The land of kings, the state of Rajasthan was earlier known as Rajputana. It was divided into various regions, each ruled by a different clan. Over the years, these clans built historical monuments, especially forts on hills which shaped the rich cultural heritage of the state. Constructed between the fifth and eighteen centuries, these hill forts are longstanding masterpieces of Rajputana heritage. At the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Cambodia, six forts of Rajasthan were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh
For centuries, the fort has inspired the imagination of tourists and writers alike. Built by the Mauryan rulers in the 7th century, it has been named after the Mauryan ruler, Chitrangada Mori and was later ruled by the Sisodia clan. The courtyard’s history is studded with a series of palaces, gates, temples and two prominent commemoration towers. Apart from these two towers, which dominate the majestic fortifications, the sprawling fort has four palace complexes, 19 temples, four memorials and 20 water bodies. Constructed into two phases, the first hill fort with one main entrance was established in the 5th century and successively fortified until the 12th century. Its remains are mostly visible on the western edges of the plateau. The second structure was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the Sisodia clan when the royal entrance was relocated and fortified with seven gates. The Kumbha Shyam Temple, Mira Bai Temple, Adi Varah Temple, Shringar Chauri Temple and Vijay Stambh were constructed in this phase that illustrates pure Rajputana style of architecture.
Kumbhalgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh
Located in the western range of the Aravallis, Kumbhalgarh Fort was constructed during the 15th century by Rana Kumbha. Enlarged through the 19th century, Kumbhalgarh is the birthplace of Rajput king, Maharana Pratap. The fort has the second largest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China and is the second largest fort in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh Fort. Thirteen mountain peaks of the Aravallis protect this fortress. The most picturesque pal is is Badal Mahal or Palace of Clouds which boasts of stunning rooms with exquisite colour mishmash of turquoise, white and green. One can have an alluring bird’s eye view of the sand dunes of Thar desert from the ramparts of the fort.
Ranthambore Fort, Sawai Madhopur
While Ranthambore National Park is known for its tigers, the majestic Ranthambore Fort is situated in its premises. Built during the 8th century, the fort draws its name from the hills, Thambhore, the hill on which the fort is situated while Ran, the nearby hill. Standing high on the merging point of the Vindhyas and Aravallis, the fort has thick arched doors carved exquisitely with wood and metal. Of the four gateways, only one, Misradhara, still stands.
Gagron Fort, Jhalawar
The foundation of the fort was laid in the seventh century and was completed in the fourteenth century by King Bijaldev of Pramara dynasty. It is surrounded by rivers Ahu, Kali and Sindh on three sides and behind the fort are forests and Mukundarrah range of hills. Due to its strategic location, it is known as the Water Fort of India. Ganeshpol, Nakkarkhana, Bhairavipol, Kishanpol and Silaahkhana are the important gates of the fort. Other important ancient sites include Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khaas, Janana Mahal, Madusudan Temple and Rang Mahal. Inside the fort, there is a small temple with idols of Shiva, Ganesha and Durga. Just outside the fort is the mausoleum of Sufi saint Mitte Shah where a fair is organised every year during Ramzan.
Amer Fort, Jaipur
Known world over for its artistic Hindu style elements, Amer Fort is located 4km from the capital city of Jaipur. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the opulent palace is divided into four main sections, each with its own entry gate and courtyard. The main entry is through Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which leads to Jaleb Chowk, the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades. The fort consists of Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khas, Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) and Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace.
Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer
One of the largest fortifications in the world, Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 AD by Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisalfrom whom it derives its name. The fort stands amid the sandy expanse of the Thar Desert on Trikuta Hill and has been witness to many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are of a lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the Golden Fort. The fort has four entrances to the town side, one of which used to be guarded by a canon. The fort enshrines various merchant havelis or houses, built by the wealthy merchants.
Text by Supriya Aggarwal
Images from India Perspectives magazine