Forts and Palaces in India: The Living Legends

Standing tall and proud, forts & palaces of India are the living legends that stand testimony to a bygone era of indulgence, elegance and romance.

Built sometimes as a mark of victory and at other times as a defense mechanism and yet some times for sheer extravagance and pomp; forts and palaces in India have been the prime jewels of the country’s history.

In the race of heritage forts and palaces, Rajasthan unarguably dominates over any other state such was the penchant of Rajput warrior princes with spectacular, grandiose and elegant structures. Steeped in history dictated by lore of countless battles that tell us the story of valor, romance, chivalry and also tragedies that befell this region, the forts of Rajasthan are truly the living legends of North India.

Here, we will talk about some of the most spectacular, significant and must visit forts and palaces in India listed in no particular order.

 Red Fort, Delhi

Red Fort : Major Tourist Attraction in India
Red Fort in Delhi
Perhaps no other fort in India is as significant historically as the center of power and dominion over entire country as as the Red Fort in Delhi. Red Fort was built at the apex of Mughal power in India. The period when Red Fort or Shahjahanabad, as it was called then, was the most prosperous period of Mughal Empire. However, after the passing away of Shah Jahan and later his successor Aurangjeb, the Mughal empire gradually withered away. The last lines of Mughals ruled just as token symbol, first under the Mughals and later under British before being completely overthrown after the Sepoy Mutiny  in 1857.

Constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1638, Red Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is situated in the capital city of India, Delhi the fort is made up of red sandstone.  As Red Fort is an iconic symbol of India, the Prime Minister hoists the national flag on it on every Independence day. Bearing the rage of time, the architecture of Red Fort has been in a mixed condition. Some of the important surviving structures of Red Fort are Lahori Gate, Water Gate, Chhatta Chowk,  Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Mumtaj Mahal (now converted into museum and housing relics of Mughal era) and Rang Mahal.

[ Did you know about these World Heritage Sites in and around Delhi? ]

City Palace, Jaipur

City Palace - One of the most famous tourist attractions in Jaipur
City Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Built in the 18th century, the City Palace is one of the prime tourist attractions in the state of Rajasthan. The construction of the City Palace was started by Maharana Udai Singh II and there had been additions in its design by the later rulers of the city. This resulted in the construction of the famous Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal in the Palace premises. A perfect blend of Rajput, Mughal and European architectural style, the City Palace in Rajasthan gives an insight into the rich heritage of the bygone era.

Amber Fort, Jaipur 

Amber fort -  A prime tourist attraction in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Amber fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Located in the town of Amer, Amber Fort is one of the principal tourist attractions in the state of Rajasthan.  The fort is a significant blend of Mughal and Hindu architecture, and is made up of red sandstone & white marble. Amber Fort was built in the 16th century by Raja Man Singh. The fort boasts various structures like the Diwaan-i-Khas, Diwaan-i-Aam, Shhesh Mahal and Sukh Niwas. Besides, tourists can also view the splendid architecture of the Magic Flower which is made up of white marble.

Mysore Palace, Karnataka

Mysore palace - one of the most famous tourist attraction in Karnataka
A side view of the Mysore Palace in Karnataka
Also known as Amba Vilas Palace, the Mysore Palace is one of the most visited monuments in India. Once a residence of the Wodeyar Maharaja of the Mysore state.  This Palace in Mysore is a refurbished monument of the original one which got burnt down in 1897.

The present day palace flaunts an amazing mixture of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and gothic style of architecture. Apart from being served as a tourist spot, Mysore Palace is also famous for hosting the world famous Mysore Dasara Festival.

Golconda Fort, Hyderabad

Golconda Fort - One of the most famous and the biggest fortress in the Deccan plateau of India
Golconda Fort in Hyderabad
A ruined fort of South India, The Golconda Fort is situated near the city of Hyderabad. Built as a part of the defense strategy, the Golconda Fort was built by the Kakatiyas.  The Golconda Fort is one of Hyderabad’s greatest architectural wonders and is built on a 400 foot high granite hill.

