Kangra Fort


The Kangra Fort, also known as “Nagarkot” and “Kot Kangra,” is perched on a hillock, offering a beautiful location between the Manjhi and Banganga rivers, amidst the foothills of the majestic Dhauladhar range located in District Kangra of Himachal Pradesh. It proudly holds the title of being the largest fort in the Indian Himalayas and is under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Pic: Kangra Fort



The Kangra Fort occupies a revered position in the annals of regional history. Legend has it that “He who holds the Kangra fort, holds the hills,” signifying its coveted status throughout the ages. This formidable fort has stood witness to the ebb and flow of dynasties, with its legacy intertwined with the Greeks, Kashmiri Kings, Turks, Tughlaqs, Mughals, Gorkhas, Sikhs, and, ultimately, the British.

Today, as we gaze upon its majestic and weathered structure, we can gain a deep appreciation of its historical journey, a testament to the transformation of a once formidable bastion into an intriguing picturesque ruin. As the oldest fort in India, it not only holds historical significance but also stands as a witness to the rich heritage of the Katoch dynasty, one of the oldest Indian dynasties.




The origins of the Kangra Fort are shrouded in myth and legend. According to local beliefs, the Katoch dynasty’s roots can be traced back to a mythological tale of Goddess Ambika’s battle with the demon Raktbeej, resulting in the birth of the first Katoch, Bhumi Chand. The Katoch dynasty’s historical significance is further reinforced by references in epic narratives like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Local folklore attributes the construction of Kangra Fort to Rajanaka Susharma Chand, who sought refuge at the confluence of the two rivers after his defeat in the Mahabharata battle.

Historical records, as noted by Sir A Cunningham, trace Kangra’s history back to Ptolemy’s texts, where the Katoch King Parmanand Chand is identified as King Porus, celebrated for his confrontation with Alexander the Great. The name “Kangra” is believed to have evolved from ‘Karna Garh,’ a name with a fascinating history rooted in mythology. The fort’s location was chosen as the ear of the demon Jalandhar (called “karna” in Sanskrit), and this led to its nomenclature as “Karna Garh,” which eventually became “Kangra.”


The Kangra Fort was not only strategically important but also known for the wealth it held. Hindu rulers and devout individuals made offerings of gold, silver, precious stones, and jewels to the revered deity of the Brijeshwari temple in Kangra, considering it a path to virtuous karma. This treasure was stored within the fort in secret wells, with documented reports describing immense riches, including 7,00,000 golden dinars, 700 maunds of gold and silver plate, 200 maunds of pure gold in ingots, 2000 maunds of silver bullion, and 20 maunds of various precious gems, including corals, pearls, diamonds, rubies, and other valuable possessions, as documented by Ferishta in his work Tarikh-i Ferishta (1612 CE).


The Kangra Fort’s storied history is replete with tales of extraordinary treasures, attracting invaders from near and far. It marks the beginning of a tumultuous journey, filled with sieges and looting by both native and foreign forces. In 470 CE, King Shreshta Sen of Kashmir launched the first major attack on the fort, but the Katoch rulers successfully defended it, setting the stage for numerous subsequent invasions.

One of the most famous sieges occurred in 1009 CE when Mahmud of Ghazni besieged the fort and managed to loot 8 out of the 21 treasure wells. Al-Utbi, in his work Tarikhi-i-Yamini (1021 CE), described the vast wealth with amazement, stating that it was so immense that camels couldn’t carry it, containers couldn’t hold it, writers couldn’t record it, and even the imagination of an arithmetician couldn’t fathom it.

The following years saw the fort being plundered by Muhammad-Bin-Tughlaq in 1337 CE, and it changed hands multiple times through battles and treaties. Mughal Emperor Akbar made many attempts to capture the fort before it finally fell into Mughal hands in 1620 CE after a 14-month siege, marking the beginning of Mughal rule over Kangra.




In 1605, Bidhi Chand, son of Jai Chand, passed away, and his son Trilok Chand succeeded him. The same year, Jahangir ascended to the throne, but he didn’t focus on Kangra until 1615.

First Attempt to Capture Kangra (1615-1616)

In 1615, Jahangir sent Sheikh Farid Murtaza Khan, the Punjab governor, to conquer Kangra Fort. Raja Suraj Mal of Nurpur helped. Jahangir documented these events in his autobiography, “Tazuk-i-Jahangiri.”

