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General Zorawar Singh Fort

Set among mighty Himalayas in high-altitude capital of Buddhist Ladakh, Riasi Fort in Leh /3500 m asl/ is one of the most unexpected military attractions you will encounter in this part of India. Ladakh is most commonly known as a Buddhist region, squeezed next to Muslim Kashmir. Why then in the middle of humble city of Leh one encounters a fort built by general Zorawar Singh, nicknamed famously as “Napoleon of the East”?

History

Riasi Fort, known also as Zorawar fort in Leh is not the best known tourist attraction of the city, dotted with Buddhist temples and magnificent Himalayan panoramas. However, the small fortification located next to the polo ground and until recently remaining in ruins, is truly intriguing. It was built after conquering Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh by Zorawar Singh in 1836. Sikh ruler of Dogra kingdom, Raja Gulab Singh, sent his best general Zorawar Singh of Kahluria with 5000 men through high passes of Lanvi La to conquer stubbornly independent Ladakh. Sikh general, known for being able to win any battle, crossed cold Himalayas in late November with his army and entered Ladakh's capital — Leh. By doing this he started expansion of Dogra Kingdom towards north, which influenced the way today country's borders go.

Small fort, surrounded by thick walls, was a home to over 300 people and a center of Sikh administration over the region. Its main officer and builder was Thanedar Magna, who also was responsible for running the fort. Interestingly, its construction is a mixture of Punjabi architecture and local ladakhi building techniques. Rounded merlons and thick battlements are a reminiscent of North India garhs /forts/, but the were made with indigenous materials: clay, solid rock and wood.

The Fort Today

Inside you will find a small museum, dedicated to gen. Zorawar Singh. Small amount of Dogra era artifacts are nicely exposed in two halls. Inside the fort you will also find a small temple, a mosque and a natural freshwater spring. After sightseeing you are free to enjoy tea in a small cafe place while enjoying breathtaking views of snow capped Stok Range and Zanskar Range. In the evening you may also enjoy interesting Sound and Light Show, depicting Dogra's history in Ladakh. The fort is run by Indian Army, whose soldiers made a huge effort and renovated once ruined battlements.

Logistic information

Entry is free of charge.
The fort is opened all week:
summer: 10am — 1pm/ 4pm — 7pm
winter: 10am — 1pm/ 3pm — 5 pm
From NOVEMBER till APRIL fort is closed due to winter. After sunset you may enjoy Sound and Light Show.
 
Text by Antonina Małowiecka