The Majestic Hill Forts in Rajasthan

Situated in the Regal state of Rajasthan is the Serial site, that encapsulates top six majestic forts, namely Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. The eclectic architecture of the forts (some of them even up to 20 kilometers in circumference), bears testimony to the power of the Rajput Princely states which flourished in this region from the 8th to the 18th century. Within the defensive periphery of each of these magnificent forts are nestled the major urban centers, palaces, trading centers, temples, and other buildings.

All these forts use the natural defenses offered by the landscape: hills, deserts, rivers and dense forests. They also feature extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today.

Let’s begin the Journey:

Chittorgarh Fort
The largest Fort in India, Chittorgarh Fort is also crowned as the grandest in the state of Rajasthan. The fort, plainly known as Chittor, was the capital of Mewar and is today situated several kilometers by road south of Bhilwara. This former capital of the Sisodia clan and target of three famous historical sieges, Chittorgarh is strongly associated with the Rajput history and folk lore. Furthermore, the sheer number and variety of architectural remains of early date mark it as an exceptional fort in its scale and monumentality, comparable to very few other forts within the country. It sprawls majestically over a hill 180 m (590.6 ft) in height spread over an area of 280 ha (691.9 acres) above the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River.

Sprawling over 700 acres of area, the fort walls extend up to 5 Km long stretch with a width of 910 Meters on the hill top. The ascent to Chittor fort passes through seven magnificent gateways built by Maharana Kumbha (1433-1468 AD) to replace the ancient eastern entrance road. In all, the fort comprises of about 65 historic structures and few ruins. It has 10 gates and openings, 4 palace complexes, 19 main temples dating from 7th to 15th centuries, 4 memorials including the Victory Tower and 20 functional water bodies (from a total of 85 historic water bodies) along with 7 small structures.

The Fort of Chittorgarh is strategically located on the top of a high hilly outcrop of the Aravallis about 609 metres above sea level. It is situated on a formidable, isolated rocky plateau rising steeply from the plain. Sprawling over 700 acres of area, the fort walls extend up to 5 Km long stretch and 910 Meters width of the hill top. The ascent to the fort passes through seven magnificent gateways. Chittorgarh Fort is one of the selected few hill forts which have been recently inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have also rated it earlier as one of the top ten forts in India.

Chittor is situated 318 Km from Jaipur and one can easily reach the magnificent Chittorgarh Fort by surface from Udaipur city. Recommended period of visit is between October to March.

Jaisalmer Fort
Built in 1156 AD by Bhati Rajput Ruler RaoJaisal, Jaisalmer Fort is one of the live monuments providing shelter for the local populace in the city hence is different from other historic forts in Rajasthan. Besides residences, you also spot restaurants, guesthouses, shops, etc. where one can also spot large, round stones around the streets. The use of yellow sandstone in the construction of the Jaisalmer Fort of Rajasthan provides an amazing look of a ship. Visitors from far relate the fort to a ship sailing on sea of golden sand. This Fort is renowned for its distinct golden appearance and also referred to as Sonar Qila.

Jaisalmer Fort amazes the visitors with its magnificent look. Spread across an area of 5.1 Sq. Km and perched at an altitude of 255 Meters, the characteristic change in color of the walls and pavements of the Fort basis the daylight has attracted tourists to spend quality time exploring this enigmatic fort. Dussehra Chowk is the main courtyard of the Jaisalmer fort. Here one witnesses small shops, hotels, eateries, and people in colorful traditional dresses. As you explore the architectural brilliance of the fort, it is easy to get lost in this sprawling fort complex. The major highlights in the Fort include The Raj Mahal (Royal Palace), Laxminath Temple, Jain Temples, Merchant Havelis, and the 4 Massive Gateways. Jaisalmer City played a very crucial role in trade with Arabia, Africa, Persia, and Egypt, during the medieval era. The fort consists of wall of three layers. The lower or say the outer layer of the fort is made up of solid stone blocks. The middle or the second layer of the fort wall snakes all over the fort, and the third or innermost layer of the wall was were the Rajput Warriors used to throw boiling water or oil on the enemies.

The best period to visit Jaisalmer is from October to March. It can be easily reached from the Jaisalmer Airport/railway station by local transport.

Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalgarh, a small town in district Rajsamand is known worldwide for its great history and architecture. Here lies the great Kumbhalgarh Fort which was built during the 15th century by Maharana Kumbha. Enlarged during 19th century, this fort is also the birth place of Maharana Pratap, the great king and warrior of Mewar. This almost invincible fort is the highest and most formidable within the state of Rajasthan. Even the mighty Mughal couldn’t capture it alone and it took the combined armies of Delhi, Amber and Marwar to breach its defenses. Standing majestically on 1180m high ridge and representing the past glory of the Rajput rulers, the Fort also provides a panoramic view of the countryside from its pinnacle.

Thirteen mountain peaks of the Aravali range protect this impregnable fortress. Seven huge and imposing gates stand like sentinels at the approaches and seven ramparts, each one being folded within another with crenulated walls, strengthened by rounded bastions and immense watch towers, make this an impregnable mountain fortress. Its serpentine 15 Kilometers long wall is thick and broad enough for eight horses to ride abreast. This wall is second longest only to the 'Great Wall of China'. This grand fort also has 360 temples within the walls.

