Visiting historic Gobindgarh Fort, a uniqe live museum in Amritsar

Have you heard about Gobindgarh Fort? This historic and important fort at Amritsar was strengthened by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The treasury of the fort once contained the famous Kohinoor diamond. Very recently, the Government has opened the fort for the general public. Visit the fort which was important for the protection of the sacred Golden Temple and learn its significance and highlights from this article.

Many of us have visited Amritsar. It is the most sacred place of the followers of Sikhism. Not only Sikhs, people from other faiths also visit the Golden Temple. In addition, tourists visit the Wagah Border to watch the resplendent parade of BSF and Pakistani Rangers. But it is quite possible that very few tourists have visited the historically significant Gobindgarh Fort because the State Government of Punjab has opened this fort for the public only in 2017. Let us know about this significant fort before visiting.

Who built the fort?

The rise of the Sikhs started simultaneously with the decline of the Mughals. But the Sikhs were not united. At the beginning of the 18th Century, the Sikhs were divided into various principalities which were called 'misl'. Amritsar was controlled by the Bhangi misl during the mid- 18th Century. They were called 'Bhangis' because the soldiers of this misl used to consume marijuana (bhang). Bhangi ruler Sardar Gujjar Singh first built a small fort at this site. At that time, the fort was known as 'Qila Bhangiyan' which means 'Marijuana Fort'.

How Gobindgarh Fort gained importance

On 1780, the ruler of Sukerchakia misl in the present Gujranwala district of Pakistan, was blessed with a son. Although the misl was small, the little boy was very ambitious and intelligent. He became the ruler of the misl at a very early age and started expanding his kingdom north, east, west and south. He was very fortunate to be guided by an astute mother-in-law in Sada Kaur. This young ruler captured Amritsar in 1802 and immediately realized the strategic importance of the small fort for the protection of the holy Golden Temple.

Ranjit Singh built a very strong army which also included European soldiers. Guided by their advice, he re-built the fort in European style. The defensive walls were arranged concentrically surrounded by a broad moat. There were armoury, treasury and also a palace inside the fort. The treasury of the fort was significant because it contained the Kohinoor diamond. Maharaja Ranjit Singh expanded his kingdom towards east and north from this fort as a base. He re-named the fort as Gobindgarh Fort paying tribute to the Tenth Guruji Maharaj Gobind Singh. The British Governor-General Lord Auckland and his sister Emily Eden visited the famous fort.

The declining days of the fort during British period

After the death of Maharaj Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs started losing their importance in the political arena of India. After the First and the Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, the fort came into the hand of the British. In 1850, there was a proposal to demolish the fort, but fortunately, it was not materialized. The British started expanding towards North-West beyond Peshawar, and Gobindgarh Fort gradually lost its importance. After independence, the fort was temporarily used to house the refugees coming from Western Punjab. Later it was handed over to the Indian Army. In February, 2017, the Government has opened the fort for the general public.

Highlights and location

The historic fort has been renovated. Tourists have started visiting the fort to see the armoury, treasury and the palace. Another important thing kept in the fort is the replica of Ahmad Shah Abdali's famous cannon 'Zam Zama'. The cannon was specially built as per the specification of Abdali was used against the Marathas during the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. The original cannon was also in this fort but was later taken to Lahore when it required extensive repair. Thereafter the replica was placed beside the entrance of the fort. The light & sound program giving details of the rich history of Punjab and the importance of the fort is a great attraction for tourists.

The fort which attained importance for protecting the Golden Temple from the invaders is located at a distance of only 12 Kilometer from the Amritsar Airport and 1.3 Kilometer from the Railway Station. Private vehicles are available from the airport for tourists. Tourists may visit the fort by foot from Harmandir Sahib or Durgiana Temple or even from the railway station.

So next time when you visit Amritsar, don't forget to visit the well-maintained Gobindgarh Fort.

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