Rajasthan is considered to be one of the most ethnic states in India. It has a rustic charm about it that transform you to a bygone era. Most places in Rajasthan display a true picture of the rich Indian heritage and culture. In a lot of ways, Rajasthan feels more Indian than any other state. One of the biggest reasons for this is the magnificent monuments in this state. These monuments that were built hundreds of years ago still stand tall and have been so well-preserved that they give us an amazing sneak peek into history. Rajasthan has seen many rulers in the past who have all left their mark on the state. The most fascinating aspect about Rajasthan is its forts. These huge structures are testimonies to the splendour Rajasthan has witnessed all through history. They take you back to the time of kings and queens, commoners and ministers. These forts also bear marks of historic events that changed India forever. But most importantly, these forts are so beautiful and amazing to look at, that they make you realize how small you really are. Here are some amazing forts in Rajasthan that you cannot afford to miss.
Located in the beautiful blue city of Jodhpur, the Mehrangarh fort is arguably the finest fort in India. It is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan and is known all across the globe for its stunning architecture and history. It is famous for being the seat of the Rathore rulers from the house of Marwar. The fort is located 400 feet above Jodhpur city and housed the Marwar family before they moved to other grand palaces. It once also offered sanctuary to Mughal emperor Humayun who was fleeing to Persia after being defeated by Sher Shah Suri.
It was on May 12, 1459 that the 15th Rathore ruler, Rao Jodha laid the foundation of the Mehrangarh fort. At that time, Mandore which is located around 15 km from Jodhpur was the capital. However, for better safety and security reasons, Rao Jodha moved the capital to the Mehrangarh fort. The hill on which Mehrangarh stands was formerly known as ‘Bhaurcheeria’. It had just one human accoupant, a hermit named Cheeria Nathji. Rao Jodha displaced him in order to set up his capital at Mehrangarh. Upset and infuriated with the displacement, Nathji cursed Rao Jodha that the Mehrangarh fort would suffer scarcity of water. Then, in order to circumvent this curse, a man named Rajiya Bambi was buried alive in the foundations of the fort. In return for this sacrifice, Rao Jodha primised Bambi that his family will be well looked after. To this day, Rajiya Bambi’s descendants live in Raj Bagh. According to another legend, Rajiya was not the only one buried alive. Four people were buried here including Rajiya Bambi’s son and a Brahmin named Mehran. The fort is believed to have been named after this Brahmin.
The fort’s architecture is a marvel in itself. It is 125 ft high and has solid stone walls. At places, these walls are 6 metres thick. There are several palaces inside the fort’s boundaries. The intricate carvings and expansive courtyards in these palaces remind you of the glory of the Rathore era. There is a downward winding road which leads into the city. You can still see some cannonball imprints on the second gate which were made by the attacking armies of Jaipur. Right next to the fort on its left is the chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell defending the fort.
Mehrangarh has seven gates, most popular among which is Jayapol (meaning ‘victory’) which was built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner. Another gate named Fattehpol was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of the Mughals.
Today, the fort houses a museum which gives visitors a sneak peek into the golden age of the Rathores. It showcases various collections of historical artefacts ranging from palanquins to cannons and furniture to paintings and folk musical instruments. In this museum, you can witness the heritage of the Rathores in arms, paintings, costumes, and decorated period rooms. The gallery named Daulat Khana houses one of the finest collections of Mughal miniature paintings. The Mehrangarh fort is also the venue for the highly acclaimed and popular Rajasthan International Folk Festival and World Sufi Spirit Festival. There is also an excellent zip-lining tour here organized by Flying Fox. Across 6 zip lines, you can go around the fort with stunning views of the blue city.
Timings: The Mehrangarh fort is open on all days between 9 am and 5 pm. The best time to visit Jodhpur is in the winter months of November to February.
Entry fee: Rs. 60 for Indians and Rs 400 for foreigners. On May 12, the fort’s foundation day, entry is free.
How to reach: Mehrangarh fort is located in the city of Jodhpur. It is around 9 km away from the Jodhpur airport and around 6 km away from the Jodhpur Railway station.
Where to stay: Jodhpur is a major tourist attraction in Rajasthan and therefore has several accommodations options ranging from luxury to budget. Castle view homestay provides a great view of the Mehrangarh fort and is worth a try. Hotel RAAS is another good hotel for a comfortable stay with a great view.
One of the largest and grandest forts in the country, the Amber fort located near Jaipur will amaze you at its very first sight. It is renowned for its excellent combination of Mughal and Hindu architecture. Seat of the Kachwaha Rajputs, The Amber fort was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I. Built in red sandstone; the Amber fort saw many reconstructions and modifications over the next 150 years. Man Singh, who was the commander-in-chief of the Mughal army and also one of Akbar’s Navratnas (nine jewels of Akbar’s court), was hugely responsible for Amer’s splendid power and influence during the Mughal rule. The fort went through several changes until the Kacchawas moved their capital from Amber to Jaipur in 1727 under the rule of Sawai Jai Singh II. Before the Kachawaha clan, the Meenas founded Amber in 967 AD. It was conquered by Kachawaha clan of Rajputs in 1027 AD and they then ruled it until 1727 AD. Amber became their capital in 1036 AD.
