Raisen Fort located in Raisen in Madhya Pradesh is considered to be years ahead of its time in terms of structural and architectural innovation. This fort is widely believed to be one of the most difficult forts to breach and has been at the centre of many battles led by Muslim invaders from the 13th century. Historians opine that this fort was attacked at least 14 times by the Delhi Sultanate (starting in 1223), Mughals and Nawab of Bhopal (1754).
However, this fort gained infamy after the treachery and deception of Sher Shah Suri who laid siege to it for four months in 1543. The fort was commanded by Raja Puranmal, a Rajput who was given to believe that Sher Shah Suri was a moderate Muslim invader and wished to work with the Hindus of India. However, Raja Puranmal soon got wind of the mass execution of Hindus and enslavement of Hindu women and children on the orders of Sher Shah Suri in the Malwa region. Sher Shah Suri was getting increasingly desperate to win the fort and decided to smelt copper coins to build canons to breach the ramparts. A traitor within the fort helped him to achieve his task.
On hearing that Sher Shah Suri was marching towards the fort with his men, Raja Puranmal ordered his men to put their wives and families to death. He beheaded his lovely wife Rani Ratnavati to save her from falling into the hands of the desert barbarians. Unfortunately, his valour did not gain any favour with the savages and he was executed in a blink of an eye. Some historical records say that Raja Puranmal’s daughter was captured and sent to the harem. Sher Shah Suri defended his actions and continued on his mission to wipe out all Rajputs and Hindus from the Malwa region by ordering a large-scale massacre and desecration of Hindu temples.
Raisen Fort had been ruled by many devout Hindus who had amassed incalculable wealth over the years. Locals say that one king (maybe Raja Rajsen) was in possession of the legendary Paras Patthar or Philosopher’s stone which he threw into a pond located within the fort before his capture. Even today, locals say many people visit the fort at the dead of night in search of the elusive stone and strange lights and sounds within the fort have been observed.
Though the fort is said to have been built in the 11th to 12th century, archaeological evidence found within the fort suggests that this fort was built in 1000 BCE. Raisen Fort that sits majestically atop a hill is made of sandstone and encircled by huge rock walls. There are nine gates and thirteen bastions. This fort abounds with natural caves with some of the earliest recorded rock art. Though the fort is in a rather dilapidated state, one can see remnants of palaces named Badal Mahal, Rohini Mahal, Itradaan Mahal and Hawa Mahal. The ancient Someshwar Mahadev Temple within the fort is open to the public on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri.
Itradaan Mahal has niches on the walls with unique acoustics. If one faces a niche and says something either in a soft or natural tone, the voice can be heard clearly in a niche on the opposite wall even though the two walls are at least 20 feet apart!
The most impressive feature of this fort is the well-defined water management and conservation system that has been in place for centuries. Ample provision for multiple underground channels to collect and carry rainwater to a big reservoir built inside the fort is seen. A similar system has been made to ensure that the wells that are more than forty is number would always be full of water even in the peak summer.
This fort has a bit of everything – history, mystery, political intrigue, notoriety, gallantry, spirituality and astounding architectural detailing. Sadly, there is not much written material available on this fort and its crumbling state puts off visitors.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)