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Rohtas Fort (Punjabi, Urdu: قلعہ روہتاس; Qila Rohtas) is a 16th-century fortress located near the city of Jhelum in the Punjab province of Pakistan. The fort is one of the largest and most formidable in the subcontinent. Rohtas Fort was never taken by force, and it has remained remarkably intact.
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Location||Rohtas City , Dina Jhelum District, Punjab, Pakistan|
|Criteria||Cultural: (ii), (iv)|
|Inscription||1997 (21st Session)|
The fort is known for its large defensive walls and several monumental gateways. Rohtas Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, as an "exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of Central and South Asia."
The fort lies eight kilometers south of the Grand Trunk Road. It is approximately 16 km NW of Jhelum, and is near the city of Dina. It is approximately 3 km from Khukha. The historic Shahrah-e-Azam road once passed along the outer northern wall of the fort.
Rohtas Fort was built on a hill overlooking a gorge where the Kahan River meets a seasonal stream called Parnal Khas within the Tilla Jogian Range. The fort is about 300 feet (91 m) above its surroundings. It is 2,660 feet (810 m) above sea level and covers an area of 70 hectares.
The fort was commissioned by Sher Shah Suri, founder of the Sur Empire. It was designed to block the advances of the Mughal emperor Humayun, who had been exiled to Persia following his defeat at the Battle of Kannauj. The fort occupies a strategic position between the mountains of Afghanistan and the plains of Punjab, and was intended to prevent the Mughal emperor from returning to India.
The origin of the fort goes back to the Sur dynasty, when emperor Sher Shah Suri ordered the fort built after his victory over the Mughal emperor Humayun. Construction of the fort began in the year 1541. It was built primarily to defend against the Mughals .
The fort was ceded to Mughal emperor Humayun in the year 1555.
The fort lost much of its significance as the fort's purpose of subduing Mughal tribesmen, as well as the preventing the return of Emperor Humayun, was no longer required. Further, the construction of the nearby Attock Fort in the 1580s by Emperor Akbar better served Mughal interests.
Sikh Empire periodEdit
The fort remained in use during the Mughal era, and was used almost continuously until 1707, though it was not popular with the Mughal rulers. The Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah camped at the fort during his attack on the Mughal Empire. Also the Afghan chieftain Ahmed Shah Abdali used the fort in his expeditions in the Punjab during the waning days of the Mughal empire. It was briefly conquered by the Marathas in 1758. The Afghans retook the fort in 1759.
Rohtas Fort covers an area of 70 hectares, enclosed by four kilometres of walls bolstered by 68 bastion towers and twelve gates. The fort forms an irregularly shaped triangle, and follows the contours of the hill it was constructed on. The northwest corner of the fort is walled off from the rest of the fort by a 533-metre-long (1,749 ft) wall. The enclosed section served as a citadel for elites and was more heavily guarded. The enclosed section contains much of the fort's notable features.[clarification needed] The fort's Langar Khani gate opens into the citadel, but is actually a trap that is in the direct line of fire from the fort's bastions.
The large fort could hold up to 30,000 men. Due to its location, massive walls, trap gates and three baolis (stepwells), it could have withstood a major siege, but was never actually besieged. There are no palaces in the fort except for the Raja Man Singh Haveli, which is built on the highest point of the citadel. The area of the fort is 3200 canals.[clarification needed]
The height of the outer wall varies between 10 and 18 metres, with a thickness that varies between ten and 13 metres. The fortified walls have 68 bastions at irregular intervals, with twelve monumental gateways providing access to the inner fort. The ramparts follow the hilltop's contours.
The walls had up to three terraces at different levels, connected by staircases. The uppermost terrace has merlon-shaped battlements from which muskets could be fired, and from which soldiers could also pour molten lead.
The Rohtas Fort has twelve gates, all built of ashlar stone.
The Sohail gate features some of the best masonry work of the Sur Empire, and was likely the ceremonial main entrance to the fort. It derives its name from a local saint named Sohail Bukhari, whose remains are interred in the south-western portion of the gate.
