it has been turned into a tourist attraction.
Agra Fort in Uttar Pradesh, India, with a view of the Taj Mahal in the distance. Source: Roop Dey / Adobe Stock. Rebuilt by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 and completed in 1573, it served as the main residence of the rulers of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. In 1983, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, India. Source: Joe Ravi / Adobe Stock. Golconda Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a historic fortress and ruined city that was originally built in the 11th century. Because of the vicinity of diamond mines, Golconda flourished as a trade centre of large diamonds known as Golconda Diamonds.
Junagarh Fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. Source: catalinlazar / Adobe Stock. Junagarh Fort is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop. The fort complex was built under the supervision of Karan Chand, the Prime Minister of Raja Rai Singh. Construction of the walls and associated moat was completed in 1594 AD.
Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India. Source: artqu/ Adobe Stock. The fort has existed at least since the 10th century, and the inscriptions and monuments found within what is now the fort campus indicate that it may have existed as early as the beginning of the 6th century. The present-day fort consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces built by Tomar Rajput ruler Man Singh Tomar (reigned 1486–1516 AD).
Haunted Place, Bhangarh Fort , Rajasthan, India. Source: dkosta / Adobe Stock. Bhangarh was first established in 1573. The fort, which is actually a small city composed of temples, palaces, and multiple gates, covers a large area of land at the foot of a mountain. It was completely abandoned by 1783. The abandoned fort of Bhangarh is thought to be the most haunted place in India, so much so that the Archaeological Survey of India has forbidden access to the site between sunset and sunrise, and locals have moved their town outside the limits of the fort.
Top image: Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India. Source: Dmitry Rukhlenko / Adobe Stock.
By Joanna Gillan