Sprawled across an area of 11 km, this magnificent fortress of Hyderabad houses various buildings inside it such as Habsi Kamans, Ashlah Khanna, Taramati, Mortuary bath, Nagina bath, Durbar Hall and Ambar Khana. Apart from the majestic structures, the Fort also had an ingenious water supply system which is now a dried up sight.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace Udaipur - one of the leading luxury heritage hotel in India
Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur
Like the monument Taj Mahal, the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur is such a marble wonder that is one of its kind. Formerly known as Jag Niwas, the Taj Lake Palace is a vintage luxury hotel, floating on Lake Pichola in the  city of Udaipur. Being voted as one of the most romantic hotels across the globe, the Taj Lake Palace has a wide range of luxury rooms and suites. This royal hotel was built under the consideration of Maharana Jagat Singh II between 1743-1746 AD. Fascinated by the royal aura of  the hotel, several film directors have used it as a shooting place.

[ Plan a royal holiday at Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur ]

Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort - One of the largest fortifications in the world
Jaisalmer Fort  in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
One of the largest fortifications of India and a world heritage site, the Jaisalmer fort is a monument worth visiting. It was built by the then Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal in the 12th century. It is also known as Sonar Quila, or  the Golden fort and is one of the last princely bastions of Rajasthan.

The major attractions of Jaisalmer Fort are the Raj Mahal, which is the royal palace, Lakshminath temple, 4 massive gateways and the Merchant Havelis. Some of the havelis of this magnificent fort are as old as 100 years and are highly decorated with sandstone carvings.

[ Also check out top palace hotels in Rajasthan ]

Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad  

Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad
Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad 
Once used for residing by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the Chowmahalla Palace or Chowmahallat is one of the most ancient heritage buildings in the state. The construction of the Palace was started by Salabat Jung Bahadur in 1750 and was completed during the reign of Afzal Asaf Jah in 1869. It has a picturesque blend of Persian, Rajasthani and European architectural style.

Beautifully decorated with lavish gardens  and cascading fountains, the northern as well as southern courtyard adds on to the beauty of the palace. Major attractions include Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Bara Imam.

Daulatabad Fort, Maharashtra 

Daulatabad fort near Aurangabad in Maharashtra
Daulatabad fort in Aurangabad,  Maharashtra
Standing atop the hill of Daulatabad, the Daulatabad Fort is a magnificent fortress of the 12th century. It is located close to the city of Aurangabad. Also named as Devagiri in the past, Daulatabad Fort boasts an  excellent architecture. Apart from the fortifications, there are other notable monuments around the structure like the Chand Minar and Chini Mahal.

The former is a tower, originally covered with Persian glazed tiles. This tower was built by Ala-ud-din-Bahmani in 1445. On the other hand, Chini Mahal was once of great beauty and was built by Abul Hasan Tana Shah in the 17th century.

Leh Palace, Ladakh

Leh Palace in Jammu & Kashmir
Leh Palace in Jammu & Kashmir
Built in the 17th century, the Leh Palace is perched on top of the Namgyan hill in Ladakh. Considered as a splendid Tibetan architecture, the Palace has nine stories which have been recently refurbished. With the architecture confined to Tibetan style, the Leh Palace features overhanging wooden balconies and massive battered walls.

On the top, lies the famous victory tower, which was built in the memory of brave Ladakhi soldiers. This palace was once the royal residence of King Singe Namgiyal. Whereas in the present time, the  Leh Palace serves as an office for Indian Government’s Archaeological Conservation Organization.  

Bidar Fort, Karnataka

Bidar Fort in Karnataka
Bidar Fort in Karnataka
One of the major tourist attractions of Karnataka. Situated in the Bidar district of Karnataka, the Bidar Fort was built by Sultan Alla-Ud-Din Bahman in the year 1427.  A true depiction of Persian architecture, the Bidar Fort is constructed on the edge of the northern plateau of Karnataka.

Although most of part of the structure has been left in ruins, the bastions, gates and barbicans of the Bidar fort are well preserved. With seven gates, the construction has been a quadrangular layout. The gates of the Bidar fort are divided as the Gumbad Darwaza, Sherza Darwaza, Fateh Gate, Talhat Gate, Delhi Gate and the Mandu Gate.    

Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur

Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
A modern heritage hotel providing a premium Rajasthani style of accommodation, the Umaid Bhavan Palace was built between 1928 and 1943. It was basically built to provide employment to the people during the time of famine in  the state. The magnificent Umaid Bhavan Palace is located in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Being one of the largest private residences in the world, the Palace is the home of the present Maharaja of Jodhpur.

The construction of  the Umaid Bhavan Palace looks like an influence of the eastern and western architectural styles.  It has a majestic cupola which gives a memory of the Renaissance time, while the towers are strictly Rajput.

[ Read more about Best Luxury Hotels in Jodhpur ]

Agra Fort, Agra

Agra Fort in  Agra,Uttar Pradesh
Agra Fort in  Agra,Uttar Pradesh
The city of Agra has a lot to offer other than the wonderful Taj Mahal. Once the capital of India, Agra is the home of some of the finest Mughal structures. This includes the massive red sandstone fort on the bank of the river Yamuna.  Primarily built as a military structure, the construction of this fort was started during the reign of Akbar the great. Later on, his son Shah Jahan turned it into a palace. At present, the Agra fort is a UNESCO world heritage site and is an interesting mix of Islamic and Hindu architecture.

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Gujarat

Laxmi Vilas Palace in Gujarat
Laxmi Vilas Palace in Gujarat
About four times the size of Buckingham Palace, the Laxmi Vilas Palace one of the most visited tourist places in Gujarat is reputed to have been the largest private dwelling. The luxurious Laxmi Vilas was built in the 19th century by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Since then, the Palace has been the residence of the royal family of Baroda in Gujarat.

Housing a number of Magnificent buildings, the Palace compound boundaries extend over 700 acres of land. The Moti Baug Palace and Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum buildings are the prominent ones in the premises. Besides the buildings, Lakshmi Vilas Palace offers the tourists a chance to stroll in its small zoo built in the compound. The zoo’s prime attraction is the huge population of crocodiles.

Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh

Gwalior Fort in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Gwalior Fort in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Built in the 8th century, the Gwalior Fort is perched on a rocky terrain and is one of the prime attractions of Gwalior. This impregnable fortress has a compelling history to talk about. It was first built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century. Later on, various conquests in the region culminated into changes in the design of the Gwalior Fort.

At present, the Gwalior Fort encloses three temples, six palaces and water tanks. The intricate carvings of Jain tirthankars catch the eyes of the tourists the moment they enter the Fort. Besides, the Teli-Ka-Mandir and  the twin Saas-Bahu temples add on to the attractions of the Gwalior fort.

Ujjayanta Palace, Tripura

Ujjayanta Palace in Tripura
Ujjayanta Palace in Tripura
A former royal palace of the state of Tripura, the Ujjayanta Palace is a major tourist attraction in the region. The beautiful Palace is situated on the banks of a small lake and is surrounded by mesmerizing Mughal gardens in Agartala. Built over a sprawling area of 28 hectares, the Palace serves as the largest museum in the northeast of India.

Besides, the Palace also boasts of several Hindu temples which are dedicated to Kali, Jagannath, Lakshmi Narayan and Uma Maheshwari. Other notable structures of the Ujjayanta Palace include the Chinese room, the Durbar hall and the three large domes.  

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur - One of the largest forts in India
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
One of the largest forts in India, the Mehrangarh Fort is located in the Jodhpur city of Rajasthan. Perched at the top of a 400 ft high hill, the Mehrangarh Fort is renowned for its intricate carvings and courtyards.  Entry to the Mehrangarh fort is done through a series of seven gates.

The prominent gates amongst them are Jai Pol, which is a victory gate, the Fateh Pol, Dedh Kamgra Pol and Lodha Pol. Several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces within the fort are Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesha Mahal, Daulat Khana and Sileh Khana.

