The world of architecture has been around for thousands of years, and naturally, so has the idea that buildings make statements about their inhabitants. Architecture itself is a political act. One look at the Taj Mahal proves this point quite succinctly; It was built not to just house the Mughal Emperor’s wife but to project his power and wealth in a time of global uncertainty. It’s designed with symmetry in perfect proportion and ornamentation that screams power, opulence, and desire to be seen by those who are watching from afar.
Like all other cultures, Indian culture too has its own architectural style. The architecture of Rajasthan is a reflection of the various dynasties that have ruled over the state. Rajputs, Jats, Mughals and Marathas have all left their mark on this state, giving it its unique character. Bastions of such intricate architecture are now preserved as heritage structures by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Some like Chittorgarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort and Udaipur City Palace are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
1. Chittorgarh Fort
Chittorgarh Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed by the rulers of Chittaurgarh state in the 15th century. The fort was initially under the reign of Kumbha Singh and later was transferred to his son descendant Kalyan Singh. It was built on an elevated hilltop to prevent any enemy invasion into the kingdom. The fort also encompasses a massive tank, which helps it function as a water reservoir as well as a fortress during times of war. This is one of the best places to visit in Rajasthan with history dating back 1200 years.
2. Nahargarh Fort, Udaipur City Palace
Nahargarh Fort is located in the city of Udaipur. This fort is one of the most important tourist attractions in Rajasthan. It was built by Maharana Udai Singh II who ruled from 1559-1631. Nahargarh Fort is a magnificent fort surrounded by five lakes and also has a massive tank as well as 14 wells strategically placed for defense against attackers. The lake surrounding the fort plays an integral part in its defense system and also provides a cooling breeze to combat the heat of Rajasthan summers.
3. Udaipur City Palace
Udaipur City Palace is an incredible place that displays the finest of Rajput architecture. It is built by Maharajah Man Singh II in 1730 as a symbol and manifestation of his power and his desire to show off to all visitors. The palace has over 20 courtyards, each with their own rich history, spectacular architecture and exquisite decor. It comprises of the throne hall, Mahalakshmir Mahal (Queen’s Palace), Ranjit Sagar (Central Tank), Vyas Sagar (Saviour Tank) and the Suraj Kund (well). It is now run by Department of Tourism and Archaeology of Rajasthan.
4. City Palace, Jaipur
Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan. Its architecture has been influenced by various times and hence its structures include buildings made in European and Indian styles. City Palace is one of the most spectacular in the entire state. It was built by Sawai Jai Singh II who built seven architectural gems in India including this one. It is an elaborate Hindu palace with a rich legacy and history of those who have lived here. The palace was constructed to provide a means for many generations to live comfortable Asian lives alongside with providing a sense of power and royalty to their family lineage.
Ranakpur is an incredible prehistoric site that dates back over seven thousand years. It is located in Chambal District, in the state of Rajasthan and received a visit from Mahatma Gandhi. It was here where the Mahatma first saw the exquisite architecture of this place, which became his inspiration for his later political career. Ranakpur enjoys a great deal of tourism owing to its architectural distinctiveness. The sandstone pillars that are used in the construction are placed in such a way as to create mystery among visitors, making them feel like they have entered a secret door into an illusionary world.
6. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort is a fort located in the city of Jodhpur. This fort is one of the most famous ones in Rajasthan and has a history that goes back to 778 AD when it was first built by Rao Bika. It was later inherited by his son Bhagirath Singh after which it was handed down to his descendants for many generations until the time of king of Mewar Maharaja Ratan Singh and then to his son Maharaja Man Singh II who built this magnificent monument named Mehrangarh Fort in 1619-1629.
7. Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalgarh Fort is the biggest fort in all of Rajasthan. It is situated in the Bhimsar District, in the state of Rajasthan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort was built in the 15th century by Rana Kumbha and remains standing even today – a testimony to the architectural expertise of its time. Its massive walls measure 7.25 meters high and 3.2 meters thick at places throughout this hilltop fortress making it virtually impossible for any invaders to break into this stronghold without siege equipment and an army on their side.
8. Bikaner Fort
Bikaner Fort is one of the most important historical monuments in Rajasthan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was constructed by the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BC. It was reconstructed by Harshwardhan after it was sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD. Many kings have ruled over this kingdom since then, seeing an improvement in its infrastructure, culture and architecture. This fort is now on the list of important tourist attractions in Rajasthan with continued wariness from visitors from all over India.
In the end, it is important to note that while some of these buildings are historical monuments, they are still privately owned properties. Consumption at these places is not encouraged and a visit to this site should be seen as a religious and spiritual journey.
India has a rich heritage in the construction of architecture and its maintenance is an essential part of maintaining communal harmony throughout India. The rich and diverse culture of India is made up of various ethnicities, traditions and religious groups. The Rajput Architecture is one example which illustrates that while in some places one civilization may have been overrun, there are still other such regions where this has not occurred. The Rajput Architecture reflects this syncretism and the wealth which can be gained from combining different elements together.
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