Wednesday, 11 March 2015

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.

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.

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.

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.

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