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Kangra Fort

Historical insights of Majestic Kangra fort Located in the Kangra valley near Dharamshala, Kangra Fort is a famous tourist spot in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The imperial fort was built under the kingship of Katoch dynasty and it is also enlisted among the oldest forts in the country. Kangra fort marks its origins to the old Trigarata Kingdom. The fort is situated over a steep rock in Purana Kangra and it covers up the surrounding valley that has been built at the Sangam confluence, a point where Banganga river & Majhi river meet. The possessor of the fort is believed to be the owner of Kangra. The fort also adjoins Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch Museum that has been maintained by the Royal family of Kangra. The fort is also famous for Jayanti Mata temple built by Bada Kaji Amar Singh Thapa, the general of the Gorkha army. A small museum is also constructed near the entrance of Kangra fort as a token of its history.

A brief history of Kangra fort

Kangra fort occupies a wide area scattered over a steep hill with a glimpse of mind-blowing landscapes, about 20 km away from Dharamshala and built between the Banganga and Majhi rivers in Himachal Pradesh. With a range of vertiginous cliffs that are constructed over the fort, the structure grabs attraction due to its architectural pattern that allows entrance from the landside of the town. It is also mentioned in Shash Fat’h-i-Kangra that fort is elevated and standstill on a top of the hill. The most prominent part of the fort is appealing structures and buildings that can be seen while stepping inside it. Though the solid structure of the fort kept it strong and protected from invaders, attacks, rough weather, & other external damages, no one can reckon its age precisely. Several declarations have been made regarding the acquaintance of Kangra fort by anonymous rulers, however, no king had claimed his possession since the foundation of this fort. Many unanimous names are brought forward to justify the historical traces of the ancient rajas belonging to the same royal family.

Kangra was ruled by Katoch dynasty and its fort was earlier named as Nagarkot and it is referred to as kot Kangra or fort of the city. The origins of Katoch rule is related to the ancient Trigata kingdom as specified in Mahabharta. Some people also believe that fort was built by Maharaja Susharma Chandra, one who had fought for Kauravas in the same historical epic.

According to a historical legend, the original name of Kangra is Kangarh where Kan means ear & Garh means fort. The most interesting story behind this name explains that the fort was built on the ear of Jalandhar, a demon giant who was killed by Lord Shiva & buried somewhere in mountains. Another folklore by Asoka Jeratha highlights that the burial of demons body was found in forts & palaces of the Western Himalaya and covers up a land of around 104 km in area. He further added that the head of a demon lies in the Kangra valley while his ear, mouth, body, & feet all lie beneath the fort, Jawalamukhi, a town of Jalandhar, & Multan respectively. One of the most admired idols in the fort gathered rice offerings due to its uniqueness. Kangra fort survived more than 52 attacks attempted by the Raja of Kashmir followed by Shreshta in 470 A.D, Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009, and Timur. The fort was invaded & looted by several attackers in the past. In a long list of attackers, both Firoz Shah Tughlaq & Akbar tried to attack the Kangra fort in 14th & 16th centuries but failed to conquer it in the end. Only Jahangir claimed his victory over the fort as he succeeded to rule over it after a long-term siege. He also visited the fort with Noor Jahan and raised a demand for the construction of a palace for him, which was left incomplete due to uncertain reasons.

Moving on to the history of Kangra fort, the fortress was successfully captured & wrested by the Sikh force led by Maharaja Sansar Chand in 1786. Although it got into the hands of Katoch dynasty, Maharaja Ranjit Singh has crowned the throne after the death of Maharaja Sansar Chand in 1828. The Britishers took over the Kangra fort after the Anglo-Sikh war in 1846. The most devastating point is that although the fort withstood multiple attacks by several kings, earthquakes and natural calamities ultimately ruined most of its buildings in 1905.

Key attractions of Kangra fort

The fort has 23 bastions and seven doorways. The entrance to the fort will take you to a small courtyard circumscribing two gates in between as constructed during the Sikh period. One can walk through the long and narrow passage that will lead you to the top of the Kangra fort. Ahani & Amiri Darwaza was named in honour of the first Mughal Governor of Kangra, Nawab Saif Ali Khan. The fort is protected by a 500 feet tall outer gate at the passage with round & sharp angle to take you around the Jehangiri Darwaza.

At the Darsani Darwaza, visitors will get access to a courtyard with defaced & slightly damaged statues of River Goddesses Ganga & Yamuna. One can also view the stone shrines of Lakshmi-Narayana and Ambika Devi along with a large statue of Rishabhanatha at a traditional Jain temple. While entering the fort through the wooden Ranjit gate, one may be asked to enter with their foot instead of bending down to enter with their head through a low wicket gate as in case if an enemy is peeping inside the fort, it will be wider to attack his foot rather than the head.

One more thing that fascinates visitors is Jahangiri Darwaza with carved detailing of the brave stories of Akbar’s son. A Sheesh Mahal is also there to attain your interests while visiting Kangra fort. Although one may picture Sheesh Mahal as a grand palace with glittering patterns, there is nothing like that. The mahal enclosed a block of stone with a spacious terrace with a polygonal watchtower that is situated on the verge of the structure. The watchtower is surrounded by many eye-striking sceneries and one can comfortably view them here.

Visitors can enjoy the stunning sunset view from the terrace of the fort. There is a photography corner for tourists who would like to take some snapshots to remark their visit to the most famous fort. People can also roam and eat around the local eateries to get a real taste of local food of the state. An audio guide is also provided to tourists to let know the interesting stories of the Kangra fort.

Entry timings

Kangra fort is situated in Himachal Pradesh, a hill station with various tourist spots. It will more suitable to visit this place in Summers specifically during the months from March to August as the climate remains comfortable and pleasant at that time. Winter seasons will turn out to be extremely cold with the probability of snowfall. It is suggested to visit the fort during the daytime as tourists will be able to explore this place till the sunset. Visitors must wear light & cozy clothing to keep the chillness at a bay.