ONE of the most ancient and strategically located forts of India, the Kalinjar in Bundel Khand, was the site of several battles and many an illustrious name such as Mahmud Ghazni, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Humayun, Sher Shah Suri, Akbar, Chhatrasal were associated with it.

By: Poonam Sharma

Posted on: 28/10/2020 View : 69


ONE of the most ancient and strategically located forts of India, the Kalinjar in Bundel Khand, was the site of several battles and many an illustrious name such as Mahmud Ghazni, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Humayun, Sher Shah Suri, Akbar, Chhatrasal were associated with it.

Kalinjar has been referred to in ancient literature. The Vedas refer to it as TapasthaH, i. e. place for penance, the Mahabharata mentions it for its lake, and the Padmapurana for its holiness. Pto¬ lemy named it as Tamasis. In the olden days Kalinjar was known as Ratnakuta, Mahagiri, Pingala.

Kalinjar (or KalamJar), which literally means the one who causes time to grow old, stands on an isolated Vindhyan top at an elevation of 1200 feet from sea level. The summit of the fort, oblong in shape and nearly a mile in length and half a mile in breadth, is fortified by a rampart nearly four miles in circuit and constructed of large blocks of stone. Access to the fort is by a sloping pathway and the flight of steps passes through seven gateways with inscriptions. It had two entrances Ganesh, Chandi, Budhbhadra, Hanuman, Lai. Inside the fort are many palaces (built by Chandella kings), rock- cut tanks and caves. Many of the palaces bear carvings and inscriptions, sortie of which have yielded important historical information. Water stored in tanks was available in plenty, which was a strong point of defence.

Sieges by Mahmud Ghazni

According to Ferista, Kalinjar was founded by Kedar Raja in the 7th century. According to a source, the first person of note connected with Kalinjar was Chandra Varma who laid its foundation in 978. The Raja of Kalinjar with Jaipal, the Raja of Lahore, and others attacked Ghazni in 978 but the invasion proved unsuccessful. Again in 1008 the king of Kalinjar sided with Anand Pal in the battle of Peshawar so as to check the invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni.

In the year 1022-23 Kalinjar Fort was besieged by Mahmud of Ghazni. The king collected an army of 36,000 horse, 105,000 foot and 640 elephants to oppose the invaders. Historian Nizammudin Ahmed writes, 'Sultan sent his ambassador to the Raja to embrace Islam. Nanda refused and prepared to fight. After reconnoitring the Kalinjar vast forces Sultan regretted his having come there. Prostrating himself before God, he prayed for success and victory. When night ca me on great fear and alarm entered the mind of Nanda and he fled with some of his personal attendants, leaving all his baggage and equipments. Next day the Sultan being apprised of this rode out on horse back with out any escort and carefully examined the ground and he started plunder and devastation. The Sultan loaded with victory and success returned to Ghazni.'*

According to Ferista, the next year Mahmud undertook another expedition against Kalinjar. He writes, "This is a fort unparalleled in the whole history of Hindustan for its strength. He invested this fort for some time. Nanda its Chief presented 300 elephants and sued for peace. As the animals were sent out of the fort without riders, the Sultan ordered 'the Turks to seize and mount them'. The enemy, perceiving this, was much sur¬ prised and Nanda sent a copy of Hindi verses in praise of the Sultan who was much pleased with the compliments and later conferred the grant of 15 forts on him".

According to historian Hasan Nizami, 'The accused Parmar, the Raja of Kalinjar fled into the fort after a desperate resistence in the field and afterwards surrendered himself, and placed the collar of subjection round his neck. On Monday, the 20th Rajab, the garrison in an exclusive state of weakness and discretion came out of the fort and by compulsion left the native place empty and the fort of Kalinjar which was celebrated throughout the world for being as strong as the wall of Alexander was taken. The government of Kalinjar was entrusted to Hazuar Ud- din-Hasan Arnal and the fort became a part of the Mohammedan kingdom of Delhi and soon fell into the hands of the Hindus.'


In 1023 Mahmud Ghazni again besieged the fort but came to terms with the Chandel Raja. There is an inscription of 1131 about a victory of the Chandellas. In 1182 the Chandella king, after being defeated by Prithviraj of Delhi, shifted his capital from Mahoba to Kalinjar.In 1202 Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the viceroy of Mohammed Gauri, took Kalinjar and converted its temples into mosques.‘Nizamuddin Ahmed quoted by Archaeological Survey Report Vo!. XX|, by Maj. Ian A. Cumj minflham.

