Updated: Nov 19, 2022
The discussion of the development of forts in ancient India is an ambitious endeavor. This period saw the rise and fall of many kingdoms and dynasties in every nook and corner of the country. The forts of the subcontinent during this period display great diversity and do not follow a straight pattern of development. This period saw a synthesis of art and architectural traditions that developed within the subcontinent as well as those that traveled here with conquerors and adventurers from distant lands. The purpose of this present essay is to provide a comprehensive overview of these developments.
Forts are seen today as tangible reminders of the military might of kingdoms of the past. However, forts in India date back to a time when kingdoms and empires did not exist. The earliest fortifications were probably not even man-made. Natural features such as rivers, hills, and forests were used as lines of defense and places of defense. Some of the earliest evidence of fortifications built on the Indian subcontinent dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Excavations in the areas around the Indus River revealed the existence of a pre-Harappan phase with large fortified settlements. A remarkable level of specialization in crafts such as stone and metalworking was also achieved during this period.
Indus Valley Period: As soon as we come to the Indus Valley period, we see very elaborate fortifications made of mud, burnt bricks, and even stones. This period is rich in archaeological evidence which helps in understanding its architectural heritage in depth. An important feature of Indus Valley town planning was the division of settlements into two distinct areas and It’s A Famous Place in India. The Nagarkot (citadel) and the lower town. The city of Mohenjodaro was also divided into these two broad parts, and the Nagarkot (citadel) area was additionally surrounded by a moat. Kot Diji (3300 BC) was a fortified site with a massive wall made of limestone rubble and mud brick, and the settlement consisted of a Nagarkot (citadel) complex and a lower residential area.
Kalibanga (2920–2550 BCE) was surrounded by massive fortifications made of mud-brick. Stone was widely used in the construction of fortified walls in the rocky areas of Kutch and Saurashtra. Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch was fortified with an imposing wall made of rubble stone set in mud mortar.
This massive fortification wall and the remains of stone pillars in the citadel are very distinctive and are not seen at any other Harappan site. Many scholars do not consider these constructions to have been built for a defensive function, but consider them either as protective embankments against floods or as structures built for social functions. However, the fortifications, especially grand fortifications like Dholavira, cannot be ignored. Force and conflict could not have been completely absent over such a large area over such a long period of time, including the Indus Valley Civilization.
Vedic period: Evidence from the Vedic period is found more in the form of literature and less in the form of physical archaeological evidence. The Rigveda mentions a famous Bharata king by the name of Divodas, who defeated the Dasa ruler Shambar, who commanded several hill forts. It also mentions the tribes living in the fortification called Pur. The Aitareya Brahmana refers to the three sacrificial fires as three forts that prevent the asuras (demons) from obstructing the sacrificial fire. Indra is referred to in the Vedic literature as Purandara or the destroyer of forts.
Hahajanapad: It's under the Indian Records The next archaeological evidence for forts comes from India's second urbanization period (6th century BCE to 3rd century BCE) when urban life developed on a large scale in the middle Ganges valley. This period also saw the rise of the Mahajanapadas or sixteen republics, and these kingdoms were Anga, Avanti, Assaka, Chedi, Gandhara, Kashi, Kamboja, Kosala, Kuru, Malla, Matsya, Magadha, Panchala, Surasena, Vatsa, and Vrije. With the growth of powerful states, an environment of constant warfare arose, and consequently the need to strengthen the security and military power of those states. Rajgir, near Patna, is the site of the ancient Rajagriha, the first capital of Magadha. There used to be two cities here - the old Rajagriha and the new Rajagriha.
The old Rajagriha was situated between five hills and was surrounded by two fortification walls of stone. The new Rajagriha was also surrounded by stone fortifications. The outer fortifications of the old Rajagriha belong to the time of Bimbisara, i.e., 6th century BCE and the two walls around the new Rajagriha belong to the time of Ajatashatru, i.e., 5th century BCE.
The Buddhist text Mahaparinibbana Sutta (Mahaparinirvana Sutra) mentions that a fort was built near the village of Patali under the orders of King Ajatashatru of Rajagriha. It later emerged as the city of Pataliputra. The Magadha ruler Udayin shifted his capital from Rajagriha to Pataliputra.
Anga's capital, ancient Champa (now known as Champapur and Champanagar villages in south Bihar), was surrounded by fortifications and a moat. Kaushambi, the capital of Vatsa, was also surrounded by an earthen fortification wall. Ahichhatra, the capital of the Panchalas, was also a large fortified city. Ujjayini (modern Ujjain) on the banks of the Kshipra (Sipra) river was the capital of Avanti. The township was surrounded by a massive earthen fortification wall as well as a moat.
In 326 BC, Alexander the Great reached the limits of Magadha. The Anabasis of Alexander, a history of Alexander's campaigns written by Arrian around the 1st or 2nd century BCE, describes in detail Alexander's Malla campaign (against the Maloi of the Punjab region, who are also known as Malwa). It talks about walled cities, which had very high bastions that were difficult to reach. The walls are said to have had minarets at regular intervals.
Mauryan period: After the decline of the Nanda dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya became the first king of the great Maurya dynasty (321 BCE) with the help of his famous minister Kautilya. Kautilya's political treatise, the Arthashastra, is in fact one of the most important literary sources for understanding the military institutions and fortifications of that period. The concept of saptanga state given in it considers the state as consisting of seven inter-related elements – swami (king), amatya (minister), janapada (territory and people), danda (justice), durga (fortified capital), kosha ( Treasure), and Mitra (associate). Describing the fourth element i.e. Durg, he has given detailed instructions for its construction.
They recommend building earthen ramparts with brick or stone ramparts and suggest that soldiers be stationed around the fort. The walls of the fort should be surrounded by three moats (moats) filled with lotuses and crocodiles. The fort must have a well-stocked food supply to last the end of the siege and must have secret escape routes.
Kautilya also mentions different categories of forts: Dhanva Durga or desert fort; Mahi Durg or Mud Fort; Jal Durg or Water Fort; Giri Durg or hill fort; Van Durg or Forest Fort; A fort or male fortress guarded by loyal soldiers. The last Maurya king was overthrown by Pushyamitra Shunga, and he established the Shunga dynasty in 187 BCE. Fortifications belonging to the Shunga period were identified at Katragarh in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, which consisted of ramparts made of burnt brick walls with earthen interiors and moats.
In this article, we have told you about some dynasties, and the history of India is very detailed. Get a full explanation of the caves of Allora.