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Abandoned Rohtas Fort Pakistan: History at its finest

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Rohtas Fort (Punjabi, Urdu: قلعہ روہتاس‎; Qila Rohtas) is a 16th-century fortress located near the city of Jhelum in the Pakistani province of Punjab.The fortress was built during the reign of Sher Shah Suri between 1541 and 1548. The fort was also designed to suppress the local Gakhar tribes of the Potohar region. The Gakhar tribes were allies of the Mughal Empire, and refused to recognize the suzerainty of Sher Shah Suri. The fort is one of the largest and most formidable in the subcontinent. Rohtas Fort was never stormed by force, and has survived remarkably intact.

The fort is known for its large defensive walls, and several monumental gateways. Rohtas Fort was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1997 for being an “exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of Central and South Asia.”

Location

Rohtas Fort was built upon a hill overlooking the Pothohar plateau.
The fort lies eight kilometers south of the Grand Trunk Road. It is approximately 16 km NW of Jhelum, and is near the city of Dina. The historic Shahrah-e-Azam road once passed adjacent to the outer northern wall of the fort.

Rohtas Fort was built on a hill overlooking a gorge where the Kahan river meets a seasonal stream called Parnal Khas within the Tilla Jogian Range. The fort is about 300 feet (91 m) above its surroundings. It is 2,660 feet (810 m) above sea level and covers an area of 12.63 acres (51,100 m2).

Background


The Fort was commissioned by Sher Shah Suri, founder of the Sur Empire. The fort was designed to block the advances of Mughal emperor Humayun, who had been exiled to Persia following his defeat at the Battle of Kannauj. The fort occupies a strategic position between the mountainous region of Afghanistan and the plains of Punjab, and was intended to prevent the Mughal emperor from returning to India.

The fort was also designed to suppress the local Gakhar tribes of the Potohar region.The Gakhar tribes were allies of the Mughal Empire, and refused to recognize the suzerainty of Sher Shah Suri.

History


Sur period

The origin of the fort goes back to the Sur dynasty, where emperor Sher Shah Suri ordered the court to be constructed after his victory over the Mughal emperor Humayun. Construction of the fort began in 1541. It was made primarily as a defense against the Gakkhars.

Mughal period
The fort was soon ceded to Mughal emperor Humayun in 1555, after the local governor, Tatar Khan Khasi, deserted the fort ahead of the Mughal army’s advances.

The fort lost much of its significance as the fort’s purpose of subduing pro-Mughal Gakhar tribesmen, as well as the preventing the return of Emperor Humayun, was no longer required.Further, the construction of the nearby Attock Fort in the 1580s by the Emperor Akbar better served Mughal interests. Rohtas Fort, ironically, came to serve as capital of the Gakhar tribes that it had initially been designed to subdue, and was not required as a military garrison as the local Gakhar tribes remained loyal to the Mughal crown.

Post-Mughal


The fort remained in use during the Mughal era, and was used almost continuously until 1707, though it was not popular with the Mughal rulers since it lacked large gardens and the sort of grand architecture found at Mughal-era forts, such as at the Lahore Fort. The Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah camped at the fort during his invasion of the Mughal Empire. Also the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali had used the fort in his expeditions in the Punjab during the waning days of the Mughal empire.

In 1825, the Sikh forces of Gurmukh Singh Lamba captured the fort from the Gakhar chieftain Nur Khan. Rohtas was also thereafter used for administrative purposes by the Sikh Kingdom until its collapse by the British in 1849.

Layout

Layout of the fort


Rohtas Fort covers an area of 70 hectares, enclosed by 4 kilometres of walls that were bolstered by 68 bastion towers, and 12 gates.The fort roughly forms an irregularly shaped triangle, and follows the contours of the hill it was constructed on. The northwest corner of the fort is walled off from the rest of the fort by a 533 metre long wall. The enclosed section served as a citadel for elites and was more heavily guarded.The enclosed section is site of much of the fort’s most notable remains. The fort’s Langar Khani gate opens into the citadel, but is actually a trap that is in the direct line of fire from the fort’s bastions.

