We know that by now, our most loyal readers are probably bored of seeing the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture found in the European churches we have been posting about. With churches harder to come by in this part of the world, we would like to introduce the Forts of India.
In order of our highly subjective, personal preferences, the forts we have seen are:
Fort #1: The Golden Fort in Jaisalmer. This is the only “living fort” on the list with 3,000 inhabitants living within the fort’s 99 bastions. Due to a late train arrival, we only had a few hours to visit the giant sandcastle-like structure that was once a major stop on the ancient camel trade routes. We visited the palatial museum, which housed many historical items including rugs, beds and clothing and showcased the well-preserved paintings on the walls. After our visit, we wandered the streets, bargaining with the many street vendors selling everything a tourist could want before catching the sunset from the top of the fort.
Fort #2: Agra Fort in Agra. Located in the same city as the Taj Majal, the Agra Fort is generally overlooked. Luckily, time is on our side and we had the pleasure of visiting both. Here, we enjoyed beautiful marble work and stunning views of the Taj Majal, but our favorite part was getting a backstage tour of the Palace of Mirrors. Currently, this section is closed to tourists but luckily our guide knew someone who knew someone who had the keys and for 400 rupees (about $6.40), we were let inside. These rooms were used as the royal baths and the tile walls and ceiling were filled with inlaid mirrors. This feature reflected the image of the emperor’s many wives, other “guests”, and of course, the king himself. It also created an incredible glow when candle-lit. Luckilly, the guy with the keys also had candles and put on quite a show as we walked around in awe of the place. It was easy to appreciate the grandeur and luxury of the place when it was in use several hundred years ago.
Fort #3: Mehrangarh in Jodhpur. This fort is built into the rocky hillside 120 meters above the city and is still run by the Jodhpur royal family. In addition to the beautiful stone-work, the fort is packed with history and artifacts adding to the allure of the many rooms and columns found here.
Fort #4: The Amber Fort in Jaipur. A few kilometers outside of Jaipur, lies the Amber Fort – a majestic fort built to commemorate a major military victory. Our first stop with our guide – who had been giving tours for fifty-four years – was the Hindu temple where we made a wish, rang a bell, and were blessed with red bindis placed on our forehead. He then took us around the rest of the fort, showing us some of the many secrets and mysteries found here. One feature of note was the series of hallways that allowed one of the emperor’s wives (or one of over two hundred concubines housed in the complex) to pass through the palace to the royal bedroom without alerting the other wives to the visit.
Fort #5: The Red Fort in Delhi. This large, sandstone fort sits above Old Delhi. While the remaining buildings are only a shadow of their one-time grandeur, they provide a sense of the former glory of imperial India and it’s grounds provide a brief respite from the chaos that sits just outside the Lahore Gate in Old Delhi’s crowded streets.
Golden Fort, Jaisalmer.
Agra Fort, Agra.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur.
Amber Fort, Jaipur.
The Red Fort, Delhi.