One only needs to look at India’s numerous forts to understand just how much history and culture exist here. For centuries, rulers have left their mark so that today these symbols remind us of what a rich past we have. Strolling through shadowed hallways, it is easy to feel the echoes of time and imagine what life must have been like during the eras of the greats like Humayun and Shah Jahan. History suddenly feels palpable and not just mere stories read in books.
There is a long list of forts in India, some famous and others of lesser status. However, the best can be found in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. If you are ever in one of these cities, put them at the top of your itinerary and enrich your trip.
It may not have the most captivating of names, but Old Fort or Purana Qila is one of the oldest and most famous in Delhi. Built during Humayun’s rule who was later defeated by Sher Shah Suri, the fort came to have additional structures under the new leader’s reign.
Owing to its popularity, you can expect to see a large number of visitors and that may take away some of the sheen. After all, who doesn’t want to spend a few minutes alone and let their imagination run free? However, do not be discouraged. As you stroll through the garden and explore the three majestic gates, you get to really appreciate the architecture and design of the complex. You can stay until the sound and light show that is held every evening to see shadows playing across the façade.
A short distance away from Purana Qila is another fort that is just as iconic. Constructed by Shah Jahan when he moved his capital from Agra to Delhi, Lal Qila or Red Fort instantly stands out with its distinctive red sandstone walls. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features heavy elements of Indo-Islamic architecture. We have one person to thank for giving us such a fine example of Mughal design – Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, the man behind the Taj Mahal.
Every aspect of the Red Fort is stunning and you will find yourself trying to take it all in at once. Turn your gaze upwards to the engraved arches boasting fine craftsmanship and keep an eye out for the lovely marble canopy and panels inlaid with parchinkari stones. Together, they lend a delicate elegance that is unmistakable.
This is where the kings of the Mughal dynasty resided before India’s capital was shifted to Delhi. As you approach Agra Fort, you get a sense of how massive it is and it is only when you enter that realization dawns. It is not just a fort but a walled city that contains beautiful palaces built by great emperors like Akbar and Shah Jahan.
There is so much to see at Agra Fort and you will want to visit them all. If you cannot, try to take in Khas Mahal with its white marble pavilions, ornamented ceilings and fountains, which was the home of Shah Jahan’s two daughters. The Grape Garden or Anguri Bagh with its 85 symmetrical gardens and once the place of fine grape harvests is another place you absolutely must see. It is so beautifully designed and is a work of art unto itself. Unfortunately, it is not usually open to the public but you can view it from a distance. Make sure you carry a camera; you will also want to photograph the iconic Taj Mahal that can be seen from the balconies.
Jaipur’s crown jewel stands proudly atop a hill in Amer overlooking Maota Lake. And what a jewel it is! The 16th century fort is another wonderful example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The fort was added to over time until it began to resemble a palace, which is why it is often called Amer Palace.
Like most forts in India, it encloses several stunning structures. However, prize among them is Sheesh Mahal, a palace with some of the most intricate mirror work you will ever see. It covers the walls and ceiling in various motifs and you cannot help but marvel at the exquisite skill of artisans of old. Time has aged the palace but nowhere has it diminished its ability to inspire awe. You should stay until evening when the fort is illuminated and the lights create gorgeous reflections on the lake.
There are many more forts to explore in these cities and by no means should you stop at this list. Check them off one by one until you have covered them all. From the Mughal dynasty to the Rajputs and every era in between, discover the richness of India’s history and culture.
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