Raja of Nurpur Suraj Mal’s rank was increased, and Raja Man, who was confined in Gwalior, was released to assist Murtaza Khan. Differences between Murtaza Khan and Raja Suraj Mal postponed the siege. Raja Suraj Mal was recalled and attached to Prince Shahjahan in the Deccan in 1616. Murtaza Khan fell ill and died in Pathankot, marking the failure of the first attempt to capture Kangra Fort.

Raja Man Singh and Delay in Siege (1616-1617)

After Murtaza Khan’s death, Raja Man was tasked with leading the attack, and he may have become Punjab’s governor.

However, he was killed by a local chief named Sangram, delaying the Kangra Fort siege.

Second Attempt and Suraj Mal’s Rebellion (1617)

Jahangir discussed a new attempt with Shah Jahan, who approved it. Shah Jahan selected Suraj Mal and Shah Quli Khan Mohammed Taqi to lead. Suraj Mal attempted to eliminate Mohammed Taqi to assume supreme command, leading to his recall. Suraj Mal’s rebellion led to the dispersion of most Mughal troops and resource shortages.

Suraj Mal’s Revolt and Mughal Response (1619-1620)

Suraj Mal raised a revolt, looting at the foot of the hills and collecting resources. Jahangir sent Rai Raiyan Sunder Dass to suppress the rebellion. Suraj Mal had to abandon Mankot and Nurpur forts, seeking refuge in Chamba territory, where he died in 1619.

Jagat Singh’s Involvement and Kangra Fort Capture (1620)

Suraj Mal’s younger brother, Jagat Singh, was summoned from Bengal and joined the Mughal army in the siege of Kangra Fort. The garrison resisted but eventually surrendered in November 1620. This marked the first time Kangra Fort was held by the Mughal army, under Nawab Ali Khan, and it remained so until 1783. Last Mughal quiladar was Saif Ali Khan.


In the 18th century, Rajanaka Sansar Chand Katoch led a revival of Kangra with the support of Sikh forces, reclaiming the fort and ushering in a “Golden Age” for the Katoch dynasty. Under his patronage, the local culture and tradition were revitalized, attracting artists, painters, musicians, craftsmen, and more to Kangra. He even established the “Kangra School of Miniature Painting,” which produced around 40,000 paintings.

Despite his achievements, Sansar Chand’s ambition eventually led to the downfall of the Katoch rule. In the early 19th century, the fort was besieged by a combined army of Gorkhas and local rulers. With the assistance of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, the Gorkhas were repelled, and the fort came under Sikh control. Following the Sikh War of 1846, the British took over the fort, believed to have looted five existing treasure wells.

The Kangra Fort remained under British control until it suffered significant damage in an earthquake in 1905. Subsequently, the British returned the fort to the Katoch kings.

Today, Kangra Fort stands as not only an architectural marvel but as a living testament to the wealth, valour, and resilience that shaped its storied history.


The Kangra Fort, a formidable stronghold situated on a lofty hillock, narrates a captivating story of architectural grandeur. Encompassing an impressive area of about 4 kilometres, this majestic fortress is surrounded by towering ramparts and a commanding wall that has withstood the ravages of time.

Perched on a steep rock, the fort exudes an air of indomitable strength, overseeing the valley below. Within the architecture of Kangra Fort lies a trove of history and strategic design.

Ramparts and Wall: Guardians of the Fort

The physical presence of Kangra Fort is awe-inspiring, with high ramparts encircling the entire structure. These meticulously crafted fortifications serve as the primary line of defence, ingeniously adapting to the natural contours of the hill.

Pic: Fortification of Kangra Fort


Key Features:

The towering ramparts enhance the fort’s impregnability. The strategic placement of the wall offers a commanding view over the valley, strengthening its defensibility.

Crenels and Merlons: The battlements are adorned with closely spaced merlons, indented by crenels, serving both defensive and surveillance purposes.

The Moat: A Natural Barrier

An exceptional feature of Kangra Fort’s design is the moat, skillfully carved into the rocky terrain. This natural barrier effectively separates the fort from the outside world, with its source at the confluence of the Banganga and Manjhi river, providing an additional layer of protection.

