[Yojana June 2024 Summary] Forts in India- Explained Pointwise

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In the Vast expanse of India’s historical landscape, Forts in India stand as silent sentinels, guarding tales of valour, culture and conquest. These are valiant landmarks, which are scattered across the length and breadth of the country. They serve as portals to the past, offering us glimpses into the rich tapestry of our heritage. We will explore the different types of Forts in India, their historical evolution and significance.

Forts in India
Source- Yojana
Table of Content
What are the Different types of Forts built in India?
What has been the Historical timeline of Development of Fort in India?
What has been the role of Forts in Indian History?

What are the Different types of Forts built in India?

Fort- A fort is a strong, fortified place, usually occupied by troops, that is designed for military defense.

Key Characteristics of Fort

Some key characteristics of forts include-

a. These are often surrounded by thick walls, ditches, ramparts, and parapets for protection.
b. They are often located on hills or in strategic locations.
c. These can be made of stone, earth, or other materials.
d. They may have a citadel in the center and extra space between the walls and citadel.
e. Their gates are often large to allow elephants and highly decorated.

Forts are historically significant structures for defense. These have evolved from natural defenses to elaborate constructions using local resources and technological advancements.

Types of Forts in India

The forts in the Indian subcontinent have been influenced by the landscape, culture, and aesthetics of the ruling classes. Arthasashtra, an ancient Indian political treatise, classifies forts based on their physical nature, which remains a foundational aspect in studying Indian forts.

Arthashastra’s Classification of Indian Forts

Dhanva Durg or Desert FortThis type of fort is surrounded by a desert or an arid stretch of land. These forts are designed to inhibit the swift movement of enemies.
Mahi Durg or Mud FortThis type of fort is protected by earthen walls and ramparts. Walls
constructed of bricks and stones can also come under this category.
Jala Durg or Water FortThis type of fort is surrounded by water bodies which could either be natural (sea or rivers) or artificial (moats, artificial lakes etc.)
Giri Durg or Hill FortThis type of fort is situated on either the summit of a hill or a valley that is surrounded by hills.
Vriksha or Vana Durg, or Forest FortThis type of fort has a thick forest cover as a preliminary line of defense.
Nara Durg or fort protected by soldiersThis type of fort primarily relies on man-power. It has a strong army to defend itself.

Other Classification of Fort

1. Palace Forts- These fort complexes included palaces for royalty and nobility. These often served as military outposts & administrative and residential hubs. Hence, they served dual purposes of being residential centres as well as strategic military stations.

2. City Forts- These forts were built to fortify existing cities. The fort complex included schools, worship areas, residential quarters, palaces, and farms. These attracted populations and led to the development of cities nearby.

3. Trading Forts- These forts served as hubs for commercial and financial activities. These evolved from warehouses to fortified structures for protection. For ex- Establishment and development of European forts in India.

What has been the Historical timeline of Development of Fort in India?

Ancient Period Fort Development

The Ancient Indian History saw the rise and fall of numerous empires and dynasties across the subcontinent. The fort development was a synthesis of the indigenous architectural traditions and the changes that were introduced by the conquerors and adventurers.

1. Indus Valley Period Fort Development

Indus Valley settlements were divided into a citadel and a lower town. The citadel area was reflective of the fortified development. For ex- Citadel area in Mohenjodaro which was surrounded by a moat. Kot Diji was a fortified site with a massive wall made of limestone rubble and mud-brick.

2. Vedic Period

The Vedic Period also saw fortified settlements. The Rig Veda refered to tribes living in fortified settlements called Pura.

3. Mahajanpadas Period

The growth of the Mahajanpadas led to increased warfare and the consequent need to strengthen military defenses and fortifications. The capitals of these mahajanpadas used to be fortified cities. (Capital of Anga- Champa, Capital of Vatsa- Kaushambi, Capital of Panchala- Ahichchhatra, Capital of Avanti- Ujjayini)

For ex- The ancient capital of Magadha- Rajgir, had two cities stone walled fortified cities of  Old Rajagriha and New Rajagriha.

