Tall walls, millions of bricks, tens, hundreds, and even thousands of acres of land, hidden secrets, Ancient giants full of scars, scars that tell the stories of countless bloodshed and royal scandals yet, they stand resolute in the face of time as a testament to the unyielding will force of the rulers who had built them. we are, of course talking about forts and castles.
Forts & castles are some of the most intriguing man-made wonders, that everyone tends to gravitate towards which is why we were intrigued to find out that out of all the links in the first 4 google search pages, and on YouTube (at all), there is not a single article or video which makes any statistical effort to actually rank them with a proper etiquette. It was a euphoric moment, for it was yet another opportunity for Scrivial to step in and show how it is done.
Thus, let’s have a look at the most statistical ranking of top 10 forts & castles ever.
The ranking algorithm is based on an account of 3 main criterion: Age, Area covered and how tall it is. The most weightage was given to age as the older the fort or the castle is, the more difficult (in general) it must have been to build it, due to lack of technology. The second most weightage was given to its height, rather than its area, because, it is relatively easy to lay several bricks side by side than to stack them on one another. Now that you know how we ranked them, let’s begin!
Dating back to the 9th century, the castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, presidents of Czechoslovakia and was also the official residence for President of the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are now kept hidden in a secret room within the castle.
A huge fire in 1541 destroyed large parts of the castle. During the wars that followed the Second Prague defenestration in 1618, the Castle was badly damaged and was dilapidated. Many works from the collection of Rudolph II were looted by Swedes in 1648, in the Battle of Prague 1648, which was also the final act of the Thirty Years' War.
Legends of Prague Castle:
Old legends say that if a usurper places the bohemian crown (the one whose jewels are now kept within a hidden room inside the castle) on his head is doomed to die within a year. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II, Prague Castle became the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich. He was said to have placed the Bohemian crown on his head. Less than a year after assuming power, on May 27, 1942, Heydrich was attacked during Operation Anthropoid, by British-trained Slovak and Czech soldiers when he was on his way back to the Castle. He died a week later due to infected wounds.
Located in the magnificent Prague Castle complex is the Daliborka Tower one of Prague’s most famous sites concerning myths and ghosts. The tower is named after its first prisoner, a man called Dalibor from the village of Kozojedy. Dalibor, a young and brave knight was sentenced to death and kept in the dungeon of the tower for the crime of sheltering naughty serfs in his home, making him in a sense, a sort of Robin Hood. According to legend, Dalibor learned how to play the violin while imprisoned in the dark tower. The dulcet sounds of the violin would drift through the air and awake touching sympathy in the citizens of Prague who would in turn gather by the tower to listen to Dalibor play and offer him food and drinks. Dalibor became so popular that his execution date was never announced. The citizens merely knew when the sweet notes of the violin ceased.
The fort was initially known as Dera Rawal which later referred to as Dera Rawar which, with the passage of time came to be pronounced as Derawar, its present name. Dating back to 9th century AD, it was built by Rai Jajja Bhatti, the Rajput ruler of the Bhatti clan as a tribute to Rawal Deoraj Bhatti, the Rajput sovereign king of the Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur. It stands like an old scared giant on the face of the merciless Cholistan desert and is in need of immediate preservative measures.
The fort was built around a Sacred tree which was believed to provide protection to cattle from the attack of wolfs. The fort’s outer wall is constructed from burnt bricks which were brought hand to hand, reflecting the devotion of the workers and their loyalty to their ruler.
Legends of Derawar Fort:
There is an underground laboratory inside the fort, said to be used by a Yogi, who claimed himself to be an alchemist. He believed that metals can be converted into gold. Several skeletons of dead lizards, sheep, cows, and children were excavated from the laboratory. Most of the details are very obscure.
It is also said that near the fort, somewhere in the sands of the Cholistan desert lies the grave of the companions of Prophet Muhammad.
The original purpose and architects of Ranikot Fort are unknown. However, it is believed that the fort was built during the regimes of the Sassanians, the Scythians, the Parthians or the Bactrian Greeks. Archaeologists point to the 17th century as the time of its first construction. The fort is figuratively and literally, colossal, known as the Great Wall of Sindh, it connects several bleak mountains of the Kirthar hills along contours, measuring a staggering 31 kilometers in length. Area wise, it is the second largest fort in the world.
Restoration works were undertaken on the fort by the Archaeological department of Pakistan, but following allegations of poor construction and the Enquiry Commission's report indicating that the restoration works were indeed being poorly done with cement and new stone caused further restoration works to stop in 2006.
Legends of Ranikot:
This fort is yet to be fully explored, even to this day! Its size makes it almost impossible. Locals also believe that every full moon night (Poonam ki raat), fairies come to the spring near Mohan Gate to bathe. One can hear splashing sounds of water falling on the rocks. This underground water source is popularly known as Parryen jo Tarr or the spring of the fairies.
