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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Kangra fort ---history in the lap of nature

        Built by Raja Bhuma Chand of the Katoch dynasty,ransacked by Mahmud Ghazni,conquered by Mohammad Bin Tuglaq,garrisoned by Jahangir, reconquered by Raja Sansar Chand the second,attacked by Akbar the great, usurped by the Gorkhas ,annexed by the Sikhs ,and finally overpowered by the British; need I say more about the significance of this place.!!!!!!!
    So this is a fort in a place called Kangra about 17 kms from Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh.It was once the capital of the Katoch rulers and a part of the ancient Trigartha kingdom.The ancient Trigartha kingdom finds mention in the epic of Mahabharata and was spread  over Kashmir,Himachal Pradesh, Multan ,Punjab and even Uttar Pradesh. 
The view of the fort from the well manicured lawns at the entrance of the fort
The fort was built in an elevated piece of land covering an area of nearly 4 square kilometres.

The picture above shows the Jayanti Mata temple ,a temple built by the Gorkhas after their victory over the fort.


another view of the temple from the fort premises



The main entrance to the fort also known as the Ranjit Singh darwaza.The fort has several gates each one attributed to the invaders who held the fort .Interestingly, the gates were built in succession, the outermost one ,that is the one in the picture was built by the Sikhs.Another prominent gate which comes next as one enters the fort is the Jahangiri gate ,named after the Mogul emperor who captured the fort a few centuries before the Sikhs. The innermost gate which leads us to the palace area is the Darshini gate ,is the oldest gate in the fort
     .Does this imply that as more and more invaders eyed the fort ,the ones who were successful felt the need of fortifying themselves even more.Why was the fort such a coveted one ?This was the question that kept bothering me.Was it only the strategic location of the fort that made it so important,that the rulers wanted to use this place as a bastion for their future territorial ambitions.?       
There used to be a common saying in Kangra that he who holds the fort rules over Kangra .I guess then it was perhaps the territory of Kangra which held a significant place in history.


    A few more minutes of pondering ,and I know the answer----,it was the sheer magic of the place ,with an abundant greenery ,and the overshadowing snowcapped peaks of the Dhauladhar ranges that awed the rulers as much as we are awed now. Happy with my conclusion I continued my journey into the annals of history.......

A moment of pause for a photograph at the Jahangiri gate.

Ever wondered why the forts had such  narrow gates?Was it easier to keep the invaders at bay from inside the fort.




A view of the many darwazas inside the fort and one of the two dogs that gave us company till the top .


 
The  Darshini gate flanked by the defaced statue of the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna,needless to say it was built by the Hindu rulers of the fort.
And at last, we are at the top...through the Darshini gate ,to the place where once existed the temples the palaces and the courtyards,most of which are in ruins now.The Kangra fort suffered huge damages in a massive earthquake in 1905.
The first view of the place after we entered the Darshini gate
The dome shaped temple...the Adinath jain temple, which can be seen at the corner is the only one still in worship.This temple was the only one which survived the earthquake.



The walls of the Sitalamata temple and the Lakshmi Narayan temple,only  one wall and the platform on which the temple was built remains now.The intricate carvings on the walls gives us an indication of the grandeur of these temples

The walls of the Sitalamata and  Lakshmi Narayan temple

Do you notice the courtyard on the other side of the walls..the temple doors opened to this courtyard..probably used for public gatherings inside the fort.Nothing remains of the palace except for a raised platform.



The fort is located on a hillock at the confluence of the rivers ..the Banganga and the Patalganga..the confluence though could not be spotted from the fort.The rivers formed a natural moat around the fort.



 A view of the fort gates from atop the fort,the elevated level of the fort allowed the guards to keep constant vigil on all directions .

                  One of the many arcades and walls of the fort which stand tall even in the ruins,bearing testimony to the battles fought in this very place.
         So this was a place which  witnessed many invasions one after the other,a silent onlooker of  greed and an insane craze for power which we humans term as glory and which leaves a subtle message to linger in our minds long after........

How to reach and where to stay
The airport at Kangra is known as the Gaggal airport, about 10 kms from Kangra town.Kangra is well connected by rail to Pathankot about 94 kms from here.
The nearest place for boarding and lodging is Dharmashala ,17 kms from here,where options are in plenty ,including HPTDC hotels which can be booked online.
One can visit the Kangra fort as a one day trip from Dharmashala coupled with a visit to the ancient Masroor temple which is only 20 kms from here.

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