“Right now you are stepping into an important vestige of history.”, said a voice from the interactive audio guide*. “The Katoch dynasty who ruled from the Kangra fort (in Himachal Pradesh), trace their origins to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom, mentioned in the Mahabaratas”, the voice continues.
“This fort has seen it all across the millennia, from fierce battles, conquests to betrayals”, the voice tapers off.
It was 2 PM in the middle of July, the temperature was pleasant, and the sky was clear and blue – only accentuating the effect of this majestic fort that stood before me.
Surprisingly, there weren’t any tourists in sight and the few masons restoring the front facade were the only humans around. I could walk through the alleys of history, in total solitude.
For centuries, the fort offered an impregnable defense from attacking forces. The Kangra fort is situated on a steep cliff flanked by towering hills, and the confluence of the Banganga and Patalganga rivers served as a natural moat. The entrance to the fort is through a narrow courtyard in between two gates. These gates are placed in different directions to slow down the onslaught of the attackers who have broken through.
It is said that Kangra belonged to him who owned the fort
From here, a long and narrow passage leads up to the top of the fort, through several gates bearing the name of conquerors (Emperor Jehangir, the British and Maharaja Ranjit Singh) who’ve laid siege to the fort with such difficulty.
As you ascend through these gates, the climb gets steeper and you are eventually led to the Darsani Darwaza – the gate to the sanctum sanctorum.
If the lead up to this point is progressively tortuous and daunting, the Darsani Darwaza is the antithesis. The Darsani Darwaza is flanked by two welcoming statues of Goddess Ganga and Jamuna, leading in to the palace courtyard, and the shrines of Ambika devi (the Katoch dynasty’s deity). To the south of the Ambika devi temple are two Jain shrines. There is a sense of calm here that overwhelms the visitor.
Interestingly, a major earthquake in the 1905 left a lot of devastation and ruined most of the shrines inside, including the royal quarters, but left the Ambika devi temple intact.
A passage to the left of the temple leads you up to the palace, which is mostly in ruins, but still retains its grandeur. Further up, at the edge of the palace stands a polygonal watchtower that gives you a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Kangra valley.
As I stood at the watchtower fascinated by the breathtaking view, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and magnanimity. It is said that Kangra belonged to him who owned the fort; I couldn’t agree more.
* The interactive audio guide is available near the ticket counter of the Kangra Fort.