The most beautiful palaces and forts in Rajasthan!

by Deborah Durrfeld

Rajasthan, is a state in India and means country of the Maharajas. These kings ruled the country for more than 1000 years and build amazing forts and palaces, presenting the finest architecture and artistic achievements. Nowadays you can visit these places. Some of them turned into a museum, archaeological site or heritage hotel. In this article I am taking you to the most beautiful palaces and forts in Rajasthan. Enjoy the pictures and history of these impressive places.

Back in the days: Rajasthan and the Maharajas

Before we go into this list of palaces and forts in Rajasthan, first a little bit of history. The first tribes, known as Rajput, arrived around the 7th century AD. in the region. They claim to be descendants of ruling Hindu warrior classes of North India and were often compared to knights from the Middle Ages. Rajputs rose to prominence during the 6th to 12th centuries. In different places, Maharajas, the royal Rajput leaders, came to power and small empires were founded. Maharajas build beautiful palaces and fortresses to protect the cities from enemy attacks.

Several times, the Rajputs were confronted with attacks from tribes, which they managed to resist in most cases. It was not until the Mughals arrived, in the 16th century, that the Rajputs were finally defeated. Yet they managed to maintain their leading position, through the political alliances, that had formed. When the Mughal Empire lost power in the 18th century and the British entered, they began to conclude new treaties with the British. British influence increased, but the Maharajas remained in power. During the British rule in India, nearly two thirds of the Indian subcontinent must have consisted of empires, ruled by a maharaja, also called Rajah and Rao. It was not until independence in 1947 that the principalities were merged into the state of Rajasthan and the Maharajas lost their official power. Many Maharajas are still owning their palaces.

Rajasthan is today one of the largest states in India. The state capital is Jaipur, also known as the pink city. Rajasthan is located in the north of India and borders Pakistan in the west. The state is known for its colorful people and numerous palaces. More and more people find their way to Rajasthan, but you can still enjoy all the splendor and history without being disturbed by mass-tourism. This is a list with pictures and descriptions of the most beautiful forts and palaces of Rajasthan.

Bundi City palace

The Taragarh Fort & Bundi Palace are located on a hill, overlooking the Nawal Sagar Lake and the city of Bundi. This fort was build by Rao Raja Bar Singh, in the 14th century, and includes several palaces, gardens and decorated gates.  The royal palace can be entered via the Hathi pol, or elephant gat, and is beautiful place to explore. Different hallways, stairs and steps bring you from one area into the other.

The Bundi palace is famous for its fabulous mural paintings, called Bundi miniature style. These paintings can be seen throughout the entire building and the details are amazing. Scenes include different stories from the life of Krishna, using colors such as blue, greens, turquoise, terracotta and yellow. The Chitra Shala, the gallery of paintings, is an absolute highlight, as it offers some of the finest paintings. Walking through the palace makes you want to go back in the days.  The courtyards have a lot of greenery and flowers, wich makes it a nice place to sit and enjoy the history of the place.

Amber fort  – Jaipur

This fort is located in the former capital of the Jaipur empire, Amer, 11 km from Jaipur. Amber Fort, or Amer fort, is located on a hilltop, overlooking the Maota Lake and city of Amber. This giant fort can be seen already from a far distance. The fort was build by Rajput Raja Man Singh in the 16th century and is famous for its fine architecture and decoration.

Amber fort is divided into different sections with courtyards and palaces, build from yellow and pink sandstone and white marble. You can walk through the areas, climb up stairs and explore different hallways and alleys. Passing the Hall of Audience, the Maharadja apartments with frescoed arches, Hall of Pleasure and the Hall of Victory, with multi mirrored ceilings and walls. From the top you can enjoy beautiful views over the lake.

Mehrangarh fort – Jodhpur

Mehrangarh fort is located on a hilltop and overlooking the city of Jodhpur, better known, as the blue city, because of its many blue buildings. The view from the fort is incredible.

The Mehrangarh fort was build by Roa Jodja in the 15th century and became one of the biggest forts in Rajasthan. Something you will notice when walking around and looking up the high walls, measuring 36 m long and 21 m width. You have to pass different gates, before you can actually enter the complex. Inside you will be surprised by the detailed decoration of the windows and balconies.

One of the palaces is nowadays a museum, where you will visit the former royal hallways, ballrooms, bedrooms and throne hall including their original interiors and pieces of art. All of them beautifully decorated and painted, with in some places colorful stained-glass windows. Everywhere you look, out of the windows, you can enjoy the magnificent view on the fort and blue city.

Karauli City Palace

Karauli is a small rural town in Rajasthan and not often visited by tourists. The city was founded in 1348 and is renowned for its temples dedicated to lord Krishna and its pale red sandstone, that surrounds the city with a strong wall. According to local beliefs; the rulers of Karauli were, the successors of Lord Krishna. The city palace, was the former residence of these rules and stands in the centre of the walled city.

It’s for sure one of the most beautiful and unpolished palaces I’ve visited in Rajasthan. We were all by ourselves, with a guard opening the different rooms for us. The palace shows beautiful murals, stone carvings and lattice work. I loved the ballroom with the old mirrors.

