Rohtas Fort, or Qila Rohtas as the natives call it, is a garrison fort with great historical value. It is located in Pakistan’s most populated province, Punjab, on the GT road. It is at a distance of approximately 8 km from the city Dina in district Jhelum. The Afghan king, Farid Khan, more commonly known as Sher Shah Suri, had Todar Mal build this fort in the 16th century. Farid Khan is the founder of the Suri Empire. The circumference of the fort is 4 km. Its construction took as many as 8 years for completion. Meanwhile, Sher Shah Suri died on 22 May 1545 during the siege of Kalinjar Fort due to a fire erupted in result of a gunpowder explosion in his store room.The fort with its distinct architectural style, massiveness and historical significance is enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 A.D.
|Located:||Jhelum in the Pakistani province of Punjab|
|Local Language Name:||قلعہ روہتاس|
|Coordinates :||32°57′55″N 73°34′35″E|
|Architectural Style:||Royal Class|
|Built At:||Built on a hill overlooking a gorge|
|Open hours :||24|
|Lies:||Eight kilometers south of the Grand Trunk Road|
|Near By :||Approximately 16 km NW of Jhelum, and is near the city of Dina|
|Surroundings:||300 feet (91 m)|
|Sea Level:||2,660 feet (810 m) above sea level|
|Covers an Area:||12.63 acres (51,100 m2)|
|Commissioned By :||Sher Shah Suri|
|For Designed :||To block the advances of Mughal emperor Humayun|
|Occupies Strategic Position:||Between the mountainous region of Afghanistan and the plains of Punjab|
|Architecture :||Muslim military architecture of central and South Asia|
|Walls:||4 kilometres of walls|
|Towers:||68 bastion towers|
|Capacity:||Could hold a force of up to 30,000 men|
Qila Rohtas is situated in a gorge approximately 16 km NW of Jhelum and 7 km from Dina. Constructed on a hillock where the tiny Kahan river meets another rainy stream called Parnal Khas, turning east towards Tilla Jogian Range. The fort stands about 300 feet above its surroundings, 2660 feet (818 meters) above sea level and covers an area of 12.63 acres. The fort has 12 gates (four of which serve as trap gates), 68 bastions, 1900 battlements and 9500 stairs.
The Mughal Emperor, Humayun, had fled from India along with his family, when Sher Shah Suri took over the empire. However, Humayun still posed a threat to Suri. One of the reasons why Suri had the fort built was to suppress Potohar, the local tribes of the area. They were extremely loyal to Humayun. The Gakhars were not native of the region. They had helped Humayun and his family to escape from India after the battle of Kanauj. In order to reward them, Humayun aided Gakhars in occupying Potohar, which was owned by the local tribes. Even though these tribes were supporters of the Mughal Emperor Babur, they refused to swear allegiance to Humayun, because he had helped the Gakhars against them. They allied with Suri who ordered them to fight and crush the Gakhars and take over their lands. The Rohtas Fort was built for the purpose of crushing the Gakhars. Punjab by the Ranjit Singh, Sardar General Gurmukh Singh Lamba captured the Rothas Fort from Ghakhar chief Nur Khan, father of Fazil Dad Khan in 1825. The Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave the fort to Sardar Mohar Singh. When Mohor Singh retired to Banaras, the fort and the contingent of seven hundred horses were placed under Sardar Gurmukh Singh Lamba. Raja Fazal Din Khan, who joined Sher Singh in rebellion, were the last people to manage Rohtas.Sher Shah Suri died before the completion of the magnificent structure. Ten years after Sher Shah’s death and the end of the Suri dynasty, Emperor Humayun returned to rule India for another 15 years. When Humayun returned, the Governor of Rohtas Tatar Khan Kasi fled. The fort had never been popular with the Mughals because of its military character. Emperor Akbar stayed there for a single night. Emperor Jahangir rested here for a single night while going to Kashmir for entertainment. 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 at the fort when 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 there for a while. Then he went onto Kashmir and back to Lahore to die. The later Mughals seem to have made no use of the fort. Allies of the Gakhars, they consequently relied upon them rather than stationing troops to maintain their hold over the area. The Durranis Pukhtuns, enemies of the Gakhars, maintained their Governor in residence at the fort. They used the fort to keep communication with their capital Kabul open.After the takeover of the
