Gobindgarh Fort

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In its present form Gobindgarh Fort in Amritsar was built by Maharajah Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century and occupies a significant place in Indian military history. Located in south-east Amritsar an approximately 1.5 km north of the Golden Temple, the fort is easy to reach on the NH1 en route to Ludhiana.

Originally, the fort was built in 1760 by Gujjar Singh Bhangi, leader of one of the 12 Sikh Misls and called ‘Bhangian da Kila’. Maharajah Ranjit Singh took control of the fort in 1825 and rebuilt it using brick and lime.

The fort was constructed on a square pattern of 1,500 square metres and the fortifications were strengthened with a high wall, eight towers where 25 cannons were positioned, and a decorated dome in the centre. A huge wooden door on the eastern side, named Nalwa Gate after the great Sikh warrior, served as the main entrance to the fort which was surrounded by an imposing moat lined with bricks.

The fort, whilst serving as a military base which contained magazines, arsenals, a 12,000 strong army and a royal stable, also served as the State treasury or ‘Toshakhana’, housing the crown jewels with its own mint to produce coins. Consequently, Gobindgarh Fort was a place of great importance for the Sikh Maharajah and was used as a royal residence on his many visits to the city before his palace in the centre of Amritsar, Ram Bagh, was completed in 1831.

After the annexation of the Punjab, a Darbar Hall, Hawa Mehal and Phansi Ghar (gallows) was added by the British Army to the fort. The fort was also a significant place during the freedom struggle, serving as a place for hanging freedom fighters. General Dyer, who ordered the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, had quarters located just opposite the Phansi Ghar and it is said that he gained pleasure of watching various prisoners hanged.

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 which on 6th October 2008 handed control to the Punjab Government. A major project is now underway to open the fort for the general public.

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