Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Rohtas Fort

Rohtas fort is one of the largest and probably the most majestic fort in Pakistan. Famous king Sher Shah Suri (1486 - 1545 AD) had it constructed it during his reign from 1540 - 1545 AD. Sher Shah Suri was son of a jagirdar in Bihar. But due to his talent and hard work he gradually increased his power and finally defeated Humayun in the fateful battle of Chausa on June 26, 1539. During the next few months he relentlessly pursued Humayun across Hindustan, up to Multan and chased him out of Hindustan altogether. 

But he was well over of the fact, that Humayun was not sitting idle in Persia and making all kinds of plans and doing all his efforts to take his throne back. His brothers were still ruling Kabul and the Mughals thus had a foothold just across the Khyber Pass to attack Hindustan. To preempt any such attack and to subdue the local population Sher Shah Suri decided to construct a fort at Rohtas. 

Rohtas fort has an area of approximately 194 Acres and a perimeter of 4.5 kilometers, is surrounded by massive walls with 12 gates. Construction of such a huge fort took 8 years and was completed during the reign of Suri's son Islam Shah.  I first visited this fort 10 years ago on March 5, 2005. That was a pleasant spring day. Weather was ideal for such an excursion. I and my friend Muhammad Munir came from Islamabad to see this historic fort.

Muhammad Munir & Tariq Amir. (05.03.2005.)

Kabuli Gate. (05.03.2005.)

Baoli in Rohtas Fort. (05.03.2005.)

View of the well from below. (05.03.2005.)

Stairs of the Baoli, carved into solid rock. (05.03.2005.)

A view of a mosque in Rohtas Fort. (05.03.2005.)

My second visit to this fort was two months ago on 18 August, 2015. However, this time the purpose of visiting Rohtas was not just exploring this fort, but also to see three other historic places in and around this fort. Those are Gurdwara Mata Kaur Ji, Gurdwara Choa Sahib and the tomb of Khair un Nissa. But that are subject of my next post. 

It was a sweltering day of August. I and my cousin reached Rohtas fort at 0930 and already it was unbearably hot and humid. Except the village inside the fort, most parts of the forts were giving a deserted look. I do not remember the actual temperature but the real feel temperature was 48˚ C. This hot, humid and suffocating weather tested our physical strength to the full. Our guide was also of the opinion that that was the hottest day of the season. 

After ten years I saw just one difference. The size of the population and number of houses in Rohtas village has increased. Which is adversely effecting the condition of this fort. Encroachments along the wall, especially near Kashmiri gate are plying a big role in deteriorating the general condition of this magnificent fort. 

While leaving my home in Lilla, P.D. Khan in the morning I realized that I had forgotten my camera in Sargodha the previous day. So I had no option but to depend on the camera of my Note 4. At least I am not disappointed with the result. 

While coming from Dina, first we have to cross a bridge over Kahan river (or stream), appropriately named Sher Shah Suri bridge. Shortly after crossing the bridge the road leads into the fort itself. This is the main entrance of the fort from eastern side. This road further leads to Sohail gate on the western side and out of the fort. These two gates are the most imposing and in much better condition as compare to other gates. Khwas Khani gate is actually a double gate. That means after entering the first gate, we find another just behind it. 

View from the road before entering the Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Khwas Khani gate, the main entrance. (18.08.2015.)

View of Khwas Khani gate from inside. (18.08.2015.)

Second gate behind Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Rohtas village, inside the fort. (18.08.2015.)

Road leading to the interior of the fort. (18.08.2015.)

A room above the Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

On top of the right bastion of Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Kashmir Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Shah Chand Wali gate. (18.08.2015.)

Grave of Shah Chand Wali. (18.08.2015.)

Area between the double gates of Shah Chand Wali. (18.08.2015.)

Internal door of the Shah Chand Wali Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Internal door of the Shah Chand Wali Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View of the Chand Wali Gate from the other side. (18.08.2015.)

A part of western wall. (18.08.2015.)

Haveli of Man Singh. (18.08.2015.)

Another view of the Haveli of Man Singh. (18.08.2015.)

Rani Mahal. (18.08.2015.)

Rani Mahal. (18.08.2015.)

Phansi Ghat (Execution platform). (18.08.2015.)

View towards south west. (18.08.2015.)

Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View from Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View from Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Talaqi Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Talaqi Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

One of the bastions of Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Other bastion of the Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View of the Sohail Gate from inside. (18.08.2015.)

US Aid for the repair of Rohtas Fort. (18.08.2015.)

Baoli in the fort. (18.08.2015.)

Full length of the Baoli. (18.08.2015.)

Another view of the Baoli. (18.08.2015.)

Baoli in the backdrop of the fort walls. (18.08.2015.)

I must say that to properly explore this fort one needs a whole day. And it is a physically challenging job as well. Weather should be your most important factor while making any plan to visit it. The general condition of the fort is though not good, but some important parts and especially some gates are in a good condition. Apparently some repair work is also done from time to time. A baoli has recently been repaired. Similarly a platform around Rani Mahal was repaired or reconstructed just a couple of years ago. However, a large part is occupied by the village or occupied by wild bushes. 

It is not easy to properly maintain such a huge fort. It needs a lot of resources and expertise. Which considering our interest with historic heritage is almost impossible to provide. However, some steps can be taken to save it from damage. One such step is to stop the encroachments, especially along the wall near Kashmiri gate. Similarly construction of new houses inside the fort should not be allowed. 
Recognizing its historic and architectural value, UNESCO has declared this fort as a world heritage site. 

 Tariq Amir

October 28, 2015.Doha - Qatar.

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