10 April 2013
One of the more reliable histories of Sindh tells us that the fortified city of Kalankot carries the name of its founder Raja Kala of antiquity. But Richard Burton who travelled widely in Sindh in the 1860s believes the name comes from Sanskrit meaning Fort Prosperity.
Though the origin of Kalankot will remain shrouded in mystery until detailed scientific investigation is carried out, history does paint a sketchy picture. After their capital of Mahatamtur was sacked by imperial troops from Delhi in or about 1284, the Soomras moved to this area and built the fort. There is also the possibility that the fort already existed, in which case the Soomras may have restored it for their use. They did not remain long however: by the middle of the 14th century when the Sammas came to power Kalankot lay in ruins.
Kalankot caught the eye of the Samma king Jam Tughlak (1428-1453) who ordered its defenses to be enlarged and revamped. Within the surrounding walls, he raised rich and wonderful palaces and planted gardens watered by the beautiful lake right beneath the fort walls. He renamed the town Tughlakabad after himself. It was about this time that the lofty and powerful walls of the fort so impressed the common people that they began to call it Kalankot – Great Fort.
In the early 16th century, the Arghuns and after them the Tarkhans took Sindh and ruled from the city of Thatta. Both dynasties favoured Kalankot as an alternate capital. This was largely so because while Thatta was open to attack, Kalankot was well-defended by its sturdy walls. Indeed, it was here in 1555 that Mirza Isa Khan Tarkhan I sought refuge when Portuguese mercenaries descended upon Thatta.
Having himself invited them, against promise of plunder, to assist him in his fight against the Arghun ruler of upper Sindh; the Tarkhan had in the interim negotiated a truce. The Portuguese arrived only to find that the promise of loot had dissolved and turned their wrath on Thatta. While that beautiful city burnt and its inhabitants fell to European swords, Isa Khan Tarkhan remained ensconced behind the lofty walls of Kalankot.
Thirty-three years later, it served the same purpose again. This time, in 1588, it was Mirza Abdur Rahim coming against Thatta under orders from Akbar the Great. As Jani Beg Tarkhan marched north to defy imperial arms, he advised his aging father to put Thatta to the torch and himself take refuge in Kalankot. With the peace that ensued with Mughal rule, the need for an asylum like Kalankot faded away. The fort fell out of use and gradually crumbled away into the dust.
The ruins of Kalankot today comprise of ruined fortification walls, a large area within liberally strewn with bricks, pottery shards and other remnants of a city and the chunky, roofless hulk of a mosque. Completely ruined the latter retains vestiges of the ornamentation it once flaunted: very fine blue tiles and a sandstone pulpit still in place and richly carved in the Sindhi stone-carving tradition so favoured by the Arghuns and Tarkhans.
In front of the fort a brick-lined water tank sits empty. Just below the fortification wall to the north there stretches a beautiful blue lake making Kalankot an excellent winter getaway for a day.
How To Get There: Coming either from Karachi or Hyderabd, take the Thatta bypass. At the roundabout with the sign for the Army Public School, turn south (right, if coming from Karachi) on to the road to Ghulamullah. Past the walls of the new jail, there is another large walled-in compound. Just as this second boundary wall ends, take the dirt road to the left. The ruins lie about a kilometre off the blacktop road, their distance from Thatta town being about six kilometres.
posted by Salman Rashid @ 9:01 AM,
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