Forts are a familiar category of monuments, the world over. They also constitute some of the most ancient historical structures apart from places of worship. Etymologically, the word “fort” is derived from the Latin root fortis or forte which means strong or firm. The indigenous word for “fort” is durg which is said to have been derived from the Sanskrit word durgam, meaning difficult. Thus, it can be said that a fort means any structure that is used or built for the purpose of defending a territory by repelling external attacks.
Some of the earliest forms of fortifications were not “built” per se. They constituted of natural lines of defence such as forests, rivers or hills. Forts have historically been built using locally available resources and been based on contemporary standards of technological expertise. The building of forts also greatly depended on the physical terrain of a territory. For example, rocky terrains came to develop hill forts. On the other hand, in plains, long and massive walls encompassing settlements were erected. In early settlements walls surrounded entire areas of habitation. However, as settlements expanded beyond the walled confines, exclusive fortifications aimed at protecting the prominent spaces (residences of chiefs or religious centres) within settlements were also constructed.
While forts are essentially imbued with the element of defence, they did not merely remain as military outposts. In time, forts also came to house residential structures, houses of worship and a myriad of other structures/elements which were not directly connected to warfare.