It is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. After the Battle of Mohács, the medieval Kingdom of Hungary collapsed. The Ottoman Turks sacked and burned Buda but the Royal Palace was not damaged. In 1529 the Ottoman army besieged and occupied Buda again, and this time, the palace was badly damaged. In 1541 Buda was occupied again by the Ottomans, without any resistance. Although Turkish travel writers wrote enthusiastically about the beauty of the palace of the Hungarian kings, the new Ottoman government let the palace decay. It was partially used as barracks, storage place, stables and otherwise, it stood empty.
Starting with the great siege of 1686 to the world war 2, the castle has been burned down multiple times despite an equal number of restoration attempts.
Legends of Buda Castle:
The history of Buda castle, specifically its labyrinth, are as obscure as they are dark. It housed secret bomb shelters during the world war 2, and served as the control grid, between 1951 and 1989 for electricity distribution to the whole country. Ever since the 1800s, there have been several reports about a man hooded in a black cloak, lurking in the depths of the labyrinth. A Turkish Harem once existed near the entrance to the labyrinth, and several female skeletons were found in the caves dating back to the era of the Ottoman occupation. They are said to belong to the women who were thrown into wells when the Turks were forced out of the castle, and some belong to those who were bricked up by the Pasha of Buda, once he got bored of them.
The fort was built by Man Singh Tomar and consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gurjari Mahal and Man Mandir. Some parts of the fort date back to centuries before the official construction even began. It is here that the oldest record of "zero" in the world was found. It was found in a small temple, which is located on the way to the top. The inscription is around 1500 years old. On a slightly hazy morning, it beckons us with its elegant façade of sandstone with seven gates of which the most imposing is the Elephant Gate, a part of the colorful and magnificent 15th-century palace of Raja Man Singh, the great Tomar chief. It’s also called the Chit Mandir or painted palace, because of the colored tiles in blue and gold which decorate the exterior in a mosaic of images of Brahmini ducks, elephants, parrots, banana trees, crocodiles, and peacocks.
Legends of Gwalior Fort:
Inside the fort, there are underground chambers which now seems to be haunted by the spectre of death and torture. These were used by the Mughals to torture and execute prisoners, the most important of which was Murad Baksh, brother of Aurangzeb, who was fed on a diet of crushed puppies until he went mad and died here. Equally grisly is the Jauhar Kund, which marks the spot where the women of the harem immolated themselves after the defeat of Gwalior in the 13th century.
There are many step wells and tanks inside it but the one with the most interesting history is Suraj Kund. In the 4th century, King Suraj Sen of the Kachawaha clan was hunting on the hill when he was given water to drink by the sage Gwalipa which magically not only satiated his thirst but also cured his leprosy. The sage predicted that as long as the name Pal was kept, the dynasty would survive. He took the name Suhan Pal and his legacy went on until the 12th century.
Amer Fort also called the Amber fort is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. Situated on Aravalli Hills, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake - the main source of water for the Fort. The aesthetic ambiance of the palace is mystic. Constructed from red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. The fort is originally believed to have been built by Raja Man Singh during 967. The Fort, as it stands now, was built over the remnants of this earlier structure during the reign of Raja Man Singh, and his descendant, Jai Singh I. The architecture is so marvelous that a Persian water wheel was once used for water lifting. Also, the toilets and baths had separate supplies for cold and hot water. Nowadays, if you visit the fort early mornings, you can get a ride to the fort on elephant back. However, several reports suggest of abuse on the elephants which are ill-fed, ill-kept and are rather forced to deliver services. Since, Scrivial strongly promotes animal welfare, we request you to not take any elephant rides.
Legends of Amer fort:
Legends say that the Afghan treasures of Man Singh are hidden inside the fort to this very day which is justifiable since some restricted parts of the fort are still being searched by the archaeological department of Rajasthan.
There is a temple inside the fort known as the “Kali Temple” which is very renowned for the silver door and statue of silver lions. According to legends, Maharaja Man Singh used to worship Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. One day, she appeared in Maharaja’s dream and ordered him to recover her statue and place it in a proper and appropriate temple. Maharaja did accordingly and created the temple.
It is stated that the fort was constructed by the Mauryans during the 7th century AD and hence derives its name after the Mauryan ruler, Chitrangada Mori, as inscribed on coins of the period. Historical records show Chittorgarh fort was the capital of Mewar for 834 years. Three important battles were fought for control of the fort; in 1303, Ala-ud-din Khilji besieged the fort. In 1535, Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah besieged the fort and in 1567, Mughal Emperor Akbar attacked the fort. The fort was looted and destroyed at the hands of Emperor Akbar in 1568 and subsequently was never resettled again. Today it is a dying giant who is already down to its knees but as the foundation hints, there was a time when this giant stood straight with head held high-the time when its foundations were as high as 180 meters, only a part of which constituted the 40 m high walls above the ground.