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The large fort could hold a force of up to 30,000 men.The northwest corner of the fort is walled off from the rest of the fort by a 533 metre long wall. The enclosed section served as a citadel for elites. Due to its location, massive walls, trap gates and 3 baolis (stepped wells), it could withstand a major siege – although it was never actually besieged. There are no palaces in the Fort except for the Raja Man Singh Haveli, which is built on the highest point of the citadel.The area of Fort is 3200 canals

Conservation
Most of the fort is in a very good state of preservation. In the portions that have fallen away (Haveli Man Singh) one can still see some part of the original construction.

The central archway of the Chandwali Gate has been rebuilt recently so that is the only “fake” part of the fort.

In early 2005, seepage, heavy rains, and general neglect caused the left inner face of the Talaqi Gate to collapse, and the right flank and foundation to become detached from the original structure.

The Gatali Gate forms one of the original entrances to Rohtas. Over time, its right bastion and supporting wall have collapsed as a result of permeated rainwater and the erosion of its foundations.

World Heritage Status
Rohtas Fort was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997,having met the following inclusion criteria:

Criterion (ii): “Rohtas Fort blends architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and the Indian subcontinent to create the model for Mughal architecture and its subsequent refinements and adaptations.”
Criterion (iv): “Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and south Asia during the 16th century.”

The fort was also noted for its high-level of integrity, and authenticity.

Himalayan Wildlife Foundation
The Rohtas Fort Conservation Programme was conceived by the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation in 2000 to help protect the sixteenth-century Rohtas Fort near Jhelum, and develop it as a heritage site conforming to international standards of conservation and tourism. It is undertaking the following projects in conjunction with the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Government Eviction Notice
In 1992 the government ordered the locals of Rohtas to leave the inside area of fort and state that the government would construct houses for them outside the fort. Zafar Chughtai the chairman of Rohtas opposed the stay order from government declaring that no government will take the properties of Rohtas locals. The stay order is still effective but no subsequent government has pursued its execution and has allowed the fort residents to reside there.

Complete restoration of Shah Chandwali Gate
Conservation of Haveli Man Singh
Conservation of Talaqi Gate and Gatali Gate
Establishment of Sher Shah Suri Museum in upper storey of Sohail Gate
Improvement of quality of life in Rohtas Fort village
Nearby places of historical significance
Outside the Langar Khani Gate is the tomb of a lady called Khair Un Nisa. She was the daughter of the food minister named Qadir Bukhsh. She died here and was buried in this tomb but she was later moved to Sasaram.

Until the construction of the new Grand Trunk Road, Rohtas was a halting place on the main Peshawar-Lahore road. This road had serais about a mile apart. One of these is about one mile (1.6 km) north of the Rohtas Fort. It is in a fair state of preservation.

Access


From Islamabad
The dual-carriage Grand Trunk Road takes you past Gujar Khan and Sohawa, to the small town of Dina 130 km away. Just past Dina you will drive over a railway overpass, stay to the right of the road and take the first U-turn to drive back towards Dina. After about 100 meters to your left you will find a signpost, which indicates the way towards the road leading to Rohtas Fort which is 8 km away, past the small holy village of Muftian home to the Mufti Tribe. Drive on the road to enter into the fort and keep driving till you reach the parking area.

From Lahore
Drive on G.T. road past Gujranwala, Wazirabad and the city of Jhelum. About 10 minutes drive beyond the Jhelum bridge just short of the city of Dina, you will find a signpost to the left directing you to Rohtas Fort

References

  • Rohtas Fort”Oriental Architecture. Retrieved 28 May 2017.^ Temples of Koh-e-Jud & Thar: Proceedings of the Seminar on Shahiya Temples of the Salt Range, Held in Lahore, Pakistan,by Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Siddiq-a-Akbar, Publ Anjuman Mimaran, 1989, p8
  • Pakistan: Rohtas Fort”World Archaeology (17). 7 May 2006.
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