Ruins of Harand Fort continue to mystify all those who take their chance to go there. First of all it gives an emotional look, as a symbol of our evolution and continuity. No matter what your pursuits and interests, you will fancy finding out so many things about the important monument of the past.
And, every time you leave Harand and look back to watch the fort receding in the distance, your mind is flooded with thoughts of its architects and inmates over a long period of time as it stands there lonely and mysteriously on the Suleman mountain, its importance lost in the hazy vistas of time.
THE STORY OF A BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS AND ALEXANDER THE GREAT
by S A J Sherazi
Perched in between legendary Suleman Range on one side and mighty River Indus on the other, ruins of original Harand Fort are situated in the area commonly known as Pachaddh. The Fort has seen a lot in the past and looks as if hiding thousands of secrets besides its historical and archaeological importance.
The Fort was originally built opposite historic Chachar Pass in Suleman Range to guard against the invaders. The fading signs of the edifice are still there in the forms of derbies and bricks scattered around the old site. Sikh Governor Sawan Mall used the material of the old fort rebuilt the Fort on a new location in 1831.
Present structure of the Fort – a valuable part of our heritage – is situated about 25 kilometres west of sleepy and rustic town Dajal in district Rajan Pur. The Fort is spread over an area of 50 acres. The outer wall of whatever is left of it is one kilometre long and was made of thin red bricks. There are 16 pillars. Main entrance is in the west and another one is in the east. What ever is left of the fort is a clear evidence of its past, solidity of masonry and quality of construction.
The Satellite image shows the location of Harand Fort. The yellow lines are roads. Follow the yellow line going west from Dajal. The red rectangle shows the Suleman Range hills. The fort is located somewhere between these hills and the yellow road west of Dajal. For perspective, note the location of bigger city Ranjanpur as well as the airport at D. G. Khan.
Over 200 rodkohis (seasonal hill torrents) come out of this mineral rich Suleman Range, and if properly managed, could irrigate more than two hundred thousand acres of agricultural land, most of the Pachaddh area, but the scheme for flood distribution, canalization and construction of spill ways is yet to be approved. The water of these torrents causes colossal damage to life, crops and property in every monsoon season and flows unutilized. Lined up with Pillu trees, Dajil-Harand Road is broken-down and boulder like stones are spread around. It takes painfully long to cover the distance of just 25 kilometres. Ex-President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari who has his roots in the area, during his tenure managed electricity and telephone in the area but could not get the roads built that are necessary for the development of this historic belt.
History has it that Harand Fort was originally built by Hindu Raja Harnakish in the name of his son Hari Nand. The fort had seen three different periods: Hindu, Macedonian and Muslim.
VIEW OF THE FORT
As per the local lore, when young Alexander the Great, on his way home after conquering most of the known world, came in the area, Harand was under the rule of Hindu king who had beautiful daughter. Her name is quoted as Nowshaba.
She was talented, brave and daring princess. The princess was fond of hunting besides being strong and efficient administrator of her father’s state. Alexander heard about the princess and wanted to see the beauty queen personally. Alexander himself approached the fort in the guise of a ‘messenger of Alexander.’
Born in 356 B.C., full name Alexander III of Macedon, was the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus. One of those extremely rare historical figures whose actual achievements have regularly outshined numerous fictional portrayals.
He came to power after the assassination of his father by the captain of his bodyguard. He promptly put down a series of rebellions around the Balkans and marched his army into Persia.
Alexander made his way through the Persian Empire, clashing with Persia’s forces and mercenaries. Along the way, he seized Egypt away from Persia and was declared pharaoh. After Alexander’s forces defeated the enormously numerically superior Persian armies and forced King Darius III to flee the battle, Darius was assassinated by a general who fled with him and Alexander seized control of the empire.
Later, Alexander’s forces marched into Bactria and India, where Alexander was forced to stop his expansion under the threat of revolt from his army, who were beginning to wonder if he truly would march to the very end of the world, circumstances permitting.
He was taken to the court of Hindu Raja where Princess Nowshaba saw the ‘messenger of Alexander’. She ordered that the messenger be immediately taken to royal guesthouse. In the guesthouse when Alexander introduced himself as a messenger, the princess smiled and pointed towards the wall where images of all contemporary kings including Alexander were hanging.
Iranian poet Nizami has written this incidence in Sikandar Nama adding that both got married. The veracity of the marriage or this incident is yet to be proved by historical evidence though. (Another tale says that Alexander also married the wife of defeated General in his war near Saga.) The third period of this historical monument starts with the arrival of Muslims in the area in early eighth century. The palm trees found in the region are indicated as an evidence of the arrival of Arabs’Army. Subsequently, all the adventurers who came this way – from Changez Khan to Muhammad Ghori – visited the fort and used it for their convenience, contemplating their next moves.
During Sikh rule, the fort was rebuilt on the present location for strategic reasons. This fort garrisoned the Sikh army to control the Baloch tribes. Later, the famous battle between British troops and Marri-Bugti tribes was fought here in 1867. After annexation of South Asia, the British used the fort as a cantonment. The British carried out limited excavation and historic artefacts recovered from the site were sent to British Museum in London. Presently, there is a small Levy’s post in the fort.
All said and done, off the beaten track, ruins of Harand Fort still continue to mystify those who take their chance to go there. First of all it gives an emotional look, as a symbol of our evolution and continuity. No matter what your pursuits and interests, you will fancy finding out so many things about the important monument of the past. And, every time you leave Harand and look back to watch the fort receding in the distance, your mind is flooded with thoughts of its architects and inmates over a long period of time as it stands there lonely and mysteriously on the Suleman mountain, its importance lost in the hazy vistas of time.
As I drove back on a pebbled road, plied mainly by animal transports and occasional automobiles, I could not help thinking: Can the plight of the priceless site be brought to the echelons of power? Can some national or international agency be moved to act and save the place for coming generations before disappears totally? The remains of the monument have to be preserved and saved from total ruination, a danger they are facing at present.
More from S. A. J. Shirazi on Wonders of Pakistan
S A J Shirazi is a Lahore based writer, blogger and speaker. Shirazi has authored two books (Izhar, Ret Pe Tehreer) and translated Din Mein Charagh by Abbas Khan into Light Within.
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