UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE
HILL FORTS of RAJPUT in
RAJASTHAN
TAKEO KAMIYA
The Six Forts of CHITORGARH, KUMBHARGARH, AMBER, JAISALMER,
RANTHANBOR, and GAGRON in Rajasthan, Western India,
Inscribed Altoghther on the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST in 2014.

BACK       NEXT


In and around Rajasthan State, western India, remain many Rajput forts. Among them six hill forts soaring from plains or cities were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. Its purport is not amply clear, allowing us to think that it is rather more appropriate to inscribe, in the first place, the city and fort of Jaisalmer alone. Anyhow, the selected sites are citadels on hills in Chitorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Amber, Jaisalmer, Ranthanbor, and Gagron in Rajasthan State. However, since I have not visited or taken photos of those of Ranthanbor and Gagron, I cannot introduce those two here. So I intend to add two other sites instead, though not selected for the UNESCO List but more famous, Jodhpur and Gwalior (only this is in Madhya Pradesh State) as reference.

It is almost impossible to treat those many sites in detail, as any one of them is worthy to be inscribed independently to UNESCO; I will only show the outlines of their citadels, based on the descriptions in gThe Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinenth. Skimming through this page about so many sites, the image of the ehill fortf could be easily grasped.

First of all, it is important to know about the notion of eRajputf. Western India consists of two states, Gujarat to the south and Rajasthan to the north, which means the ecountry of Rajputsf. After the 5th century the people coming from Central Asia amalgamated with natives in western India into a militaristic clan. They were Sanskritized, professing themselves to be descendants of Kshatriya (cast of kings and warriors) and established kingdoms in various regions in western India. They were called Rajputs. Among them was a tribe who advanced to central India and constructed exquisite temples in Khajuraho, the Chandella dynasty. However, it is the arid culture of Rajputs in the Rajasthan region who display most brilliantly Indian images like the scenes of eThe Thousand and One Nightsf.

The state of Rajasthan, not facing a sea and embracing few rivers, brought up a captivating cultural climate through the fusion of native and western cultures over the dry earth. While Rajasthan literally means the country of Kings (Rajas), this region had been called eRajputanaf (land of Rajput) before the independence of India.
Rajput states continually fought each other to gain supremacy. They never established a united nation of Rajput to defend India from the Islamic power even when they came to invade western India repeatedly from the west in the 12th century.
In accordance with the expansion of the territory of the Mughal Empire from Delhi, all Rajput states came to obey it, accepting mere half independence, based on which a unique culture, fusing Islamic and Hindu, came into being. The architecture of their forts, palaces, and mausoleums shows it most distinctly, and even Hindu temples were intensely influenced by Islam. Rajput cities, such as Jaisalmer and Bikaner, scattered in the vast Thar Desert spread to Pakistan border, display such culture most exotically.

Since the Rajasthan region was incessantly raided from the west from ancient times, and small states struggled with each other until modern times, without cessation in the maelstrom of war, there exist almost nothing of ancient architectural remains and most of its medieval temples have been destroyed. Their forts were often constructed on hills for effective defense, forming citadels including lordsf palaces and inner cities.
Their strong ramparts and gates developed military architecture, producing sometimes quite characteristic configurations with continual bastions like in Jaisalmer and Kumbhalgarh. In the wake of the change from the age of the cavalry battle to that of firefighting, the turrets came to provide batteries, but in any case they are classic fortification architecture before the age of bombardment wars.

While the Mughal forts, whether they be in Agra, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, or Lahore, are all located in flat areas, Rajput kings frequently built their citadels on a hill, also convenient when fighting against Mughals, with of course many exceptions in Udaipur, Bikaner, and so on on, found on flat land.
However, as the powerful Mughal dynasty maintained a comparatively peaceful period, putting Rajput states in obedience, hill-based Rajputs came to build their new palaces in the cities further down around the hill, such as Sawai Jai Singh II at the hill fort of Amber transferring his capital to a distant plain 11km away, planning a new type of grid city, Jaipur. They sometimes commissioned the design of new palaces to English architects, which would be treated as another chapter of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

i03/10/2015 j





CHITORGARH FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 250km south of Jaipur in Rajasthan State