Qila Rohtas served as a garrison fort, able to support a force of 30,000 men. Due to its location, massive walls, trap gates and three Baolis (stepped wells), the fort could withstand a major siege although never tested. Most of the fort had been built with ashlar stones collected from its surrounding villages such as Village Tarraki. Some part of the fort had been constructed with bricks.The fort has an irregular shape, following the contours of the hill it sits on. The fort measures approximately 4 km in circumference; a 533 meter long wall divides the citadel (for the Chieftain) from other parts of the fort. The fortification has sixty-eight bastions (towers) at irregular intervals. One of the three Baolis sits in the citadel, the rest position in the other parts of the fort. One of the Gates (Langar Khani) opens into the citadel, serving as a trap gate in the direct line of fire of the bastions.The Khwas Khani gate displays an example of double walling. A small enclave on the western side constitutes a citadel within a citadel. Accessible by only one gate, it had an excellent Baoli suggesting the private entrance for a chief and his family. In that citadel a beautiful Masque called the Shahi Mosque (Not to be confused with the one in Lahore) sits. The Fort lacks palaces except for a structure built by Raja Man Singh called the Haveli of Man Singh, built on the highest point of the citadel.
The height of the outer wall varies between ten and eighteen meters, with its thickness varying between ten and thirteen meters. The wall has two or three terraces, varying in thickness to a maximum of thirteen meters near the Mori Gate. Staircases link the terraces, the topmost terrace hosting merlon-shaped battlements. Muskets fired from those battlements, soldiers poured molten lead over the walls as well. The wall had been built in sandstone laid in lime mortar mixed with brick. The gates had been constructed in grey ashlar masonry. Some portions have been built using burnt brick.
- Sohail Gate
Sohail Gate provides the best example of masonry in use in the time of Sher Shah. It derived its name from a Saint named Sohail Bukhari, buried in the south-western bastion of the gate. Another theory advances that the gate had been named after the Sohail Star which rises on that side of the fort. A double gate rectangular in shape, it measures 21.34 meters (70 feet) high, 20.73 meters (68 feet) wide and 15 meters (50 feet) deep. The central archway spans 4.72 meters (15 feet) wide. It has an inner and an outer arch decorated with beautiful and simple motifs of sunflower, the decoration repeated in other parts of the Qila.
- Shah Chandwali Gate
The Shah Chandwali Gate, named after a Saint Shah Chandwali who refused to get his wages for working on this gate, links the citadel to the main fort. The saint died while working, and had been buried near the gate. His shrine still stands to this day. This is a double gate, with an outer and an inner door. The outer gate, the entrance which opens from the citadel, measures 13.3 meters wide and 8.23 meters deep. The inner gate, a simple archway, measures 3.66 meters wide.
- Kabuli Gate
The Kabuli Gate, named “Kabuli” because it faces Kabul, opens to the west. This is another double gate, its opening measures 3.15 meters (10 feet) wide. It has two bastions on each side. The gate has five battlements on top and stairs leading up to it from the outside. On the southern side of the gate, the Shahi (Royal) Mosque stands which led to the popular name Shahi (Royal) Darwaza (Gate or Door). A Baoli sits near the gate.
- Shishi Gate
The Shishi Gate derives its name from the beautiful glazed tiles used to decorate its outer arch. Those blue tiles represent the earliest examples of the technique, later refined in Lahore.
- Langar Khani Gate
Langar Khani Gate, a double gate, measures 15.25 meters (50 feet) high, 3.5 meters (11.5 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 (Mess hall or Canteen). Two bastions stand on either side of the gate housing a kitchen, stores and a well for water. The Gate has an L shaped opening; as soon as one enters from the outer gate, one has to turn right.
