Architectural Attraction

ARCHITECTURAL INTEREST

The fort has a highly complex and sophisticated structure made up of walls, moats, ramparts, bastions and buildings that traverse a span of over 258 years. In its material, construction, layout and the philosophy underlying its structures, it symbolizes the martial spirit of Punjab.  Punjab’s martial tradition is closely linked with the development of the Sikh faith, from the assumption of arms by the sixth Sikh Guru Sri Hargobind Ji, to the establishment of the Khalsa army by the tenth Guru, Guru Sri Gobind Singh ji, this spirit combines the ideals of piri (spiritual reality) and miri (temporal reality).

Over time, the various “Owners” of the fort made their own architectural interventions– from the Bhangi “Misls”( 1760-1809) who first made the fort, to Maharaja Ranjit Singh,(1809–1849) who did most of the enhancements in the early 19th century. Under the supervision of his foreign minister, Fakir Azizuddin. The Maharaja with the help of the Italian General Jean-Baptiste Ventura and the French General Jean Francois Allard, who had both served in Napoleon’s army, undertook major expansion in the fort in keeping with the latest concerns and designs of that time.

 

Post the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War of 1849, the fort was captured by the British ( 1849-1947) and after India’s independence (1947) it was handed over to the Indian army ( 1947–2006). Finally, in 2006 it was handed over to the State Government who is restoring it with the help of ADB and turning it into a live repository of its cultural traditions.

Each owner/institution /organization made its own modifications and additions, leading to the intensely intriguing eclectic style that is seen today. The Fort is a supreme example of Military Engineering. There are numerous points of architectural interests. Among them are :

  • THE GATES: The fort has a multiple of gates designed to provide multilevel entrance checks that allowed the army to make surprise attacks in case of an invasion.

  • MOAT : The fort walls are surrounded by a moat, approximately six meters deep and  between 20-25 mtrs wide at its base to about 45 mtrs at the top near the ravelins.It’s depth varies between 7.5 mtrs to 9 mtrs. The core masonry of its walls is in Nanakshahi bricks in mud mortar with many small bastions at irregular intervals.
  • COLONIAL/DYERS BUNGALOW: This Bungalow made over a circular plinth, is positioned almost at the geometrical center of the complex. This too comprises 2 parts – The circular plinth (from the Sikh period) & the bungalow above (from the colonial period) – It’s retaining high plinth has a highly ornate masonry buttress – It too has a mud infill with Nanakshahi bricks in lime mortar and the details of the ornamentation are in masonry.

  • TOSHAKHANA: This rectangular building of 15.3 mtr. x 11.4 mtr with a dome roof was the treasury or possibly the mint of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. No other building here has a domical roof of this kind- constructed with Nanakshahi bricks in lime mortar.

  • KHAS MAHAL: South of the colonial Bungalow & adjacent to the circular plinth is yet another building referred to as the ‘Khas Mahal or ‘Coffee House’ (in the records of the Indian Army) As per the architectural vocabulary, this building has two distinct styles that of the Sikh period and of the Colonial period.

  • DARBAR HALL: Located in the core of the fort complex, this was actually a military hospital built in 1850 and erroneously known as the ‘Darbar hall.’ This was used as a 6 bedded Hospital (as per the MES records) and during the Indian Army period it was used as an Officer’ mess. The structure indicates the thinking about medical treatment at the time- anemphasis on air circulation, with segregated spaces to prevent spread of infection.

  • 4 Bastions: The 4 Bastions located at 4 corners of the forts are strategically located to guard the fort These  form  a n  active defense against assaulting troops. The bastions represent the ‘Anglo Sikh‘ architecture.