HILL FORT of SHISODIA CLAN, CHITORGARH

The city of Chitorgarh (also known as Chittorgarh or Chittor) has, on its eastern side, a long and narrow independent hill, soaring up to about 150m above the plain. With its width of about 1km and its length of about 5km, this huge hill, guarded by precipices around, was the capital city of the Mewar Kingdom, celebrated as an impregnable fort.
However, the Chitorgarh fort suffered three periods of major attack by the Islamic armies after the 14th century, the most famous warrior king during which was Rana Khumbha (r. 1433-68), it fell at last in 1567, after fierce fighting against Akbarfs army. It is said that at each time of siege and battle several thousand women threw themselves into the fire to avoid being assaulted. After that the capital of the Mewar state was transferred to Udaipur and the citadel of Chitorgarh fell into ruins.

When going up to the top of the hill through several gateways, one can look out over the surrounding plain up to the horizon. In the extensive area on the hill, too large to walk around, are scattered here and there old and new palaces, Hindu and Jain temples, and large and small reservoirs, moreover very fortunately there still exist two medieval stone towers: the Hindu eTower of Victoryf (Jaya Stambha) and Jain eTower of Famef (Kirti Stambha).
Before the advent of the Muslim minaret, not a few towers must have been erected in India, but I wonder if most of them have collapsed or been destroyed for any other reason; there remain only two independent towers here, in Chitorgarh, apart from tower-like upper parts of temples, or Shikharas.

__ __
Fort of Chitorgarh

@On the ramp-way from the lower town to the citadel on the hill seven gates occur successively, among which the Ram Gate (Pol) is the final. Like the palace buildings in the citadel, those gates are made without using arch structure but with traditional corbelling.
The oldest palace was constructed by Rana Kumbha, based on an L-shaped plan of about 150m by 150m. Its space composition is full of variety, inducing the imagination to see its original brilliant figure entirely finished with plaster. At the northernmost place is the Ratna Singhfs Palace of the 16th century, the view of which is magnificent, harmoniously combined with a water tank. It is said that Udai Singh, who would construct the city of Udipur, lived here. Also at the southernmost place is a similar palace combined with a water tank, in which stands a 19th century pavilion.
A new palace in the center of the citadel was built by Fatih Singh in 1930 and nowadays it is used as a museum for articles unearthed in Chitorgarh.




KUMBHALGARH FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 300km southwest of Jaipur in Rajasthan State




HILL FORT of KING KUMBHA, KUMBHARGARH

The hill fort that is furnished with the most impressive ramparts among those of all the Rajputs is the Kumbhalgarh Fort. It is located in the depth of the mountainous region over 1,000 meters above sea level, occupying vast area with a large variety of levels, enclosed with strong meandering ramparts. There was once a town of the Mewar Kingdom here, and the fort was the second most important in the state after that of Chitorgarh. Although the houses have been entirely lost now, there still remain many Hindu and Jain temples, the number of which is said to have been 365 at one time.

At the top of the highest hill soars the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace) from the 19th century, the zigzag way to which is protected by several gates. From this palace, built to Islamic tastes, one can get fine views of most of the fort and surrounding landscape.
Though the origin of this site was a fort of Jains of the 2nd century, it was the Rajput King Khumbha who constructed the majestic ramparts in the 15th century, hence comes its name, Kumbhargarh Fort. The ramparts form a continuous inspection passage of about 4m wide on the roof. The rounded bastions are batteries, also functioning structurally as buttresses.

__ __
Fort of Kumbhalgarh




AMBER FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 11km north of Jaipur in Rajasthan State




HILL FORT of KACCHAWAHA CLAN, AMBER

Among the mountainous area 11km north from Jaipur is the hill fort of Amber (also known as Amer), in the erstwhile state of Dhundhar. It has a great palace complex on the breast of the mountain and a town at its foot, formerly the capital of the Kacchawaha Rajput, before the relocation of the capital to Jaipur in 1727. The palace complex embraces a long extensive area, built in a mixed style of Islam and Rajput.

