Bhim Garh Fort A legacy to be maintained

Rajinder Singh Rana
Bhimgarh Fort is one of the historic and attractive forts of Jammu and Kashmir situated in Reasi town about 73 kms in north-west direction from Jammu city. On one side, it is surrounded by Anji Nalla, in the west Chenab River and towards north Salal hills. The fort is located at a hillock 150 meters elevated from main road.
Initially the fort was built by Raja Bhim Dev in 8th century in an ordinary way and that is why it was named after Bhim. Later on, its walls were built with stones by Rishipal Rana and his successors. This fort was also used by the ancestors of Risyal Rajputs. In 1672 when Gajay Singh became Raja of Jammu, he transferred Akhnoor and Reasi as Jagir to his younger brother named Jaswant Dev who by his force took over the possession of Bhim fort after throwing out local ruling Raja.
Jaswant Dev had two sons-Chandan Dev and Rattan Dev. He handed over Reasi to Rattan Dev and Akhnoor to Chandan Dev. The son of Rattan Dev named Maan Singh started work of renovating walls of Fort which was also followed by one of the warriors Bhadur Singh. Later on, Mian Diwan Singh who was involved in the murder of Mian Mota Singh (Minister of Raja Jeet singh) became Jagirdar of Reasi but Maharaja Ranjit Singh snatched the Jagir and confined him in the prison at Lahore. The control of fort was now given to Maharaja Gulab Singh.
In 1815, Maharaja Gulab Singh directed Diwan Amir Chand to re-construct Bhimgarh Fort. In 1817, Diwan Amir Chand brought masons from Himachal and Punjab and with the assistance of local labourers the construction work of fort began. When smooth construction work was going on, Bhup Singh succeeded in bringing back his father Diwan Singh from Lahore confinement and very soon both reached Reasi. With the aid of farmers of Salal Kote, they attacked the fort but at this time Zorawar Singh and his soldiers were staying inside the fort who with great valour did not allow Diwan Singh to enter the fort.
Just days after attack on fort, Diwan Amir Chand from Jammu immediately rushed to Reasi along with some soldiers. He also took help from Badna Chib of Dhansal, Mian of Chanas and hundreds of other local people. They all reached Reasi to carry out attack on Diwan Singh but before their arrival he along with his supporters had already fled towards hilly belts of Reasi.
After the attack, Maharaja Gulab Singh himself visited Reasi where he ordered his Diwan to make the fort more secure and safe. On his order, one new entrance door and a fifty meter long and one-meter-wide stone wall was raised. After the construction of the long and thick concrete wall, no one dared to attack the fort.
The fort was also used as a treasury and armoury by Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratab Singh after the death of Maharaja Gulab Singh but during the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh, the armoury was destroyed and treasury was shifted to Jammu. In 1989, the fort was handed over to J&K State Archaeology Department.
According to ADC of Maharaja Hari Singh named Nawab Khusru Jang, Bhimgarh fort is a pattern of twenty-four forts of Chitorgarh. As per another view point, this fort is amalgam of Rajsthani and Mugal architecture. There is one concrete foot path with steps from main road to the site of fort. On both sides of path, elegant plantation and garden spaces are available. After covering 150-meters elevated distance, comes first entrance door of the fort measuring height two and half meters with width one and half meters. On the entrance door, piece of Rajsthani writings can also be noticed. This door is adjoined by 50 meters long and one-meter-wide wall having holed spaces to keep watchful eye on the enemies or attackers.
Near first entrance door, there is open field whose length is almost seven meters and width five meters. Next to it comes second entrance door to make entry into the fort. Its height is four meters and width two and half meters. At this location we can also witness open ground having length 30 meters and width 5 meters. After crossing this area, we reach to third entrance door with height and width 5 and 2.5 meters respectively. On left and right side of the door, idols of Hanuman and Mahakali can be noticed. Both the idols have been fixed in the wall. Their presence in the wall creates sacred and devotional feelings. The fort is also surrounded by circular shaped burj (bastions) having height up to walls.
At measurable distance of third entrance door, largest burj (bastion) having 16-meters height guards the fort. Besides, we can also notice a door opening in the west direction. There are also ventilators in all the three sides of burj. At close vicinity, ten meters long and three-meters-wide space is available with upstairs to further enter inside the fort. After going upstairs, we can move to any side of the fort. There are many puzzling routes to move from one location to another inside the fort. At this point, one can also witness some lanes and steps to walk in different directions. The first upstairs equally divides the fort into right and left parts. On left part, we again notice a burj (bastion) and to reach it one has to walk through seven stairs. There is open space and close to it, surmounts another burj (bastion) with umbrella like cover. Some steep ventilators have also been made to keep vigilance on the attackers. From these ventilators, it appears easy to attack the enemies. From large to small sized rooms are also part of this fort. Inside the rooms, shelves have also been constructed for safe custody of the Shastra (stabbing weapon). In the southern part of fort, the location of twelve doors (Baradari) accessing through upstairs, gives very different view. The roof of Baradari is concrete. From these doors one can also catch the beauty of northern and southern area and stunning view of river Chenab.
Beneath the Baridari, temple of Bhim Devta has been constructed. Inside the sacred temple, idols of Bhim Devta and Arjun are seen. The body of Bhim devta appears in clothes with iron Trisul and necklace. His mouth appears opened with flat eyes and horn like crown on the head. The statue of Arjun has been shown wearing Chola (long shirt) with long mouth. Over the temple, images of lotus flowers remind us of Harihar temple of Balpur. The idol of Ganesha can also be seen near one of the entrance doors.
On the left side of temple, there is also one room for storing arms and weapons and on its left and right sides locate two small rooms with sloppy roofs. One water tank near temple and a large reservoir at base of fort further add to the beauty and popularity of fort. There are stairs from top to access the reservoir. The mouth of the reservoir is kept open to store rain water. The water from the reservoir was used by soldiers in wars to flee the enemies.
At close vicinity of water tank, some roof less chambers for soldiers are also observed. Towards west side of chambers, six-meters-high burj is seen. Three burj (bastions) are located in the southern wall of the fort. Normal damages have also been caused to the walls of fort due to earth quake vibrations. The fort is tourist attraction in the district as it has historic importance. The history of Reasi is not complete without the name of Bhim Fort. To preserve this historic fort, minor repairs and other renovation work is required.
(The writer is serving as officer in Rural Development Department)