FORTS OF INDIA (kot kangra)
KOT KANGRA, in Himachal Pradesh crowns a precipitous rock that dominates the surrounding area. It is surrounded on three sides from inaccessible cliffs and because of its strong position and massive walls, the fort was considered impregnable. And, though it was attacked many times, it could never be taken by storm. Once it withstood a siege for 12 months.
Kangra was renowned in ancient times for the Jwalamukhi (eternal flame) and people from far and wide flocked to the shrine to offer their worship, which brought in immense wealth. It commanded so much respect that the Inmates took no care for its protection till Mahmud Ghazni attacked it in 1009. The fort was without a garrison and the priest offered to surrender. They parleyed for some time and on the third day opened the gates. A huge booty fell into the hands of the invaders which is said to have amounted to 700,000 gold dinars, 700 mounds of gold and silver plates, 200 mounds of pure gold in ingots, 200 mounds of silver and 20 mounds of jewels, including pearls, corals, diamonds and rubies. On his return Mahmud displayed the wealth piled on carpets in the courtyard of his palace to the wondering eyes of his subjects.
Around 1044 Mahipal the Raja of Delhi reoccupied Kangra. Mohammed bin Tughluq conquered Nagarkot* in 1337 but it soon slipped out of the control of Delhi. In 1351 the Raja of Kangra ventured to invade the neighbouring areas under Tughluq rule and plundered some of the districts. Alarmed at this, Firuz Tughluq who was on his way to Daulatabad changed course and marched towards Sirhind and then on to Kangra. The Raja stood siege for some time but then surrendered. He was courteously received and permitted to retain his territory. Firuz's Nagarkot campaign is interesting he caused 300 volumes of Sanskrit books preserved in the temple of Jwalamukhi to be rendered into Persian verse under the title of Dala-il-i- Firuz Shahi by a court poet named Aazz- ud-din Khalid Khani.
In 1398 Timur attacked Delhi. Later his grandson Pir Muhammed captured Kangra on 16 January 1399.Akbar was displeased with Jaichand, Raja of Nagarkot, and imprisoned him. On hearing of this, his son Bidai Chand thought that his father had been murdered and he rebelled at Nagarkot some time around 1570. Akbar ordered Husain Quii Khan, the governor of Punjab to capture Nagarkot and hand it over as a fief to Raja Birbal. Later while on march to Attock, Akbar himself visited Nagarkot.
So far the Mughuls had been able to subdue the hill country of Kangra but the fort had still held out. Initially Jahangir's effort to subdue the strong¬ hold also failed, that for the reason the commander did not press his attack because of his sympathy with the holders of the fort. A revolt then broke out. Raja Bikramajit was sent out from Delhi to crush the revolt. After a siege of more than a year during which the garrison was nearly starved, the fort surrendered towards the end of 1620. Though the capture was of no political importance, it got him substantial booty and he received exquisite pleasure that his forces had succeeded where so many of his predecessors had failed.
Under the Mughuls, Kangra was permanently garrisoned and in the cession of 1752 it should have passed on to Ahmed Shah Durrani. But the governor Saif Khan refused to surrender and maintained himself in the fort for twenty years. After his death in 1774, Sansarehand, the Katoch Raja of Kangra laid siege to the fort but was unable to reduce it. He then invited the Sikh chieftain Jaisingh Kanheya to assist him in taking the fortress. Jai Singh despatched Gurbakhsh Singh who procured the surrender of the fortress for his master and not for Sansarchand. He held it till 1784-85 when he left it to its legitimate owner Sansarchand.
Kangra was besieged from 1806 to 1809 by the Gurkhas. Tired of the havoc they played, Sansarchand, invoked the succour of Ranjit Singh. The Sikhs entered Kangra and gave battle to the Gurkhas, in 1809 and signed an agreement In return for the services, Ranjit Singh appropriated the fort of Kangra for himself. It remained in the possession of Lahore Durbar till 1846 when the Jullundar Doab was ceded to the British. Despite the cession the commandant of the fort refused to surrender. But after it was vested for two months by a British brigade, the governor agreed to evacuate it on condition that a free and honourable passage would be given to him and his men. After the surrender the British occupied the fort. The town, the fort and temples were destroyed by an earthquake in 1905.