Legends of Chittorgarh Fort:
The fort is known as the fort where women die. During each of the three times when the fort was sieged, Jauhar (immolation by jumping in the fire) was performed. Several thousand women-daughters, mothers, slaves, princess and the queen herself, sacrificed their lives to immortalize their dignity. The place where "jauhar" was performed is said to be haunted to this day and spending a night there is prohibited even for the guards. Shrill cries of women in pain can be heard echoing within the walls at night.
The fort is equally famous for Jaimal and Patta, two army chieftains of Mewar, who were left behind to defend the fort along with 8,000 Rajput warriors under their command from emperor Akbar. They died during the battle but they fought so valiantly that Akbar ordered for their statue to be build. Following are the words of Akbar translated, from his on records after the war was over,
“Jaimal and Patta who are renowned for their valor among the infidels.......are singly considered to be equal to a thousand horsemen in intrepidity and prowess.......”
Masada (Hebrew for fortress) is a place of gaunt and majestic beauty that has become one of the Jewish people's greatest pride as it was where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated atop an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. With a sheer drop of more than 400 meters to the western shore of the Dead Sea, the view from the top of the plateau would have been breath-taking. Yet, the silence of the ruins belies one of the most interesting episodes in Jewish history. Masada was first identified by Edward Robinson and Eli Smith in 1838. It was extensively excavated between 1963 and 1965 by an expedition led by Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin.
According to Josephus (historian), when the troops of the Roman Empire sieged the Masada at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, about 960 people - the Sicarii rebels and their families, committed mass suicide. The year of the siege of Masada may have been 73 or 74 CE.
Legends of Masada:
While there are several stories about Masada, the one that leaves the deepest impression on one’s heart and soul, is what is believed to be the final speech of Eleazar, one of the leaders of the Sicarii. According to Josephus, this what Eleazer spoke to the doomed defender!
“Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fall of our wealth also; and let us spare nothing but our provisions; for they will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessaries, but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery.
(Josephus, The Jewish War, VII, 8.6)”
The speech drenched in pain and patriotism was then immediately followed by the mass suicide of nearly 1000 jews!
The early history of the fort could not be ascertained on account of lack of evidence. Built atop the westerly range of Aravalli Hills, the original fort is believed to have been built by King Samprati of the Maura Age during the 6th century. Kumbhalgarh in its present form was built during the course of the 15th century by Rana Kumbha and it is also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the great warrior king of Mewar.
The walls of the Kumbhalgarh fort extends over 38 km, making it the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China. The fort to this day remains impregnable and indomitable to direct assault. It fell only once, due to a shortage of drinking water, to the combined forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar, and the Mirzas in Gujarat.
Legends of Kumbhalgarh fort:
According to legend, Rana Kumbha repeatedly failed in building the walls. A spiritual preceptor was consulted about the construction problems and he advised that a voluntary human sacrifice (of being beheaded) would solve whatever was causing the impediment. He advised building a temple where the head should fall and building the walls atop his headless body. As can be expected, for some time no one volunteered, but one day, a pilgrim (some versions suggest a soldier) volunteered and was ritually decapitated. Today the main gate of the fortress, Hanuman Pol, contains a shrine to commemorate the great sacrifice.
According to another popular folklore, Maharana Kumbha used to burn massive lamps that consumed fifty kilograms of ghee (class of clarified butter) and a hundred kilograms of cotton to provide light for the farmers to work during the nights in the valley.
Finally, we reached our number 1, The Citadel of Aleppo. With a total score of more than double of what Kumbhalgarh fort had secured, it is undoubtedly the greatest among the greats. Located at the crossroads of several trade routes since the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Akkadians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans. The monumental Citadel of Aleppo, rising above the suqs, mosques, and madrasas of the old walled city, is a testament to Arab military might. With evidence of past occupation by civilizations dating back to the 10th century B.C., the citadel contains the remains of mosques, palace and bath buildings. The majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period.
It is extremely sad to see how acts of violence can bring these stalwart giants, who have conquered time and nature, to their feet. In August 2012, during the Battle of Aleppo, Syrian civil war, the external gate of the citadel was irreplaceably damaged after being shelled during a clash between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army to gain control over the citadel. Again in July of 2015, a bomb was reportedly set off in a tunnel under one of the outer walls causing the wall of the citadel to finally collapse.
Legends of the Citadel of Aleppo:
According to the legend, prophet Abraham himself is said to have milked his sheep on the citadel hill.
Two Roman columns of the 3rd century A.D., standing tall on the ancient citadel are called by the local inhabitants as the “Throne of Nimrod”,the mighty hunter of biblical fame. Legend tells that this tyrannical founder of Urfa captured Abraham from the high citadel into a fire below as his punishment for having destroyed all of the city’s idols with an axe.
The tears of the people watching Abraham burn in the fire formed the “Pool of Abraham”, next to the Halil-ur-Rahman mosque, to the right. Legend says that the logs of fire turned into carp. Thus the gold fishes in the pool are believed to be sacred. Disturbing them is forbidden.