A British naturalist once commented, “Why go to Kashmir when heaven is here”, describing the charming town of Lohaghat in Champawat district in the state of Uttarakhand. The town derives its names from the river Lohawati that flows nearby. This place is a visual paradise for those interested in natural history in summer when the famed rhododendrons have bloomed to their wholesome splendour. This quiet town is a very important place in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and is steeped in history, architecture and religion.
This place finds mention in the Hindu scriptures as the residence of the renowned king Banasura. Banasura ka kila is located about 7 kms from Lohaghat on the Lohaghat-Devidhura road. The fort is built on top of a hill and the lush green valley of Kali Kumaon lies on its south.
There are different stories about the Banasura ka kila that the locals spell out for you. A few say that this was the fort built by Banasura and when Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna was kidnapped by Chitralekha for Usha, Banasura’s daughter, the fierce battle between Lord Krishna and Banasura is believed to have been fought here. Another legend is that Banasura once heard the Saptha Matrikas singing here in unison while travelling through this place during the great war between the devas and asuras. Banasura went into raptures hearing the moving rendition and dropped all this weapons at this place. It is said that he built a temple here for the Saptha Matrikas. No temple however has been found in the fort in recent times though there is a temple at a little distance away.
Whatever may be the real story behind this place, there is no doubt about the antiquity of the fort. On first glance, it appears to be ancient and has been categorized by the Archaeological Department to be of the medieval era. There is evidence of many attacks on the walls of the fort in different periods of time. Locals say that this place was believed to be the cultural capital of the Chand dynasty in the 11th and 12th century. They established certain traditions that are still followed in the temples and during festivals.
The fort is in ruins and perched atop the peak of a hill at a height of about 1859 meters above mean sea level. A series of steps leads you to the entrance of the fort. The panoramic view of the valley below and the vantage view of the Panchchuli peaks of the Himalayas is absolutely breathtaking. The Lohawati river also originates from this hill.
As the fort is in quite a dilapidated condition, one has to try to imagine the plan of the fort and what might have been where. There is an old well that is said to have been there since the time of Banasura though it remains inaccessible now. The well is in the middle of the main chamber which is highly unusual. The well is supposed to be about 30 meters in length and 5 meters in width and about 8 meters in depth and has steps leading to it.
There are two gates on the south-west and north-east side. There are turrets in the four corners that are still visible. One can see holes made in the fort walls which is very typical when the fort is being used to watch over the borders. Five residential buildings have been marked out in the rectangular plan of the fort.
Archaeologists and geologists have been fairly excited about the findings in this place as the artwork found in the rectangular walls had ornate stones – some with flowers and some in a shape of a lion with one paw over the others and its head resting on top. There are remains of old buildings though later construction in the 11th century has buried them. Remains of iron mining and smelting work in the ancient traditional way typical of the medieval era has also been discovered. Pottery found on the western side and on the hill called Antaka appears to be of the pre-medieval period.
This place is definitely worth a visit for its stunning natural beauty, religious significance, rare flora and fauna and most importantly, for the gorgeous view of the snow-capped Himalayas.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)