When Sikhs Conquered the Hari Parbat Fort in Kashmir

Hari Parbat Fort with the Pir Panjals in the background

The Hari Parbat is the only surviving Fort in the Kashmir region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It stands over a hill also known as the Koh-I-Maraan and originally was the site of a Fort built by Emperor Akbar. He had also built a large fortification Wall at the base of the Hill parts of which survive till today.

The present structure was built by the Afghans when Kashmir was a part of the Afghan Durrani Empire under Shah Shuja Durrani. Ironically Shah Shuja Durrani was himself held prisoner in the Fort by the Governor of Kashmir, Atta Muhammed Khan. Atta Muhammed Khan had declared himself pretty much independent after his father was murdered in Kabul by supporters of a certain claimant to the Throne. As it so happened in 1808, the Afghan King Shah Shuja was ousted by the same individual, Muhammed Shah and his minister Fateh Khan. Atta Muhammed Khan invited Shah Shuja to come to Kashmir from where he could still go on ruling as the King of Afghanistan. Shah Shuja took the offer and landed up in Srinagar only to find himself Atta Muhammed Khan’s prisoner at the Hari Parbat Fort.

However a force of Durrani Afghans in alliance with the Sikhs of Maharaja Ranjit Singh landed in Kashmir soon after and the Sikhs got Shah Shuja Durrani free from his prison inside the Hari Parbat Fort. As per Sikh history sources the ultimate prize promised to Maharaja Ranjit Singh for getting Shah Shuja Durrani freed from the Hari Parbat Fort was the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. Having done his part of the deal and having delivered Shah Shuja Durrani safely to his wife in Lahore the Maharaja of Punjab soon got the possession of the fabled diamond. Maharaja Ranjit Singh who being a Cavalry man had great love for Horses and had the Kohinoor mounted as a head piece on his favorite Horse which he used to ride.

The Sikh flag of Maharaja Ranjit Singh finally flew over the Hari Parbat Fort when the Sikhs under the able leadership of General Hari Singh Nalwa finally defeated the Afghans in 1820. After a brief period of Sikh rule Kashmir and the Fort changed hands and landed in the hands of the Dogras led by Raja Gulab Singh after the Sikh loss in the First Anglo Sikh War of 1846. The Dogra Rule lasted for just a fraction over 100 years and in 1947 it became a part of India and since then the Fort has been occupied by the Security Forces.

The Fort still stands as proud as ever on its vantage point overlooking the Srinagar city. The Fort Hillside holds some important places of worship for varied religious inclinations. There is the Shrine of Makhdoom Sahib, a saint held in great reverence by the Kashmiri Muslims. There is the Sharika Devi Mandir who is worshipped as an incarnation of Shakti. On the day celebrated as Sharika’s birthday, devotees make a sacrificial offering of taher-charvan to the goddess (taher – rice boiled with turmeric powder and mixed with oil and salt; charvan – cooked goat liver).

Then there is the 6th Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara where the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind had supposedly preached and stayed for a few days during a visit to Kashmir. This Gurudwara is considered the holiest Sikh shrine in Kashmir.

The Hari Parbat stands as a sentinel which silently watches over the myriads of events which have happened in this thence troubled land. And it keeps watching. With the mighty Pir Panjals in the background.

It looks beautiful when its lit up in the evening but this capture by Sir Ramesh Tahlan captures the essence of this mighty Fort, the only Fort in the Valley of Kashmir which still stands strong having withstood the vagaries of time.

Pic : Hari Parbat Fort, Srinagar, Kashmir.

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