A cannon at Patiala Fort
Weather-beaten citadels and moat-girded forts in Punjab, unkempt and neglected, are visible reminders of the state’s heritage
THE fact that undivided Punjab was well-located on the inroad to Hindustan left many an invader chuffed. Rulers at the receiving end began building citadels of varying sizes and strategic needs. The landscape was studded with impregnable edifices whence the potentate in residence defended his moat-girded abode from behind ramparts and lofty barbicans. Over time, with the advent of modern warfare, they were rendered obsolete. The decadence of Mughal rule found some of them falling into colonial hands — ones that housed military barracks and training academies, unmindful of destruction of heritage. Post-Independence, they simply changed hands while maintaining status quo. Those in possession of owning nobility fell quickly into disrepair with the abolishing of the Privy Purse in 1971. Ruination was just a matter of time.
Qila Androon, Patiala, is a testimony to Mughal & Rajasthani styles of architecture
The Qila Mubarak in Faridkot is reportedly of similar chronology, though its early history remains obscure. While what we see today is in some disrepair, with several additions by subsequent rulers, it is one of few family-held forts still surviving. Its multi-tiered entrance, barred by a mammoth wooden gate, is crowned by the Sheesh Mahal sprawled across an entire floor. The Durbar Hall — an architectural marvel, it is said to remain cool even during Punjab’s sweltering summer — is kitted out with an intricately decorated plaster-of-Paris-and-woodwork ceiling. This fort is temporarily out of bounds for public, till such time its ownership is re-established. A wait of some two decades has recently found two former princesses on the triumphant side of familial litigation.
Bajwara fort, Hoshiarpur, was built by Afghans
Associated with Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the colossal Gobindgarh fort in Amritsar is distinct for its military architecture. Formerly owned by the Bhangi clan, it was later commandeered by the Maharaja. Its tosha khana hosted his treasury, including the matchless Kohinoor at one point. Long possessed by the Army, it is currently undergoing a massive restoration exercise, and is slated to throw open its doors to the public in a year’s time. Another at Phillaur was a Mughal serai before Ranjit Singh gave it a fortified makeover. Following the defeat of Sikh forces, it was occupied by the British army before it was converted into a police training centre in 1890. It continues to be one, and bears the Maharaja’s name, even though it boasts of just one surviving structure from his times.
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, Sunday, June 15, 2014