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India is a melting pot of cultures and diversity, which are reflected in its various architectural marvels. Almost every historical building standing tall till today has a brilliance of architecture that was given to it by various rulers and dynasties that set up their seat here. While UNESCO has declared several of them as World Heritage Sites, here are some of the lesser-known forts that leave one in awe of their magnificence.
Manjarabad Fort, Karnataka
A bird's eye view of the Manjarabad Fort looks like a star, which is why it is popularly recognised as the Star Fort. Located in Karnataka, this grand fort was built by Tipu Sultan and reflects the brilliance of Islamic architecture. Constructed in an octagonal shape, with eight walls, the fort is unique in the sense that it has only one level, unlike other forts with multiple levels. Legend has it that this fort was used as a frontier to store guns and ammunition and provided protection to Tipu Sultan’s army against the British.
While touring the fort is an unforgettable experience, it also provides spectacular views of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. Tourists can also explore various chambers in the fort and a tunnel that leads to Srirangapatna Fort.
Murud Janjira, Maharashtra
Sprawled on an island off the coastal village of Murud, about 55 km from Alibaug, Murud Janjira Fort is perched on a massive rock that lies in the middle of the Arabian Sea.
The architecture of the fort has fared well in the test of time, with 19 of its bastions standing tall to this day. Tourists can get here via boats, and enjoy the spectacular view of the Arabian Sea that the roof of the fort offers.
Bhujia Fort, Gujarat
Located on the outskirts of Bhuj, Bhujia Fort is a marvel hidden away in the hills. Constructed as a fortification against invasions by the Mughal, Sindh and Rajput rulers, in 1700-1800 AD, this fort was commissioned under Rao Godji I. Today, the fort is best known for the Bhujang Nath Temple, where special prayers are performed during Nag Panchami.
The fort sits on a hill which overlooks the entire area of Bhuj. It takes around 600 steps to reach the fort.
Mattancherry Palace, Kerala
Located in Kochi, Mattancherry Palace or Dutch Palace is one of the best examples of Malayalam-style architecture mixed with colonial influences. Its interiors are beautifully adorned, with 17th and 18th-century murals depicting scenes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Besides, tourists can admire life-size portraits of all the kings of Cochin since 1864, sheathed swords, daggers and axes, together with ceremonial spears decorated with feathers, royal caps, coins issued by the kings of Cochin, silver sequinned gowns, royal umbrellas made of silk and brass, along with plans laid out for Cochin by the Dutch.
Of note are the paintings in the king's bedchamber that depict the stories of Ramayana, the murals in the coronation hall that depict Goddess Lakshmi on the lotus, sleeping Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati with Ardhanariswara, the coronation of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna lifting the mountain Govardhan and other goddesses. The room opposite Coronation Hall has paintings of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Devi and an incomplete painting; and another room has murals of Kumarasambhava and works by renowned poet, Kalidasa.
The palace was built by the Portuguese as a gift to King Veera Kerala Varma (1809-1828). It came to be known as the Dutch Palace because of the number of additions the Dutch made to it. The palace is home to the presiding deity of the royal family, the 'PazhayannurBhagavathi' (the Goddess of Pazhayannur).
Kondapalli Fort, Andhra Pradesh
Located in the heart of the Kondapalli village, the majestic Kondapalli Fort is a must-visit spot. The giant ramparts of the fort made entirely from granite, can be seen from a long distance as you enter the Kondapalli village. One of the most striking features of the fort is its entrance gate called Dargah Darwaza. It has been carved out of a single granite boulder. Other notable features of the fort include the Golconda Darwaza, the Dargah of Gareeb Saheeb and the Tanisha Mahal. The fort can be dated back to the 14th century, when it was constructed by the Musunuri Nayaks, the warrior kings of South India. The fort is also known as Kondapalli Kota or Kondapalli Killa.
Daulatabad Fort, Maharashtra
Towering over the landscape on a 200-m-high conical hill and spread over 95 hectare, the Daulatabad Fort is the epitome of Deccan perseverance and strategic ingenuity. In its heydays, the fort was considered impenetrable, owing to a complicated series of defences around and inside it. Mahakot, or the four distinct walls with 54 bastions surround the fort for a length of nearly 5 km. The walls are about 6 to 9 ft thick and 18 to 27 ft high. Ammunition depots and granaries housed inside in the premises add to the thrill of exploring this historical stronghold.
Another interesting feature is Hathi Haud, a gigantic water tank with a capacity of about 10,000 cubic m. Today, the huge crater leaves one in awe of its size. You can also visit the Chand Minar, which stands at a height of 30 ft. The Tughlaq era royal bath, an elite structure, is a must-visit. It has massage chambers, provisions for hot baths and steam baths for which water was supplied through well-laid tanks, channels, pipes, ventilators etc.
Travellers should notice the remains of the moat, the fortified walls, the step wells, the court building, a unique temple dedicated to Bharat Mata, a hall of public audience, water cisterns and a rock-cut passage. A lower city complex consisting of main routes and by-lanes was also revealed through recent excavation.
Situated on the Aurangabad to Ellora road, the fort was built by king Bhillama V, a Yadava ruler, in 1187. The city was then known as Deogiri, or the abode of Gods. The grandiose fort was desired by a number of influential rulers throughout history because of its strategic importance. Muhammad Tughlaq, the ruler of Delhi, was so impressed by the fortress that he decided to move his court and capital there, renaming it Daulatabad, the city of wealth.
The whole population of Delhi was shifted here en masse. Later, it passed on from the Bahmani rulers under Hasan Gangu to the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar. Even after this, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb laid a siege of four months before finally being able to capture it. It was then snatched away by the Marathas before being taken over by the Nizams of Hyderabad in 1724 CE.