Tucked away in the beautiful village of Khaspur in Cachar district are the ruins of the centuries-old fort of the Kachari kings. Cachar, derived from the Dimasa word kachari was originally a part of the ancient Tripura kingdom and then passed on to the Koch kingdom, the Dimasa kingdom and finally to the British.
Khaspur became the capital of the Kachari kingdom sometime in the early 1700s. Interestingly, the kingdom was practising a different religion and culture till 1770 when King Krishna Chandra formally converted to Hinduism. The fort seen in Khaspur village has many interesting details of Hinduism as well as the religious beliefs that were followed before 1770.
This grand fort complex is spread over a large area and has many structures that are scattered around the premises. Singha Darwaza is the gateway to this capital complex built during the latter part of the 17th century. Rectangular in plan, this entrance gateway has low plinth walls with two side rooms made entirely of burnt bricks and plastered with lime surkhi. This has a pointed arch and the Bengali style do chala roof.
The most iconic building in this complex is the two storeyed building with twelve door openings called Baradwari built in brick and lime. The door openings have pointed arches indicative of the influence of Mughal architecture. There is a provision for a staircase leading to the covered char chala roof.
There are temples with the chala roof type shikaras made of lakhuri or lakhori bricks on raised platforms with multi foliated arches dedicated to Lord Shiva and Devi Rana Chandi. The window openings are covered with motifs and stucco work.
An interesting brick structure known as snan mandir also called locally as the Queen’s bath with a domical shikhara and an entrance on each side seated in the midst of lush greenery showcases the architectural ingenuity of the Kachari kings. One can see the remains of temple like structures, gateways and a royal palace. Though the interiors are crumbling, the carvings on the walls and roof exude the charm of the glorious period of the Kachari. There are various floral motifs, elephant carvings and latticelike grid work on the surfaces of many buildings in the fort complex.
Locals say that there are secret tunnels and a death dungeon inside the fort that are now inaccessible. There is a narbali where humans used to be sacrificed by the king to ensure victory in the battlefield. Besides this, there are remains of the fortification wall within the complex.
This fort used to be the pride of the Kachari but now has only fragments of its old grandeur and heritage. This fort, said to be one of the most magnificent built in Cachar is a noteworthy example of the architecture of Assam in the medieval period.
A lot of effort has been put in by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to preserve this structure against the vagaries of nature. It is advised to visit this fort either with a guide or in a group as it is quite easy to get lost in this complex.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)