Last week, a set of 7 Hill Forts of Rajasthan were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The forts range from the 7th century to the 16th century. Taken together, these rugged hill forts tell us about the political, cultural, social and architectural evolution of the ruling Rajput caste in the history of India. Many are scenes of valour, and exemplify the Rajput belief in "death before dishonour".
These forts are built strategically on the Aravalli range, which is the oldest mountain range in India. According to UNESCO, they constitute "the most authentic, best conserved and most representative sites of Rajput military architecture".
Since there will likely be renewed interest in these forts, I thought I'd write something practical about where these forts are located, and how to get to them.
The forts on the list are:
(1) Chittorgarh (Chittaurgah) - Chittorgarh Fort, where the poetess Meera and the famous Rani Padmini lived is 2hrs to the north-east of Udaipur. If you are driving between Jaipur and Udaipur, you can visit this fort on the way, although it will make for a long day. The ideal way to visit it is as a day excursion from Udaipur.
(2) Kumbhalgarh - Kumbhalgarh Fort, said to have the longest wall after the Great Wall of China, is 2.5hrs to the north of Udaipur. If you are driving between Udaipur and Jodhpur, you can visit this fort. Also, you can combine it with a visit to the temples at Ranakpur. You can do a day excursion from Udaipur. You can also choose to spend the night at Kumbhalgarh, the Aodhi hotel is a very nice option. There's a sound and light show in the evenings.
(3) Gagron Fort - this fort is in Jhalawar, in the south eastern part of Rajasthan. Surrounded by the waters of the Ahu and Kali Sindh rivers on three sides, it is one of the finest examples of water forts. If you are driving between Udaipur and Jaipur, you can take a break at Bundi and visit Gagron as a day trip from Bundi. It is about 2.5hrs drive from Bundi.
(4) Ranthambhore Fort - located uniquely inside a tiger sanctuary, this fort is home to a popular Ganesha temple. It is accessible all days of the week and makes for a good visit combined with jungle safaris. Ranthambhore is 6hrs drive from Agra, and 4hrs from Jaipur (the nearest airport). It is very popular with tourists, so expect crowds.
(5) Amber Fort - Most tours to India include a visit to Amber in Jaipur. In fact, Amber (also called Amer) is probably the most visited fort in Rajasthan, because it is part of the popular Golden Triangle circuit. There are elephant rides to the top of the fort. Amer Fort is visitor-friendly for those with walking problems.
(6) Jalor or Jalore Fort - this fort is about 2.5 hours south-west of Jodhpur and can be visited as a day trip from Jodhpur. The path to the fort's entrance, cut in rock, is well over two miles long and it negotiates three distinct lines of defense. It was such a formidable hill fortress that the Rathore clan chose to keep their treasure hidden inside this fort.
(7) Bala Kila, Alwar - this fort is about 3hrs south west from Delhi. It would be logical to visit Bala Kila and then spend the night at the Neemrana Fort Palace. Or you can visit Bala Kila as a day excursion from Neemrana. The fort is on top of a hill and can be accessed either by a 4-wheel drive vehicle or through a steep climb.
I created a map, showing where these forts are located. If someone wants the map please message me and I will email it.
Each of the hill forts selected in this list is of "Outstanding Universal Value" with "advanced construction techniques exploiting natural terrain and contours for defense". They also have "unique social associations with Rajput courtly life". Many are the sites of ritual suicides, the Rajput mass-immolations called jauhar. The temples and palaces inside them are extraordinarily beautiful. These hill forts represent the most sophisticated and evolved examples of secular Hindu Rajput architecture, utilizing the wealth of natural resources and located in an extraordinary geographical setting. .
I hope you will visit at least some of these forts this year. If you need help with planning the trip, please post a message on tripadvisor and people here will be glad to help you.
P.S. For other locals in Rajasthan, if I have made any errors in the above, please help correct it. Thanks!Edited: 02 July 2013, 01:43