Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kot Diji Fort

Kot Diji Fort

This time my training activities took me to interior Sindh, my first port of call was Hyderabad. The early morning traffic was light otherwise it would have taken me much longer time during the day.
I first headed towards Tando Allahyar which is located about 3 hours drive from Karachi crossing GADAP and Bharia city early in the morning. 

Crossing Tando Jam in the morning at about 0900 am the green fields could be seen on either side with the sugar cane plantations popping out of the fields ready to be harvested by the farmers.

It was on Friday 30th January 2015 at about 0600 am that I checked out early from my hotel room had DOODPATTI at a Khoka on a wayside restaurant and headed towards KUMBH city on Nawabshah road which is also known as Sui gas city because of the branching of the sui gas pipe line from this area into Punjab where the bifurcation valves are located.

I was headed to Sakrand on the main highway from where we had to turn towards Nawabshah road. The Banana plantations could be seen on either side but my speed was hampered by truckers who move at a slow speed on the right side of the road and try to overtake each other thus causing the traffic to come to a standstill.  Early in the morning the dew can be seen on the fields coupled with fog in the atmosphere reminding me of William WORDSWORTH and his love for nature.

Driving at a high speeds on such roads  with odd truckers impeding the way and acting like speed breakers is like throwing caution to the wind.
As I was driving towards Khairpur Mirus I noticed a very big fort on the right side of the road situated high up on a hillock perched there like a Sentinel and my adventurous spirit instigated me to venture out and have a first look at the fort.

Low and behold after traversing a dirt road for about 15 minutes I reached the base of the Kot Diji Fort. This is also known as Fort Ahmadabad, so named after the architect who built this fort and is about 25 miles east of the Indus River at the edge of the Nara-Rajisthan Desert. The fort was built between 1785 to 1795 by Mir Sohrab Khan Talpur, founder of the Kingdom of Upper Sindh in 1783. In addition to the fort, a 5 kilometer, 12 feet wide mud wall was built making it a walled city. This defensive wall had bastions throughout its length and a huge iron gate served as the city's only entrance.

The fort was considered invincible and served as the residence of the Emirs of Khairpur in times of peace. During war time the female members of the royal family were shifted to Shahgarh Fort, formerly within the kingdom but since 1843, after the conquest of the rest of Sindh, it is in the Thar and Jaisalmer desert, now in India. Throughout its whole history, however, Fort Kot Diji was never attacked.

The construction of Kot Diji was done on practical grounds from a limestone hill from nearby from which kiln-baked bricks were used because the locally available limestone rock was very brittle and would have shattered easily on impact with a cannonball. The hill is about 110 feet high, above which the walls of the fort rises another 30 feet. It has three strategically placed towers about 50 feet tall.
The fort is over half a kilometer long and its walls are segmented by about 50 mainstay citadels and its outer perimeter a 1.8 kms wall identically follows the double crescent-shaped contours of the hill on which its stands. 

This was done to fortify the fort and surround the attacking enemy on three sides on the west front. On the east, where the entrance lies, the fort is divided by three elephant-proof gates into three overlapping levels, so that the first two levels if breeched then the third level can be the main stay of thwarting the attack in the event of the lower level being overrun by the enemy. The first gate is rather an indirect entry so that the gate cannot be rammed on a charge. When I approached the main gate I noticed big iron pointed pike staff protruding from the wooden walls so that elephants could not ram the gates.
The bastions had arrow slits in them, allowing defenders to attack their enemy from two levels: from the battlement on top and from within the wall.
The fort was built at a time when cannons had just become common and its design and position revealed that it included a multitude of stations for cannon position very high on a narrow ridge so that the enemy cannons would have to fire from a great distance with little accuracy. Enemy Cannonballs could either hit the hill or perimeter or would simply fly over the fort and fall on the enemies' own forces on the other side.

This fort was built at the edge of the desert for vantage point and provided an advantage over enemies marching from the east, because an exhausted army could be intercepted before it could take fresh supplies and water from the irrigated lands. The MIRWAH canal was built in 1790 specifically to irrigate the lands west of the fort and bring water to the military base and also acting as a man made obstacle for impeding the advance of the enemy forces.
The purpose of building this fort was to act as a central military base for the Talpur Kingdom, and especially to resist the Afghan invasion. It was the strongest of the 20 forts built by the Talpurs forts and took about 30 years to build according to local folklore.
In 1955 the State was merged with Pakistan, and the fort could have been included with the personal property of the Mir of Khairpur. However, Mir Ali Murad II thought it appropriate to hand it over to the government of Pakistan, expecting better maintenance and look after. Since that time the fort has fallen into serious disrepair and is presently in a derelict condition. Most of the lime mortar plaster has fallen of the walls, leaving the bricks exposed. During the time of president Mohammad Ayub Khan, 192 cannons and mortars located at the fort were stolen or destroyed by being thrown from the bastions. Other decorative fixtures and fittings have been stolen as well. 
As a social activist and an ecologist my heart laments and weeps over the pathetic conditions in which our archeological sites are lying in ruins, may be the department of archeology is in a deep slumber and has to be woken up with the jolt.
I appeal to the philanthropist and all patriotic people of Pakistan to come forward and help preserve our rich cultural heritage.
Ask yourself this question what sort of a Pakistan are we leaving for our future generations?  

Dr. Babur Zahiruddin

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