“Will we see you on the fort excursion this afternoon?” smiled my tour guide.
“Um, yeah, I guess so…” I mumbled.
An afternoon at a fort? In this heat? Why?
Take a look at Dictionary.com and you’ll see that a fort is: ‘A strong or fortified place occupied by troops and usually surrounded by walls, ditches and other defensive works; a fortress; fortification.’
It doesn’t exactly arouse kaleidoscopic images of romance, glamour and unimaginable excess, does it?
Aha. Well, that’s where I was wrong… Because a fort in India is so much more that a fort.
These sprawling, majestic palace complexes embody architectural splendor at every turn—their warm, ancient walls whisper tales of Mughal magnificence and delicious decadence, of romance and heartbreak.
Take the Red Fort of Agra, for example. The Emperor Akbar and his grandson Shah Jahan were mostly responsible for this enormous, palatial red-sandstone and marble fortress. In its hey day this maze of mind-boggling buildings—this city within a city—included a crocodile-infested moat, several soaring palaces, meeting halls, pavilions, bazaars, harems, pool-dotted courtyards, mosques and a prison.
When Shah Jahan—who built the Taj Mahal when his wife Mumtaz Mahal died—was placed under house arrest by his own son, Aurangzeb, it’s said that he spent his days gazing out longingly at his beloved Taj from his balcony in the complex’s exquisite Mathamman Burj Palace. However, other less sympathetic versions of the story say he died from an unwitting overindulgence in aphrodisiacs.
Standing on Shah Jahan’s marble balcony and looking at the Taj practically levitating in the distance, it’s easy to imagine that either version of the story is true.
Then there’s the incredible Amber Fort, a breathtakingly beautiful palace complex of sandstone and marble that lies high in the hills just outside Jaipur. Wandering around this magical fort, it’s hard not let your imagination to run wild: to imagine triumphant armies displaying the spoils of war in the main courtyard; to see veiled women peeking out from latticed windows; to picture rulers holding court in impressive halls with towering elephant-adorned columns; and to spot a maharaja tip-toeing through shadowy passageways to visit his concubines.
This incredible fort is also home to the heart-stoppingly beautiful Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace. Built by King Man Singh in 16th century, the palace’s dazzling walls and ceilings are adorned with endless pieces of shimmering glass and mirror. It’s said that this is where the king held candlelit dinners and that the myriad of candle reflections made the Mirror Palace feel like it was full of stars.
Do you dream of gazing at the Taj Mahal from Shah Jahan’s marble balcony at the Red Fort of Agra? Of seeing a million mirrors glitter in the Amber Fort’s Mirror Place? Yes? Then come with us to India. Not only will you have the experience of a lifetime, but you will have a sophisticated itinerary that has been lovingly-created by Indus’ India experts. To find out more about our tours to India, please feel free to contact us at any time.
About the Writer: Vickie Sam Paget
Vickie is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not creating dynamic travel or tech content, globetrotting or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.