There are four courtyards in a row from the north, the third of which, beyond the Ganesh Pol (gate), forms a kind of Islamic paradise garden like that of the Alhambra in Spain. The Jai Mandir Palace (equivalent to Diwan-i-Khas in Islamic terms) in front, built by King Jai Singh in 1639, displays a gorgeous interior design full of inlaid work and mirror mosaics, conjuring up images of resplendent court life in bygone days.

__ __
Fort of Amber (Amer)

Jaipur, the current capital of Rajasthan State, is a scrupulously planned city from the 18th century. Maharaja (king) Sawai Jai Singh II, having resided in the hill fort of Amber, constructed a new city on a plain 11km south of Amber in 1727, designating it Jaipur after his own name. The city consisted of nine sectors of 800 meters square each, the central one of which was allocated to the court area, which contained not only palaces but also a unique Jantar Mantar (Observatories). As most buildings in Jaipur were painted pink, it is popularly called the ePink Cityf. This well-regulated old city, based on an accurate grid system, is a forerunner of the modern city planning of 200 years later.




JAISALMER FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 480km west of Jaipur in Rajasthan State




DESERT CITY of BATTI CLAN, JAISALMER

The medieval city of Jaisalmer, left in the center of the vast Thar Desert, presents us with original picture of the old Rajput culture as it was. All the cityfs buildings were built of yellow sandstone in the same color as the sandy land, moreover the surfaces of their walls is entirely carved magnificently. As they shine yellowish under the sun, the city are often called the eGolden Cityf.
Originally, the king of Batti Rajput, Rao Jaisal, constructed a fortified town here on a hill in 1156. All through 800 years after that, the city gradually developed by virtue of the geographical advantage of the desert and its impregnable fortification. Due to continual wars among Rajput clans, the Thar Desert became a comparatively safe caravan route for the east-west trade between India and the Middle East.

Jaisalmer prospered as a transit town for the camel caravans just as Palmyra in the Syrian Desert, levying considerable tolls. While the kingfs family of Jaisalmer were Hindu, Jain merchants lead the economy to a higher state, making the city magnificent physically too. However, in the age of British rule, in accordance with the thriving of maritime commerce, the trade route in the desert gradually declined. In addition, the national border between India and Pakistan was closed by the Partition of 1947; and the city of Jaisalmer was completely forgotten.

__ __
Fort of Jaisalmer

The fort constructed on the Trikuta (three ridges) Hill, soaring to 76m from the plain, is a ecitadelf that embraces an inner town for citizens. The ramparts were erected in parallel, high and low, with roughly 100 semicircular Burjs (bastions), displaying a quite impressive figure. Most bastions were added in the 17th century in order to provide batteries and the inside of them were used as houses for guards and armories.

One goes through the Suraj Pole (Gate of the Sun) and walks up a ramp to the Hawa Pol (Gate of the Wind), beyond which is the Royal Square surrounded with royal palaces. The five palaces, from the Zenana Mahal (palace for women) of the 16th century to the Gaj Vilas (kingfs palace) of the 19th century, indicate the augmentation of decorativeness in design, which also reflected the gradual prosperity of Jaisalmer as a transit port in the desert for east-west trade.
Since these palaces were not planned collectively, but added one after another at intervals, there are no axes between them and the Royal Square, or a Charbagh (quartered garden) unlike Islamic palaces of the Mughal dynasty.

Along with the accretion of European influence on the lifestyle of the royal family and the outgrowing of old palaces, new palaces were needed; two palaces, the Badal Vilas and Jawahar Niwas, were built in the lower city at the end of the 19th century. At present the Royal family live in the former palace, and the latter has been converted into a hotel. Architecturally both were constructed in the traditional style with comparatively small influence from Europe.

For further detail, see the pages of
"A Desesrt City in Westrn India, JAISALMER"




RANTHANBOR FORT

About 110km southeast-south of Jaipur in Rajasthan State


As I have not visited this fort or taken photographs, I will only reproduce here a photo from "The Forts of India" by Virginia Fass, 1986.



GAGRON FORT

About 250km south of Jaipur in Rajasthan State


I have also not visited this fort or found any information about it, I can only reproduce here a photo from gGoogle Mapsh from the net.