Aga Khan Palace, Pune

Aga Khan Palace in Mumbai
Front view of the Aga Khan Palace
One of the biggest landmarks in Indian history, the Aga Khan Palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in the year 1892. The Palace has been of great national importance and is  popularly linked with the Indian freedom movement. Being served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, the Aga Khan Palace in Mumbai is dignified for its Italian arches and spacious lawns.

The magnificent structure comprises five halls and has a coverage area of around 19 acres. Depicting glimpses of the life of the various personalities of the Indian freedom struggle through an archive of photos and portraits along with those of Mahatma Gandhi, the Palace takes the tourists back in time.  

Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior

Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
A fine example of European architecture, the Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior was constructed by Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia in the year 1874. The Palace is particularly famous for its gold furnished Durbar hall. Encompassing a vast area expanse, the construction of the Jai Vilas Palace is divided into three storeys.

All the three storeys have been given separate designs. One is of the Tuscan, while the other two storeys have been shaped in Italian-Doric and Corinthian order of architecture. Out of the huge array of rooms in the Palace, some are transformed into a museum in the name of Jiwaji Rao Scindia.  

Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh Fort - the largest fort in India
Chittorgarh Fort in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan
The largest and grandest fort of India, the Chittorgarh fort is a world heritage site. The magnificent fort is located on a high hill near the Gambheri fort in the Chittorgarh city of Rajasthan. Truly a pride of the royal Rajput clan, the Chittorgarh Fort is all about well-designed palaces, huge towers and cenotaphs.

In between the 15th and 16th century, this majestic fort of Rajasthan was attacked three times, but was bravely protected by the Rajputs. The entry of the fort can be done through seven colossal gates. On crossing these gates, one is likely to come across different poles or cenotaphs. These are named as Ram Pol, Padal Pol, Bhairon Pol, Ganesh Pol, Lakshman Pol and Hanuman Pol.

Rambagh Palace, Jaipur

Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Being the  former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the Rambagh Palace is now a luxury Taj Palace hotel. The beautiful Palace is located on the periphery of the Jaipur city. Being considered as one of the best hotels on the planet, the Rambagh Palace is widely preferred by Indian and foreign celebrities.

[Also check out best luxury hotels in Jaipur

Murud-Janjira fort, Maharashtra

Murud-Janjira fort in Maharashtra
Murud-Janjira fort in Maharashtra
One of the strongest marine forts in India, the Murud Janjira is an oval shaped structure near the port town of Murud. Now in ruins, the magnificent fort still has 19 bastions left around. Being built in the 15th century by a Maratha fisherman to protect his people from pirates.

During its construction days, the Murud-Janjira fort was equipped with all the necessary facilities like mosques, quarters for officers and natural fresh water lakes. The design of  the fort was also kept unique as the gates are embedded with Ashok Chakras.  

Nilambagh Palace, Bhavnagar

Nilambagh Palace in Bhavnagar
Nilambagh Palace in Bhavnagar
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the industrial city of Bhavnagar, the Nilambagh Palace feels like a welcome respite. The enchanting Nilambagh Palace was designed by one, Mr Simms in the year 1859. Equipped with all the modern day comfort facilities, the Palace has twenty rooms designed in accordance to international standards.

On the outside, the Palace boasts a garden restaurant on the lush green lawns. Perfectly soothing the need of a leisurely and romantic evening, the garden Palace has been given  a Romanian design.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
Perched on a hilltop, almost a km above the sea level, the Kumbhalgarh fort is famous for the wall of its premises. Ranked next to the Great wall of China, the wall of the Kumbhalgarh fort extends to around 38 kms. The construction of this massive fort was started in the 15th century, but it was enlarged in the years of the 19th century.

Being the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the Kumbhalgarh fort is one of the most important forts in Mewar. It is also a world heritage site and is included in the hill forts of Rajasthan. The fort houses several ancient Jain and Hindu temples. 

3 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post. Amazing pics. Great job. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. THis one is simply amazing compilation. Truly they are the living legends of India. I have visited many forts and palaces up north but sadly I am yet to visit forts and palaces down south, especially the Golconda Fort which I'd love to visit one day.

    A great post indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice article. Very informative and good pictures. Thanks for sharing this article.

    ReplyDelete