Friday, April 29, 2011

Ranikot Fort – the missed out wonder of the world!!

Great Wall of China (left) - Ranikot Fort Pakistan (right)

The mention of seven wonders of world abounds all search engines as these have been there for quite a long without ever being updated. But if one goes around the world, one would find amazing places obscured by the unreachable tracts or hidden in the history books, being baked under the scorching sun and withering away by the fast blowing whistling winds of the deserts. Almost similar to the Great Wall of China, there lies a unique fort in the desolate deserts of the Sind province of Pakistan that qualifies itself for an addition into the list of the wonders of the world.
Located out in nowhere in the Lakki mountain of the Kirthar Mountain Ranges, some 30 kilometres southwest of Sann in the Jamshoro district, there lies the Ranikot Fort. Spread over an area of 26 kilometers in circumference with fortification walls of approximately 35 kilometers in length, no one is really very sure why and how this fort was built as apparently it does not seem to be defending anything. There are many tales and historical broken links that throw light on its existence, but no authenticated account is available. 

The giant fortification walls, built with dressed yellow sandstone, are stretched over barren hills, and resemble just like the Great Wall of China with similar semi-circular bastions, 45 in numbers, at regular intervals. The walls surround the fort on its three sides, while the northern side is dominated with the hills that serve like a wall, the same way a lake reservoir is surrounded by hills and mountains to provide a natural barrier. Only about 8 km portions of its wall are man-made, while most of the wall consists of natural cliffs and barricades of mountainous rocks which at places rise as high as two thousand feet above sea level. The incorporation of natural features with the man made wall is unique and innovative architectural combination adopted by those who designed this massive fortification (above bottom left photo). 

How old is this fort, no one is really very certain and authentic. Some suggest it to have been built by the Sassanian Persians during the times of Greek, or in a later time frame by Persians possibly in 836 CE.  As per Wikipedia, the fort was first constructed in the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire (550 - 330 BC). As this empire stretched from Turkey in the west, where a similar wall is constructed near the Caspian Sea called The Great Wall of Gorgan, which is 155 km in length. Some part of the fort are said to be built during the 17th century by the Mir family, who were then a major clan and power of the area. In this connection name of Mir Karam Ali Khan Talpur and his brother Mir Murad Ali surface, who are said to have built the portions somewhere in 1812 CE at a cost of 1.2 million rupees.

Why the fort is called Rani; well there are many explanations. One of the widely supported explanations suggests that the fort takes its name from a water spring that enters from the western gate of the fort, “Mohan Gate,” where it is guarded by a small fortification. The stream called Reni or Rani Nai (rain water stream) is probably one reason for the fort to be called so. Since water in deserts is scarce, the availability of water or any water course in the area assumes greater importance. Therefore, Ranikot is the fort of a “Rain Stream”, which runs through thee fort and irrigates field and then exits from the Sann Gate on its eastern end. The spring continues flowing yet another 30 kilometers or so before emptying in to the mighty River Indus.

Meerikot Fortress

There are two mini fortresses inside the gigantic compound of the Ranikot. A small fortress, about 5-6 miles from the main gate is said to be the residence of the ruling Mir family and is called the Meerikot, but this word is not to have been derived out of Mir clan, but for the fact that Mir means top, meaning by top of a hill on which this fortress is located. One can explore ruins of the court, harem, guest rooms, and soldiers’ quarters inside it. Its 1435 feet long wall has five bastions. The main entrances to Ranikot and Meerikot have similar main architectural features - curved, angulated with a safe tortuous path. Since the Meerikot is related to the residences of the royalties, it is located fairly deep inside the Ranikot. There are numerous buildings, structures, bastions, watchtowers spread all over the Ranikot, besides hills, valleys, streams, ponds, pools and ditches.

The other fortress is called Shergrah. Like the former, Shershah fortress too has five bastions. The fortress is located on a rather higher plane than the Meerikot Fortress as if providing protection to the latter. One can see the Shergarh, built with whitish stone, overlooking the Meerikot, while standing inside the Meerikot fortress. Located at a height of 1,480 feet above the sea level, the steep climb up to Shergarh gives a commanding view of the whole Ranikot Fort and its entrance and exit points. On a clear day one can see the bright glow of the water of the River Indus, which lies some 37 kilometers due east.

Although the fort has two formal gates; the Mohan and Sann Gates mentioned earlier, there are two exits that are not architectural gates but are used as entrances and exits. One is towards the side of ancient town of Amri, called the Amri Gate. Although referred to and used as entrance/exit point, it is in fact a big breach in the fort wall for the exit of the rain stream “Toming Dhoro.” This breach or exit is called “Budhi Mori.” Mori in local language means a hole. The breach being quite big is thus referred to as a gate. Similarly, the Shahpir Gate to the south also appears to be a pseudo gate taking its name from a limestone rock with a rough shape of foot imprinted on it, supposedly of some saint.

There are three large graveyards inside the fort. One of the graveyards has approximately four hundred graves similar to the design found in the Chokundi with engraved motifs of peacocks and sunflowers. The graveyard located near the Sann Gate had once over a dozen graves, of which now only a few remains. The locals refer these graves to be of Romans, a fact yet to be authenticated. Similarly, there is a graveyard attributed to the Arabs.
One of the most important features of the fort is the animal skeletons, prehistoric fossils and parts of pottery scattered atop the Lundi Hills. Unfortunately, like the history of the fort, no worthwhile effort has gone in to ascertain the time period of these fossils.

Like the Rohtas Fort, there are people living inside the Ranikot Fort. These people belong to the Gabol Baloch tribe who are living here since centuries.

Much more is needed to be known about this gigantic fort, which is considered as the most talismanic wonder by the locals. Since 1993, it has been on the list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But despite this, Ranikot Fort considered to be the world's largest fort continues to lie in obscurity and anonymity. May be for the reason that very few know about the location and even the existence of this marvelous fort. We need to create awareness about the presence of this fort - lest the fast winds of the desert sweep away this massive structure into history.

Those willing to take a venture into knowing the area and the Fort, can make a one-day round trip from Karachi, located some 262 kilometres towards Hyderabad. It takes approximately 4-5 hours by road to Ranikot Fort.

Related Reading/Videos:
Ranikot Fort (Pakistanpaedia)
Ranikot Fort (Wikipedia)
Videos Ranikot Fort: | Video-1| Video-2 |


Anonymous said...

big thanks to the author for new)

Asghar Javed said...

Amazing. Still amazing after lived for long time.