Tracing its origin to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom, mentioned in the Mahabharata, the historical Kangra Fort is one of the largest forts in the Himalayas.
Located about 20 km from Dharamshala on the outskirts of Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, the Kangra Fort is also among the oldest dated forts in India. It at once draws attention as one passes by the highway from Kangra to Una.
It is believed that the Kangra fort was built by Maharaja Susharma Chandra, a descendant of the Katoch dynasty (Royal Rajput family of Kangra). He is believed to have fought for the Kauravas in the Mahabharata battle.
The fort is spread over an area of around 4 km and is guarded by high walls and ramparts. The river Banganga and Patal Ganga embrace each other at the base of this majestic fort. There are plenty of doors in the fort made by the rulers of several dynasties. The entrance to the fort is designed with stone carvings and is known as Ranjit Singh Gate. The next entrance door to the fort is Jahangiri Darwaza followed by Ahni and Amiri Darwazas.
“Apart from the historical importance, the breathtaking view of ancient battlement and temples in Kangra Fort is worth a visit. The audio guide for visiting the fort helped me a lot,” said Gafarasi Christain, a tourist.
There are three temples inside the fort ~ Ambika Devi Temple, Shitalamata Temple and Lakshmi Narayan Temple. There is a temple dedicated to Jaina Tirthankaras where a stone image of Lord Adinath is installed. A staircase between the temples of Shitalamata and Ambika Devi leads to the Sheesh Mahal where a small hall-like compartment is designed with a block of stone at the edge of which a polygonal watchtower is installed.
The Katochs still come to offer their prayers to their deity. “Every morning we visit Ambika Devi Temple to offer prayers. The Goddess Ambika Devi is our diety and we have been worshipping Her since ancestral times,’ said a local resident, Sudha Katoch.
During olden times, it was said, “He who holds the Kangra Fort, holds the hills”. Almost all rulers who ever walked the land of India tried to take the Kangra Fort under their control and the Fort had been subjected to countless attacks. Also, the well known Maharaja Sansar Chand fought multiple battles with the Gurkhas on one side and the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, on the other.
The Kangra Fort is said to have 21 treasure wells which are a significant attraction. According to historical records, the Sultan of Ghazni looted eight wells, while the British in the 1890s found five more wells. Kangra Fort, a well of treasures during ancient times, was looted by a number of enemy armies from Muhammad Bin Tughlaq to the British. The final fall was to nature when on 4 April 1905, an earthquake heavily damaged it.
Kangra Fort is a famous historical monument and a large number of tourists visit it. Many primary and secondary schools of Kangra as well as nearby districts like Mandi, Una and Hamirpur organise educational tours to Kangra Fort for the students. This helps to enhance historical knowledge and they also enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
“Our school organises trip to Kangra Fort every year and it proves very informative and entertaining for students. Kangra Fort has an irreplaceable role in history which is beneficial for students,” said Sagarika Mankotia, a teacher of A.B.M School.
“Kangra Fort has a rich history and the location is quite mesmerising. The architecture of the fort with its gateways, doors, courtyards and temples all make it a perfect place in the history to be revived. I would like to visit again,” said Anshul Khatri, a tourist.