The Largest Fort of the World

Almost each and every historian has mentioned that a mammoth army of more than one hundred thousand soldiers led by the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah laid siege to the Lohgarh Fort on the 29th of November 1710 and captured it the very next day. Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer too had said so in his earlier works, but when he visited the whole zone of and around the Lohgarh Fort, he wrote: “on the face of this propaganda of victory it seems that the Mughal army had made a great achievement, but, in fact this was just a funny claim. This gives the impression that as if Lohgarh Fort were just a small hill or a building which they had captured so easily. But, a survey of the geographical area and the structure of the Fort (from the remains of its ruins) proves that the Mughal claim was not only far from reality, but also exaggeration and fraud with history.”

Lohgarh Fort was not identified as such in 1710,in fact it had its birth in 1609 when Guru Hargobind had built a Fort in Guru-Da-Chakk (now Amritsar); nowadays a Gurdwara has been built at that site. This is the second Lohgarh Fort, which was built by Bhai Lakhi Rai Vanjara under the command of Guru Har Rai. The Guru monitored the construction of the Fort between 1645 and 1657, when he spent 12-13 years at Thapal (as mentioned by Maubad Zufiqar Ardastani in his work Dabistan-i-Mazahib). After this Guru Gobind Singh too supervised its construction during his stay at Paonta Sahib from 1685 to 1688. When Guru Gobind Singh returned to Chakk Nanaki (now a part of a greater Anandpur Sahib), he built another Fort of the same name there too, in 1689-90. At that Fort, the Guru had established a factory to manufacture weapons. These arms were manufactured by the Sikligars and the Vanjara Rajputs, who had inherited this skill from their fathers and forefathers. It seems that the weapons manufactured here were sent to the Nahan state and the Lohgarh Fort of the hill zone also.

Geographical map of Lohgarh Fort

Lohgarh Fort was not a bastion built on one or two hills; it was a large Fort built on dozens of hills, thus, this becomes the largest* Fort in the world.

Lohgarh Fort is about 29 kilometers from Nahan, Sadhaura and Paonta Sahib. Most of the area of this Fort lies in the erstwhile Nahan State. The epicenter of the Fort is spread in 7000 acres land of (Yamuna Nagar district) Haryana and (Sirmaur district) Himanchal states of India.

Villages Lohgarh, Haripur, Jheel Bankebara, Mehtavali, Devavala, Palori, Sukron, Mehronvala, Charanvala, Jamni (Himanchal) and Bhagwanpur, Nathauri, Dhananura, Nagli, Mohindinpur (Haryana) etc were a part of Lohgarh Fort. In fact the Fort was spread from Udhamgarh (near Kala Amb) to Kalesar forest. Raipur Rani, Toka , Kala Amb and Pinjor have been part of this Fort. The area between Thaska and Tevar, and, Milkara, Taharpur, Darapur, Cheeka, up to Kalesar forest is about 40 to 50 kilometers in length and 10 to 15 kilometers in width. These hills are at a height of 1200 to 1900 feet from sea level.

The rulers of the Nahan or Sirmaur State had good relations with the Sikhs right from the time of Guru Hargobind (1590-1644). According to a tradition this State was established by Sobha Rawal (Subans Parkash) in 1095. The city of Nahan (which eventually became capital) was founded by Karam Parkash (ruler 1616-1630). Karam Parkash was an admirer of Guru Hargobind. He friended the Guru sometimes after 1619, when he came to know that the Guru had got 52 Hindu rulers, princes and ministers States released from Gwalior Fort Prison. There royal prisoners were mostly from hill and Rajputana. In October 1621, the Guru had defeated forces led by a Hindu feudal and a Mughal general of Doaba zone. Karam Chand was succeeded by Mandhata Parkash (ruled 1630-1654). He had friendly relations with Guru Hargobind and his successor Guru Har Rai (1631- 1661). In 1645, when Tara Chand, the ruler of Kehloor State stopped paying tax to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the latter ordered his arrest. The Guru tried to convince Tara Chand to negotiate but he remained adamant; hence the Guru left Keeratpur and moved to Thapal (in the old state of Nahan/Sirmaur, in Lohgarh zone). According to Maubad Zulfiqar Ardastani, Guru Har Rai stayed in this village from 1645 to 1656-57 (about 13 years). Mandhata Parkash was succeeded by Saubhag Parkash (ruled 1654-1664) and Budh Parkash (ruled 1664-1684). Budh Parkash was very friendly with Guru Tegh Bahadur. In 1684, he died and Mat Parkash (ruled 1684-1704) became the ruler of Sirmaur State. In Sikh sources, he is mentioned as Medni Parkash. It was Medni Parkash, who, in 1685, invited Guru Gobind Singh and requested him to establish his headquarters in his state. Eventually Guru Gobind Singh founded the city of Paonta Sahib and stayed there from April 1685 to 27 October 1688.

