I love the ancient times. People had beautiful ways to connect with nature and among themselves. They didn’t have to check the last seen to know the well beings of each other, nor did they need Google to enlighten themselves about every query, including the weather. For instance, In India, whenever pied cuckoo came, it was evident that monsoon is arriving. Yes, the pied cuckoo is still the harbinger of monsoon in Northern India but we miss to sight them! I believe sightings were very important in the era bygone. The fort Qila Mubarak of Bathinda which is the focal point of this blog post also had a message with its spectacle for the Northwestern travellers. Let’s dig into the stories of one of the most ancient forts of India, Qila Mubarak, the Harbinger of India.
Foundation of Qila Mubarak
Existing for nearly two millenniums is a wonder in itself, and Qila Mubarak is truly a marvel. It was during the period of 90 – 110 AD that Raja Dab commissioned the construction of Qila Mubarak. Somewhat around the same time when sugar was first time produced out of Sugarcane juice in Northern India. Yes, it is that ancient. But the exact year of this fort is still not clear as there are different claims about the construction of Qila Mubarak. While some say it was made by Raja Bhatti Rao, some other claim it to be made by Emperor Kanishka of Kushan Empire. The small red bricks of the Kushan Empire quite evidently say that it was the part of Kanishka Emperor’s rule, still, it’s hard to say whether it is the renovation or the foundation by them. However, whoever started the groundwork, it is believed Qila Mubarak shunned the invasions by Huns on Emperor Kanishka’s kingdom.
Qila Mubarak – Spectator of History
Every ruler who ruled Qila Mubarak incited some alteration in this fort. But this list doesn’t include the invader Mahmud Ghazni who captured the Qila Mubarak after King Jaipal committed suicide. It is hard for me to point out which historical figure added which part in this fort because Qila Mubarak hosted many. As believed, from Mohammad Ghori who captured this fort in 1189 AD to Prithviraj Chauhan who recaptured it from Ghori in 1191 AD, Qila Mubarak is associated with many stories of valor.
Razia Sultana, the first female to rule Delhi was also imprisoned in this fort. However, the part of the fort in which she was captive is wreaked havoc with time. There are stories which state that she jumped from the balcony of her room to fight from the enemy. And when you see that balcony you would know how brave she must be! I feel that the queen still holds someplace in people’s heart that they sometimes call this fort as Razia Sultana fort. But apart from rulers, there were many more iconic visitors who bestowed their presence in Qila Mubarak. The name of the fort means auspicious and with three Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh, visiting Qila Mubarak it truly lives by its name.
Harbinger of India
Bhatinda may have changed to Bathinda but it is not only the name which has changed. It may be hard to believe seeing the lush green croplands of Bathinda that it is actually a desert or should I say it was a desert. Locals have very interesting folklore about this. It is said that when Guru Gobind Singh visited Bathinda, people complained about the scarcity of water and drought-like conditions, to which he promised that he would take away the draught with him towards the south. It looks to me that promised is fulfilled, though, when Bathinda was a desert, Qila Mubarak resembled a ship standing amidst the sea of sand. And when the travellers from North-western countries came to India, it acted as Harbinger of India. From miles away they could tell seeing Qila Mubarak that they have arrived in India.
Thus, the fort was named as Tabar-e-Hind, i.e., the gateway of India.
Qila Mubarak – What we see now
Qila Mubarak has gone into many changes from the time of its inception. The present version of the fort is mostly credited to Raja Ala Singh who built it in the 18th century. Until King Ala Singh captured it, it served only as Military post but with him started the Patiala Dynasty and royals resided here till 1862. It is said that Baba Ala Singh (as the ruler is fondly known) commissioned the fort with the tax collected by the merchants who passed through his section of Grand Trunk Road. He not only extended the fort but named it as Gobindgarh Fort. Then his successor, Maharaja Karam Singh made a Gurudwara inside the fort which houses the weapons and armours of Guru Gobind Singh.
Inside the fort, you can even see the four cannons that Babbar brought with him to India. What is quirky about this fort is that it is the oldest standing fort of India made with bricks. You could easily spot the bricks of the Baba Ala’s era as they are only 75% of the brick size we use today. These bricks are called as “Nanakshahi eente”.
The boundary of the fort looks to me like the large barrels that store history. Just 200 kilometre away from Amritsar, Qila Mubarak, situated in the heart of Bathinda, has many layers of intrigue folded within its boundary for its spectators. Bathinda Fort is being revived but I suggest before this revival rebuilds the ancient into the updated version of ancient, you should not miss the next long weekend to plan a trip to the city.