Phillaur Fort lies forgotten amid the din of celebrations

While three years ago some funds were provided by the state government with which the right side of the fort was renovated, but not a single penny has been provided for the conservation of the fort since then. It is ironic that on one side the state government is organising massive functions to commemorate the life and times of the king better known as the Lion of Punjab, and on the other, his only existing relic was being given a shabby treatment.

The fort in which Maharaja Ranjit Singh Police Training Academy is housed is being maintained on a petty budget by the academy officials. However, in the absence of the financial grant, the fort, especially its left side is crumbling. For security reasons it was not possible to get the dilapidated portion of the fort photographed.

Any visitor can, however, easily see the pitiable state of the fort. Even the massive Delhi and Lahore Forts have developed cracks. Though the academy officials have tried to fill the cracks and white wash them but it has failed to camouflage the decay. The crumbled state of the fort becomes a major embarrassment for the authorities when the visiting delegates ask them who was responsible for the bad condition of the fort.

Sources said the academy had written to the state government and the conservation department several times for providing grant or arranging for conservation experts for the fort but the funds had not been provided. A major portion of the fort which was used as hostel for the trainees has already crumbled. {pagebreak}

In fact on the Annual Passing Out Day Parade last year, the former Director of the Academy, Mr A.A Siddiqui, had openly drew the attention of the state government towards the crumbling fort and reminded them that money was required to save it for posterity. Mr Siddiqui also reminded the state government that a special grant of Rs 1.5 crore was announced by the state government in March 1997 but no funds had been released so far. Mr Bikramjit Singh, Principal Secretary Home Affairs and Justice, who was the chief guest on the occasion had promised that the government would solve the problem immediately. But the promise was yet to be fulfilled.

From ruins in the early 17th century to a serai in 1657 to sort of a mud fort in the 18th century to Military bastion of the Sher-e-Punjab in 1809-12 to the Police training College of the Britishers and finally to the Punjab Police Academy after the country's Independence, the fort has come a long way over the centuries.

The architecture is quite similar to one of the t impregnable citadels constructed by the Sikhs in BahudarGarh, Patiala. Though much smaller in size , the Phillaur fort has similar huge entrance gates and meandering paths leading to the inner residential palace. It also has moats or ditches surrounding the outer boundary. The architecture was aimed to prevent the easy entry of enemy. While the moats full of water, and may be crocodiles too, prevented the attackers from trying anything too adventurous, the strong gates also put up stiff challenge. If the enemy managed to break in from the gates, the meandering paths, considerably slowed down its progress. Gunmen hiding in small spaces in the thick walls conveniently shot down the intruders. It required a massive army to win over the fort.

As suggested by the architecture, the fort was never designed as a residential palace. Situated on the banks of Sutlej river the fort was constructed at this strategic place by Maharaja Ranjit Singh as it faced the Lodhi Fort possessed by the British forces. The fort also gave an advantageous position to the Sikh forces to tackle any forces coming from Delhi. Two gates one called the Lahori Gate and the other the Delhi Gate stand testimony to its strategic position. {pagebreak}

According to a brief history of the place inscribed on a large stone at the entrance of the fort, the town Phillaur owes its genesis to one Sanghera Jat called Phul, who owned t of the land. The town was then called Phulnagar. Apart from this not much is known about the life at the place until Naru Rajputs captured the town sometime between 1627-1658 A.D.

It is recorded that at the time the town was in ruins. The Rajputs selected the present fort site for the erection of a Sarai as it fell exactly on the Imperial line of road from Delhi to Lahore. Later, after the rise of Sikh forces, the serai was captured by Sudh Singh Kakarah. He renovated the serai and it became a sort of a mudfort.In 1807, the powerful Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh recognised its importance as a transitory town commandeering the t frequent ferry of the Sutlej. He sent a strong force under Mohkam Chand which was stationed here permanently.
When the Sikh Garrison under Ranjodh Singh Majithia was withdrawn after the Battle of Aliwal the fort fell into the hands of the Britishers. In 1857 the rebel Indian forces revolted from within the fort against the Britishers and killed many of them. However they could manage control over the fort for a short duration only.

Subsequently, the Britishers gained full control. In 1891 they established a British Police Training School here and upgraded it to the level of a college. After Independence the training of police personnel continued at the place.
According to PPA sources they are doing their best to preserve the monument. A visit to the place revealed that their was no compromise as far as cleanliness was concerned. The walls have been painted nicely and even plastering of the cracks has been done. Special mention here should be made of a large statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Dargah which is thronged by devotees every Thursday and of a museum of arms and ammunition that attracts tourists from the country and abroad.

However, the weakening of its structure from within is a cause of worry. Sources in the academy said the state government had been requested several times for supply of funds for the proper maintenance of the relic of Maharaja Ranjit Singh but positive response was yet to come.

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