Friday, April 3, 2009

Great Indian Forts

Great Indian Fort

India has more than its share of great forts - many of them now deserted - to tell of its tumultuous history. The Red Fort in Delhi is one of the most impressive, but Agra Fort is an equally gigantic cue of Mughals power at its height. A short distance south is the huge, impregnable-looking Gwalior Fort.
The Rajputs could build forts like no¬body else and they've got them in all shapes and sizes and with every imaginable tale to tell. Chittorgarh Fort is awful, Bundi and Kota forts are fanciful, and Jodhpur Fort is huge and high, Amber Fort simply beautiful and Jaisalmer the essence of romance.

Way out west in Gujarat, there are the impressive forts of Junagadh and Bhuj built by the princely rulers of Saurashtra.

Further south there's Mandu, another fort impressive in its size and architecture but with a tragic tale to tell. Further south again at Daulatabad it's a tale of power, ambition and not all that much sense with another immense fort which was built and soon de¬serted. Important forts in the south include Bijapur and Golconda.
Naturally the European invaders had their forts too. We will see Portuguese forts in Goa, Bassein, Daman and Diu, the last being the most impressive. The British also built their share: Fort St George in Chennai is open to the public and has a fascinating museum. Those built by the French, Dutch and Danes are, regrettably, largely in ruins, although the ruins also have a certain appeal.

Fort State
Red Fort Delhi
Agra Uttar Pradesh
Chittorgarh Rajasthan
Bundi Rajasthan
Kota Rajasthan
Jodhpur Rajasthan
Amber Rajasthan
Jaisalmer Rajasthan
Junagadh Gujarat

Red Fort
The red sandstone walls of Lal Qila, the Red Fort, extend for two km and vary in height from 18m the river side to 33m on the city side. Shah Jahan started construction of the massive fort in 1638 and it was completed in 1648. He never completely moved his capital from Agra to his new city Shahjahanabad in Delhi because he was deposed and imprisoned in Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb.

The Red Fort dates from the very hit the highest point of Mughals power. When the emperor rode out elephant-back into the streets of Old Delhi it was a display of pomp and power at its most magnificent, The Mughals reign from Delhi was a short one, however: Aurangzeb was the first and last great Mug emperor to rule from here.

Today, the fort is typically Indian. It's still a calm haven of peace if you've just left the frantic streets of Old Delhi; however the city noise and confusion are light years away from the fort gardens and pavilions. The Yamuna River used to flow right by the eastern edge of the fort, and filled the 10m deep moat (a wide dugged channel around the fort to make it more difficult to attack). These days river is over one km to the east and the moat remains empty.
Lahore Gate -:
The main gate to the fort takes its name from the fact that it faces towards Lahore, N-W in Pakistan. If one spot could be said to be the emotional and symbolic heart of the modern Indian nation, the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort is probably it. During the struggle for independence, one the nationalists' declarations was that they would see the Indian flag flying over the Red Fort in Delhi After independence, many important political speeches were given by Nehru and Indira Gandhi to crowds amassed on the maidan outside, and on Independence Day (15 Aug each year, the prime minister addresses a huge crowd from the gate.

You enter the fort here and immediately find yourself in a domed covered passage, (Covered Bazaar). The shops in this covered passage used to sell the up market items that the royal household might fancy – silk, jewellery, gold.
These days they cater to the tourist trade and the quality of goods is certainly a little lower, although some still carry a royal price tag! This covered passage of shops also known as the Mina Bazaar, the shopping centre for ladies of the court. On Thursdays the gate of the fort were closed to men; only women were allowed inside the citadel.
The covered passage leads to the Naubat Khana, or Drum House, where musicians used to play for emperor, and the arrival of princes and royalty was heralded from here. There's an Indian War Memorial museum (free) upstairs. The open courtyard beyond the Drum House formerly had gallery along either side, but these were removed by the British Army when the fort was used as the headquarters. Other reminders of the British presence are the monumentally ugly, three storey barrack blocks which lie to the north of this courtyard.

Diwan-i-Am -:
The Hall of Public Audiences was where the emperor would sit to hear complaints disputes from his subjects. His alcove (bay) in the wall was marble-paneled and set with precious stones many of which were looted following the Mutiny/Uprising. This elegant hall was restored as a résumé a directive by Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India between 1898 and 1905.
Diwan-i-Khass -:
The Hall of Private Audiences, built of white marble, was the luxurious chamber which the emperor would hold private meetings. Centre piece of the hall (until Nadir Shah carted it off to 1 in 1739) was the magnificent Peacock Throne. The solid gold throne had figures of peacocks standing behind it, their beautiful colors resulting from countless inlaid precious stones. Between them the figure of a parrot carved out of a single emerald.
This masterpiece in precious metals, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and pearls was broken up and called peacock throne is displayed in Tehran simply utilizes the original bits.. The marble pedestal on which the throne used to sit remains in place.

Reference: Lonely Planet