India is a land of rich cultural history. Many forts or historical castles were built all over the country under the rule of the Rajputs and the Mughals. Stepping into these forts gives a strange feeling as if the observer is being transported back in time, and any minute now a host of queens will be seen wandering about the garden and the court will be in progress with the king making decisions in a solemn voice. This feeling is what lures visitors into these regal palaces.
These majestic forts are like gateways to history which can be crossed at whim to understand how life was a few generations ago. Here we present to you the top 10 must-visit historical castles in India:
1. Red Fort, Delhi
When the Mughal capital had to be shifted from Agra to Delhi to spread the reach of the Mughal Sultanate in India, Shah Jahan, the then emperor commissioned the building of the Red Fort or the Lal Quila in the Northern part of the city. It took 9 years for the fort to be built. This expansive monument is made of magnificent red sandstone and still stands high and proud in Old Delhi, which was previously known as Shahjahanabad.
This fort had been the home of the royal family for around 200 years from the reign of Shah Jahan to Bahadur Shah Zafar. Make sure you visit the Diwan-i- ‘Am, the Delhi Fort Museum, and the famous Jami’- Masjid in this spectacular fort.
2. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Located 400 feet above the city on a steep hill, Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur is imposing. It is surrounded by thick walls on all sides. The fort is made of burnished red sandstone which makes it look like it has been colored by sunlight itself. (The term Mehrangarh meaning the Sun Fort in Sanskrit.)
The fifteenth Rathore ruler Rao Jodha commissioned the building of this magnanimous fort in the 1440s and it still remains one of the most well-preserved forts in the country.
The fort houses several palaces like Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Daulat Khana, and the Sileh Khana. The fort museum is well stocked with palanquins, costumes, paintings, furniture, and musical instruments which show in great detail the lives of the courtly Rajputs.
3. Gwalior Fort, Gwalior
Situated near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior fort has a very interesting story behind its construction. It is said that a local ruler Suraj Sen built this fort in the 8th century when a sage called Gwalipa gave him some water that healed his skin disease. This magical water came from a spring that was made into a tank by the king and now lies inside the Gwalior Fort. It was said that Gwalipa gave the name ‘Pal’ to the king and said that as long as he keeps this name, the fort would be his. For 83 generations, the family of Suraj Sen Pal ruled the Gwalior fort and the city that subsequently took the same name. The 84th ruler named Tej Karan lost the fort.
The Gwalior fort has seen a number of dynasties and rulers pass through its gates, and now with time it is open to the common public. The Gwalior fort has a number of temples, palaces, museums and even a school in its premises.
4. Kangra Fort, Himachal Pradesh
Built by the founder of the Katoch Dynasty, Burma Chand, this fort is located on the western outskirts of the old town of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. This fort is around 20 kilometres from the famous hill town of Dharamshala and hence several tourists visit this place. The date when this fort was built remains unclear but it is said that the family that built it was a part of the Trigarta Empire, as mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. It points to the fact that the Kangra fort is one of the oldest forts in the country.
With its rich history and cultural significance, the Kangra fort is a must see for anyone who wants to be mesmerized by the beauty of Indian traditions.
5. Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh
Covering an expanse of almost 700 acres on a hilltop, the Chittorgarh fort is one of the largest forts in the country. This fort has a deep history of nationalism, loyalty, chivalry, and bravery. The place has seen ‘jauhars’ of 13,000 women and children who chose to kill themselves in a pyre of fire than to surrender their honour to the foreign invaders.
This fort also has the famous Meera and Khumba Shyam temple associated with the Rajput princess Meera Bai who devoted her life to the love of Lord Krishna. This colossal fort has several palaces like Rana Khamba Palace, Padmini Palace, and more which represent beautiful Rajput Architecture.
6. Mysore Palace, Mysore
This stunning palace was the royal residence of the Wodeyar family from around 1400 to 1950. This beautiful palace has blends of Rajput, Muslim, Hindu and Gothic architectural styles. The Mysore Maharaja Palace, as it is widely known, lies at the center of the city with its architecture scaling high and hinting at the majesty of the by-gone times.
Now converted into a museum, this palace houses paintings, jewellery, costumes, sculptures, and souvenirs from all over the world.
7. Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer
Built in the 12th century by the Rajput ruler Rao Jaisal, the fort of Jaisalmer is located in the heart of the city. Built on Trikuta Hill and set atop against the sandy expanse of the Thar desert, this fort is a delight to the eyes. The color of the fort turns honey-yellow as the sun sets against its walls, making it look like the fort is one with the desert.
Around 3000 people still reside in this wondrous place. With the hubbub of bazaars, restaurants, and several handicraft shops, this fort is still quite alive. Visit here to see the colors and the beauty that Rajasthan is famous for.
8. Golconda Fort, Hyderabad
Situated a little towards west from Hyderabad, the Golconda Fort was built as a Mud fort by the Rajah of Warangal in 1143. The term Golla Konda in Telugu means Shepherd’s Hill. According to the legend, a shepherd found an ancient idol on this hill. When the ruling Kakatiya king came to know about this, he built as mud fort around the place. Later this mud fort was converted into a granite marvel by the Qutub Shahi Emperors. The defeat of the Qutub Shahi rulers in the 17th century by Aurangzeb left this fort in ruins.
The fort is an architectural phenomenon with acoustics that were used to warn the residents of impending dangers.
9. Amber Fort, Amber
Also, known as the Amer Fort, it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the town of Amer, located at a distance of 11 kilometers from Jaipur in Rajasthan. The fort is divided into four sections and it is very common to see tourists riding on elephant back to the fort gates. The Diwan-i-am, Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas are the must-see places in the fort.
10. Agra Fort, Agra
Situated at a distance of 2.5 kilometers from the famous Taj Mahal, Agra fort was the former residence of the Mughals. It is declared as a UNESCO world heritage site and has been preserved well.
Spread over a 94-acre area, this beautiful fort lies along the banks of the river Yamuna. The Fort has two gates, the Delhi Gate and the Lahore Gate, or the Amar Singh Gate. The intricately decorated columns and ceilings of the fort attract visitors from around the world.
In India, history has deep roots. From empires mentioned in the epics to the rulers who came from foreign lands, the forts of India have been spectators to the rise and fall of great empires. If one wishes to see how magnificent the country’s history is, these forts have to be explored.
Guest Author Bio:
Rohit Agarwal writes travel pieces for TransIndiaTravels.com. He considers himself a wanderer and an explorer always in search of new experiences and vistas. He believes that his writings will share information he has gathered from his travels and benefit his readers.