Read this article to learn about Forts in India: 5 Magnificent Ancient Forts in India!
Fort of Agra also is called Lal Qila (Red fort). It has got long political history and was captured by many kings for its great treasure including Kohinoor diamond. Earlier, it was a brick fort built and used by Rajput kings. Lodi sultans captured the fort and lived here. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in 1526 C.E and captured the fort. Shershah who interrupted Humayun’s ruling also lived here.
Moguls finally defeated Afghans and captured the fort in 1556 C.E. All the Mogul emperors lived here and added distinguished structures of their taste. Akbar dismantled the earlier brick structures and built new structures including the enclosure walls, entrances, palaces in red sandstone. The fort is now UNESCO’s world heritage site. It has won Aga Khan Award of architecture in the year 2004.
It is an irregular semi-circle with its chord measuring some 825 metres in length lying parallel to right bank of Yamuna river measuring a land of some 38 hectares and has wide and deep surrounding moat. The fort is a large complex containing office buildings, courts, luxurious fortified palaces and service buildings.
The massive enclosure wall is most remarkable. It consists of solid sandstone rampart of 21 metres high and nearly 214 kilometers in circumference built in dressed stone in such large scale. The wall is a fine work of architecture containing features like battlements, bastions, kiosks, stringcourses all carefully designed and executed.
The enclosure wall has two gateways:
i. Main gate called Delhi gate on west side.
ii. Lahore gate on south side called Amar Singh Rathore gate intended for private use.
The main gateway is notable for its design. It consists of two octagonal towers joined by an arched vault. The rear side of this gate also presents an elegant façade containing arched terraces above surmounted by cupolas, kiosks and pinnacles.
The structure provides accommodation to the guards. The string courses and borders in white marble had greatly relieved the mass of red sandstone and is most effective. Within this fort, there are number of structures like—Diwan-i-am, Khas Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and other luxury palaces.
A most completed building is Jahangir Mahal. This is an extensive arrangement of compartments. The brackets under the eaves, the inclined struts supporting the roof beams of northern hall, all of which are fine works of art in stone inspired from timber carving works.
As per some records, there were some 500 different structures of red sandstone built in fine styles of Gujarat and Rajasthan within this fort. Unfortunately most of these earlier structures were demolished to make way for construction of marble pavilions by his grandson Shah Jahan. Most of these were built along the parapet on eastern wall overlooking Yamuna River.
The Fort at Lahore is smaller and similar to Agra fort in many respects. This fort forms an irregular parallelogram of 366 metres long by 320 metres wide contained within a high bastioned wall. It contains official buildings, royal palaces and service buildings.
There is a remarkable display of a mural made on north enclosure wall of the fort. This is a unique picture gallery in coloured glazed tiles extends from the Elephant gate (Hathi Pol) now the main entrance upto the eastern tower of Jahangir’s quadrangle.
This covers a large wall space of around 440 metres long and 16 metres in height. The decoration mainly covered the subjects of sports such as elephant combats, polo game, hunting and some floral fillings.
The fortress stands near the cross junction of rivers of Ganga and Yamuna called Triveni Sangamam at Allahabad. This is the largest fortress built by Akbar, measuring some 915 metres as its longest dimension. This formed into an irregular segment of a circle. Most of its parts are now in damaged state.
Among the structures remained is a ‘Baradari’ or pavilion known as Zenana palace. This explains the architectural characters as a whole. Trabeated order of construction and the peristyle are the main features.
The halls are surrounded by a colonnade with pairs of pillars except at the corner, where a group of four pillars were made presenting an elegant perspective of columns. Above this, there are perforated parapets surmounted by kiosks with lattice screens.
The village was earlier called Khanswa. Babur named it as Shukri meaning thanks. Fatehpur Sikri is an entirely a new capital city built by Akbar at Sikri village, some 39 kilometres west of Agra. This is a most remarkable building achievement and was the conception of Emperor Akbar.
The fort was built on a rocky outcrop of sandstone lies from southwest to northeast. This covered an irregular rectangular area of 3 kilometres long and 1½ kilometers wide surrounded by a bastioned wall. The city is an arrangement of broad terraces, stately courts, paved paths, numerous palaces, pavilions, offices and utilities. The fort has extremely planned town planning. This is now UNESCO’s world heritage monument and site.
This is an imperial city of Moguls used in between 1572 to 1585 C.E. The buildings are unique and a blend of different architectural traditions. It shows strong Hindu architecture of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The exquisite architectural splendor of Fatehpur has left permanent impression in the legendary of Indian architecture. A uniform architectural style is seen in these structures.
The main approach to this fort was from Agra through Agra gate leading to Naubat Khana or a Drum House, where distinguished visitors were called. This leads straight to Diwan-i-am or a public audience hall.
Here the public had the right of admission. This is a place where celebrations, public prayers and court transactions take place and hearings are announced. It has open courtyard surrounded by cloisters on three sides and emperor’s pavilion on west side. From here a road leads to Jama masjid.
The southern side of the fort is made accessible to the people. The large area behind Diwan-i-am to the northern side is catered for private use, where on the cliff royal palaces, pavilions and similar structures were built.
Extending to downwards on northern side are the supplementary and utilitarian structures like offices, Sarais, gardens, stables and baths, etc. The palaces are connected by pillared corridors, paved open spaces and gardens. Efficient system of water supply and drainage was also made.
The secular buildings are mainly trabeated and the religious buildings of the city are arcuated. The architecture is mainly of Hindu style of western India of Gujarat and Rajasthan. There is adequate uniformity in every aspect. It shows that the work is well coordinated by a chief designer.