This rectangular gate measures 21.34 metres (70.0 feet) high, by 20.73 metres (68.0 feet) wide, and with a depth of 15 metres (49 feet). Its central archway is 4.72 metres (15.5 feet) wide, and maintains its shape throughout the gates depth. The gateway has floral motifs, with richer decoration on the outer face.
There are seven battlements along the outer face of the Sohail gate. A room on the upper floor has windows which open towards the fort's interior. Like the outer arch there is a small window in the middle of the inner arch.
This gate links the citadel to the main fort. It is named after Shah Chandwali who refused to get his wages for working on this gate. The saint died while still on work and was buried near the gate. His shrine still stands to this day.
This gate is also a double gate. The outer gate, the entrance of which is from the citadel is 13.3 meters wide and 8.23 meters deep. The inner gate is a simple archway which is 3.66 meters wide. There are 12 gates of the fort.
The Kabuli gate opens to the northwest in the general direction of Kabul, for which it is named. The gate now houses a visitors' information center, and a museum set up by the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation.
The gate may have been built in two stages. It consists of an inner and outer gate which enclose a step-well. Its opening is 3.15 meters (10.3 feet) wide, and is flanked by two bastions on either side of the opening. The gate has five battlements on top, with stairs leading to them up the outside wall. South of the gate is the Shahi (Royal) Mosque, so many people also call it the Shahi (Royal) Darwaza (Gate or Door).
The gate derives its name from the beautiful glazed tiles that decorate its outer arch. These blue tiles are the earliest examples of this technique, which was later refined in Lahore.
An inscription to the left of the gate gives the date of construction of the fort. The inscription is in Persian and is translated as
In the Hijri Year 948 [1541 CE] came the exalted
At that time constructed the great fort
The emperor is Sher, with long life
There is no match to his good fortune
It was completed by Shahu Sultan
Langar Khan is a double gate which is 15.25 meters (50.0 feet) high, 3.5 meters (11 feet) wide with a central arched opening. The outer arch has a small window like the Sohail Gate. The outer opening leads to a Langar Khana (kitchen).
Two bastions on either side of the gate have kitchens, stores and a well for water. The opening of this gate is L shaped. As soon as one enters from the outer gate one has to turn right.
This gate is 15.25 meters high and 13.8 meters wide with two bastions on each side. This gate's name derives from "Talaq" (divorce). According to legend, Prince Sabir Suri entered the gate and had an attack of fever, which proved fatal. This was regarded as a bad omen and the name of the gate became "Talaqi".
Mori or KashmiriEdit
The gate opens to the north and faces towards Kashmir. This gate opens into one chamber, which opens into another.
This gate is named after one of Sher Shah Suri's greatest generals, Khawas Khan Marwat. This was the original entrance to the Qila (fort) from the old GT Road.
It is a double gate. The outer gate is 12.8 meters (42 feet) wide and 8 meters (26 feet) deep. It is accessible by only one gate and also had a very fine baoli, which suggests that it was meant for the chief and his family. This gate has a bastion and a defensive wall on each side. On the bastions cannons could be deployed. The inner and outer gates are almost mirror images. The top of the gate has five battlements. All of these have loopholes and machicolations. Unlike other gates of this Qila, the inner side of the gate has five battlements.
The inner and outer arches have sunflower motifs like the Sohail Gate. The gate also has a room with windows opening to the inside and the outside.
It is a single gate 9.15 meter high and 6.1 meter deep. This gate faces to the village Gatali Ford (ravine) which is called also Patan Gatiali or Gatiyalian, the important point to cross the Jhelum River for the Kashmir Valley, thus the name.
This is an entrance rather than a gate. It is on the eastern side of the fort, about two meters wide, and has a bastion next to its entrance.
This is a small entrance like the Tulla Mori Gate. It is 2.13 meters wide.
This small entrance seems to have been made by locals knocking down the main wall (outer boundary) at a later stage as a passage to an adjacent jungle. There is a bastion next to this gate. A dilapidated pond has been in front of this gate within the fort, since the fort was built, so it is now called "Sar Gate" (water pond).
This small mosque known as Shahi masjid is near the Kabuli gate. It has a prayer chamber and a small courtyard. It is the most decorated of the original buildings of the fort. Stairs lead from the courtyard of this mosque to the top of Kabuli Gate.
