Going Places Educational Travel Blog - Historical India: Explore the Subcontinent's Forts, Palaces and Monuments
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March 19, 2014

Historical India: Explore the Subcontinent's Forts, Palaces and Monuments

Guest post by Sandra Mills

India is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that 6.29 million foreign tourists arrived in India in 2011 alone.  It’s a particularly popular travel destination among U.S. Americans who comprise 16% of all foreign travellers. Most people who go to India want to visit the Taj Mahal, one of the seven world wonders located in Agra, the state of Goa with its golden beaches and breathtaking sunsets or the city of Jaipur, home to the spectacular ‘Palace of Winds,’ the Hawa Mahal.

However, there are many other fascinating places to explore in the subcontinent that may not be so well known as the ones mentioned above. If you’re interested in history, you might want to think about visiting India’s numerous forts and palacesthat are a little bit more off the beaten track. These sights can be found across the country. Here’s a list with several impressive historical monuments that serve as remainders of India’s storied history with its numerous empires, conquests and rulers.


Bidar Fort is an impressive monument from the 15th century, located just east of Udgir Rd in Bidar district of the northern plateau of Karanataka. The fort is constructed on the edge of a plateau and has a haphazard quadrangular layout plan. Its design is heavily influenced by Persian architecture. Sultan Alla-Ud-Din Bahman of the Bahmani Dynasty build the fort with a number of other Islamic monuments. The Bahmani Dynasty was established after the first Muslim invasion of the region in the early 14th century. Bidar Fort used to be the administrative capital of the Bahmani Kingdom in southern India.


This fort is situated in the ruined city of Golkonda in southern India. Golkonda used to be the capital of the ancient Golcanda Sultanate in the 16th and 17th century. The region is world-renowned for its gemstone mines. The origins of the fort have been traced to earlier reigns of the Yadavas and Kakatiyas. The fort is actually an entire complex consisting of four distinct structures that include 87 bastions, eight gateways, and four drawbridges. However, in 1590, Sultan Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah abandoned the fort and moved to the new city of Hyderabad.


Located in Jodhpur in northwestern India, the Mehrangarh Fort sits on top of a rocky hill that itself stands 400 feet above the city’s skyline. The fort is practically impregnable due to its elevated position and perpendicular architecture. The fortress was started in 1459 by Rao Jodha, founder of Jodhpur and fifteenth Rathore ruler, although most of the structure that exists today stems from the period of Jaswant Singh (1638-78). The monument spreads over 3 miles and is accessible through seven gates.


Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, the Red Fort is situated in the center of India’s biggest city, Delhi.The Red Fort was built in 1648 as the fortified palace of Sahjahanabad, capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, but it served as the residence of the Mughal emperors for almost 200 years until 1857. While the structure of the fort was modeled after Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains elements typical of Mughal architecture, which is an amalgam of Persian, Timurid and Hindu culture.


Murud-Janjira is a fort located just off the coastal village of Murud in Maharashtra, central India. It was originally built in the 15th century as a small wooden structure by a Koli chief. The fort was later strengthened by Malik Ambar, the Abyssinian Siddi regent of Ahmednagar kings. Despite numerous attempts, the Portuguese, the British, and the Marathas failed to subdue the Siddi rulers. The fort sits on an oval-shaped rock in the Arabian Sea and can only be approached by sailboats. It has a main gate that faces the shore and a small postern gate towards the open sea for escape.


The Amer Fort is found in Amer, a town 6.8 miles from Jaipur in Northwestern India. The construction of the fort began in 1592, under Maharaja Man Singh, the Rajput commander of Akbar’s army. The fortress is also called “Amer Palace” for its opulent red sandstone and marble architecture. The structure includes the Diwan-e-Aam or the “Hall of Public Audience,” the Diwan-e-Khas or the "Hall of Private Audience,” the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. The entrance also features a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult.


Completed in the 17th century under Tsewang Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal Dynasty of Ladakh, the Leh Palace is overlooking the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh. The monument has nine stories, with the upper floors accommodating the royal family and the lower floors used for stables and storage. The palace was abandoned in the mid-19thcentury when Dogra forces took over Ladakh, and the royal family moved to Stok Palace. Nowadays, the palace is open to the public. It provides stunning views over the Stok Kangri Mountain to the south, and of the Ladakh mountain range to the north.


The Stok Monastery is a Buddhist monastery also located in Ladakh, northern India, south of the city of Leh. The monastery entails a central courtyard with a prayer flagpole in center. The entrance of the verandah features bright friezes, depicting the Guardians of the Four Directions. The main assembly, the Dukhang, has been repainted and decorated with banners and Thangkas. The entrance walls also feature various guardian divinities. It was founded by Lama Lhawang Lotus in the 14th century and has a notable library including all 108 volumes of the Kanjur. After the royal family was stripped off their power by Dogra forces in 1846, they moved into the Stok Monastery.


The Chowmahalla Palace is found in Hyderabad in southern India. It was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad state while the area was under their rule. Salabat Jung initiated the construction in 1750, but it wasn’t completed until the period Afzal ad-Dawiah, Asaf Jah V, in 1869. The palace is believed to be modeled after the Shah’s Palace in Tehran, Iran. The structure has two courtyards, the southern and the northern courtyard, and spans over 14 acres (it used to be 45 acres). The Chowmahalla Palace combines Persian, Indo-Saracenic, Rajasthani and European styles, and is considered one of the most unique and beautiful Indian monuments.

Author Bio: Sandra Mills is a freelance writer and is interested in tech, careers, and traveling. She enjoys learning about different cultures and different ways of life. To submit a guest post, e-mail info@passports.com, or contact your passports Admissions Coordinator.

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