Rohtas Fort
Rohtas Fort
Cultural Pakistan Asia And The Pacific Jhelum City, Punjab

Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and south Asia, blending architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and the Indian subcontinent to create the model for Mughal architecture and its subsequent refinements and adaptations. The majestic fort, surpassing many other citadels in grandeur and massiveness, is the only example of architecture of the time of Sher Shah Suri. The monument represents a milestone in the history of fort architecture. Its commanding situation, with its awesomely huge walls and trap gates, makes it a unique part of the cultural heritage.

Muslims settled in the north of the Indian subcontinent around 1200, but there were Arab communities throughout the peninsula from as early as the 8th century. In 1526 a powerful Islamic state, the Mughal Empire, was created in the north. Qila Rohtas (Rohtas Fort) was built in 1541-43, at a strategic site on a high plain in the north of what is now Pakistan, after the Mughal Emperor Humayun was expelled following his defeat at Chausa by Sher Khan, who was to take the name Sher Shah Suri. The fort was built to control the hostile local people, the Ghakkars, and as a precaution against the return of Humayun, which did not take place until 10 years after the death of Sher Shah in 1545, when it was surrendered by its governor, Tatar Khan Kasi, without resistance. Its name derives from Rohtasgarh, the site of Sher Shah's victory in 1539 over a Hindu power. After falling to the Mughal invaders, the fort continued in use until the reign of Aurangzeb. Over the subsequent centuries it served successive Durrani and Sikh masters, without being called upon to serve its original function. A village grew up within the walls and survives to the present day.

Rohtas is a complex of defensive works surrounding a small hill alongside the Kahan River. The massive defensive walls are irregular in plan, conforming with the broken topography, and extend for more than 4 km. They are built from stone and range in thickness up to a maximum of 12.5 m. Their height also varies according to the terrain, between 10.05 m and 18.28 m. There are usually two internal terraces or platforms, increased to three where the walls are higher, and these are linked by stone stairways. The ramparts are surmounted by imposing stone merlons. Within the thickness of the walls there are vaulted rectangular-plan galleries for use by the garrison as living quarters and as stores. The whole enceinte is lined with 68 semi-circular solid bastions, spaced irregularly, and pierced by 12 gates, some double and some single. Within the enclosure a cross-wall, of the same construction and 533 m long, defines the inner citadel or inner fort. The gates, built from sandstone, are massive and ornate. The finest is the Sohail Gate, which is flanked with elaborately decorated balconies carried on brackets and sturdy bastions. This style, based on earlier Pathan models, was to have a profound influence on the development of Mughal architecture.

The Shishi Gate derives its name from the glazed tiles used in the spandrels of the outer arch. This is one of the earliest examples of facing with glazed tiles in the region, a technique that was to be applied widely in the architecture of the Mughal Empire. Four of the other gates, covering particularly vulnerable approaches, are double ('trap') or oblique gates, which provide extra hazards for attackers.

Few buildings were constructed within the interior of the fort, much of which would have been given over to the production of food for the garrison. The Shahi Masjid, near the Kabuli Gate, is a small mosque consisting only of a prayer hall and a courtyard. Its simple but elegant ornamentation, such as the lily motif on the outer arches, foreshadows the decoration of later Mughal architecture, with elements derived from Hindu temple ornamentation. The fort had its own internal water supply, in the form of two baolis (stepped wells or tanks) cut into the limestone bedrock. That near the Kabuli Gate is surrounded by small chambers thought to have been intended for use as baths by members of the ruling family.

The Haveli Man Singh, named after the trusted general of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, is built on a rocky eminence. It is a two-storey structure in brick (unlike the rest of the fort) faced with plaster, in pure Hindu style, with canopied balconies. Only one of its four rooms survives intact.