Yojana Summary

June 2024

Topic-1 : Fort in Indian History


  • Forts, historically significant for their defensive purposes, have evolved from using natural features to intricate constructions leveraging local resources and technological advancements.
  • Strategically positioned based on the terrain, hill forts were built on rocky landscapes, while plains saw the construction of massive walls.
  • Initially centered on defense, forts eventually integrated residential and religious buildings, expanding their roles beyond purely military functions.

Types of Forts

The forts in the Indian subcontinent are influenced by the landscape, culture, and aesthetics of the ruling classes.

  • Arthasastra, an ancient Indian political treatise, classifies forts based on their physical nature, which remains a foundational aspect in studying Indian forts.
  • This classification system provides a fundamental understanding of the forts in the region, reflecting the diverse heritage and political landscape of India.
  • Forts may be classified as:
  1. Dhanva Durg or Desert Fort
  • This type of fort is surrounded by a desert or an arid stretch of land which can inhibit the swift movement of enemies.
  • Examples: Jaisalmer Fort, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
  1. Mahi Durg or Mud Fort
  • This type of fort is protected by earthen walls and ramparts. Walls constructed of bricks and stones can also come under this category.
  • Examples: Kangra Fort, Himachal Pradesh
  1. Jala Durg or Water Fort
  • This type of fort is surrounded by water bodies which could either be natural (sea or rivers) or artificial (moats, artificial lakes etc.)
  • Examples: Red Fort, Delhi, Golconda Fort, Hyderabad
  1. Giri Durg or Hill Fort
  • This type of fort is situated on either the summit of a hill or a valley that is surrounded by hills.
  • Examples: Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan
  1. Vriksha or Vana Durg, or Forest Fort
  • This type of fort has a thick forest cover as a preliminary line of defense.
  • Examples: Kalinga Fort, Odisha
  1. Nara Durg or fort protected by soldiers
  • This type of fort primarily relies on man-power, i.e., a strong army to defend itself.
  • Examples: Many forts in India display a combination of these categories. For example, the Jaisalmer Fort is also a hill fort in addition to being a desert fort. The Kalinjar Fort is a Giri Durg as well as a Vana Durg. The Gagron Fort of Rajasthan combines the features of a water fort and a hill fort.
  1. Palace Forts
  • Fort complexes, including palaces for royalty and nobility, can transition from military outposts to administrative and residential hubs. Some forts serve dual purposes as strategic military stations and residential centers.
  • Examples: Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh, Mysore Palace, Karnataka
  1. City Forts
  • Forts can attract populations and lead to the development of cities nearby. Existing cities were sometimes enclosed within fortifications for protection, with complexes including schools, worship areas, residential quarters, palaces, and farms.
  • Examples: Purana Qila, Delhi, Junagarh Fort, Gujarat
  1. Trading Forts
  • Forts were built as hubs for commercial and financial activities, with some evolving from warehouses or trade links to fortified structures for protection. European forts in India exemplify this transformation.
  • Examples: Fort St. George, Chennai, Fort William, Kolkata



Topic-2: Importance of Forts in Ancient India

Forts in ancient India played a critical role beyond just warfare, shaping the social, economic, and cultural landscape:

Military Defense:

  • Impregnable Outposts: For centuries, forts served as the primary defense against invaders.
    • Strategic locations: on hills or near water bodies.
    • Design features: thick walls, bastions (protruding towers), gateways, moats (trenches around the fort), machicolations (openings in the ceiling to drop objects on attackers).
  • Examples: Gwalior Fort (Madhya Pradesh), Mehrangarh Fort (Rajasthan).

Political Power:

  • Symbols of Authority: Forts displayed a ruler’s power and prestige.
    • Grand architecture: intricate details, expensive materials.
    • Sent a message of strength to both the public and rivals.
  • Example: Red Fort in Delhi.

Economic Hubs:

  • Thriving Centers: More than military outposts, forts housed:
    • Royal courts
    • Administrative centers
    • Storehouses
  • Trade routes often converged near or passed through forts, boosting commerce and generating revenue for the rulers.
  • Cities like Agra flourished due to their proximity to Agra Fort.

Social and Cultural Centers:

  • Cradle of Culture: The secure environment within forts fostered arts, music, and literature.
    • Royal patronage within the fort walls nurtured artistic expressions.
  • Temples and religious structures were often integrated into fort complexes, making them significant cultural and religious centers.
  • Examples: intricate murals of Chittorgarh Fort, serene Eklingji Temple within Mehrangarh Fort.

Architectural Innovation:

  • Testing Grounds: Fort construction showcased remarkable engineering feats.
    • Architectural styles evolved over centuries, reflecting influences of various dynasties.
    • Example: Sloping walls to deflect cannonballs during the Mughal era.
  • Forts served as testing grounds for new defensive techniques and technologies, shaping warfare in the subcontinent.