< REFERENCE >

JODHPUR FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 270km west-southwest of Jaipur in Rajasthan State




MEHERANGARH FORT of RATHOR CLAN

Jodhpur is a typical city spread around a hill fort in western India. From the western edge of this town to the frontier with Pakistan is the vast desert of Thar, and it was the capital city of the princely state of Marwar. Although its history can be traced back to the 13th century when the Rathor Rajput founded the state, the current city was established in 1459 by Prince Rao Jodha, so it was designated Jodhpur. The city prospered as a pivot of east-west trade, and the offshoots of Jodhafs royal family created Rajput monarchies of Bikaner, Pokaran, and Barmer. Jodhpur is now the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur.

The castle-palace complex, called Meherangarh Fort or Sun Fort, on the rocky hill 120m high on the plain, overlooking the whole town, is the cityfs symbol seen from everywhere, at the foot of which is a well-planned Sardar Market with a monumental clock tower. A new palace was constructed in the 20th century in the new area beyond the railway. The royal family still lives in one wing, while the other has been converted into a deluxe hotel.

__ __
Meherangarh Fort

The soaring Meherangarh Fort is especially impressive among the large number of forts in Rajasthan. It should intrinsically be visited on foot up the long ramp-way, looking down upon the town, but nowadays one can reach the entrance of the fort in very little time by car.
Beyond the seven solid gateways there are many palace buildings lined continuously in zigzag, embracing courtyards. The style resembles that of Bikaner, both in their scale and compositions and in their Bengalese curved roof style with dangling corners. In spite of the influences of Islamic architecture, there is a difference that, while independent buildings are geometrically arranged in layout for Mughal palaces, Rajput palaces are connected overall in chain in free angles without a through axis.




< REFERENCE >

GWALIOR FORT
(On "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent")

About 250km east-southeast of Jaipur in Madhya Pradesh State




HILL FORT of TOMAR CLAN, GWALIOR

Gwalior, having a history of 1,000 years, is the northernmost large city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, only 120km south from Agra. Though it was originally a Hindu kingdom, it was Islamized after the conquest by Sultan Iletumish of Delhi in 1232. Despite recapture by Man Singh of the Tomar Rajput in 1486, who constructed the current fort, it fell again into the hands of the Lodi dynasty of Delhi in 1516.
After the rule of the Mughal Empire, it was taken by the Maratha Kingdom in 1754, and then controlled by the East India Company. Gwalior was able to endure as a princely state during the period of British rule. Such historical mutability brought to Gwalior a lot of mixed and diverse architectural heritage in terms of religion, age, and design.

Resembling the configuration of Chitorgarh in western India, Gwalior has a huge flat hill stretching close to three kilometers at a height of about 100m on the plain. This soaring hill once formed the capital city and fort. It embraces old Hindu temples, the palaces of Man Singh, and Jain caves, with statues of Tirthankaras, at its foot. In the lower city, northeast of the hill, are the Friday Mosque and other Islamic buildings. The new palace and new city have spread to the south.

__ __
Fort of Gwalior

It must be the Man Mandir Palace built by Man Singh that is the most captivating among the fort-palaces of many Hindu kingdoms. Though the term eMandirf usually indicates a temple, it is sometimes used for a grand building such as this palace. Going through the Hindola Gate at the foot of the hill, one ascends a long zigzag slope in a wide curve, looking pleasantly down upon the lower town. On the right hand rises precipitously the citadel over 120m in height, to which continual rounded buttress-like turrets give a rhythm.

Turning up the slope, one reaches the magnificent Hathia Pol (Elephant Gate), which forms the main entrance to the citadel. After that, one follows a path to temples on the left, or palaces on the right.
The Man Mandir first appears, along with the next quarter for courtiers, beyond which is the Vikram Mandir, and then the Karan Mandir. The Man Mandir is brilliantly decorated with inlaid glazed tiles mainly in blue, yellow, and green on yellowish sandstone walls. Inside are continuous halls surrounding two courtyards, without strong influence of Islamic architecture. A lot of delicate stone carvings vie with each other in every hall, displaying a different kind of charm to the palaces of western India.


BACK       NEXT

© Takeo Kamiya
E-mail to: kamiya@t.email.ne.jp