Notable Traits: The moat is carved from solid rock, highlighting the engineering prowess of the era. Its strategic location, connecting the Banganga and Manjhi rivers, ensures a continuous water flow, bolstering the fort’s defences.

 Moat : Natural barrier


A Glimpse of the Fortress

Kangra Fort’s architectural magnificence, the fort, perched atop a high mountain, boasts an array of defenses:

23 Bastions: These strategically positioned strongholds enhance the fort’s formidable appearance and defensive capabilities.

7 Gates: A series of gates, designed for both security and accessibility, facilitate entry and exit from the fortress.

Large Tanks: Within the fort’s confines, two large tanks showcase the strategic and practical aspects of its design.

Hidden treasure: According to the legend, the Kangra Fort is believed to have a total of 21 treasure wells, each 4 meters deep and 2.5 meters wide in circumference. As per the story, eight wells were looted by Mahmud of Ghazni, and five by the British, leaving eight more wells still said to be filled with treasures waiting to be unearthed.

Pic: Well


A Blend of Eras: Medieval and Ancient Architecture

Kangra Fort’s architecture beautifully blends elements of medieval and ancient fort design. Its layout stands as a testament to the architectural and engineering brilliance that prevailed in the region during ancient times. The visual charm of the fort is evident in architectural elements such as graceful arches, elegant domes, intricate artwork, and figures etched into the stone, providing a glimpse into the cultural and historical nuances of the era.

Palace Courtyard and Stone Carved Temples:

At the pinnacle of the fort, the palace courtyard unveils a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding landscape, a vantage point to behold. Descending from this lofty perch, a vast courtyard unfolds, bedecked with meticulously crafted stone-carved temples, each a masterpiece of architectural finesse and profound religious significance.

Pic: Kangra Fort Courtyard

Immerse yourself further in the rich heritage of Kangra Fort by exploring its intricate network of temples and treasures concealed within its precincts. Among these, the Laxmi Narayan, Ambika Devi, and Shitlamata temples take center stage, representing exquisite examples of Nagara architecture. The fort also boasts a Jain temple complex and a stepwell known as Kapoorsagar, bearing testimony to the fort’s multifaceted history.

Pic : Lakshami Narayan Temple

Pic: Ambika Devi Temple

Commending Triumph Through Architectural Marvels:

Conquerors of Kangra Fort celebrated their victories by leaving behind resplendent gates and temples that serve as architectural marvels and cultural treasures.

  1. Jahangiri Darwaza: A Tribute to Mughal Grandeur (Attributed to Mughal Emperor Jahangir)

The Jahangiri Darwaza, attributed to the illustrious Mughal Emperor Jahangir, stands as a portal to the past. Its intricate design and regal presence reflect the grandeur of the Mughal era.

  1. Ahani and Amiri Darwaza: Gates of Inauguration (Attributed to Nawab Saif Ali Khan, the first Mughal Governor)

The Ahani and Amiri Darwaza, credited to Nawab Saif Ali Khan, the first Mughal Governor, carry the legacy of inauguration. These gates are a testament to the fort’s evolving history.

  1. Ranjit Singh Darwaza: Honoring Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Attributed to Maharaja Ranjit Singh)

Pic: Ranjeet Singh Gate

The Ranjit Singh Darwaza, dedicated to the valiant Maharaja Ranjit Singh, encapsulates the triumphs of a great ruler. This gateway is a celebration of his enduring legacy.

  1. Handeli or Andheri Darwaja: Gateway to Mystery

The upper gate, known as the Handeli or Andheri Darwaja, exudes an air of mystery, inviting explorers to uncover the fort’s enigmatic past.

  1. Darsani Darwaza :

Darsani darwaza also known as the temple gate with images of Goddess Ganga and Yamuna.

Pic: Darsani Darwaza


Don’t miss the opportunity to ascend the polygonal watchtower positioned to the southwest, providing sweeping panoramic views of the enchanting Kangra Valley. Kangra Fort’s gates and temples are not mere structures; they serve as portals to a rich tapestry of history and architectural brilliance, beckoning visitors to embark on a timeless journey through this extraordinary fortress.

Today, the Kangra Fort is looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Although it’s gotten older, its history remains intact. It stands as a reminder of a grand and fancy time in the past and is a valuable place for people who love history and heritage, offering a lot of cultural and historical treasures.

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