Enduring Legacy:

  • Windows to the Past: Forts stand as captivating testaments to India’s past.
    • Tourist destinations.
    • Treasure trove of information for historians and archaeologists.
  • Studying these forts helps us understand the political landscape, cultural nuances, and architectural brilliance of bygone eras.



Topic-3: History of Forts in Ancient India

Ancient Period:

  • Diverse forts reflecting regional traditions and influences.
  • Synthesis of local and external architectural styles.


  • Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1300 BCE)
    • Kot Diji (3300 BCE): Massive wall with citadel complex.
    • Mohenjo-daro: Citadel area with a moat.
    • Dholavira: Stone rubble wall with mud mortar (unique).
    • Debate on primary purpose (defensive vs social structures).
    • Large scale fortifications suggest conflict existed.
  • Vedic Period (1500-500 BCE)
    • Limited archaeological evidence, more literary sources.
    • Rig Veda mentions fortified settlements (Pura) and kings conquering forts.
  • Second Urbanization (600-300 BCE)
    • Rise of major kingdoms (Mahajanapadas) led to increased warfare.
    • Fortified cities with stone or mud walls and moats.
  • Examples:
    • Rajgir (Magadha): Two cities with stone fortification walls (6th-5th BCE).
    • Pataliputra (Magadha): Fortified city built by Ajatashatru.
    • Champa (Anga), Kaushambi (Vatsa), Ahichchhatra (Panchala), Ujjayini (Avanti): Major fortified capitals.
    • Walls described by Alexander’s historians (326 BCE).

Mauryan Period (322-185 BCE)

  • Rise of the Mauryas: Chandragupta Maurya established the empire with strategist Kautilya’s help.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra: A key source on Mauryan military and fortifications.
  • Fortified Capital (Durga): Considered essential for a strong state.
  • Arthashastra’s Fort Design Recommendations:
    • Mud ramparts with brick/stone parapets
    • Soldier presence along walls
    • Triple moats with lotuses and crocodiles
    • Siege supplies
    • Secret escape routes
  • Fort Categories: Based on terrain and features (desert, mud, water, hill, forest, soldier-protected).

Peninsular India (Sangam Period (300 BCE – 200 CE))

  • Widespread use of forts across the region.
  • Advanced forts with moats, turrets, and bastions.
  • Construction materials: mud, laterite blocks, bricks.
  • Larger forts around capitals (Madurai, Kanchi, Vanji) and trade centers.
  • Smaller forts near royal palaces.
  • Early South Indian stone and brick fort: Pudur village, Andhra Pradesh (rectangular plan, 30m wide moat).
  • Sangam literature describes grand forts with high walls, wide gates, deep moats (Madurai).

Gupta Period (3rd-6th CE)

  • Focused on religious architecture (temples) – less scholarly attention on forts.
  • Allahabad Pillar inscription: Records Gupta emperor Samudragupta capturing hill-forts (Mahendragiri, Kottura) in the 4th century CE.
  • Garhwa Fort complex: Possible Gupta remains (5th-6th century temples, tanks). Present fort structure added later.
  • Basarh Fort (Bihar): Believed to be from the Gupta period.


  • Rugged Aravalli hills led to extensive fort construction.
  • Long history of forts, with layers of construction over centuries.
  • Legends attribute origins of some forts (Chittorgarh, Gwalior, Amer) to even earlier rulers.
  • Most Rajput forts built during the early medieval period, further developed in the later medieval era.

Characteristic Features of Mature Rajput Forts:

  • Massive fortified gates with watchtowers.
  • Multiple gates, often commemorating victories.
  • Ramparts with watchtowers at intervals.
  • Tunnels and stairs within ramparts for strategic movement.
  • Designs adapted to different weapons (bows/arrows, cannons).
  • Reinforced walls to withstand cannon fire.
  • Dedicated areas for worship within the fort complex.

Significance of Rajput Forts:

  • Reflect strong clan loyalty and military prowess.
  • Demonstrate adaptation of fortifications to evolving military technologies.



Topic-4: History of Forts in Medieval India (13th-18th Centuries)

Key Points:

  • Continuous conflict shaped forts – capture, destruction, occupation.
  • Architectural changes mirrored evolving political landscape.
  • Forts reflected a continuation of the past, with changing hands frequently.

Delhi Sultanate (13th-16th Centuries)

  • Founded by Muhammad Ghuri, Qutbuddin Aibek, and Iltutmish.
  • Rajputs held sway over North India, building prominent forts.
  • Architectural style – synthesis of local and Central Asian influences.
  • Used arches and domes (borrowed from Arabs).
  • Early Sultans repaired Lahore Fort against Mongol attacks.
  • Alauddin Khilji captured major Rajput forts (Chittorgarh, Ranthambore, Jaisalmer).
  • Tughlaq dynasty introduced new trends: high platforms, sloping walls.
  • Bahmani Sultanate (peninsular India) used Iranian techniques (Bidar Fort).