The main building material used here is the rich red coloured sandstone quarried on the spot from the ridge of the hill itself. The earliest structure on this site may probably be the Stonecutters mosque, a small mosque on western side built by stone workers for their worship.
Shah Jahan built a new royal city in 1638 C.E on a site situated on right bank of Yamuna River at Delhi. Hence there arose a series of palaces and other structures on a large scale within a high and strongly fortified walled enclosure. Most of common structures were built in red sandstone, hence the fort was called Red fort. Shah Jahan renamed Delhi as Shahjahanabad. This is now UNESCO’s world heritage site.
The buildings reflect a fusion of elements of Persia, Mongolia and Hindu architecture.
The area is an oblong of 945 metres long and 503 metres wide and is aligned to south north direction. The layout of this fort is regular and formal laid in squares and rectangles.
There are two entrances:
i. The main entrance in the middle of longer western side is called Lahore gate. This takes the form of a broad vaulted arcade with strongly built octagonal bastions on either side.
ii. The other gate on southern side was used for private purpose. From these gateways, two thoroughfares pass into the fort, each meeting the other at right angles towards the center at a large rectangular area. The area beyond this towards east side overlooking the river accommodates the whole royal and private apartments. The remaining areas are the service quarters, such as army barracks, servants’ quarters and other miscellaneous structures.
Important buildings are here described:
This is a place for public meetings, gatherings and other transactions with people. This originally consisted of a square open court surrounded by a colonnade with a pillared hall on its eastern side. But now all these surrounding structures disappeared and the pillared hall remained.
The hall is a sandstone structure of 56 metres by 21 metres. Its façade is formed by an arcade of nine arches with twin pillars and a group of four pillars placed at corners. In the interior there are three aisles making 27 bays and 40 pillars in all. Engrailed arches bridge the spaces above pillars.
The stone masonry structure was fully covered by shell plaster and ivory polished. Its application was a technical process carried by the craftsmen from Rajasthan to great perfection. The entire complex of buildings was standing in brilliant white.
The significant feature of the interior in the opposite back wall is the alcove, where the emperor sat. Here on ceremonial occasions the famous peacock throne was placed for the emperor to sit. The wall surfaces of this alcove have a series of designs.
Behind this Diwan-i-Am the royal apartments exist.
A series of marble pavilions were built along the eastern wall above the ramparts. Their balconies, oriel windows and turrets crowned by cupolas are giving a pleasing picturesque appearance. These pavilions were closed on eastern outer side by screened windows and their frontages enriched by architectural elements looking into the gardens inside the fort enclosure.
In between these buildings, there are wide terraces and courts separated by balustrades and perforated screens on the rampart side. The large open area in front of these structures was developed into gardens.
The palace enclosure consists of the following important structures in a line from south:
i. Rang Mahal or Painted palace
ii. Khas mahal
iii. Diwan-i-khas (Hall of Private Audience)
iv. Hammam (Bath)
This is a crowning jewel in marble and is a lavishly ornate structure in the fort of Delhi. It measures 47 metres by 21 metres in plan. It consists of a main hall with compartments at each corner. This is a single storey open pavilion or loggia of elegant proportions with their parts well placed. In the basement of this structure, there are summer rooms which stay cool in hot summer. These were used by ladies.
The central hall is divided into fifteen bays, five bays in the longer side and three bays in the shorter side, by means of ornamental piers. Each bay measures six metres side square. The piers are square twelve sided type over which graceful engrailed arches spring up.
The ceilings in the interior are flat and richly decorated. It appears that the spaces were originally filled in with perforated marble screens for want of privacy.
A notable setting in the Rang Mahal is a shallow marble basin with a fountain sunk in the floor occupying the central bay. The perfumed water was bubbling out of a silver lotus flower fixed on a slender stem rising from the centre. The basin is a design of a large lotus flower of finely modeled petals contained within a square bordered frame. This is a place of attraction in Rang Mahal laid in perfection matching with the patterns of interior.
The façade is simple and graceful. The engrailed arch openings were shaded by a wide eave (chajja). Above this rises a parapet and from each corner a graceful kiosk covered by a cupola roof.
This is a simple stone structure containing sleeping chambers, dining hall and sitting rooms.
This is an open pavilion hall built in marble, well-planned measuring 27 metres by 20 metres. Its façade consists of an arcade of five equal arches in its longer and shorter sides. But the arches on its shorter side are varying in their size skillfully adjusted.
The interior is divided into fifteen bays by means of engrailed arches supported on square marble piers. There are window openings with elegant tracery on eastern side. The massive piers were enriched with inlaid flower motifs. The foliated arches decorated in gold and colours. The mirror polished marble flooring is reflecting the objects.
The exterior is decent with its usual elements of eaves, parapets and graceful kiosks at corners. Ornamentation of gilt coloured and inlaid patterns of scrolls or serpentine lines were distributed over every portion. Conventional flowers like roses, lilies and poppies were freely introduced on the walls, piers, arches and traceries.
Moguls besides growing flowers in their gardens also introduced the pictures of flowers and foliations in their buildings showing their love towards flowers and greenery.
Hammam were the luxurious bathing facilities by the side of Diwan-i-Khas on north side adjacent to royal palaces. It consists of three apartments interconnected by corridors. The western apartment had heating arrangement used for hot bath and vapour bath. Marble floors and dados with beautiful floral patterns of multi coloured stones.
An important amenity in such large fort having some bearing on the planning and arrangement is the provision of continuous flow of water throughout the entire portions. This was carried out by means of channels around the marble pavements. They are so devised that each apartment was served with full water supply.
This was brought by means of conduits from northeast corner from Yamuna River. Such continuous supply of water not only enabled the Hammam to function, but also beautified the gardens by water pools, fountains and cascades all-round the palaces.