Uttar Pradesh is as much politically important today as it was during the ancient and medieval periods. There are many Hindu legends associated with this land of Ganga and Yamuna. The empires that flourished here in the ancient era are Maurya, Kushan, Gupta, and Pratihara. Kannauj, the capital of the mighty king Harshavardhana of Pushyabhuti Dynasty, is also in Uttar Pradesh. In the medieval era, Mughals held sway over the major portion of this region. They built a couple of exemplary forts here: Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Though there are several other forts in Uttar Pradesh, these two forts are popular for their art and architecture.
The fort at Agra is associated with the Mughal emperor Akbar. After arriving here in the 16th century, he bolstered the fortifications and built the gates. He also added buildings inside and his successors did their additions. Made up of red sandstone, this citadel overlooks the waters of Yamuna river. The bastioned walls enclose an area of 94 acres and are pierced with four gates. Many of the Akbar-era structures were brought down by Shah Jahan to make space for his elegant buildings. And in 1803 the British, after seizing it, destroyed several buildings in the fort. Of all the buildings Akbar built here, only one palace survives. Along with that there are halls and pavilions built by Shah Jahan.
Sikri was a village where resided a mystic named Sheikh Salim Chisti. As per a belief, Akbar sought his blessings to become a father of an heir. And his wife Jodha delivered a child who went on to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Building Fatehpur Sikri Fort was Akbar’s way of paying homage to that saint. The construction of this magnificent citadel straddling a rocky ridge began in 1569. Akbar shifted his kingdom here in 1571 but for assorted reasons, he had to abandon this place in 1585. Nobody ever occupied it after him, hence the fort is as it was left by Akbar in 1585. The palaces, chambers, and pavilions of this citadel display the magnificence of the centuries old architecture.
It is due to the heroism of the Maratha queen Laxmibai’ that this fortress has taken a significant place in the history of India. After the death of her husband, Gangadhar Rao, the British East India company wasn’t willing to accept her adopted son as the successor. She accepted British dominance for a while but soon joined the rebels and fought till her death. Today Jhansi fort has ruins of a palace, couple of temples, and a museum. It covers an expanse of 15 acres and is protected by thick granite walls. Don’t miss to check out the cannon called ‘Kadak Bijli’ which was last utilized in 1857.
Ramnagar Fort is situated opposite Tulsi Ghat (also called Assi Ghat) in the temple city of Varanasi. You can either approach the fort by road or by a boat. However, the fort appears more beautiful from afar. Despite being the official residence of the royals of Varanasi, it isn’t well-kept. As per the inscriptions in the fort, it dates back to the 17th century. Inside there is a museum which has a collection of carriages, palanquins, hookahs, and costumes. There is also an armoury.
Of all the forts in Uttar Pradesh, only Chunar Fort is the one which belongs to the ancient history. Vikramaditya, the king of Ujjain, built this fort to commemorate the stay of his brother Raja Bharthari. Both of these kings are said to have existed in the ‘Before Christ’ era. Hence this fort must be the oldest fort in Uttar Pradesh and also one of the oldest in the country. The region around Chunar is of strategic importance as it falls on the Varanasi-Allahabad-Agra route. The fort remained with Sher Shah Suri and then with Hem Chandra Vikramaditya for quite some time before Akbar captured it in 1574 AD. Today the fort has the remains of palaces, chambers, sandstone battlements, a defunct sundial, and a deep well. Not many people visit this place, though there is a caretaker who can show you around in the fortress.
Allahabad Fort is also known as Akbar’s Fort. So, it is obvious that it was built by Akbar. The construction happened in the early 1580s. The location of this fort along the banks of the Yamuna river is splendid. It is also close to the place where the waters of Yamuna merge into the Ganges. To get the best view of the fort, gaze at it from a boat in the river. The armed forces occupy major part of the fort. Till some time back visitors were given access to a small part of the fort. But unfortunately they have closed it as well. So, now you can only admire the fort from outside.
This fort, situated on a hillock in Aligarh city, was built by the son of a governor under Ibrahim Lodi. Though it got established in 1524, it gained prominence under the reign of the Marathas in the 18th century. The steep ravines around the citadel acted as the natural defense. Around the beginning of the 19th century, the fort came under the control of the British who did several additions and also ramped up the defensive capability. The fortified area is now home to a botanical garden. You can visit this place only for an outing because no structure from the past has survived.