Around the year 1600, when the reign of Raja Man Singh I was at its peak, several magnificent structures were built. The construction of Amber fort started in 15 92 AD and its expansion was taken up by successive rulers. It is worth noting that Maharani Jodha Bai, wife of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, belonged to the Kachwaha clan of Rajput. She was the eldest daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber.
The magnificent architecture of the Amer fort and its interiors are what make it such a big deal. It is built of red sandstone and has four levels with each having a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas, or “Hall of Private Audience”, the magnificent Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), and the Sukh Niwas where winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace create a cool ambiance. This palatial structure is the reason why the Amber fort is referred to as the Amber palace. It housed the Rajput Maharajas and their families. The Amber palace and Jaigarh Fort are located above the Cheel ka Teela which means the hill of eagles. The stunning view of the surrounding Aravalli ranges make for a picturesque backdrop. The Amber palace and Jaigarh Fort are connected by a subterranean passage which was built as an escape route for royal members during war.
Today, Amber fort is one of Jaipur’s biggest tourist attractions. Elephant rides are available at around Rs 900 per person to take you from the base to the top of the fort. The Amber Fort is visited by over 5000 visitors daily. In the year 2013, Amber Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Timings: The Amber fort is open on all days from 8 am to 5.30 pm. The best time to visit Jaipur is during the winter months of November to February.
Entry fee: Rs 25 per head for Indians, Rs 200 per head for foreigners.
How to reach: The Amber fort is located 11 km from Jaipur in Rajasthan. It is 23 km from the Jaipur airport and around 13 km from Jaipur Railway station.
Where to stay: The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur is perfect for a luxury stay but will burn a hole in your pocket as it costs Rs 32,000 per night. Similarly, the Taj Rambagh Palace is ideal for a luxurious experience costing around Rs 32,000 a night. The ITC Rajputana is a 5-star hotel but less expensive (around Rs 6000 a night). Jaipur also has many budget hotels which one can consider for a pleasant stay at an affordable price.
Jaisalmer fort is one of the most beautiful forts in India and the country’s only live-in fort. As one of the largest fortifications in the world, Jaisalmer fort is also considered one of the best tourist attractions in Jaisalmer. Called Sonar killa or the Golden fort, the Jaisalmer fort has several families residing in it. The fort complex consists of intricately carved havelis and temples. It has played a significant role in history due to its location on the trade route.
Built in 1156 AD, the Jaisalmer fort has an intriguing history. In the year 1276, King Jetsi strengthened the fort against the invading Sultan of Delhi. During this time, the 56 bastions of the fort were manned by 3,700 soldiers. The castle was destroyed by the Sultan’s army after eight years of invasion and the Bhatis took control of the fort. In 1306, Dodoo was elected the Rawal after he ejected the Rathors. He then started building the fort.
Jaisalmer played a very important role in trade as it fell on the route to Persia, Arabia, Egypt and Africa. In the 13th century, Ala-ud-din Kilji captured the Jaisalmer fort and was able to hold it for 9 long years. The siege is popular because during this time, the Rajput women had committed jauhar to avoid capture. The second historic battle that this fort witnessed was in 1541 when the Mughal emperor Humayun attacked it. Eventually, the Rawals gave in to Emperor Akbar in 1570. The Mughals assumed control and ruled the fort till 1762, followed by Maharawal Mulraj who entered into a treaty with the East India Company in 1818 granting him protection from invasion. As the British rule took over, maritime trade emerged and the Bombay port assumed importance. Post independence, the Jaisalmer trade route was totally closed. However, it still held strategic importance as was proved in the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971.
The architecture of the Jaisalmer fort is quite marvellous. It contains 3 layers of walls. The outer layer is made out of solid stone blocks while the second wall winds around the fort. It is believed that, the Rajput warriors once used the innermost wall to hurl boiling oil and water as well as huge rock blocks at their enemies, entrapping them between the second and third walls. The formidable defence of the Jaisalmer fort includes 99 bastions.
Descendants of the Bhati workforce were allowed to live in the fort. Today. Close to 4000 residents belonging to the Brahmin and Daroga communities. Initially, families only lived inside the fort but as time progressed and the population increased, people moved out of the fort and settled at the foothills of the Trikuta.