4. Mauryan Period

The Mauryan Period thrusted heavily on the importance of forts. Kautilya’s arthashastra classified forts into different categories based on their terrain and defensive features, such as desert forts, mud forts, water forts, hill forts, forest forts, and forts protected by loyal soldiers.

5. Sangam Period

The construction of moats, turrets and bastions reached an advanced stage during the Sangam Period. For ex- The vivid description of the grandeur of the fort at Madurai is provided in the Sangam literature.

6. Gupta Period

The Gupta Empire saw the development of several notable forts and fortified cities. The Garhwa fort, dating back to the Gupta period, is a Hindu temple complex that exemplifies Gupta period fort architecture. It features massive stone walls and fortifications surrounding the temple structures.

Medieval Period Fort Development


Rajput forts stand as testament to the grand fort building exercise undertaken in Indian Architecture. The Rajput forts that stand today were mostly built during the early medieval period. For ex- Forts of Chittorgarh, Gwalior, and Amer.

Delhi Sultanate Period

The architectural style that developed during the Delhi Sultanate period was a synthesis of indigenous traditions and influences from Central Asia. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq laid the foundation of the strong Tughlaqabad Fort near Delhi.

Mughal Period

The Mughal Empire (1526-1857 CE) saw extensive fort building and expansion of fortified cities across northern and central India. The fort building exercise was the development of a syncretic architectural style, with influences from Persian, Indian, and other regional traditions. For ex- Agra Fort, Lahore Fort and the Allahabad Fort.

Colonial Period Fort Development

European powers used forts for trade protection, and protection of their territories from the rebellion of local rulers. In due course of time these forts assumed a multi-functional role – serving as centers of commerce, military power, and colonial administration for the European powers in India.

Portuguese- The Portuguese began fortifying their settlements to protect their trade interests. They built their first fort- Fort Emmanuel in Kochi in 1503. The Portuguese also built Fort Aguada in Goa to defend against the Dutch.

Dutch- The Dutch established a trading post in Pipli, Odisha in 1630 and later in Chinsurah in 1653. The Dutch Fort at Falta, around 50km southeast of Kolkata, was built in the colonial era.

British- The British Raj built numerous forts across India to consolidate their power and protect their trading interests. Some of the most notable British forts in India include- Fort St. George, Chennai, Fort William, Kolkata.

What has been the role of Forts in Indian History?

Forts in ancient India have played a crucial role in warfare, and shaping the socio-economic, and cultural landscape.

1. Military Defense- The Forts served as the primary line of defense against invaders. These were strategically located on hills or near water bodies. They were surrounded by thick walls, clever designs (bastions, gateways), and innovative features (moats, machicolations) to repel attacks. For Ex- Gwalior Fort (Madhya Pradesh) and Mehrangarh Fort (Rajasthan).

2. Political Power- These forts were the symbol of political authority. Forts served as a tangible display of a ruler’s power and prestige. For Ex- The Red Fort in Delhi.

3. Economic Hubs- Forts also served as thriving centers of economic activities. Trade routes often converged near or passed through forts, facilitating commerce and generating revenue. For Ex- Cities like Agra, initially built around Agra Fort, flourished due to their proximity.

4. Social and Cultural Centres- Forts also served as Cradle of Culture. These fostered the blossoming of art, music, and literature. The integration of temples and other religious structures into fort complexes, made them significant cultural and religious centers. For ex- The intricate murals of Chittorgarh Fort or the serene Eklingji Temple within Mehrangarh Fort.

5. Architectural Innovation- The forts served as testing grounds of architecture. Fort construction in India witnessed remarkable feats of engineering. For Ex- Use of sloping walls to deflect cannonballs during the Mughal era.

6. Enduring Legacy- The forts stand as captivating testaments to India’s vibrant past. They are not only tourist destinations but also a treasure trove of information for historians and archaeologists.

Read More- The Hindu
UPSC Syllabus- GS 1- Art and Culture


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