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Famous Forts In India

Amber Fort Jaipur

  • A fort was capital of each king around which a town developed. In many South Asian towns like Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Lahore, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi this pattern can be seen. The Red Fort and the Agra Fort are the two Indian forts which have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Qila Mubarak at Bathinda, India is the oldest surviving fort. The Kangra Fort in Kangra was the oldest Indian fort. It was constructed after the battle of Mahabharta by the still surviving Katoch dynasty.
  • Kolkata developed around Fort William constructed by the British while Delhi developed around the Red Fort. A lot of small cities developed around forts.
  • In Indian history, the conquests of the forts were important events. In 1004 capture of Qila Mubarak in Bathinda by Mahmud of Ghazni signaled the dawn of Islamic rule in India. The death of Tipu Sultan and capture of Seringapatam in 1799 strengthened British rule in South India. At the time of the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the capture of Gawilghur by Arthur Wellesley ceased the Maratha intimidation to British rule in Central India. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru was the first man to unfurl the flag of independent India from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August 1947. Since then, each year on Independence Day the Prime Minister of India unfurl flag and deliver a speech to the nation. Soon after Second World War, the trial of the Indian National Army was carried out at the Red Fort.


  • A majority of the forts in India are fortresses or castles. But the British Government used the word forts. All fortifications were termed forts. In local languages, local word suffixes the fort names. Therefore in Maharashtra, Assam and Rajasthan usage of the word garh or gad or Hindi word qila or Sanskrit word durga is common. For example, Sudhagad, Mehrangarh, Suvarnadurg etc.

Forts in ancient India

  • For the construction of ancient Indian forts, three main methods were used. The 1st method consisted of earthen ramparts. The 2nd method consisted of rubble with earth on the outside and the 3rd method was construction with masonry work and stone. Usually materials from damaged forts were reused to construct new forts.
  • Fortified towns were norm in India by 4 BCE. The largest ones were between Magadha and Mathura. Ujjain was another series of forts in the south.
  • There are very few explanations of these ancient structures.

Types of Ancient Indian Forts

  • In spite of the fact that majority of the structures have been decayed, heritage of ancient Indian forts can be known from the reliefs on stupas and in the shastras (ancient Indian treatises). Carvings on early relief works show that ancient Indian forts had sloping walls, embrasures and crenallations. Six main types of forts have been described by the Indian treatise on military strategy.
  • Jal durg: A fort encircled by water. There are 2 subtypes - the island fort and the plain fort.
  • Giri durgs: Giri-durga is a mountain or hill fort. There are 3 types of Giri durgs: guha-durga, giri-parshva-durga and prantara-durga. Prantara-durga is a fort constructed on the summit of a mountain or a hill. In giri-parshva-durga both fortifications and main civilian structures extend down the slope of a mountain or hill yet the summit is also definitely included into the defence system. In the guha-durga fort, residential quarters are located in a valley encircled by impassable high hills. The hills contain a series of signal towers and outposts linked by extensive defensive walls.
  • Vrikshya-durga or Vana durga would be encircled on all sides with an impassable, dense forest over a distance of more than14.6 kilometres. Variants were the khanjana-durga, constructed on fens and surrounded by thorny woods, and the sthambha-durga, built in the jungles amongst tall trees but needing enough sources of water.
  • Dhanu durg Dhanvana are desert forts, usually built in an unfertile area without sources of water, grass or trees over a minimum distance of 73 kilometres. An airina-durga is constructed on fens impregnated with salty water or on salty soil of infertile area and protected by the prickly bushes which grow there.
  • Mahi durg: There are 3 kinds of mahi-durga or earth forts. Mrid-durgas are surrounded by earthen walls; the entrances to panka-durga are safeguarded by quicksand or fens; and parigha-durga are encircled by walls made of brick or earth and stone, their height was more than 5.4 metres and their width one half of the height.
  • Nar durg or fort with men was protected by a big and loyal army of warriors and was well provided with arms. Usually it was a city fort, well-populated with a large garrison.
  • Each type of fort had different benefits. The hill forts provided the best fortifications. Hill forts are considered to be the home of gods by some Sanskrit text and therefore fortunate. There are some drawbacks of other forts. A fort surrounded by water usually sheltered snakes and reptiles, which spread disease; on the other hand, snakes and reptiles might dissuade an attack on a fort, and disease might compel the enemy to lift a blockade. Earth forts frequently swarmed with rodents and rats, which could eat away their foundations in the long term. Residents of arboreal forts were plagued by monkeys, while a fort which housed many of people had to be supplied with water and food to feed all those people. However, Nri-durga is considered as the best defensive structures by the Mahabharata. Majority of the time a blend of barricades were used to protect the fort. For example, Ranthambore Fort is on a mountain and was surrounded by thick forests. When a large garrison of soldiers was in it, the fort might also be categorised as nri-durga.
  • The way of planning of the fortress is also explained together with the design of the roads. The roads must be along the 4 basic directions and a temple at the middle. The house of Kings must be to the north.
  • At Sisupalgarh, Orissa the unearthed remains of ancient forts are among the most well preserved and oldest of such structures. Outlines of the fortress show that it had thick walls and 8 gates. The western gate was fairly elegant. Sonar analysis in 2005 indicated the existence of a deep trench around the fort.