- Talaqi Gate
The Talaqi Gate measures 15.25 meter high and 13.8 meter wide with two bastions on either side. The Gate derives its name from “Talaq” (divorce). According to a legend, Prince Sabir Suri entering the gate had a fatal attack of fever. Regarded as a bad omen, its name became “Talaqi.”
- Mori or Kashmiri Gate
The Mori or Kashmiri Gate opens to the north, facing Kashmir, hence its name. This gate opens into one chamber which opens into another.
- Khwas Khani Gate
The Khwas Khani Gate had been named after one of Sher Shah Suri’s greatest generals, Khwas Khan. The original entrance to the Qila (Fort), the gate opens to the old Grand Trunk Road Road. A double gate, with outer and inner doors; the outer gate measures 12.8 meters wide (42 feet) and 8 meters (26 feet) deep, with a bastion and a defensive wall on each side. On the bastions, canons could be deployed. The inner and outer gates almost mirror each other exactly. The top of the gate has five battlements, with loopholes as well as machicolation. Unlike other gates of Qila, the inner side of the gate has five battlements.
- Gatali Gate
The Gatali Gate, a single gate 9.15 meter high and 6.1 meter deep, faces toward the village Gatali Ford(ravine), also Patan Gatiali or Gatiyalian, the important point to cross the River Jhelum for the Kashmir Valley, thus the name.
- Tulla Mori Gate
Tulla Mori Gate serves more as an entrance than a gate. On the eastern side of the fort, it measures two meters wide with a bastion next to the entrance.
- Pipalwala Gate
Pipalwala Gate, a small entrance like the Tulla Mori Gate, measures 2.13 meters wide.
- Sar Gate
Sar Gate, called “Sar” because “Sar” means water, constitutes a small entrance with a bastion and a Baoli next to it.
The Shahi Mosque, a small mosque with a prayer chamber and a small courtyard, sits near the Kabuli gate. The most decorated of the original buildings of the fort, stairs lead directly from the courtyard to the top of Kabuli Gate in case of attack. The prayer chamber measures 19.2 meter long and 7.3 meter deep, divided into three equal chambers. Domes grace the inside, but from the outside no domes can be seen. A small room for the Pesh Imam (Prayer Leader) sits at the end of these three chambers, with a small domed roof from the inside but no outer dome. No place for ablution (cleaning up before prayers) in the mosque exists. Built into the fortification wall, i.e., soldiers walked over the mosque’s roof; the outer wall of the mosque serves as the fortification wall itself.On the outer wall of the mosque there are beautiful round designs with Islamic verses written in Naqsh script. A lily going around the Naqsh script surround those verses. Mughals used the lily design later 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.
Haveli Man Singh
Raja Man Singh I of Amber, general of Akbar, built the structure sometime between 1550 and 1614. A two-story building constructed with bricks and plastered neatly, the structure architecturally bears no resemblance to the Qila Rohtas. A part of the structure has collapsed. There seems originally to have been four rooms of which only one exists now.The existing room measures 5.5 meters square, with balconies on the outside of it. Those balconies look similar to the one outside Sohail Gate. The whole fort can be seen from those balconies. Unlike Qila Rohtas, an example of Afghan architecture, Haveli Man Singh provided an example of unadulterated Hindu architecture.
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. It is not an original part of the fort and is an example of Hindu architecture and built around the same time as the Haveli Man Singh.The room still standing today is about 20 feet 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 faux windows. The room is about 8 feet by 8 feet.
Rohtas fort had been built in the Afghan-Persian architectural style. Afghans and Persians Kings had been coming to the Indian subcontinent for at least five centuries before the construction of this fort. Before the construction of Rohtas, the combination of styles had been unharmonious. Qila Rohtas displays the earliest example of the successful mixing of those two styles, with the Afghan style being more prominent.
- The elements of Hindu architecture:
- Balconies on Sohail Gate.
- Decorations on Shahi Mosque derived from Hindu architecture.
- Haveli Man Singh (Pure Hindu architecture)
- The elements of Afghan architecture:
- Utilitarian construction.
- Use of stone instead of bricks in building wall.
- No living quarters.
- Comparatively less decoration