The prayer chamber is 19.2 meter long and 7.3 meter deep. It is divided into three equal chambers. There are domes inside but from the outside they cannot be seen. A small room at the end of these three chambers was for the Pesh Imam (Prayer Leader). This room has a small domed roof from the inside but no outer dome. There is no place for ablution (cleaning up before prayers) in the mosque. This mosque is built into the fortification wall i.e. soldiers walked over the mosque's roof. The outer wall of the mosque is the fortification wall itself.
On the outer wall of the mosque are beautiful round designs in which Islamic verses are written in Naqsh script, surrounded by a lilies. The lily design was later used by Mughals in Tomb of Jahangir, Tomb of Nur Jehan and the Shah Burj Gate in Lahore Fort. The design seems to have been copied from the coins used in that time.
There are three baolis in the fort, made by cutting deep into the limestone. They were used to take horses to water. There are 137 steps.
The central baoli is in the middle of the fort for soldiers, elephants, horses etc. This baoli has 148 steps. Each step is 20 cm (8 in) wide. The upper portion has been cut in stone. It has three arches that span its length.
The royal baoli is near the Kabuli Gate for the Royal family. It has 60 steps and small chambers that were used as baths by the Royal family.
The Sar Gate baoli is a small baoli near the Sar Gate, most likely used by soldiers.
Rani Mahal and Haveli Man SinghEdit
The Rani Mahal (Queens palace) is near Haveli Man Singh. It is a one-storey structure. It originally had four rooms but only room remains standing today. The foundation of the four rooms can still be seen today.
The room still standing today is about 20 feet (6.1 m) high and beautifully decorated on the inside and outside. The roof of the dome like room is like a flower. The inside of the roof is decorated with flowers, geometrical patterns and fake windows. The room is about 8 by 8 feet (2.4 by 2.4 m).
This fort places function over form; the fort originally had no permanent building for living.
These carvings are found on the gate and in the mosque. Most of these are engravings in Arabic and sunflowers.
One of these carvings is inside the Shahi Mosque outside the Pesh Imam's (Prayer leaders) room. The carving is of the word "Allah" in Arabic. The same carving is also done on merlons on top of Shahi Mosque.
The sunflower motif is on each sides of the arches of Shahi Mosque. It is also present in the guard post in between each gate.
Most of these inscriptions are on the Shahi Mosque. On the outer wall of the mosque the "Six Kalimas" are written in beautiful calligraphy on each side of each arch of the Shahi Mosque, in the Naskh script.
An inscription in Persian on the Shishi gate gives the date of construction began. The same inscription is also found over the Talaqi gate.
There are other inscriptions on the Khwas Khani, Langar Khani and Gatali gates.
These tiles are found on Shishi gate. This type of tile became extremely popular with the Mughals who further refined them. The tiles on Shishi gate are the earliest example of the usage of these tiles. These tiles were made in Lahore.
Plaster has been used in the Shahi Mosque.
Machicolations are small drains that lead from the inside to the walls outside. They are built into the walls and are used by the soldiers on the inside to pour molten lead or other hot liquids on soldiers trying to scale the walls. The Rohtas Fort has hundreds of them and each one is beautifully decorated with geometric patterns. The picture is of a machicolation near the Langar Khana (Mess Hall).
This fort was built in a style that draws from Turkish, Middle Eastern, and South Asian artistic traditions.
The fort was never popular with the Mughals because of its military character. Emperor Akbar stayed here for a single night. Emperor Jahangir rested here for a single night while going to Kashmir for a rest. He said the following about its location:
This fort was founded in a cleft and the strength of it cannot be imagined
Emperor Jahangir again stayed here when he was being forced to go to Kabul by Mahabat Khan. Nur Jahan, his beautiful and resourceful wife obtained troops from Lahore and ordered Mahabat Khan to release her husband. Emperor Jahangir then proceeded to Rohtas and held his court here for a while. Then he went on to Kashmir and back to Lahore to die.
The Afsharid ruler Nader Shah camped at the fort during his invasion of the Mughal Empire. Thereafter it was used by the Durrani ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani during his invasions of the Punjab against the Sikhs.
