"Bastian", an indispensable part of Fort Architecture of past era - some Indian examples

Bastian, etc, Italian Fort architecture, pinrest.com

This post briefly discusses Bastions,  part of the fort complex architecture of past era  comprising rampart, bastion, ravelin and glacis etc built  by the kingdoms centuries ago for defensive security after the advent of gunpowder,  rampant artillery attacks and use of powerful cannons. Bastian is the distinguishing feature of gunpowder age fortification to tackle formidable  artillery fire. It fell out of use in the middle of the 19th century. 

If you take a look at the history of nations across the globe, forts are still looked upon as visible and tangible reminders of the military might of the kingdoms of past era that were in the forefront.  Centuries ago, across India there was constant rise and fall of empires and dynasties, highlighting the transient nature of life, fortune and misfortune on one hand, and the discernable difference between the  strong and weak kingdoms who vied with one another to hang on to power and be at top.  

Kumbhalgarh Fort bastions, Rajasthan, India .wikimedia.org

 The concept of fort was developed long ago to retard the raids from enemies and in ancient India no particular design  or plan   was  followed.  As  centuries went by  certain changes were made to make the fort stronger and effective against raids. When wars broke out between two nations, the ruler and the army consisting of cavalry and infantry had to depend on the sturdy fort  built with thick walls and gates surrounded by a moat. With the advent of  gunpowder and cannons, intensity of artillery fire from  cannons  decided the victory of the  empire at war.   So  the design of forts had to be changed accordingly that would facilitate the launch of a formidable defensive attack safely without getting hurt in the return firing. 

bastion .quora.com

star-shaped  bastion .quora.com

 Bastion, a distinctive structure projecting outward at a certain angle to the main fortification wall in the front,  is an integral and indispensable part of fort architecture  and, in the past, it played  no less  crucial role during attacks from the enemy line than conventional forts offering  passive resistance and  covering long and wide firing range in the age of gunpowder artillery guns.  Another feature is walls being low, the earthen ramparts behind them, will  absorb incoming artillery shells. Star-shaped fort is  used to withstand artillery fire.  See the picture above. 

Ft. William, Kolkata 

Above image: Ft. William, Kolkata: Earliest fort built by the East India company to protect its settlement. It is a star fort  suitable to defence against cannon firing solid shot, and dates from before the advent of explosive shells.   Made of brick and mortar in the shape of an irregular octagon with an area of 5 km2 (1.9 sq mi), five of its sides face landward, and three towards the Hooghly River. 
Enfilading fire en.wikipedia.org

Above image:  Diagram showing units "in enfilade" (red) and "in defilade" (blue) with another unit (green) providing enfilading fire. Example: Ft. William, Kolkata. Though the moat can be flooded, it is designed as an area in which to use enfilade (or flanking) fire against any attackers reaching the walls  of the fort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_William,_India  .......................... 

Plan of Aquada, Goa. trekshitiz.com

Above image: Plan of Aguada fort (1606 CE) of Goa, India built on the northern bank of Mandvi river in the 17th century by the Portuguese with arrow shaped bastions in the corners and is surrounded by a trench from three sides built with rocks.  The water tanks in this fort were used to supply water to ocean going merchant ships. There is a huge water tank in the basement room which has a capacity of  90 lakh liters.  In the 19th century the Portuguese built a prison on this fort. http://trekshitiz.com/Ei/Aguada-Trek-Goa-District. html...........................

The following are the essential features of a bastion in forts to tackle powerful artillery attacks from the enemies: 

01. Bastion  with projected angled front in the main wall would  ensure safety and facilitate   multiple attacks from different sides from the defenders.   

02. It helps  the  soldiers inside the fort keep an eye on the enemy movements at far distances. 

03.The configuration of a bastion is that soldiers  can  launch attacks on the enemy  without being seen by them. 

04. Fortification with bastion was  common in the mid 16th to mid 19th centuries to tackle artillery fire.

05.  Angular in shape and set mainly  at the corners of the fort, a well designed bastion has  two faces and two flanks. The advantage is  fire from the flanks being able to protect the curtain wall and the adjacent bastions. The bastion is often described as pentagonal: two faces, two flanks and the open face on the line of the ramparts, the gorge

06. Big holes made in the bastions are meant to attack the enemy without being seen also to increase the viewing area. Thus the soldiers peeping through  hole could have a better vigilance

07.  We can decipher the differences between  forts with mediaeval or  Renaissance tower  and forts that were built with bastions. It was a better defensive system  developed  from the  understanding of the potential both in attack and defence of gunpowder artillery. The tall towers  could be difficult to scale by the offensive army,  but  they  could be easily targeted by  them easily.   The bastion is lower than a tower, so the damages from  increasingly powerful artillery will be far less. 