Today, the Jaisalmer fort is a popular tourist attraction for anyone who visits Rajasthan. It has a large number of eating options inside and around it. The Jaisal Italy and Desert Boys Dhani are popular restaurants here. Local Rajasthani delicacies are worth trying. The nearby Sam and Khuri sand dunes are ideal for desert safaris.
Address: Fort Rd, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001
Timings: Jaisalmer fort remains open on all days from 9.58 am to 2.25 pm. The best time to visit Jaisalmer is during the winter months of November to February.
Entry fee: Entry to the Jaisalmer fort is free.
How to reach: Jaisalmer fort is located around 13 km from the Jaisalmer airport and just 2 km from the Jaisalmer railway station. You can easily reach Jaisalmer from any Indian city as it is well connected by air, rail and road.
Where to stay in Jaisalmer: Jaisalmer is one of the popular tourist attractions in Rajasthan. Hotel Brys fort located on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer road costs Rs 7000 per night and is ideal for a comfortable stay. Hotel Pleasant Haveli on Chainpura street is a cheaper option costing around Rs 2900 a night.
The largest fort in India and Asia, Chittorgarh fort is located on a 180-m hill. It expands across 700 acres and is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan. The fort was constructed by the Mauryas in 7th century AD. The Chittorgarh fort is also called as the “water fort” as it has 22 water bodies in addition to towers, palaces and temples. It houses two commemoration towers namely Kirti Stambh and Vijay Stambh. Kirti Stambh was built to honour the first Jain Tirthankar. Vijay Stambh was built to commemorate the victory over Mohammed Alauddin Khilji. The fort of Chittor has a glorious past with three siege attempts, and the act of jauhar committed all three times by women and children. The first one was led by Rani Padmini, and later by Rani Karnavati. The famous war against Allaudin Khalji in 1303 AD made legends out of war heroes Gora and Badal.
The fort is home to the Fateh Prakash Palace which houses the government museum. Chittorgarh is associated with two historic figures in India – spiritual poet Meera Bai and Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap. Chittorgarh was the Rajput bastion during a time when almost all other major houses had given in to invasion. As such, it holds a very special place for Rajputs across India. Chittorgarh also has an ancient legend associated with Bhima, one of the legendary Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that Bhima visited Chittorgarh and became the dsciple of a saint to learn the secrets of immortality. However, he grew impatient while performing the numerous rites and out of sheer anger, stamped on the ground creating a water reservoir. This reservoir came to be called as Bhimtal.
Timings: 9.45 am to 5.15 pm for the museum.
Entry fee: Rs 10 for Indians, Rs 100 for foreigners.
How to reach: Jaipur is the closest airport to Chittorgarh fort. It is around 137 km away. The closest railway station is Ajmer junction which is around 198 km away. Chittorgarh is well-connected by road with the rest of the country via National Highway no. 76 and 79.
Where to stay: Chittorgarh has decent accommodation options for all budgets. Fort Begu is an excellent heritage hotel located around 66 km from Chittorgarh fort. Other options include The Elegance resort and Hotel Meera.
If you wish to witness a spectacular view of Jaipur, then Jaigarh fort is the place to be! Located right along the Amber fort, the two forts are considered to be one complex. The Jaigarh fort is home to the extremely famous Jaivana canon which is considered to be the largest canon in the world. Jaigarh fort is renowned as the fort of victory as it has never been conquered. There is a subterranean passage which connects Jaigarh to Amber fort. Jaigarh stands right in the middle of thorn-scrub covered hills. There is a steep road which goes up to the main gate called Dungar Darwaza. Like Amber, the Jaigarh fort is situated on Cheel ka Teela of the Aravalli mountain range. You can see the marvellous Maota Lake and Amer Fort from Jaigarh. It also provides a stunning panoramic view of the city of Jaipur and the sunset.
The architecture of Jaigarh fort is quite impressive. It is three km long and just over a km wide. With heavy walls made of red sandstone, the fort is quite formidable. It has a well-maintained square garden and embankments in every corner giving access to the upper level. You can also see a watch tower on a raised platform right in the middle of the fort complex. It is the best place to get a panoramic view of the beautiful landscape all around. The Aram Temple and garden in the courtyard on the northern end has a gate known as the ‘Awani Darwaza’ which provides mesmerizing views of the Sagar Lake.
Timings: Jaigarh fort is open on all days from 9 am to 5 pm. The best time to visit Jaipur is during the winter months of November to February.
Entry fee: Rs 15 for Indians and Rs 20 for foreigners.
How to reach: Jaigarh fort is around 25 km from the Jaipur airport and around 15 km from the Jaipur railway station. Jaipur is well connected to all Indian cities by road, rail and air.
Where to stay: Jaipur has a large number of accommodation options. Please see Amber fort above.
