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Garh Panchkot- Purulia

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Garh Panchkot- Purulia


Garh Panchkot is a ruined fort located in the eastern part of India at the foothills of Panchet Hill in the district of Purulia, West Bengal. The ruins of the Panchkot Palace are a silent testimony to the Bargi attack during the 18th century.

From a historical perspective Alivardi Khan had become the Nawab of Bengal in April 1740, having defeated and killed Sarfiraz Khan. Rustam Jung, Sarfiraz’s brother-in-law, challenged Alivardi Khan but failed in his endeavours which prompted him to seek the help of the Maratha Rulers of Nagpur, Raghoji Bhonsle. A Maratha cavalry was sent by Bhosle who entered Bengal through Panchet and started looting the countryside. These Maratha men came to be known as “Bargi’s”. For about 10 years they looted and plundered Bengal. It ended in the year 1751 after a settlement was reached between the Nawab of Bengal and Maratha King.

During one of these encounters, Garh Panchkot was attacked by the “Bargi” and, having defeated the King’s guards, they destroyed it after looting and plundering the palace. It is believed that all the 17 wives of the king committed suicide in a nearby well during the attack. Garh Panchkot has lain in ruin ever since.

The king was a Rajput chieftain who believed in Shaktism, although the temples reflect his inclination towards Vaishnavism. This could be due to the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a proponent of Vaishnavism, during that period. The two distinctive architectural styles, which are evident from the temples, are the Bishnupuri style and a much older architectural style of using stone blocks. It is believed that the Bishnupuri styled temples housed Krishna and the followers were mostly vegetarians whereas the Stone Temples housed the figure of Kali and the followers were non-vegetarians and also believed in animal sacrifice. This lends credence to the fact that the King was tolerant towards other beliefs as one more Jain cave can be found in the vicinity.

There is another very old stone temple, which is dedicated to Rama. This could be because it is believed that most of the Hindu Kings of India were Raghu-Vanshis or descendants of Rama and his legendary ancestral kings as per the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Guard’s quarter
At 600 feet above sea level in the middle of Panchakot Hill, the guard’s quarter stands as a formidable fort.

Defense moat
The “Singha-dwar” was the only entrance to the area. Today, the moat has been reduced to a mere pond with a road running through the middle of it. A broken entrance gate for the boats is what remains of the once famous “Singh Dwar”. After crossing the Singha Dwar it is about 7 km to the Palace. The curved road is through the bamboo bush, which was planted as a second line of defence. Even during the middle of the afternoon the road is dark due to the bamboo bush along the roadside.

Arms and ammunition
During those days in India, warfare was mainly fought with bows and arrows, spear, swords, daggers, cannons, etc. It was sheer strategy and numbers that mattered, not the arms. In a phased-out manner it started with sword fights. The army here consisted of foot soldiers, an infantry of horse riders, and elephants.

Palace – Rani Mahal
Not much information is available but given the arches and the pillars scattered across an area of about 20,000 sq feet, the Palace alone would have been a massive structure. As legend has it, the king had 17 wives and they all stayed in this palace lending credence to its size. The material used to build the Rani Mahal is a bit different from that of the temples and the Guard’s quarter. It uses “Choon Surki” or a paste made of lime and powered clay bricks fused using water as a base to hold the fire clay bricks. This style of masonry was quite prevalent in that particular period and it still exists. The arches on the other hand mimic the Moghul architecture which indicates that the Rani Mahal was built later, possibly during the 16th century AD compared to the stone temples which are nearby.


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