Timur Shah Durrani retook Multan from the Sikhs in 1780 after defeating them at Rohtas, he then secured Bhawalpur and Kashmir. By 1788 he even attempted unsuccessfully to ford the plains of Punjab to rescue his brother-in-law the weak Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II who was blinded by Ghulam Kadir. Unable to succeed he wrote a letter to Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, requesting that the British protect the Mughal dynasty.
After the takeover of the Punjab by Emperor Ranjit Singh, Gurmukh Singh Lamba captured the Rothas Fort in 1825. Ranjit Singh gave the fort to Mohar Singh who was succeeded by Gurmukh Singh Lamba. It was subsequently leased to different people and the last person to manage Rohtas was Raja Fazal Din Khan who joined Sher Singh in rebellion.
The recommendation by ICOMOS (the organization that makes the World Heritage list) made the following recommendation
Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and South Asia, which blends architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and the South Asia to create the model for Mughal architecture and its subsequent refinements and adaptations.
Most of the fort very well preserved. In the portions that have fallen away (Haveli Man Singh) one can still see some part of the original construction. The central archway of the Chandwali Gate has been rebuilt recently. This is the only part of the modern construction on the fort. In early 2005, seepage, heavy rains, and general neglect caused the left inner face of the Talaqi Gate to collapse, and the right flank and foundation to become detached from the original structure. The Gatali Gate forms one of the original entrances to Rohtas. Over time, its right bastion and supporting wall have collapsed as a result of permeated rainwater and erosion of its foundations.
World Heritage StatusEdit
Rohtas Fort was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997, having met the following inclusion criteria:
Criterion (ii): "Rohtas Fort blends architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and the Indian subcontinent to create the model for Mughal architecture and its subsequent refinements and adaptations."
Criterion (iv): "Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and south Asia during the 16th century."
The fort was also noted for its high-level of integrity, and authenticity.
Himalayan Wildlife FoundationEdit
The Rohtas Fort Conservation Programme was conceived by the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation in 2000 to help protect the fort and develop it as a heritage site conforming to international standards of conservation and tourism. It is undertaking the following projects in conjunction with the Royal Norwegian Embassy.
In 1992 the government of Pakistan ordered the locals of Rohtas to leave the inside area of fort and stated that the government would construct houses for them outside. Zafar Chughtai the chairman of Rohtas opposed the stay order from government declaring that no government will take the properties of Rohtas locals. The stay order is still effective but no subsequent government has pursued its execution and has allowed the fort residents to reside there.
- Complete restoration of Shah Chandwali Gate
- Conservation of Haveli Man Singh
- Conservation of Talaqi Gate and Gatali Gate
- Establishment of Sher Shah Suri Museum in upper storey of Sohail Gate
- Improvement of quality of life in Rohtas Fort village
Nearby places of historical significanceEdit
Outside the Langar Khani Gate is the tomb of a lady called Khair Un Nisa. She was the daughter of the food minister named Qadir Bukhsh. She died here and was buried in this tomb but she was later moved to Sasaram.
Until the construction of the new Grand Trunk Road, Rohtas was a halting place on the main Peshawar-Lahore road. This road had serais about a mile apart. One of these is about one mile (1.6 km) north of the Rohtas Fort. It is in a fair state of preservation.
The dual-carriage Grand Trunk Road takes you past Gujar Khan and Sohawa, to the small city of Dina 110 km away. Just past Dina you will drive over a railway overpass, stay to the right of the road and take the first U-turn to drive back towards Dina. After about 100 meters to your left you will find a signpost, which indicates the way towards the road leading to Rohtas Fort which is 8 km away, past the small holy village of Muftian home to the Mufti Tribe. Drive on the road to enter into the fort and keep driving till you reach the parking area.
Drive on G.T. road past Gujranwala, Wazirabad and the city of Jhelum. About 10 minutes drive beyond the Jhelum bridge just short of the city of Dina, you will find a signpost to the left directing you to Rohtas Fort.
Gurudwara Chowa Sahib is located just outside the fort, near the Talaqi gate.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rohtas Fort.|
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre Web page. It has a panograph of the Qila Rohtas.
- Rohtas Conservation page on the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation website
- Rohtas Fort latest pictures