Another famous fort in Rajasthan is the Kumbhalgarh fort which is located right amidst the spectacular Aravali ranges. Built by Maharaja Rana Kumbh in the 15th century, the Kumbhalgarh fort is known for its strong structure and massive foundation. It covers an area of 36 km and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. It has huge watch towers and seven massive gates. The walls of the fort are so hefty that eight horses can stand side by side. One of the most striking features of the Kumbhalgarh fort is that it has a 38 km long wall making it the second largest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China. It is also the second largest fort in Rajasthan after the Chittorgarh Fort.
The fort complex is as alluring as the magnum exterior. Inside the complex, there are around 360 temples. The Shiva temple here which has a huge shiv linga is famous all across India. There is an extraordinary palace right at the top which is a must-visit. Known as ‘Badal Mahal’ this palace is where the great warrior Maharana Pratap was born. Not only does it offer a spectacular panoramic view of the town of Kumbhalgarh, it also has beautiful rooms with green, turquoise and white decor that serves as a lovely contrast to the earthy colors of the Fort. The whole palace appears as if it is amidst the clouds.
Kumbhalgarh has its own place in history as it once separated the Mewar and Marwar kingdoms from each other. On quite a few dangerous occasions, Kubhalgarh was used as a place of refuge for the rulers of Mewar. The fort still houses some ancient ruins which give you a sneak peek into historic times. As of today, this historic fort is open to public and puts up a great show in the evening when it is brilliantly lit up for a short duration.
Timings: 8 am to 6 pm
Entry fee: Rs 10 for Indians and Rs 100 for foreigners
How to reach: Kumbhalgarh does not have an airport of its own but it is connected by road to Udaipur. Kumbhalgarh fort is around 97 km away from the Udaipur airport and pre-paid taxis charge around Rs 1600 to take you to Kumbhalgarh. The fort is around 80 km away from the Falna railway station which is the nearest railhead. Kumbhalgarh fort is well-connected by road to Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer and all major cities of Rajasthan and India.
Where to stay: Kumbhalgarh has emerged as one of the popular tourist attractions in Rajasthan. There are all kinds of accommodation options available in Kumbhalgarh with budget rooms starting at around Rs 600 a night and more comfortable rooms at around Rs 3000 a night. The Aodhi hotel (080037 22333) with rooms starting at around Rs 7000 is quite popular for its Indo-Islamic style. You may also choose to stay at Udaipur which has more options as Kumbhalgarh is an easy day trip from the city of lakes.
Often featuring on the list of the most haunted places in India, Bhangarh fort is actually a popular tourist attraction in Rajasthan. The Archaeological Survey of India has put up a board outside the fort warning people not to enter its premises after sunset or before sunrise which has been taken as a serious sign of the haunted nature of this place. The Bhangarh fort was built in the 17th century by Man Singh I for his grandson Madho Singh I. It is located right at the border of the famous Sariska Tiger reserve. The beautiful Aravali range surrounding the fort gives it a spectacular backdrop.
The fort is now in ruins but was once full of life with more than 10,000 residents. There are two legends associated with the destruction of the fort. According to the first legend, a sage named Baba Balak Nath who resided here had warned the residents that no houses built here should be taller than his own. He placed a curse that if the shadow of any taller house falls on his own, it will result in the destruction of the town. According to the second and more interesting legend, a wizard named N.K.Sinha known to be adept in black magic, fell in love with Bhangarh’s princess Ratnavati and in order to make her fall back in love with him, replaced her scent with a love potion. The princess, who saw through the wizard’s treachery, threw away the potion he offered to her which in turn tipped over a boulder that crushed the wizard. Before dying, he placed a curse that Bhangarh would be destroyed and nobody would be able to live within its precincts. It is believed that this curse is responsible for the subsequent Mughal invasion of Bhangarh and the death of all its 10,000 residents including the princess. The haunted stories stem from this legend and it is believed that the ghosts of the princess and the wizard are still trapped inside the fort.
Regardless of the haunted stories, Bhangarh fort is visited by several tourists for its amazing temples, palaces and havelis. The Purohitji ki haveli and Nachan ki haveli are worth checking out. The Hanuman Temple, Gopinath Temple, Someshwar Temple, and Keshav Rai Temple among others are great examples of the architecture of yesteryears. Some of these temples are built in the form of cenotaphs. The Royal Palace which is located right at the end of the fort is a must-visit for its grand structure.
Timings: The Bhangarh fort is open from 6 am to 6 pm. It is forbidden to enter the fort premises after sunset and before sunrise. The best time to visit Bhangarh fort is during the winter months of November to February.
Entry fee: Rs 25 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners.
How to reach: Located around 86 km from Bhangarh is Alwar, the closest railhead. The nearest airport is Jaipur which is located around 87 km away.
Where to stay: The Sariska Palace is the most luxurious option for staying near Bhangarh. A slightly cheaper option but equally comfortable is the Seliseher lake Palace. Tiger Den is a good option for budget travelers.