How were Forts made in Mewar, Rajasthan

Kumbhalgarh Fort.
  • Based on Rajvallabha Vastushastram, a Treatise on Architecture this article explains how forts in Mewar were made. It briefly also tells how Lake Palace Pichola stands in water.

The famous Architect Mandan has played an important role to keep the tradition of Medieval Indian architectural science intact through his text. Under the patronage of Maharana Kumbh (r. 1433-1468 CE), Mandan compiled the various texts like Devata Murtiprakran, Prasada Mandanam, Rajavallabha Vastushastram, Roop Mandanam, Vastu Mandanam, Vastushastra, Vastusara, Vastua Manjari on regional architecture of Mewar.


In Rajavallabha Vastushastram, the text is divided into three parts - details of the architectural style, astrological position of stars and Muhurta of laying the foundation at the auspicious time. This book also refers to the city planning before the fort construction. 


According to Mandan, Square city called Mahendra, Vertical Square city called Sarvatobhadra, a circular shaped city called Sinha and city located on top of the hill is called Divya. The construction of the triangular shaped city and hexagonal shaped city is prohibited according to Vastushastram.


Mandan described four types of fortification - Bhoomi-Durga, Jal-Durga, Giri-Durg, Guha- Durg. Giri-Durg (hill fort) has been described as the best in terms of security.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, top of the hill.

The residence of the ruler in the fort should be constructed from 4000 to 16000 cubits. The construction of temples in the fort should be 36 cubits, and 42 cubits on the east and west direction. The height of the fort type should be 25 to 29 cubits. The diameter of the Kothar (storage) in the fort should be 14 yards. There should be a variety of arsenals in the Kothar (storage). City wall should be constructed for protection and a trench called Moat should be dug on both the sides of the fort.


(In simple language Cubit is a unit of length based on the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Yards- a unit of linear measure equal to 3 feet.)


In the ancient times the measurement was done by Bans Gaj Hath Ungul: like the poet Chandbardai told Prithiviraj Chauhan in captivity to kill Mohmad Ghori: the distance he explained was “Char Bans Chaubis Gaj, ungul Ashtha praman, Ta upper Sultan hai mat chuke Chauhan.” 


The height of the fort wall should be 15, 12, 10 yards according to fort square area. The general public should be resettled in the fort according to their social stratification based on the Varna (caste) like Brahmins in the east, Kshatriyas in the south, Shudras and Vaishyas in the north, other traders in the center of the city.

Note height of Fort. Rana Pratap was born here. 

Any reason for directions of settlements?  

Yes, According to natural science and religious belief every direction represents the five elements of life (Panch Tatva). The Indian society classified in Varna system and this system based on karma (Occupation), so according to work; particular communities should be settled in proper direction.


East zone represents the Agni (Fire) tatva. Agni (Fire) element represents ambition, power strength, intelligence, tradition, progressive life. Brahmin Community was involved in intellectual and religious activities so they should be settled in east direction.  


The North-West zone is a zone of active wind, So Dyers (Chhipas), Washermen communities should be settled in this particular direction.

Water storage ie also a moat, Chittorgarh Fort. 

The construction of reservoirs and four entrance gates (Singhdwar) should be compulsory in the city and near the palace. To protect the city, battle equipment should be installed on the fort walls. The water supply should be ensured in the city by construction of step wells and wells within and outside of the city. The Palace and the court should be in the west direction from the middle of the city so that there can be protection in case of an attack by the enemy.


Was thickness of Fort Walls prescribed?

Not mentioned in Rajvallbha, however it depends on the location of the Fort and requirements. If cannons have to be mounted, then the Fort wall will have to be wider otherwise normal walls are about 6-8 feet wide. But there is no fixed measurement.


According to the above mentioned Architecture terms, under the patronage of Maharana Kumbha, architect Mandan constructed Kumbhalmer and renovated Chittorgarh fort by making certain changes. Maharana Kumbha is credited for the construction of 32 forts in Mewar, which were constructed on the strategic locations to protect Mewar.


Of the 32 forts in Mewar which are the important ones?

Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh, Basantgarh (Sirohi), Achalgarh (Mount Abu) these are major forts.


Briefly, what materials were used to make forts?

Forts in Rajasthan, India and across the world have lasted - specifically those made in solid stone using the original hill as the Foundation. Some of the ones in Rajasthan do not even use lime or mortar and are just surviving on the jointing of stone in dry masonry and gravity. Others used Stone and lime both of which are strong materials. Lime increases in strength with age so the lime mortar of 400/500 years is much stronger then when it was made - unlike materials like cement which do not have life more than 50 years.

Lake Palace Udaipur 

Aside Forts, how do the world famous Lake Palace and Jag Mandir stand in water? 

The Lake Palace or Jag Mandir are actually small islands spaces and Pichola is not a very deep lake so it seems like they are floating in water when full but the foundation of these palaces are built on the land parcels (island spaces) in the lake so very much similar to foundations on land and do not face any threat from water. In fact there are examples of water forts like Gagron in Jhalawar, Rajasthan or even larger ones in Maharashtra like Janjeera and Sindhudurg which are complete forts standing in large island pieces.


The Jagniwas was built by Maharana Jagat Singh II (r.1734-1751) in 1743, 9 years after the demise of his father Maharana Sangram Singh II (r.1710-1734), though the permission to build this Palace had been given in his life time. I personally feel that he waited for the lake to be sufficiently dry to layout the foundation of the Palace.


This note was prepared by Ms Swati Jain, Senior Research Assistant MMRI and Edited by Bhupendra Singh Auwa, Administrator in Chief, MMCF (Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation). All pictures by Sanjeev Nayyar. 


Also read

1. About Lakes of Udaipur

2. Chittorgarh Fort

3. Kumbalgarh Fort  


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