A culturally rich country like India is home to centuries’ old architecture replete with historical significance. These 8 palaces were crucial in shaping India like you see it today. By Deepali Sharma
Referred to as ‘the pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind’ by Mughal Emperor Babur, the Gwalior Fort is located on an isolated rock along the ‘Sun Tank’ or Suraj Kund, with quite a history attached to it. Arguably one of the biggest forts in the country, the Gwalior Fort has been invaded by Mughals, Turkish rulers, and Tomars, until the British took over. Among the many historical feats was the great victory of Hem Chand Vikramaditya who defeated Akbar in Delhi and Agra to establish ‘Hindu Raj’.
The 120-metre-high fort derives its name from Golla Konda, which in telegu means ‘shepherd’s hill’. Mounted canons, four drawbridges, eight gateways, and beautiful halls showcase the marvellous engineering in the medieval period. One of the main attractions here is the Fateh Darwaza or victory gate—the outermost enclosure of the fort—that attracts maximum tourists.
After the acquisition of Cooch Behar from Bhutanese, the British educated a 10-month-old Nripendra by English tutors. Maharaja Nripendra Narayan later designed this brilliant monument. He and his wife Suniti Devi are recognised for bringing in social reforms in then regressive state by building schools for girls, hospitals, and law courts.
The Umaid Bhawan Palace is fondly referred to as the youngest palace in India. It is the last royal palace built before India got her Independence. Maharaja Umaid Singh ordered for the construction of the palace to provide employment to the people during the famine that broke out in the 1920s in Jodhpur. Now, a part of the palace is still maintained and lived in by the royal family while the rest has been converted into a hotel and museum.
On the banks of Lake Pichola, City Palace in Udaipur is a palace complex that echoes the rich architectural heritage of the Rajput and Mughal period through its architecture. Inside the palace complex are 11 smaller palaces, all built by different rulers. Over centuries, the City Palace has seen several political feuds between Mughals, Rajputs, and the Marathas.
Hawa Mahal, built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, is a magnificent palace that harps back to the times when the Pardah system was a predominant culture for Rajput women. The palace allowed royal ladies to enjoy everyday street scenes from the numerous windows, without being seen by strangers.
Chittorgarh Fort consists 84 splendid water bodies and numerous towers that were constructed over time to signify Rajput victories. The palace is mostly known for the self-immolation by the Rajput royal ladies after the defeat of the Mewar rulers by the Mughals. Queen Padmini, along with other royal court women, sacrificed themselves in a pyre of fire, lest they should be captured by Allaudin Khilji.
Maharana Karan Singh constructed Gul Mahal for Shahjahan while he gave him refuge in the City Palace. After the death of Emperor Jahangir, Shahjahan was named the next Emperor at Jagmandir Palace. The palace was later expanded by Maharana Jagat Singh and renamed as Jag Mandir Palace.