Mat Parkash (Medni Parkash) was succeeded by his minor son Bijay Parkash (Mughal records mention his name as Bhup Parkash). He joined Banda Singh in his fight against the Mughals, as a result, he was arrested and imprisoned in Salimgarh Fort at Delhi from 1710 to 1711. After this he secured his release by joining the Mughal authorities in their struggle against the Sikhs.

According to Mohammed Qasim Aurangabadi, in November 1710, the Lohgarh Fort is spread on 16-17 hills and it is really difficult to climb these hills, and the Sikhs had established bastions in an area of 5 to 7 kms. Around the Lohgarh Fort, there are deep forests spread from Lohgarh village to Kalesar and Sukron, and, even today (in 2018), some ferocious animals still dwell there. This region is known as Dabar hills. If this was the state of affairs, how could the Mughal army capture the Fort in just one and a half day?

Most of the walls of Lohgarh Fort were two to four fold. There were walls after walls. Some of the walls were 3 to 4 meters in width. These walls had the filling of lime, material which gave still greater strength to the walls of this Fort. All this work could not have been performed in few months or a span of years; it must have taken 70 to 80 years to achieve all this.

The rivers and rivulets divided the Fort into two parts. There was a deep water channel on all the sides of the Fort and these walls were protected by walls, which provided a great defense to the Fort. If the enemy crossed one wall, he had to face a great résistance before crossing the adjacent wall; and, there were walls after walls around each mound. In this land the enemy could not hope of getting any aid from those coming behind to supplement him.

The hills of the Fort were covered with thorny and thick bushes, cacti, other plants and even poisonous bushes; besides there were countless slippery slopes and tight passages from where neither horses nor men could pass with speed. This this made capture of this Fort a very difficult task.

On the other hand, the Sikh soldiers had made secret passages to reach to the higher hills or to escape from the hills towards the rivulets or to flee towards the forest area. Such a place was good for guerrilla war (of which the Sikhs were expert). Therefore, this could get a graveyard for the enemy powers. Only, in case hundreds of thousands of military units attacked the Fort, they could capture it only after many years of warfare and that even after sustaining great casualties.

Amar Vails (Hanging Vines)

In the forests there are some hanging vines holding which one can fly from one tree to another or from one hill to a tree or another hill. Unlike branches of a tree, these vines are very strong and do not get decayed, damaged or broken with the passage of time. Guerrillas, monkeys and apes use these vines for jumping from one tree to another. At times these are very long. These vines have a very long life as well; sometimes hundreds of years. There were several such vines in the Lohgarh Fort (even now some such vines can be seen there). These vines generally are not found in this zone; hence it seems that Lakhi Rai Vanjara used to trade goods between Yaarkand and Samarkand (Central Asia) to Sri Lanka. He might have imported them from some other forests. The Sikh soldiers used these vines for approaching various parts of the Fort. During the attack of an enemy, these vines proved very helpful.

Secret Passages

At the Lohgarh Fort, there were secret passages in the hills of the Fort. These passages were not carved in a couple of hills but in almost all the hills and at all the levels, throughout the Lohgarh Fort. Some of these were like proper rocks and/or brick roads. Though bushes, shrubs and trees have covered many of them, some of these are still in existence. These were well known to the Sikhs. These passages were set up in such a style that if a stranger tried to enter those paths, he would slip and fall down the hill and might even lose limbs or even life. Besides, the Sikh soldiers could hide in these passages and make a sudden attack when the enemy reached there or tried to pass through these passages. They could even trap the enemy and kill them.

