Travel with Twinny … of forts and fortresses !

To cash in on cheaper fares , our group of six , bought airtickets in June for a holiday scheduled for October of this year ( that’s 4 months prior )!

By the time October came , several changes had taken place in our personal lives and the idea of holidaying was furthest from our minds .

But cheap fares had been paid ! So off we went , sidelining pressing family decisions , behaving almost like ostriches burying their heads in the sand !

Fortunately , our meeting at Delhi airport augured a bonhomie that continued all the way to the

The Mandara Tree Villa boutique hotel in Dharamshala ,a city in Himachal Pradesh .

The heady scent of conifers , the cheerful sight of azaleas, geraniums and lilies , of swaying fields of barley , lifted our spirits .

Soon we were visiting the Dalai Lama temple , buying woolies at Mcleodganj market , having lunch at Morgan’s place .These are places usually everyone visits .

But it was the ancient fort of Kangra ,

some 20 km away from Dharamshala that took our breath away !

Made in 400BC it definitely can be classified as ANCIENT .

To begin with … It’s Not a fort

It’s a fortress !!

Above is an artists impression .

A complete , temple- fort -palace complex which was made , (probably using prehistoric tools !) , by the Trigartha Raja of the Katoch dynasty , who fought along with the Kauravas in the Mahabharata. Oh blimey !

That’s an EPIC FACT !

Once one gets over the fact that this fort is THE oldest, dated fort in Indian history , one gasps with awe at its strategic location !

Astride a mountain , with a circumference of 4 kms , protected by a natural moat ( the confluence of two tributaries of the Beas river ), the fort is as impregnable as one can get .


The entrance to the fort is unusually narrow , with a succession of gates , each of which must have been guarded vigilantly . It is said that a suspected enemy had a good chance of being beheaded at the very first gate itself !

The windows of the fortress are unusually narrow too … Just enough for a rifle to probe through! Peering through one , I wondered how actually one would spot the enemy !

Sculpted frescoes along the walls display an underplayed elegance .

We trudge up the cobbled ramparts and

imagine horses labouring up carrying grains from the villages below .

Oh they are here even today !

Housed in the fortress are the temples of Ambika Devi and Laxmi Narayan . Through the ages , these deities have been endowed with considerable wealth from the neighbouring kingdoms .Apparently there were 21 wells laden with treasure , 8 of which have yet to be unearthed .

No wonder then , that the fort was plundered and looted by every possible ruler …. A whopping 52 times !

Emperor Akbar himself tried but failed . His son

Jehangir got lucky in 1620 . But in 1789 the Mughals had to relinquish their stronghold to Raja Sansar Chand , a direct descendant of the Katoch dynasty

who managed to win back his ancestral property ! He ruled for a good 49 years

Wah !!

In quick succession, thereafter

The Sikhs , the Gurkhas , the British ..all attacked and ruled the fort at one time or another but it was finally an earthquake of immense proportions in 1905 ( which didnot spare even Dharamshala / Kangra/ Mcleodganj that brought down the fort to its present state of ruin .

‘’Khandar bataa rahin hain ki imaarat kitni bulund thi’’

remarked Sajili , my very arty friend from Dehradun .

( Translated roughly .. the ruins before us tell us how majestic the original construction was )

Standing high up in the central open air council ground of the fortress , from my minds eye , I could see the Katoch Raja rising from his throne after making key ministerial decisions. It was time now for his evening meal .

The Royal ‘Baawarchi’ conjured up a delightful menu of sooran ki chat (yam ) , followed by chuwaare ki Sabzi ( dried date curry ) , served hot with rotis and a dessert of sweet rice garnished with kesar , raisins and slivers of almonds

The day is done !

In the incandescent light of ‘mashals’, the royal artisans

stand back and review their work …. A pair of peacocks, figurines of Gauri Shanker seated on a Nandi , Yamuna riding on a tortoise,all carved into black stone .

Kangra painters put away their miniature pahari art portraying the playful love charms of Krishna and Radha in lyrical watercolours of blue and green.

Life is about romance and undying love , rich in its simplicity and robust in its richness.

I feel the invigorating freshness of the alpine air and quite forget the emotional upheavals of distant Mumbai .

Immersing myself in the natural calm of the forested hillsides around me , I recall the

simple Japanese art of

Shinrin yoku or ‘’Forest bathing’’.

Up ahead at The Norbulingka institute of Tibetan arts , I decide to ‘’forest bathe’’ ,inhale the richness of wet earth, draw strength from the trees and breathe in the calm of green .

I even hug a tree !

Ketika my affectionate gentle friend from Delhi , indulgently took this picture with a bemused smile on her face .

Yes , hugging trees is cool , my friends !

But Hugging friends , old and new ,decidedly cooler !

Can warm the cockles of one’s heart!

Here’s to more adventures

Sajili , Arvind, Ketika Sanjay ! Yoohoo Buntoo

You too !


14 thoughts on “Travel with Twinny … of forts and fortresses !

  1. Lovely Twinny. U just get btr everything. I looked at Dharamsala n Mcleodganj thru your lens. Gave me a new perspective. Well done…miles to go still.


      1. Going to keep a raincheck on that travel with u that we need to do in our milestone year so that u can continue to write your interesting travelogue Twinny


  2. Hi Twinny, I am imagining all the places even the Maharajas thru your travelogues.
    So many beautiful things to do in life …


  3. Superbly written ! You literally took us there with your vivid narration ! You are getting better and better ! And the pictures .OMG ! They are just amazing !!


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