Mughal Era (16th-18th Centuries)

  • Development of a syncretic architectural style (Persian, Indian, regional influences).
  • Introduction of artillery led to changes in fort design:
    • Lower, thicker walls
    • Bastions for cannons
    • Taller gates for elephants

Examples of Medieval Indian Forts:

  • Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur (Rajasthan): Hilltop fort with impressive fortifications and palaces.
  • Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan (UNESCO World Heritage Site): Known for Jauhar and sprawling complex.
  • Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur (Rajasthan): Houses a vast cannon foundry and offers stunning views.
  • Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh: Ancient hill fort with Hindu and Muslim architectural elements.
  • Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan (“Golden Fort”): Sprawling desert fortress known for carvings.
  • Red Fort, Delhi (17th century): Built by Shah Jahan, seat of Mughal power, showcases Mughal grandeur.
  • Golconda Fort, Hyderabad: Prominent diamond trading center, features innovative acoustics and gateways.
  • Trichy Rock Fort, Tamil Nadu: Ancient fort on a rock, significant religious site with temples.
  • Junagadh Fort, Gujarat: Located on Mount Girnar, offers stunning views, houses Jain temples.



Topic-5: History of Forts in Colonial India

European Arrival and Early Forts (15th-17th Centuries)

  • Decline of Roman Empire led Europeans to seek direct sea route to India.
  • Portuguese arrived first (1498, Vasco da Gama) – trading factories in Calicut, Cannanore, Cochin.
  • 1503: Portuguese built first European fort in India – Fort Emmanuel in Kochi.
  • Dutch arrived (1605) – challenged Portuguese dominance.
  • 1603: Portuguese built Fort Aguada in Goa (freshwater spring, bastions, moats, lighthouse).
  • Dutch overpowered Portuguese, captured their trading centers and forts (Kochi).

Forts and Colonial Control (17th-18th Centuries)

  • European powers used forts for:
    • Trade protection
    • Sanctuaries against rebellions
    • Centers of commerce, military, administration
  • 1639: English got permission to fortify Madras factory (Fort St. George).
    • First English fort in India – evolved into a city fortress (white town, black town).
    • Architecture: British Baroque style (17th-18th century).
  • French East India Company established factories (Surat, Masulipatnam).
  • French established township near Calcutta – intensified competition.
  • Early 18th century: French built Fort St. Louis in Pondicherry (designed by Vauban).
    • Pentagonal shape, five bastions and gates, underground chambers.
  • Fort designs reflected advancements in European military engineering.

Modern Indian Forts

  • Cellular Jail, Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands): Built by British (late 19th century), known for solitary confinement cells, now a national memorial.
  • Fort William, Kolkata: Founded in 17th century, expanded in 18th-19th centuries. Now Indian Army Eastern Command headquarters.



Topic-6: India’s UNESCO World Heritage Forts

Red Fort, Delhi (1638):

  • Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
  • Epitomizes India’s Mughal heritage (red sandstone).
  • Served as the Mughal emperors’ residence for nearly 200 years.
  • Renowned for walls, Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-i- Khas (Hall of Private Audience), blending Persian, Timurid, and Indian influences.

Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh:

  • Grand red sandstone fort, residence of Mughals before capital shifted to Delhi.
  • Houses exquisite structures: Jahangir Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i- Khas, Diwan-i-Aam, Musamman Burj (Shah Jahan’s imprisonment).

Amber Fort, Rajasthan (late 16th century):

  • Perched on a hill overlooking Maota Lake.
  • Built by Raja Man Singh I.
  • Celebrated for artistic features: ramparts, gates, cobbled paths, Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace).

Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan (7th century onwards):

  • India’s largest fort (over 700 acres).
  • Symbol of Rajput valor and sacrifice.
  • Notable structures: Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower), Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame), Rana Kumbha Palace, Padmini Palace.
  • Witnessed numerous battles.

Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan (1156):

  • One of the world’s largest fully preserved fortified cities (inhabited).
  • Built by Rawal Jaisal.
  • Features palaces, temples, residential buildings, panoramic desert views.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan (15th century):

  • Built by Rana Kumbha.
  • Renowned for massive walls – some of the world’s longest (over 36 km).
  • Includes palaces, temples, gardens.
  • Served as a refuge for the Mewar rulers.

Ranthambore Fort, Rajasthan (10th century):

  • Built by the Chauhan rulers, located within Ranthambore National Park.
  • Second-longest wall in the world (after Kumbhalgarh Fort – 36 km).
  • Strategic hilltop location, formidable defenses.
  • Played a crucial role in Rajasthan’s history.
  • Includes temples, palaces, reservoirs, offering wildlife views.


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