Water system

The Lohgarh Fort had a great system of the supply of drinking water. There was a major river, Markanda on one side of the Fort. Besides, there were two small rivulets and more than 94 springs, falls and flows of water (like Lohgarh Khol, Haripur Khol, Nagli Ki Khol, Boli Khol, Asrodi Khol, Kaludeo Ka Khol, Guru Ki Khol etc.), in and around the Fort. Other than this, there were several dams and reservoirs where water was stored for drinking, bathing and irrigation purposes etc. More than 100 such dams are still in existence there.

Hand Mills, Oil-Pressers and Utensils

A very large number of clay utensils, hand mills, flour mill, oil presses have been found not only in some of the hills but in a large number of hills in various parts of the Fort also and, not only in lower hills but also in the higher hills. It proves that several villages existed on these hills and, a very large number of people used to live there. Families of the soldiers might have been living there. This also shows that the Lohgarh Fort was a very big Fort.

Food Grains and other Stuffs

We have found evidence that there were great stores of food grains and lentils in and around the Lohgarh Fort. These were preserved in big clay drums. A few years back a big drum was found from a field in which a lot of lentils were still there; and, this seemed to be a couple of hundred years old.

Signs of Weapons Factory

A lot of scraps and fragments of iron and brass have been found in various parts of the Fort. These scraps and fragments have been found in an area of about two to two and a half kilometer. This can be seen there even in the form of lumps and clogs. From this we make presume that ores of iron and other metals etc. were brought here from the mines and after melting them at a very high temperature and moulding them in moulds and dies, weapons like swords, arrows, spears and even barrels of guns were manufactured. It seems they had a system of heating the metal ores and then cooling them in water or oil. The weapons manufactured in this manner were very strong and could not be broken easily. A lot of ores, scrap and fragments of brass too have been found in this area which shows that the caps of brass too were manufactured here, which were used for making bullets; and, probably even barrels of guns might also have been manufactured here.

The Sikligars, who had been associated with the Sikhs since the times of Guru Hargobind were experts on manufacturing weapons. It is possible that there weapons might have been manufactured since the time of Guru Hargobind. Even today, there are several Sikligar families living in many villages around the Lohgarh Fort Zone.

Weapon industries & Sikh Armouries were also set up in the villages of Bhawanpur,Vansantoor & Shahjadwala (In the present Yamuana Nagar District). The Sikh Tandas brought iron and copper ores here from Orissa mines. Damascened steel swords were fabricated here by Sikligars.

Production of toys

Fragments of broken toys of various types (e.g. Camels, elephants, sparrows, parrots and dolls, etc.) have been found in a large part of the Lohgarh Fort. These can be seen lying in an area of about 8 acres, which means that there used to live several families of the soldiers; and they must be having children for whom these toys were being manufactured.

Who was the owner of the Lohgarh Fort, Dabar Zone and the land around it?

Lakhi Rai Vanjara was the owner of perhaps 80 villages i.e. the land on the foothills of the Lohgarh Fort (he had given this land to his employees; later, they too came to be known as Vanjaras).This fact of his ownership is proven by the evidence that he had constructed deep wells in all these villages. Though a large number of wells have been filled or covered or have disappeared due to one or another reason, but still some of them have survived; so far 52 such villages have been identified, e.g. Banda Bahadurpur, Garhi Varan, Garhi Vanjara, Sandhaya, Machchrouli[1], Chhchhrauli, Balachour, Marwa Kurd, Sarwan, Lakhi Bas, Bani Bahadurpur, Niwarshi,  Lohara, Garhi Sikkandra, Kaserla, Ranipur, Mughalawali, Sunder Bahadur, Mehilawali, Dayalgarh, Laharpur , Jihwerhari, Sudhal , Budhi, Vansantoor, Shahjadwala etc still have Lakhi Rai’s wells. These wells are about 50 feet deep and are made of Nanakshahi bricks and finely cut rocks (there were no drilling machines in those days). These bricks and rocks were finely stacked and were filled with lime etc. To dig so many wells and construct them on the pattern of Egyptian pyramids was a terrific job. History has no answer to such splendid work. In fact, Lakhi Rai Vanjara, who was the greatest trader of those times, had his business spread between Central Asia and Sri Lanka; hence he had knowledge of every type of architectural work and building construction. He must have imported not only materials but also masons, workers and other experts from various parts of the world. In some of these villages, Lakhi Rai had built some small Fortresses as well, e.g. at Burhia, Garhi Vanjara, Dialgarh, Sooh, Deen, Mullana, Mansoorpur etc.