The best period to visit Kumbhalgarh is from October to March. The connectivity is similar to Chittorgarh.

Amber Fort
Amber Fort, also known as Amerka Qila, is located in the periphery of the pink city Jaipur, Rajasthan. It was built by Raja Man Singh in 1592 and known for its artistic style which is a seamless concoction of Islamic and Rajput architecture.

Located in Amer (a town with an area of 4 Sq. Km), and merely 11 Km from Jaipur, the Amber Fort is one of the principal tourist attractions in Jaipur area. With its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake, at its forefront. Amber Fort is the largest fort in Jaipur and one of the most visited forts in India. Tourists flock from across globe to visit Amber Fort every year. It also features undisputedly on the itinerary of India’s royal luxury trains including Maharajas Express, Palace on Wheels and Royal Rajasthan on Wheels. If you are taking the ceremonial way (the way maharajas used to travel) riding an elephant up the paved causeway, the gate opens into several havelis, large courtyards and a temple located flight up stairs. This is where the maharajas were welcomed after returning from battles, and where queens prayed for the well-being of kings after they took the blessing of Shila Devi, the patron goddess of Kachwahas Clan. The magnificent Shila Devi temple has an ornately carved silver door.

After your entrance inside the main complex, do visit the Sheesh Mahal or chamber of mirrors which is exquisitely designed and used to be the pleasure palace of the maharajas of Jaipur, Jas Mandir with its floral ceilings and latticed windows is an awesome sight too. Other attractions within the fort complex are Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), and the Sukh Niwas.

Recommended period of visit every year is from October to March. It can be easily reached from the Jaipur Airport/railway station by surface transport.

Ranthambore Fort
Ranthambore Fort is a part of World Heritage site which is situated near Sawai Madhopur a small town which lies in the North Indian state of Rajasthan. Ranthambore Fort is surrounded by Vindhyas and Aravallis Hill ranges. The name ‘Ranthambore’ is derived from two hills-Rann and Thambhore. It lies on Thambhore hill which is 481 Metres above the sea level. Rann is the adjoining hill to Thambhore hill. From the top of the hill some breathtaking views around the fort can be captured.

The oldest settlement in the area near Sawai Madhopur was around the Ranthambore Fort. It is widely believed that the construction of the Ranthambore Fort commenced during the reign of the Chauhan Rajput King Sapaldaksha in 944 AD. Another theory stipulates that King Jayant, also a Chauhan Rajput, built the Ranthambore Fort during 1110 AD.

The Ranthambore Fort controlled multifarious trade routes between North India and Central India and was hence coveted by the rulers of North India. During 1300 AD, Ala-ud-din Khilji, the ruler of Delhi sent his army to capture the Fort. After three unsuccessful attempts, his army finally conquered the Ranthambore Fort in 1301 and thus ended the reign of the Chauhans. During the following three centuries the Ranthambore Fort changed hands a number of times, till Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, finally took over the Fort and dissolved the State of Ranthambore in 1558. The fort stayed in the possession of the Mughal rulers till the mid-18th century.

In 1763, Sawai Madho Singh fortified the nearby village of Sherpur and renamed it Sawai Madhopur. This town, which is now commonly known as the "Sawai Madhopur City", lies in a narrow valley between two parallel hills, at the South Western edge of the Ranthambhore National Park, a major Tiger Reserve adored by one and all.

Recommended period of visit every year is from October to March. It can be easily reached from the Sawai Madhopur railway station by surface transport.

Gagron Fort
Gagron - A Historical & a religious refuge, is merely 12 Km away from the Jhalawar district in Rajasthan The foundation of this magnificent, impregnable renowned fort was laid in the 7th century AD and the fort was completed in the 14th century AD. Just outside this fort is the famous Dargah of Sufi Saint Mitthe shah, which witnesses an annual fair during the month of Moharram. Nearby is the monastery of Saint Pipa Ji, who was among the chief eight disciples of Guru Ramanand, a contemporary of Saint Kabir.

This place is well known for its heroic past wherein Raja Achaldas Khinchi held this fort most intrepidly against his enemy Hoshang Shah of Malwa. When defeat seemed looming due to treachery by the foe, these Rajputs who clad themselves in saffron robes took on to the enemy full swing with their swords in hands, and attained martyrdom. Their womenfolk performed Johar, the highest sacrifice depicted by Rajput women.

The Fort is nestled on a low ridge at the convergence of two rivers - Ahu and Kali Sindh, whose water surround it on its three sides. The fourth side overlooks a deep moat completing its defenses against the enemies of yore.

Gagron is also famous for being one of the rare forts blessed with natural protective shields and is hence known as avana and a jala durg – which means - both forest-protected and water-protected. It is surrounded by forests and the Mukundarrah range of hills is just behind it.

Gagron ranked supreme in this part of Malwa when Bundi / Kota / Jhalawar were yet to appear as states on the princely map of the country.

Recommended period of visit every year is from October to March. Nearest Airport is Indore 240 Km, while Jaipur is approximately 335 km away and can be easily traversed by surface.

After having visited these six most fantastic Forts of the Rajputana, one is completely mesmerized by the History and folk lore captured within each of the walls in these towering bastions. The heart continues pounding….seeking for more!!