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Lodhi Fort Ludhaina

Lodhi FortThe over 500-year-old Lodhi Fort, constructed by Muslim ruler Sikander Lodhi on a strategic location along the banks of the Sutlej in the city, has gone to rack and ruin, thanks to the official apathy as well as the indifferent attitude of the city residents towards it.

The once-strong citadel, basically a military fort, which withstood many an invader, has crumbled under the onslaught of the elements in the last five centuries. The process has been considerably hastened due to the lack of any protection offered by the Ludhianvis. The Archaeological Survey of India has also not helped matters by denying 'A Protected Monument' status to the fort even though a Supreme Court order calls for bringing all over 100-year-old historically important buildings into this category.

While the residents weakened the structure by digging up burrows to make space for construction of houses and shops, the State Conservation Department, the District Administration, and the Municipal Corporation have been turning their back to its conservation. The neglect has been so complete that not even a comprehensive record of the fort's history, ostensibly after which the city got its name, is available.

According to tidbits of information found here and there, Sultan Sikander Lodhi constructed this Lodhi fort in the last decade of the 15th century. Spread in 5.6 acres of land, the fort was built on a mound on the banks of the Sutlej, which earlier used to flow near it but has today changed its path. It seems the fate of the fort changed with the path of the river as the land vacated by it was captured by people to construct their dwellings. As the pressure of the population grew, the dwellers encroaching spree also grew rapidly.

Sultan Lodhi later deputed his two Generals, Yusuf Khan and Nihang Khan, to stay in the fort. The possession of the fort was necessary as it faced the main entry path to his kingdom. The path later developed as the Grand Trunk Road and the strategic importance of the fort also increased grew with it.

The fort provided a position of strength to Lodhi and later to other Muslim rulers following him. Acknowledging its importance, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the most powerful Sikh ruler, built a much stronger citadel on the other side of the Sutlej River. In the early 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh took advantage of the weak Muslim rule in Delhi and took control of the fort without much resistance. From its confines, the Sikh ruler, helped by the strong architecture of the fort, repulsed many an attack by the British. However, with the fall of his rule, the fort quietly passed into the hands of the British forces.

The fort was well maintained not only during the British rule but also even for a few decades after Independence when the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army was stationed here. But after its departure, the vacant fort fell into disuse. Not only did it begin crumbling from here and there due to the absence of maintenance and upkeep, but a number of people also began encroaching upon its premises. As a result, at several places, the structure of the fort has so completely vanished that one is forced to wonder whether a fort used to stand here or not. Only ruins of the outer wall, two massive entrance gates opening to a meandering path leading to the inside of the fort and a few dilapidated barracks is what remains of the fort today.

Shere-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh had got dug up a large and mysterious tunnel that connected the Lodhi Fort with his residential palace at Phillaur town across the Sutlej River. Today only the entrance of the tunnel is visible while debris and other waste material have blocked the path. There is no board or sign in the fort informing the visitor about the history of the place. The fort was all these years known as the Government Institute of Textile and Dyeing Technology, which has now been shifted.

However, what will be done with the place has not been announced so far. The District Administration had in the past taken up the matter with the Archaeological Survey of India to declare it a historical monument. However, the department had not acknowledged it, saying that the fort did not complete the yardstick required for declaring it a protected monument. He said he would look into the matter of the optimum use of the fort.

Source - Tribune