By:Meetanjali Sood Kalra
Himachal has a remarkable collection of momuments and forts made by rulers who left their marks and shaped up the historical heritage of the hill state.
The Kangra fort orNagarkot on the outskirts of Kangra was built by Katoch dynasty in the 4th century B.C. The fort is one of the largest and the oldest dated forts in northern India. After the decline of Mughal power, Raja Sansar Chand-II succeeded in taking it back from Emperor Jahangir but it later went in the hands of Maharaja of Punjab, Ranjit Singh in 1809. Finally the British captured it in 1846 and today this property belongs to the Archaeological Survey of India.
The main entrance to the fort passes through a small courtyard between the two gates, which were made during the Sikh period as appears from an inscription at the entrance. The fort covers a long stretch of land of around 4 kilometers and stands on a steep rock in Purana Kangra. There are too many entrances to the fort, which were built by different conquerors and the most prominent one out of all is the Darshani Darwaza that opens into a big courtyard.
The temples of Jayanti Mata, Sitlamata and Ambika Devi are the prime attractions of the fort as they truly unfold the history of Kangra fort. In spite of falling to the natural calamity of 1905 these temples still have the most unique work of carvings to attract any traveler. There is a staircase that leads up to the Sheesh Mahal, which is actually a big block of stone with a huge terrace area on the edge of which stands a watchtower.
Another major historical attraction in Kangra is the Indo- Aryan style Rock Cut temples of Masroor. These temples are from the time of Mahabharata and have been attracting pilgrims, archeologists, surveyors and historians far and near from many centuries.
The architectural plan of rock cut temples bear a striking resemblance to the Kailasnath Temple of Ellora and the Mahabalipuram Temple in Tamil Nadu. Masroor temples are also famous for the figurine of Lord Shiva that is right in the center part of the temple complex. As per history this temple was originally used as a venue for inaugurations and festivities dedicated to Lord Shiva, as it is believed that some eager devotee of the lord has carved these temples.
There are about 15 rock cut temples with in the entire complex and can be distinguished from one another by their affluent sculptures and elegant carvings. Apart from these small temples there is a water pond right in the middle of the complex and is auspiciously worshiped by the devotees.
These masterpieces are believed to have been carved in the 6th and 8th century and emulate the architectural style of Kailashnath Temple in Maharashtra. The Masroor Rock Cut Temple are also known as the Himalayan Pyramids and efforts are being made to have them included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.
The temples are believed to have been made out of a single stone and Pandavas are said to have taken a shelter here during their exile from the kingdom. However there are no captions to prove this but some historians believe that these temples were made sometime in the late Gupta period. The planning and architecture represent an example of Nagara style of design. People also believe that this temple was initially dedicated to Mahadeva but after the earthquake of 1905 was carved back into the temple of Lord Rama. Nobody knew of these temples till 1875 until they were taken as the objects of Antiquarian Interest in Punjab and were finally taken by the Archeological Survey of India after the earthquake of 1905.
The town of Sujanpur Tira may have lost its importance and the monuments here may be lying in ruins but ‘Tira Fort’ gives an insight into the royal legacy and rich heritage built by Katoch Dynasty around 1750 A.D.
Sujanpur is a historictown of Himachal and is known for its fort, which was originally built by Raja Abhay Chand in the memory of his mother. The fort was made on the hilltop so that a beautiful view of the ‘Chaugan’ and Beas could be had from there. The fort attracts a number of tourists and historians from all over. The doors and windows of the palace were all painted in gold and silver, which made the palace look so beautiful that once Maharaja Ranjit Singh expressed his desire to see it. But on hearing this Raja Sansar Chand got all the windows and doors removed to save it from going in the hands of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The Fort has a baradari hall, where the Raja would sit and meet the courtiers and other people from the village. There is no roof in the main baradari hall as it was destroyed in the earthquake but the carved walls are still intact and sets an example of the most beautiful Pahari paintings or the famous ‘Kangra paintings’ done by the artisans of those times. The wall paintings are still very bright and colorful. There is also a water pool, which was made to provide water for the entire village. There is an underground passage from the fort that reaches this pool. The zenana or the women of royal family would use this underground passage to reach the pool whenever they wanted to bathe. There were number of temples which were constructed within the premises of the palace but most of them are lying in ruins today except the one which has been dedicated to lord Shiva.
The town of Sujanpur Tira and his fort became more popular during the rule of Raja Sansar Chand. Locals believe that the earthquake of 1905 was result of a curse, which was laid on the king by one of his courtiers who wanted back the money for the wedding of his daughter, which the Raja had borrowed from him. Unable to get his money back he stabbed himself with a knife and told the king that he will never stay happy on this side of the river. Thereafter the calamity struck and Raja Sansar Chand started to keep unwell with the result he had to leave his fort to move to other side of the river but even there he felt the presence of the dead man all the time which eventually made him leave “Sujanpur Tira”.