Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Gap in Kaimur

While reading about Rohtasgarh, the Wikipedia page on Kaimur range threw up an interesting fact.

At Jhukehi, the strike of the Kaimurs is displaced, producing the only gap in the whole length of the Vindhyas. Advantage of the gap is taken in the construction of the Mirzapur road and the Jabalpur-Allahabad railway line.

The need to guard the approaches to such a gap is a first sign that there may be fortifications in the area.

The forts of Vijayraghavgarh and Kanhwara are for exactly that purpose.

Kanhwara

Vijayraghavgarh

Neither are directly on the Jabalpur-Allahabad road but then fortifications do not have to be precisely next to the feature they protect.

Kanhwara and Vijayraghavgarh(Click to enlarge)

Original map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.(Click to enlarge)

Remains of Rohtasgarh

By itself, the remains of Rohtasgarh are less impressive compared to its location and geography. It should not be confused with Qila Rohtas which was named after Rohtasgarh by Sher Shah Suri, perhaps impressed by the defenses of Rohtasgarh-on-Son.

It is situated at the eastern end of the Kaimur range and overlooking the river Son. There is a core fort surrounded by a fortification that runs along the edge of the 1500-feet Rohtas Plateau making it one of the most impregnable forts in India.

The fortification runs along the edge of the plateau, while the plateau is connected to the rest of the Kaimur range by a thin strip of land on the western side.

In the terrain map above, zoom out to view a larger area and you’ll notice that the fort commands the plains and plateaus towards the east, a major reason why it was held by one power or the other from ancient times down to the few years following 1857, from Raja Harishchandra who is believed to have built it, to being coveted and captured by Sher Shah Suri, to being occupied by Kunwar Singh in the war of 1857, followed by the EEIC troops.

For more information, see the Bihar and Orissa Gazetteer on Google Books

Weir fort

Also known as Wer or Wair, the fort was once part of the Bharatpur state. More info at:

http://www.archive.org/details/BharatpurState

Fort at Hathodi

Not much information is available about the fort at Hathodi except a comment on Wikimapia that mentions that the fort was built between 1760-1780 AD.

Lost forts of Alwar

One approach for finding forts is to go through each grid of the AMS. A few weeks ago, in preparation for a trip to Mathura, I was scanning the map around Mathura for forts I could visit on the way. Among the many forts in the area, the one that fascinated me most was the one at Govindgarh. Fascinated, not just because of its wide moat and 15 bastions but also the fact that it was located in a plain with almost no vantage over the surrounding areas and that it was only about 11-12 KMs north-east of Laxmangarh.

Govindgarh & Laxmangarh, District Alwar

Original map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

My fascination grew as further research started throwing up information about forts that once stood in the area. The first sign that a fort was missing came from the map above. It clearly marks two forts at Govindgarh. The first one north of the village, shown below, was easy to spot but there is no sign of the second one on images available at Google Maps or Wikimapia.

More Googling took me back to the Ulwar Gazetteer.

In the time of M. R. Bakhtawar Singh, a family of Khanzadas
held many villages round the present site of Govindgarh. Nawab Zulfikar Khan was the principal. His seat was known as the Fort of Ghasaoli. About A.D. 1803 Bakhtawar Singh, in conjunction with the Marhattas, expelled him and the 500 horse he is said to have employed. Ghasaoli fort was destroyed, and the site of it is now a Raj grass preserve. The local seat of authority was removed to Govindgarh, a spot very near the old fort. The present fort is said to have been built by Bakhtawar Singh in s. 1862 (A.D. 1805). It is remarkable for the extent of its moat.

There are a Thana Tahsil and school in Govindgarh, and the population is 4290. The town is twenty-five miles east of Ulwur.

Bainsrdwat, a village four miles south of Govindgarh, containing inhabitants. Here there is a platform and building (thara) where formerly Nar Khan Khanzada, brother of Zulfikar Khan, already mentioned, dispensed justice, and a ruined fort in which he resided. It is curious that people of the neighbouring villages, which belonged to Nar Khan or his brother, still come to this thara to settle disputes by oath.

That description mentions two more forts in the area. First at Ghasaoli, which I could not find on the map. Instead, I found a Ghasoli around 36 KMs north-west of Govindgarh. Not surprisingly, there is no sign of a fortification at Ghasoli, assuming this is the same village as Ghasaoli.

Ghasoli,Alwar

Original map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Second fort that it mentions was at Bhainsdawat, about 5 KMs south of Govindgarh. Again, there is no sign of the ruins of the said fort.

In the end, we have two forts documented but missing. One at Ghasaoli which was destroyed and replaced with a grass preserve, which certainly means it was completely leveled, although I was hoping to see the remnants of the bastions at least. In the case of Bhainsdawat, if the fort was in ruins in or before 1878, the date when the Ulwar Gazetteer was published, it is possible the ruins are completely destroyed by now.

In both cases, it is possible that the forts ruins have been built over as the Villages expanded or that I am not even looking in the right place or the ruins are present in exactly these locations but just not visible from satellite. Regarding the third missing fort shown south of Govindgarh on the AMS map, it may be a mistake while creating the map or it could be any of the situations above.

A note of caution, Wikipedia page for Govindgarh has the co-ordinates mixed up with that of Govindgarh in Ajmer district not the one it describes or the one talked about here, which is in Alwar district.

The Two Laxman(s)…garhs

With two tehsils with similar names in the same state, it is easy to get lost. Thankfully, the district names are different.

Laxmangarh, Alwar district, Rajasthan
The Gazetteer of Ulwar mentions that

the old name of Lachhmangarh was Taur. Partap Singh got possession of the place from Sariip Singh, and enlarged the fort and renamed it Lachmangarh. The
fort subsequently endured a seige laid by Najaf Khan.

More information about the history around the district is available at: http://alwar.nic.in/history.html

The walls and bastions are barely visible on Google Maps and Wikimapia. The fort would hardly be recognizable if the moat was not as prominent in the center of the town. I would not be surprised if even this sign of a fort is covered up and gone in the decades to come.

On the ridge south-east of Laxmangarh are two more structures that look like fortifications.

Laxmangarh in Sikar district

More info at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laxmangarh

Jaganu and Laddan near Udhampur

We turn our attention again to the Western Himalayas with the help of Ashok Jerath’s book, “Forts and Palaces of the Western Himalaya” to track down the forts at Laddan or Laddankotli and Jaganu or Jaganoo near Udhampur in Jammu region. Both forts lie on the Eastern bank of the River Tavi or Tawi. Interestingly, Jaganu overlooks an IAF base across the river towards the North-west.

Jaganu and Laddan near Udhampur

Original map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

The ruins make it hard to be sure whether identification of Laddan is correct but the description of the geography of the fort in Ashok Jerath’s book matches my understanding of Laddan fort.