In the nearby Lord Krishna Temple (Madan Mohan ji), Aarti ceremonies are held. “Aarti” is an auspicious Hindu ritual in which prayers (hindu songs) are offered to god. The Guru and his devotees, sing the prayers, along with small lamps and it’s a fascinating experience.

Jaipur city palace

This is one of my favorite palaces in Rajasthan, because of its breathtaking decorations. I couldn’t have been more inspired than here.  The palace was build by Maharadja Jai Singh II in the 17th century and extended by successive rulers. The complex contains several buildings, courtyards and gardens, including a few museums, showcasing weapons and royal costumes. A part of the palace is still inhabited by the royal family and therefore private area.

Characteristic for this palace are the pink walls, typical for the city of Jaipur. In one of the courtyards you will find the welcome hall, containing two immense silver barrels, 345 kg each, containing 9000 liters of water. The biggest piece of silver pottery in the world, according to the Guiness Book of Records. They were created and filled with holy water from the Ganges, for the maharadja to take it with him, on his journey to England, in the beginning of the 20th century.

An absolute highlight is the Pritam Niwas Chowk, the court of the peacocks. In this court you will find breathtaking decorated portals, representing different seasons. The peacock gate represents autumn, the lotus gate depicts summer, the green gate spring and the rose gate shows winter.  

Junagarh fort – Bikaner, palaces and forts in Rajasthan

The Junagarh fort is located in the city of Bikaner, in the center of the Thar desert. This fortress can not be missed, due to its pink-red color and 1 km long wall that surrounds the complex. The fort was built in the 16th century by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth leader of Bikaner. In the years that followed, it was expanded by several leaders who each left their own mark. It is one of the few fortresses not built on a hill. Despite the many attacks, it was never possible to get hold of the fort.

Inside you will find, 37 palaces connected by pavilions and corridors. The fort is called the example of Rajput art. Everywhere you look, you will find detailed decorations. On the balconies, towers, stairs, doorways and windows. The city of Bikaner is known for its miniature art, which is also reflected in the countless painted walls and tiles. Because Bikaner attracts few foreign tourists, this fort is much quieter than other forts in Rajasthan and you can walk around here among the Indian visitors.

Palace of the Winds – Hawa Mahal – Jaipur

This is for sure one of the most unique and extraordinary buildings, I’ve ever seen. The pink-painted building contains 953 carved windows and balconies, in the same shape as the palace itself. The palace was build for Maharadja Sawai Pratap Singh in the 18th century. It was used for the woman of the harem. They were able to sit behind the window and observe daily life, without being seen themselves.  This palace is called palace of winds because of its natural unique ventilation system.

Nowadays the palace can be visited. It houses a small museum and it offers good views from the top. But the best thing is just to observe the building from one of the terraces at the other side of the street, while enjoying a coffee or tea.

Chittorgarh fort

Chittorgarh was the heart of the Mewar empire and used to be one of the most important seats of power in India. The fort is located on a 150 m high cliff and is the largest fort complex in India, nearly 6 km long and 500 m across. Chittorgarh has always played an important role in Rajput history because of its chivalry and tragedy. The city was under attack three times and each time, people chose death before dishonor, something called “Jauhar”. Woman and children threw themselves on huge pyres, and men committed suicide while fighting against the enemy. Chittorgarh is known for the biggest Jauhar in Indian history. Check out a scene from the Indian movie Rani Padmavati (Padmaavat), showing the historical Jauhar.

The complex was restored in 1905 and is now a World Heritage Site you can visit. A 1 km long steep road, with 7 different gates, leads to the entrance. The complex can be best explored by car or local auto ricksjaw, as the distances between the sights are too far from each other. You can visit the tower of victory, tower of fame, Meera & Kumbha Shyam tempels, palace of Padmini, water reservoirs and enjoy magnificent views of the city.

Do you want to read more about archaeological sites in Asia? Read more about the beautiful Khmer ruins in Laos: Wat Phu.

City palace in Udaipur

The last but not the least in the list of palaces in Rajasthan: Udaipur City Palace. Udaipur is also called the “Venice of the East” and the “City of lakes”, because of the many lakes, surrounding the city. It is one of the most romantic cities in Rajasthan and known for the beautiful City Palace. Located on the shores of Pichola Lake, this iconic city palace is the largest palace in Rajasthan. The total complex has a length of 500 m and a width of 200 m, and consists of 7 palaces.

Udai Singh II, the founder of the city, started building the palace in 1559. The kings that followed continued to expand and always left their own mark on the whole. Today, part of the complex is accessible as a city museum. Here you will find royal halls with art, weapons and vehicles and richly decorated gates. You can see that Udaipur was a rich city in the beautiful decorations. The buildings are made of granite and marble and on the walls you will find many colors and mosaic. From the palace you have beautiful views of the Pichola lake. You can also stay overnight in the luxury Shiw Niwas Palace Hotel. A part is still private property and inhabited by the former Maharaja family.

Did you like this list with palaces and forts and do you want to read more about beautiful Rajasthan? Check out more articles about India such as the city guide about Bikaner – the desert city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, the pink city, a New Delhi slum tour, and the Karni Mata Rat temple in Deshnok.

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