08. The bastion does not usually enclose rooms as a tower would, although there may be gun chambers, magazines and passages buried in it

09.  Unlike a tower, a Bastion   can cover a large area and allow  more cannons to be mounted atop  and kept ready-to-fire position and provides  enough space for the crew move and  operate the cannon. 

10.  A bastion is never built taller than  the rampart. The height will be more or less similar.

11.  A bastion has  a ditch in front and slope on the opposite side, The sloping feature or  ''glacis'' shields  most of the bastion from the attacker's cannon and the plus point the top is difficult to climb. The adequate sloping further exposes the attackers to the defenders. So, a  bastion will usually be battered

12. In case of artillery attack from the enemy line, the  top of the bastion is  normally exposed to enemy fire.  So, ingeniously, it is covered with  soft masonry.  When  cannonballs hit the outer surface at top, horizontally, upon  impact, they  will  scatter lethal stone shreds, fragments or splinters among the soldiers on the defensive side. This may be fatal and cause severe injuries.  In the case of soft  masonry, on impact splintering and spalling will be less. Earth mass will  resist cannon balls better than stone  masonry.

13. Commonly  a bastion will be a solid mass of earth and rubble and the ones that survive today are often faced with soft masonry. Many that have eroded away were earthwork only. The purpose was to give protection to the soldiers in the bastion when it is shelled.  cannonballs  pass through  face of the bastion will get absorbed  by a greater thickness of hard-packed earth or rubble behind.

14. To minimize the dangers of storming the bastion by  enemies,  a trench is  dug across the rear (gorge) of the bastion, isolating it from the main rampart. 

tPart of bastion. op: revetment, bottom: derevetment.scribd.com

Above image: Profiles of construction in revetement and in demi-revetement. This drawing, from Muller, is of ramparts, but applies to the construction of bastion...................

15. In  some sections of  the masonry-faced bastion like rampart,  to avoid stone splinters or pointed fragments, what is called  revetment or demi-revetment is set in place on either side,  In both  cases, the sloping top of the parapet was made of turf, to eliminate the risk of small flying objects.  

Indian Forts with Bastions: 

Bastion at Bekal Fort, Kerala en.wikipedia

Bastion at Bekal Fort, Kerala upload.wikimedia.org

Above image: Bekal fort, Kasaragod Dist., Kerala- Circular Bastion at Bekal Fort and others were later additions. In the later years it was controlled by the British after the fall of  Tipu Sultan in 1799.   A medieval fort built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD, at Bekal, it is the largest fort in Kerala, spreading over 40 acres..The fort's zigzag entrance and surrounding trenches reveal its  better defensive strategy. To dodge firing from different distances,  holes on the outer walls are designed to defend the fort effectively from naval attacks. The upper holes to fire at farthest target; lower holes to attack  enemies  nearer and the lowest holes  are for  attacking enemy closest to the fort. Bastions were later additions to handle artillery attacks................

Chittorgarh fort, Rajasthan with bastions  differenttruths.com

Above image: 
Chittorgarh fort, Rajasthan - It was a major stronghold of the Rajput State of Medapata. (modern Mewar) The city of Chittorgarh located on the banks of river Gambhiri and Berach is home to the Chittorgarh Fort,  the largest fort in India and Asia. The fort has a chequared history. Till 1568, it fort came under the Muslim rulers from Delhi, including Moguls. The Maharana of Mewar, Amar Singh I,  accepting the suzerainty  of Jahangir controlled it. Finally under the British Raj in 1905, the fort was repaired and renovated. The fort has several bastions to face raids. Because of it vulnerable location, no major improvements were made .................. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chittorgarh. 