As far as Lohgarh Fort is concerned, only a wealthy person like Lakhi Rai could have built it. He had a force of hundreds of thousands of young workers (who had military training as well). A huge quantity of stones, lime and bricks were used to build this Fort. Such a massive stock of construction materials could not have been brought by a couple of hundred persons. A ‘tanda’ (trade caravan) of hundreds and thousands of persons might have brought all this. Lakhi Rai Vanjara already had an experience of building Forts and palaces. He had been a supplier of building materials (stone, lime and timber) for the construction of Red Fort Delhi and some Maratha Forts. He had built his own palace, known as Matia Mahal, in Delhi and some other buildings as well. So, it seems that Guru Har Rai Sahib had given this duty to Lakhi Rai Vanjara who supplied material and provided force to build this big Fort.

Not only building the Fort but even clothes, blankets, quilts, grains, hand mills, oil pressers etc. must have been supplied by Lakhi Rai and his sons and grandsons. Some Persian writers mention that when the Sikhs abandoned the Lohgarh Fort, the Mughal soldiers entered the Fort and plundered silk clothes. The silk clothes must have been brought by Lakhi Rai from China and other parts of Central Asia, otherwise there could not have been such precious clothes in that zone, where people did not have even enough food.

As has been mentioned above, Lakhi Rai’s sons and grandsons were a part of Banda Singh’s army, and, all of them died in battles against the Mughals. When all of them had died, only then, the Mughlas might have captured this Fort. The Mughal soldiers demolished the Fort and carried the stones and bricks on the carts far away from that zone, so that the Sikhs might not build this Fort again.

[1] There are three village by the name of Machchrouli in Haryana , one in  Tahsil Samalkha, Tahsil Bilaspur and Tahsil Jajjar, all making referencess and relationship with Bhai Lakhi Rai Vanjara.

Who Built Lohgarh Fort & On How Much Time Was It Built?

Most of the historians say that a Fort existed there at the time of Banda Singh Bahadur. After having captured some Forts (Samana, Ghurham, Kapuri, Shahbad etc.) he must have captured this Fort as well. He got it repaired and renovated, and, established his capital here. But, this is just like a joke. The Fort is spread in at least 7000  acres of area on dozens of hills; hence it could not have been built in some months or years. It must have taken 70 to 80 years to complete it. Even if all the stones, bricks, lime and timber, etc. was supplied by Lakhi Rai Vanjara it must have taken a very long time to carry all these things from far of places to so many levels of the hills.

It seems that the building of the Fort had begun at the time of Guru Hargobind Sahib when he had moved to Keeratpur in 1635. But, most of the work for this Fort must have been done during the time of Guru Har Rai Sahib. According to Dabistan-I-Mazahib (by Maubad Zulfiqar Ardastani), Guru Har Rai spent about 13 years (1645 to 1657) in the Thapal village (in the old state of Nahan[1]/Sirmaur, in Lohgarh zone). The Guru had 2200 horses (that means an equal number of soldiers). This area was a good grazing ground where the horses could get grass and water in plenty.

During his stay here, Lakhi Rai Vanjara used to visit him. Here, the Guru must have monitored the activities of the construction of the Fort. The central part of the Lohgarh Fort is about 15 km from here (and by modern roads, it is about 25 kilometers) from here. In between Thapal and Paonta Sahib, there is only Kalesar forest (now known as Kalesar Wild Life Sanctuary). Another passage to Lohgarh is via Sukhchainpura (this village is known after some Sukhchain Singh; he might be a descendant of Lakhi Rai Vanjara).

As mentioned earlier it seems that all the stones, bricks, lime etc were brought here by the trade caravan of Lakhi Rai Vanjara, it is very likely that he set up brick kilns here. Nanakshahi bricks have been used in dozens of hills. Though the Mughals had removed all the stones, rocks and bricks from most of the area of the Fort still signs of Nanakshahi bricks can be found everywhere, not only in one or two hills but in almost all the hills and at all the levels of the hills.

[1] A Manji was also established by 3rd Guru Amar Das Ji, at Nahan, the name of the Manji was Gangushahi Manji. This area is just 50 kms from Yamuna Nagar. It is very clear that the present district of Sirmaur (old Nahan estate) and the district Yamuna Nagar ( pargana of Khizrabad and Mustafabad) was a great Sikhism influenced area.