A lesser-known 12th century fort dotted with exquisite architectural detailing, sculptures and temples reminiscent of Khajuraho is Lanjigarh located in Lanji in Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh. This fort according to an inscription found in Bilaspur dated 1114 CE is said to have been built by Raja Malukoma, grandfather of Rajkumari Hasla, a martyr, who to this day is revered for her sacrifice to her father and her people.
This fort is built on 7.5 acres of land and was considered to be one of the most impregnable forts of its time. The main entrance faces east with prominent markings of tortoise and serpent in the middle. There are fragments of a palace that stood centuries ago as one enters the main gate of the fort. There is a bathing tank opposite the palace to the west that measures about 60 to 70 feet in length. A huge courtyard is seen to the right of the main gate.
The walls of the fort are about 20 feet in height with four bastions built in the four corners with access provided to move easily from one part of the fort to the other. Only two of the four bastions of bricks are seen and a sizeable part of the fortification has fallen off. Remnants of a deep moat around the fort is still seen and locals say large crocodiles used to move about freely in the water.
There is an old temple in the side entrance of the fort dedicated to Rajkumari Hasla. This east-facing temple has been constructed using the locally available soft sandstone. Interestingly, there are four pillars in the middle of the mandapa of the temple in two rows that divide it into three parts.
The entrance door of the garbha griha is highly ornate and adorned with beautiful sculptures and carvings. The pillars inside have been designed as a square at the base in quartz, expanding to a quadrilateral and then into an octagon and finally finishing as a hexadecagon on the top. There are intricately carved statues found everywhere inside the temple that reveal the mastery of the artisans.
Large centuries-old trees are found inside the fort and in the surrounding grounds. Though this fort is in ruins, it has been remarkably preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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