The Tazu! Massir* says that Parmar was the king of Kalinjar. Qutb-ud-din accompanied by Shamsuddin lltutmish attacked the fort. The Raja fled and later sued for peace, promising payment of the tribute and elephants but he died before he could execute any of the arrangements. His dewan Ajai Deo was not disposed to yield so easily. Relying on springs for water in the fort, Ajai Deo gave his enemy much trouble but the garrison marched out and the Moham medans took possession of the fort. The temples were converted into mosques, and 50,000 men were slain (or taken prisoner) and countless treasures and arms fell as spoils to the victors. Hazuar- ud-din was appointed as the governor of Kalinjar. Attacks on the fort followed in 1208 and 1234. In another invasion of 1251 Sultan Nasir-uddin Mahmud marched towards Kalinjar. In 1255 Kutiugh Khan, stepfather of the emperor, rebelled and fled to Kalinjar which he made a base for his operations.The Chandellas retook it and Kalinjar remained in their possession for the next three centuries.

Sher Shah and Mughuls

In 1530 Prince Humayun besieged Kalinjar and the siege continued intermittently for ten long years, when it had to be recalled due to his father Babur's illness. The next year the fort was again invested but it had again to be abandoned due to rebellion in the eastern provinces. But as Humayun wanted the fort to serve as a base for invading the lower Doab, he again besieged It In 1542.

Three years later Sher Shah asked Kalinjar's Raja Kirat Singh to surrender the fort. On the latter's refusal, Sher Shah ordered the fort to be invested. The siege lasted one year. Mounds were thrown up against the fort and these rose so high that they overtopped the fort. Abbas Khan, the chronicler of Sher Shah, accounts the delay in the siege to Sher Shah's enamour of a Patna dancing girl belonging to Kirat Singh and his apprehension that if an assault was made, the Raja would order johar and the girl would die. Sher Shah ascended a high tower In the line of circumvallation, ordered one of his officers to bring a supply of loaded shells and more rockets. He amused himself in the meantime by shooting arrows into the town. When the rock ets were brought, one of them was fired against the gate of the town, but it rebounded and fell into and ignited a heap of ammunition. Sher Shah who was standing nearby was possibly burnt and had to be carried to his tent. He summoned his nobles who swarmed out instantly from every direction. As per historian Abbas Khan, Sher Shah commanded them to capture the fortress. Kirat Singh was with 70 men in the fort and was under constant watch in the night by Qutb Khan lest he escaped. The next day the Raja was captured alive and the fort taken. The garrison was put to sword. Hearing of it Sher Shah died content on 24 May 1545. His son Jalal- ud-din captured the citadel.


As the hold of the Afghans loosened, the fort came into the hands of the Rajput chief of Rewa, Raja Ramachan- dra. In 1569 Majnu Khan, the commander of Bihar, attacked the fort. Finding his position untenable, the Raja preferred to surrender to Akbar who gave the fort in Jagf/r to Birbal. For 120 years Kalinjar remained in the undisputed possession of the Mughuls. But towards the end of the reign of Aurangazeb, when he was campaigning in Deccan, the Bundela chief Chhatrasal captured Kalinjar. On his death it passed into the possession of Hardeo Singh of Panna, whose descen¬ dants possessed it for long. But the fort was virtually in the control of a Brahmin family.

Marathas and British

During the period of Maratha supre¬ macy, AM Bahadur of Banda laid siege to the fort for two years but he could not take it. Later the British succeeded in occupying it and they gave its posses¬ sion to one Daryab Singh. But the latter openly defied the British authority and gave shelter to anti-British elements. When negotiations failed in 1818 a force under Col. Martindel attacked Kalinjar and in spite of resistence of missiles they rushed forward. But they were held back by precipitous rocks. When they tried to ascend by ladders, they were knocked down by heavy stones hurled by defenders. The assault, however, had its effect. The next day the kiledar sent a proposal to surrender the fort and within eight days he gave up the fort. Daryab Singh was given an estate in the plains.

During 1857-58 turmoil the English succeeded in retaining their hold over Kalinjar Fort with the assistance of Raja of Panna. A decade later in 1866 the fortifications of Kalinjar were dismantled to ward off trouble for good.

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