Fateh Veer Singh Guram, Travel @ The Hush Post: Himachal is the land of snow-capped peaks, beautiful valleys, magnificent views, ancient temples, soulful monasteries, simple people and warm hearts. However, the state has a rich history, and it has produced many rulers who have vigorously defended this holy land.
While these rulers left behind a rich legacy, they also left behind marvellous forts, which are the envy of hill forts across the world. The forts of Himachal Pradesh are well known for their architecture, which often involved moving heavy equipment across the treacherous terrain of the region. Thus, these forts are architectural wonders and offer a glimpse into the rich culture and history of this mountainous Indian state.
- Kangra Fort:
The Kangra Fort was built by the royal family (Katoch dynasty) of the erstwhile Kangra royal state. The rulers of Kangra were of the Rajput clan, and claim their origins from the rulers of the ancient Trigarta Kingdom, which finds mention in the Mahabharata. The Kangra fort is the largest fort in the Himalayas, and probably the oldest fort of the country. While the Kangra fort resisted numerous sieges by Akbar, it was finally taken over by the Mughals under the leadership of Jahangir. However, the kings of Kangra repeatedly looted nearby regions which were under Mughal control and hastened the weakening of Mughal power in the region. In 1789, Raja Sansar Chand managed to bring the fort back under control of the Katoch dynasty. However, it soon fell to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in 1828, and was later taken over by the British, in 1846.
- Arki Fort:
The fort was built between 1695-1700 by the ruler of Arki, Rana Prithvi Singh, who was a descendant of Rana Sabha Chand. When the fort was taken over by the Gurkhas in 1806, the Rana had to flee to Nalagarh, and the Gurkhas made the fort their stronghold from where they made further advances into Himachal, till as far as Kangra. The wall paintings on the fort are splendid, and the Diwan Khana contains some exquisite specimens of such paintings. It is believed that the paintings are around 300 years old.
- Kamru Fort:
The Kamru Fort is a classic example of Kinnauri architecture. The entry to the fort is through a series of gates, and a magnificent statue of Lord Buddha stands at the main gate. There is an idol of Kamakhya Devi at the top of the building. A Badrinath Temple, built in the fifteenth century is also located within the fort. The presence of a Buddha statue and Hindu deities within the premises of the fort shows us how important these two religions are in the region, and also stands testimony to how they peacefully co-exist with each other.
- Nurpur Fort:
Said to be around 900 years old, the Nurpur Fort is famous for housing an ancient Krishna temple within its premises. Built by the Pathania Rajputs, it was later named by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, in honour of his wife, Nur Jehan. It is said that Nur Jehan was so enchanted by the beauty of the fort and the town that she wanted to spend the rest of her life in the region. The walls of the fort have murals depicting the everyday lives of the people of the region. Thus, a visit to the fort offers visitors a chance to take a sneak peak into the lives of people from a bygone era.
- Jaitak Fort:
Situated on the Jaitak Hills, the fort is believed to have been made by the Gurkhas overnight, using the materials that were recovered from the destroyed Nahan Fort. It was built by the Gurkha leader, Ranjor Singh Thapa, in 1810.
- Sujanpur Fort:
Located at a distance of 22 kilometres from Hamirpur town, Sujanpur Fort was built by Raja Abhay Chand of the Katoch dynasty of the Kangra state. Built in 1758, the fort and its surroundings remained the royal residence of the Katoch dynasty for nearly a century. The fort has five temples within its complex. The court proceedings were held in a magnificent hall called Baradari. The Gauri Shankar Temple, located within the fort complex, is a major tourist attraction. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shankar and Goddess Parvati.
- Handoor Fort:
Located in Nalagarh, the Handoor Fort, or as it is popularly known, the Nalagarh Fort was initially named Sudarshangarh. The name was later changed to Nalagarh, meaning home of tigers. Nalagarh Fort was the home to the British during the Mutiny of 1857 when the ruler of Jaipur shifted important British officers for their protection. The Fort has now been converted into a heritage hotel.
- Rang Mahal:
Built in the 18 th century by Raja Umed Singh of Chamba, the fort is a perfect example of British and Mughal architecture. Easily one of the largest monuments in Chamba, it only had a west facing structure initially. Later, a south facing structure was added by Raja Sri Singh.
- Raj Mahal:
Located in Mandi, it was the seat of the royal family of Mandi. Built by Raja Ajbar Sen, it has four towers and a number of tall, white buildings with blue roofs. The fort cum palace has been built in a colonial design, and ancient wall hangings, photographs, and swords and shields belonging to the royal family adorn the walls of the fort. It is currently being used as a heritage hotel.
- Taragarh Fort:
Located in Palampur, the Fort lies at the foot of the mighty Dhauladhar range. Sitting at a comfortable height of around 1,000 metres, it was built in the early 1930s by the Nawab of Bahawalpur, as a summer retreat. It was later bought by the royal family of Jammu and Kashmir. It is now run as a heritage hotel.