The fort occupied a unique place in the Indian
military history. Built in 1760, it was
called Bhangian Da Kila (Bhangis was one
of the twelve Sikh misles). According to
historians, during 1808, the fort was known
as the fort of Gujjar Singh Bhangi. Later
it was re-built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh
with the help of Jodh Singh. The legendary
Maharaja strengthened the fortification
of the fort in order to keep his treasures
and treaties in safety. The specially constructed
Toshakhana, in the centre of the fort, also
stored large amount of grains and provisions
for the 12,000-strong army.
The fort was constructed with brick and
lime with numerous army bastions and iron
gates with 25 cannons on the ramparts, now
replaced with modern weaponry.
The fort was constructed on a square pattern
with a parameter of 1500 sq mt with two
strong gates, four large bastions and well-defined
The majestic entrance has been named Nalwa
Gate, after the great Sikh warrior. The
other end of the gate is known as Keelar
Gate and it is rumoured that in its close
proximity existed an escape tunnel, connecting
to Lahore tunnel. However, the army authorities
said that they had not been able to locate
any such tunnel so far.
The British Army had added Darbar Hall,
Hawa Mehal and Phansi Ghar (hanging place)
to the fort after the annexation of Punjab.
After Partition, the fort provided a temporary
shelter to a large number of refugees from
Pakistan. In October 1948, the fort was
handed over to the Indian Army.
This fort holds a special significance in
the freedom struggle. It has been a witness
to many nameless freedom fighters who kissed
the gallows willingly. Gen O Dyer's office-cum-residence
was located just opposite the Phansi Ghar.
It is said that he got sadistic pleasure
watching the hanging of the patriots in
the Phansi Ghar.
Even the staunchest critics agree that the
army had tried its best to keep the buildings
in the fort intact. However, reservations
are already being expressed whether the
state government would be able to preserve
(and restore) its original glory.
A large number of city residents, who had
lost their dear ones during summary trials
under the British rule, have been trying
to gather information about their relatives
who were hanged to death in the Phansi Ghar.
Some of the freedom fighters had sought
the permission of the government to build
a suitable memorial at the Phansi Ghar,
which had stood out as a place of resistance
against the atrocities of the British military
general, General O Dyer, the perpetrator
of the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh in 1919.