The importance of forts is immortal. These are structures that connect us back to our roots.
Forts have always managed to mesmerise us with their grandeur and charm. They are stark reminders of the ambitions and pursuit, victory and pride, defeat and abandon of their rulers from history. Strong, mighty and brave, the survival of these forts despite their deterioration over time and after the alterations they go through, makes us even more proud of them.
South India is blessed with many forts that have a distinguished and rich history. Join us on a tour of some of these architectural marvels of the Dravida kingdom.
One of the most magnificent fortresses in India, the Golkonda fort is where the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond was once stored along with other diamonds, during reign of the Qutb Shahi kings who ruled over Golkonda between 1518-1687. Located 9 km from the most loved, Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad, the fort was originally built on a hilltop and covers an area of 5 km.
The outermost enclosure of the fort is called Fateh Darwaza (Victory Gate). It was named so after Aurangazeb’s triumphant army marched in through this gate. Standing over here, you witness acoustical sound effects that leave you amused. It’s no wonder then that the place is one among the many famous engineering marvels at Golconda. The clap of your hand at a certain point near the dome entrance reverberates and is heard clearly at the top pavilion, almost one kilometer away! In earlier times this served as a warning signal to the inhabitants of the fort of any impending danger.
As you stroll towards the interiors of the fort, you see ruins of palaces, temples, mosques, domes, pavilions, mounted cannons, drawbridges and even stables, all of which are an architectural beauty. The design of peacocks and lions on the area above the door of the Bala Hissar gate, main entrance to the fort, is a blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture.
The fort also contains the tombs of the Qutb Shahi kings, which have Islamic architecture. It is believed that there was a secret tunnel to Charminar from this fort.
Tipu Sultan’s Pride Palakkad Fort, Kerala
One of the best preserved gems of Kerala, the Palakkad fort stands in heart of the Palakkad town. It was constructed by the emperor of Mysore, Hyder Ali in 1766 AD. The red clay laden walls of this ancient fort exude the old tales of valour and courage.
The fort was supposedly built by Hyder Ali to facilitate communication between both sides of the Western Ghats (Coimbatore and the West Coast). Ali had captured the Malabar and Kochi regions which come under the West Coast area. His son Tipu Sultan, a warrior as well as a linguist, who was known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, waged a series of wars against the British colonial rule. After an eleven-day seige in 1784, the fort was captured by the British. Though it later fell into the hands of the troops of the Kozhikode Zamorin, it was recaptured by the British in 1790. Tipu Sultan lost his life in 1799 in an encounter with the British and the fort later came to be known in his name.
The interiors of the fort contain The Palakkad Special Sub Jail. There is a small shrine called Anjaneya Swamy Temple inside the fort. Also, a garden called Vatika-Shilavatika is maintained inside the court. There is a Fort Ground, which once served as a stable for elephants and horses of Tipu’s army, that is now used to stage public meetings, cricket matches or exhibitions. Rappadi, an open-air auditorium, and a children’s park also occupy space within the grounds of the fort.
Rock beauty Daulatabad Fort,Aurangabad
Built by Raja Bhillamraj in the 12th century, the Daulatabad fort in Daulatabad city (14 km from Aurangabad), which was once known as Devgiri, was passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan. It was Muhammed Tughlaq, the Sultan of Delhi who rechristened the city as ‘Daulatabad’ meaning the City of Fortune, which eventually resulted in the fort acquiring the same title. Completely made of rocks, the fort rises from a 600 feet tableland and despite years of survival, its structure hasn’t been altered. The steep sides of the fort fall so sharply to the moat below that during the olden days no aggressive troops could scale the height. Once inside the fort, a series of secret and endless passages greet you. Huge bronze cannons and walls with battlements guard the approach. Several inner walls with heavy iron gates fitted with elephant spikes are encircled by a 6 kilometer outer wall, all of this was to make the fort secure. The 30 meter high Chand Minar (tower), built much later with 3 circular balconies, has added to the glory of the fortress. The base of the Chand Minar was built in the Tughlaq period, whereas the central part is assumed to have been built by Ala ad-Din Hasan in 1346, to celebrate the victory of Daulatabad Fort. A speciality of this fort is that it has only one entrance and exit. This was designed to confuse the enemy soldiers.
First English fortress of India Fort St. George, Chennai
Founded in 1644, the fort has taken its name from St. George who is believed to have had a significant influence in the region during that era. The fort is considered to be the first establishment of the British in India. Initially erected as a trading post, it later served as the origin of the modern Indian Army.
The fort is a live example of the marvel of military architecture. Primarily, it is divided into two sections- St. Mary’s Church and the Fort Museum. One of the oldest surviving churches built by the British as well as the oldest Anglican Church in India, St. Mary’s Church is a beautiful building, established in 1680. It still holds the splendour of the former times. The tombstones in its graveyard are incomparable and are seen as the oldest ones in India. The 150 ft tall Flagstaff, made entirely of teakwood, is one fascinating structure here, although now only its relics are visible. The church is famously known as the ‘Westminster Abbey of the East’.
The museum is one of the most striking buildings and houses the relics of the British staff who inhabited this fort. The construction of the building was completed in 1795 and it served as the Madras Bank, whereas the long hallway upstairs served as the venue for public meetings as well as for entertainment. Today, the fort museum showcases a host of artifacts such as coins, medals, paintings, letters, etc., belonging to the colonial period. There is a banquet hall in the premises of the fort, called Wellesley House, named after Richard Wellesley, the GovernorGeneral of India. There is a 14.5 ft tall statue of Lord Cornwallis in front of the museum, which is a masterpiece. It is carved with a scene depicting Tipu Sultan, his two sons and the East India Company officials.
Written By: Pooja Kulkarni