Forts of Himachal – The Nagarkot Fort of Kangra

The Kangra Fort

The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is not just known for its popular hill stations. Several forts, sick buy rural villages, temples and monuments speak of the times gone by. A heritage tour in Himachal Pradesh is incomplete without a visit to the Kangra Fort. Located about 20km from Dharmshala, Kangra Fort holds immense historical and religious importance. Locals call this fort as ‘the Nagarkot’ or ‘Kot Kangra.’

Built on a steep hill, the Kangra Fort is located at the confluence of the Patal Ganga (Manjhi) River and the Banganga River. The only way into the fort is from the town’s side. Kangra was once one of the leading princely states of Punjab and Kangra Fort was the center of power in this state. Muslim invaders failed to take control of the fort on many occasions. It was a permanent shelter for kings who ruled hilly territories.

The construction of magnanimous Kangra Fort was commissioned by the rulers of the princely state of Kangra. It is now maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. The fort’s history dates back to the times of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and Mahmud Ghazni. The first reference to the Kangra Fort in the available historical records was made to the ruthless attacks of Mahmud Ghazni in 1009 AD. The fort was captured by Muhammad Tughlaq in 1337 AD. Muhammad Tughlaq’s successor captured the fort once again in 1351. The fort continued to slip from the hands of Muslim invaders until it was finally conquered by the Mughal King Jahangir in 1621 AD. Jahangir appointed the first governor to keep a check on the king of Kangra at that time. All local states were still independently ruled by kings of Katoch dynasty at that time. Later on in 1786, King Sansar Chand Katoch regained control of the fort. After fighting several wars with local hill chiefs, the Gurkhas of Nepal and others, he finally surrendered the fort to King Ranjit Singh, a famous Sikh ruler.

The Kangra Fort demonstrates a fine mixture of medieval and ancient building architecture. With massive walls on all sides, the fort sprawls over a large area. Typical black stones were used by architects for the construction of outer walls of Kangra Fort. The names of all Kings who once ruled the fort are written on the big entrance gate. Walls of the fort cover a circuit of almost 4kms.

Not just the magnanimous structure but temples, museums and palaces located inside the periphery of the fort also appeal to a visiting tourist. As you walk through the huge gates (Darwajas) of the fort, you’ll almost certainly try to imagine the times of Kings and dynasties. Some of the famous gates inside the fort are the Ranjit Singh Darwaja, the Jahangir Darwaja, the Ahni Darwaja, the Amiri Darwaja, the Andheri Darwaja and the Darshani Darwaja. The construction of the two last gates viz. the Ahni and Amiri Darwajas was commissioned by Nawab Alif Khan. He was the first governor appointed by the Mughal Empire in Kangra.

The Sheetlamata Temple, the Ambika Devi Temple and the Lakshmi Narayan Temple are three major attractions inside the fort. These temples have beautifully carved ceilings and a multitude of intricate designs of religious and spiritual significance. The Bhramnical and the Jaina temple structures inside the fort date back 800s-900s AD.

How to reach there?

The Kangra Fort is located just about 6km south-west from Kangra town. Just 5 kilometers from the town bus stand, a well paved road makes its way. Regular state trsnport buses run from almost every corner of the state, Chandigarh, and Delhi for Kangra. Once you have reached Kangra, you can either hire a cab or a board the transport buses that run from time to time.

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