Rohtas Fortress (World Heritage)

The impregnable fortress was built on a steep rock by Sher Shah in 1541. It is exemplary of early Islamic military architecture. The fortress has 4 km long outer walls, the citadel inside is also protected by a wall.

Rohtas fortress: facts

Official title: Rohtas fortress
Cultural monument: Fort Rohtas, an impregnable fortress, designed by Shahu Sultani on behalf of Sher Shah Suri; Fortress with 12 gates such as Kabuli Gate and 4 km fortress wall with 68 bastions; inside a citadel protected by a 533 m long wall, part of the fort the Shahi Masjid and the “White Palace” (“Haveli Man Singh”), a two-story palace, as well as the drinking water reservoir located at the Kabuli Gate, along with the “bathing chambers” for the princely family
Continent: Asia
Country: Pakistan, see extrareference
Location: Fort Rohtas, south of Islamabad and northwest of Jhelum
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: one of the most important surviving examples of “Muslim” military architecture

Rohtas fortress: history

1530-40 Reign of the Mughal ruler Humayun
1539-45 After the victory of Sher Shah Suri over the army of the Mughal ruler Humayun near Chanusa (1539), rule of the Afghan usurper Sher Shah Suri
1543 Start of construction of Fort Rohtas
1658-1707 Rule of the last important Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, after his death the fort fell into disrepair

The elegance of deterrence

It took the self-appointed ruler Sher Shah Suri only three years to largely complete the most powerful fortress in the entire empire. Meter-thick wall belts, pierced by massive entrance gates and towers, transformed the Rohtas border fort, which towers majestically over the Kahan River, into an impregnable citadel. Behind its massive battlements, the Afghan Sher Shah Suri, who in the first half of the 16th century had ousted the rightful Mughal Mughal Humayun and drove him into Persian exile, had well-filled storerooms built next to the rectangular accommodations for his garrison. Basins carved into the limestone, to which – like near the Kabuli Gate – 148 steps led down, served as drinking water reservoirs and allowed the defenders to.

Perfectly planned and skillfully adapted to the different terrain conditions of the hilly location, the majestic fortress in the Punjab forms a milestone in the history of fortress architecture on the subcontinent: Based on Turkish models, this large fortress was also able to withstand prolonged bombardment with cannonballs. Gates made of sandstone and decorated in relief, which were provided with false paths and machicolation, led into the interior of the citadel, in which only a few buildings have been preserved. As was customary at the time, four of the gates were fitted with camouflaged traps to deceive any attackers. Shishi gate, which is also known as the “glass gate” because of its sheen, is adorned with shiny blue ceramic tiles. The Persian-style cladding of the gate is one of the oldest works of art of this type on the subcontinent. Balconies resting on consoles give the Sohail Gate, which is framed by robust bastions, an elegance that was sought again and again in the construction of later fortresses in northern India. Flower ornaments, calligraphic lettering and decorative elements from the Hindu temple symbolism form the decoration of the filigree-looking Shahi-Masjid. Modest in size, the fortress mosque consists only of a prayer hall and courtyard. The two-story palace of the fortress commander, the Haveli Man Singh, rises on a rocky hill. The palace, only one of the four rooms of which was almost completely preserved, was the only monument to be built with bricks. Its stucco work, executed in the purest Hindu style, and the covered sandstone balconies characterize the independent style that was developed in Fort Rohtas. It not only found its way into the artistic language of forms of later Mughal forts, but also had a decisive influence on the European colonial style on the subcontinent since the last century.

Originally erected to protect the surper of the throne from the hostile Ghakkar tribe and from Humayun, Rohtas was spared the ordeal. It was not until a decade after the death of Sher Shah Suri that the rightful ruler Humayun left his Persian exile to recapture the throne. When he and his army appeared in front of the mighty fortress, the fort was surrendered without a fight after his commandant had fled.

Later rarely visited by the Mughals, Rohtas lost its role as a border fort towards the end of the 16th century. Since the death of Emperor Aurangzeb, the fortress, behind the walls of which a village had meanwhile emerged, began to gradually disintegrate.

To this day, people live behind the compact wall belts, the subsoil of which had to be stabilized in places in recent years in order to prevent the impending collapse. Damage to the Shahi-Masjid caused by rainwater has now also been repaired.

Rohtas Fortress (World Heritage)

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