Raigad fort, MH.tourmyindia.com

Raigad fort with bastion, MH, stock.adobe.com

Above image: Raigad fort walls and bastion, Raigad, Maharashtra, India. 350-year-old majestic fort of Chhatrapati Shivaji is at an elevation of 2700 ft. in the Sahyadri mountain range.with 1737 steps to climb,covering 1,300 acres and the largest fort complexes in India. The Maha Darwaja, the main pathway (now closed)  has two huge bastions on both sides of the door which are approximately 20–21 m (65–70 ft) in height. The top of the fort is 180 m (600 ft) above this door..................

Bastion of Golconda fort, Hyderabad, India agefotostock.com

Above image: The Golconda Fort complex  in Hyderabad, Telangana, was first built by the Kakatiya dynasty, later  came the control of Qutub Shahi dynasty.   Made up of granitic rock  with a circumference of around 5 km, the fort has 87 semicircular bastions known for its magical acoustic system. Four forts within the complex with  10 km outer wall was strengthened by the  Quli Qutub Shah dynasty - the 5th sultan of the Qutub shashi. He was an able administrator and his reign was a good one............ 



.Formidable Jhansi fort,UP istockphoto.com

Jhansi fort with bastion and gallery, UP agefotostock.com 

Above image:  Jhansi Fort, UP: Constructed by the chief of the Bundela Rajputs and the ruler of the Orchha Kingdom, Veer Singh Ju Deo Bundela around in 1613, it is a formidable, self-contained  fort with many bastions and other defensive features. In the heart of Jhansi city, ruler Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai gave stiff  resistance to the British colonial rule during the great rebellion of 1857. The British army commanded by Hugh Rose wounded her  seriously and  Rani Lakshmi Bai died in June 1858  The british annexed the kingdom  of Jhansi  under the doctrine of Lapse .......................... 

A bastion at Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur, India wikipedia 

bastion at Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur, India wikipedia 

Above image: Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur - Built by  Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh, the king of Jaipur in 1734, it was never raided by any army.  Fort was constructed in Rajput-European architecture as a place of retreat on the summit of the ridge above the city. Walls extended over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected this fort to Jaigarh, the fort above the old capital of Amber. For security reasons, the fortification included bastions to face artillery attacks in case of war.............. ...................... 


Aerial view Kumbhalgarh Fort bastions, Rajasthan,

Aerial view Kumbhalgarh Fort bastions, Rajasthan,

Above image: Fort of Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan is atop a hill 3,600 ft above sea level on the Aravalli range and has perimeter walls that extend 36 km (22 mi), making it among the longest walls in the world. The front walls(15 ft) have  seven fortified gateways.with many bastions. Within the fort, there are  over 70 temples both Jain and Hindu Temples.  One among the several Rajasthani forts on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between 1443 – 1458 AD.  
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbhalgarh.........................................           ooo

Corjuem Fort, Goa:

Corjuem Fort, Goa, India seawatersports.com

Above image: Corjuem Fort, Goa, India  also known as the Khorjuvim Fort, stands proudly atop a small hillock, surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the picturesque countryside. Built-in the 17th century by the Portuguese, the fort served as a strategic defence outpost, guarding the northern territories of Goa. The fort's plan includes  bastions, battlements, watch towers and a deep moat that once protected it from enemy invasions.They bear testimony to the fort's former glory. https://www. seawatersports.com/places/goa/corjuem-fort-in-go.........................

The Aguada fort, North Goa, India.travalour.com

Above image:  The Aguada Fort, Goa, India: The largest Portuguese fort with well built bastions near the mouth of a river to prevent bloksde.  A freshwater spring within the fort provided water supply to the ocean going ships that used to stop by. This is how the fort got its name: Aguada, meaning Water......................................

Diu fortress,built by Portuguese  India en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Fort of Diu, India:   Formally Fortaleza de São Tomé) is a Portuguese-built fortification located on the west coast of India within the Diu island, The fortress-castle, known in Portuguese as 'Praça de Diu', is , on the southern tip of the coast of Gujarat at the mouth of the Gulf of Cambay  and  was built as part of Portuguese India's defensive fortifications during the 16th century after defense alliance forged by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese. The latter  ruled over this territory from 1537 until the Indian invasion of December 1961. The outer wall of the fort was built along the coastline. The inner wall had bastions on which guns were mounted. A double moat (outer one is a tidal moat) between the outer and inner walls provided  extra security to the fort.  There is a bastion built earlier in the deep water channel which was strengthened by the Portuguese........................