Forts and Palaces in Rajasthan – Pictures from the 19th century Part1

“Sublime wonders lie in store,
I am shown a regal residence;
a mighty kingdom, an empire
with more grandeur than before …”  

– E.A. Bucchianeri, Poetry for the Phantom of the Opera

Forts and palaces never fail to fascinate me. These, rare examples of architecture offer a glimpse into the past grandeurs and reveal many a story of kings and their kingdoms, the wars they fought, the courts they held, and the way they lived.

Here are some pictures and photographs from the 19th century that capture the oriental magnificence of the historic forts and palaces of Rajasthan.

Amber Fort, ca 1860

Amber Fort, ca 1860

Amber Fort, part of Raj Mahal & Maota Lake, watercolours by William Simpson ca.1860

Eleven kilometres to the north of Jaipur is the town of Amber.

The impressive fort and the palace complex, on a hill overlooking the Maota Lake, was built at Amber, in the late 16th century by Akbar’s famous general, Raja Man Singh (ruled 1592- 1614). Alterations and additions to the palace structures continued throughout the 17th century and beyond until the fort was finally abandoned in 1727.

Ganesh Pol, Amber Palace, ca 1872

Ganesh Pol in Amber from ‘Photographs of Architecture and Scenery in Gujarat and Rajputana’ taken by Colin Murray in ca.1872.

The fort-palace of Amber is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, combining Hindu artistic elements with Mughal styles. Elaborate gates and a number of courtyards and temples can be found in the fort and palace. Ganesh Pol or Elephant Gate is the gateway to the royal apartments that are built around a garden. It derives its name from the painted panel of the god Ganesha (the Lord who removes obstacles), above the entrance arch.

Sheesh Mahal, Amber Palace, ca 1885

Sheesh Mahal, Amber Palace, 1885

Interior view of Sheesh Mahal, Amber Palace. Photograph by Lala Deen Dayal ca.1885

Mirrorwork was inlaid in intricate patterns on the walls and ceilings, and coloured glass set into arched niches and window frames. The Mughal influence was apparent in the floral and geometric designs contained in arch-shaped indents, a style that had evolved under the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58)..

Chandra Mahal, City Palace, Jaipur ca.1870 

Chandra Mahal, City Palace, Jaipur, 1870

Chandra Mahal or Moon Palace, Jaipur. Photograph by Bourne and Shepherd in the 1870s

The City Palace is situated in the centre of the city of Jaipur. Surrounded by gardens and courtyards, and enclosed by a high wall, the palace dates from 1727 with later additions. The palace has the screened balconies and a roof-top pavilion, and symmetrical design which is characteristic of the city as a whole.

The Chandra Mahal (c.1727-34) is the earliest and most important part of the city palace..

Gateway, City Palace, Jaipur ca.1895 

Gateway in the palace at Jaipur in Rajasthan. Photograph by Lala Deen Dayal, in the 1890s

The arched entrance gateway leading to the Chandra Mahal is covered with floral, geometric and figurative designs..

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, by Samuel Bourne ca.1860

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, 1870

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, ca.1895

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur 1895
Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. Photograph by G.W. Lawrie and Company ca .1895.
The Hawa Mahal is one of the most iconic buildings in Jaipur.  It was built in 1799, as an addition to the existing City Palace. The building has a five-storey, curved façade composed of a multitude of window bays each topped with an arch or dome.
The purdah screen formed by latticework designs of the windows allowed ladies of the court in the zenana or women’s living quarters to observe the outside world and enjoy the flow of fresh air, without being seen.

Deeg Fort in Rajasthan, ca.1895

Deeg Fort, Rajasthan, 1895

Photograph of Dig Fort in Rajasthan, taken by Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in the 1890s

Deeg is a small town which was once the summer retreat of the rulers of Bharatpur 22 km away. Deeg was established as the first capital of Bharatpur State by the Jat ruler Badan Singh (ruled 1722-33).

The fort was built by his son Suraj Mal in 1730. Twelve massive bastions reinforce the fort walls. This view shows the Lakha Burj at the north-west corner, the largest of twelve bastions, and the moat which encircles the fort.

Suraj Mal (ruled 1755-63) later shifted the capital to Bharatpur while filling Deeg with pleasure palaces, where the chieftains could take a break from skirmishes, with the neighbouring Rajputs and the Mughal empire that had begun to decline.

Gopal Bhawan, Water Palace, Deeg, ca.1885

Gopal Bhavan, Water Palace, Deeg, 1885

Photograph of Gopal Bhavan at Deeg in Rajasthan, taken by Raja Deen Dayal in the 1880s.

The garden palace of at Deeg has pavilions set around Mughal-style gardens filled with water features, fed by two reservoirs, the Gopal Sagar to the west and the Rup Sagar to the east. The Gopal Bhavan is one of four main pavilions in the 18th-century garden palace at Deeg. The view shows the facade of the yellow sandstone building with arcades of cusped arches.
Many of these ancient structures, now running as heritage hotels, continue to attract travellers till date, who come to experience the royal past while enjoying the modern comforts.
Continued: Forts and Palaces in  Rajasthan – Part II , covering Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Chiitorgarh, Bikaner and Jodhpur.

 Pictures from : The British Library,

Some pictures were shared by Mr Abdul Ghaffar (@ghaffar12)


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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle – from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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Somali K Chakrabarti

Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle - from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

  • Bhudeb Chakrabarti Kolkata 14 January 2015

    You have excellently presented in your Blog of 14 January 2015 (Forts and Palaces in Rajasthan)the beautiful 19th Century Pictures of the historical Forts and Palaces of Jaipur and Bharatpur .The architectural splendours of these Forts and Palaces still keep the viewers enthralled and spell bound in spite of the passage of time .I am considerably enlightened by the rich historical facts provided in your Blog .I had the opportunity to visit some of these Forts and Palaces but I was not fully knowledgeable about their historical connections . We hope your sequel Blogs about the Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan would equally rivet the attention of the admiring readers of your Blogs . .

  • It is in my bucket list. colorful Rajasthan and the folk songs and dance <3

  • Excellent entry by Somali k Chakrabarti. Will follow the blog.

  • Wonderful photographs…. thanks for sharing… :-)

  • I have been to Amber Fort and it’s splendid. We had a guide who told many folklore associated with this place. But the pictures you have shared fills me with more awe. Looking forward to read more about forts and palaces. My husband loves visiting old monuments – mansions, forts and even jails. :P

  • A very good Narrative…. You have presented the topic well thru’ the classical B & W photos!

  • Truly mesmerizing and it amazed me to read the history and architecture of such old monuments stands strong even today :) I have not been to Rajasthan yet, now i know what I have to see as I loved spending hours noticing the small details of each place.

    • Really heartening to see your comment Shweta. I have been to some of these places and have always been fascinated by the carvings, architecture, the stories and the folklores. All seem to weave a magic around these ancient structures. :-)
      Please do read the 2nd part as well that I’ll put it up in the next 1 or 2 days.

  • I’ll surely plan a visit to Rajasthan soon after reading.

    • Sure Anju. I seem to have ended up promoting Rajasthan tourism. :-). You know one thing – throughout the 4 years of college I often wanted to go to the Red Fort, but could never find any company as novies , nirulas or CP were always the preferred ootions. :-)

  • Awesome post.

  • Deeg is new to me. Others I have seen. Such lovely pics, each of them treated well.

  • It is very special post , I found water palace was better than today . Great idea Somali ji

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