Faridkot Fort stands
Raj Kumar Aggarwal
THE fort and town of Faridkot, about 40 km south of the Indo-Pak border, was
founded about 800 years ago by Raja Mokulsi, who named it Mokulhar. Some
years later, when the great Sufi saint Sheikh Baba Farid visited it, its
name was changed to Faridkot.
For many years Faridkot was constantly subjected to raids by rival
chieftains. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also regarded this fort as a place of
strategic importance and surrendered it unwillingly to the British in 1809.
Only after 1837 did the town begin to expand and was made the capital of the
newly constituted state of Faridkot by the British. The merger of Faridkot
with Pepsu in 1948 dealt a severe blow to the importance of the city. From
the capital of an independent state it was reduced to the position of
administrative headquarters of a subordinate unit.
However, it regained its past glory at the hands of former President of
India, the Late Giani Zail Singh, who was the then Chief Minister of Punjab.
He carved Faridkot as the 12th district of the state on August 7, 1972. The
status of the fourth revenue division of Punjab was also given to this town
by Harcharan Singh Brar, the then Chief Minister of the state, on January
No doubt a number of educational and medical institutions like Guru Gobind
Singh Medical College and Hospital, Dasmesh Dental College and Baba Farid
University of Health Sciences have been set up at Faridkot, but,
unfortunately, no sincere efforts have been made to maintain and preserve
its ancient buildings, including Qila Mubarak.
According to the compiler of the Gazetter of Faridkot State (Lahore, 1914),
the old fort was built by Raja Mokulsi on square-shaped land, measuring more
than 10 acres. Around 1775, it was reconstructed by Raja Hamir Singh. The
main building seen at present and other important structures were built
around 1890 by Raja Bikram Singh (1842-1898) and by Raja Balbir Singh
(1869-1906). Raja Bikram Singh, who ruled for 24 years, contributed a lot to
Faridkot state. Raja Balbir Singh died in 1906 and was succeeded by Raja
Barjinder Singh, who ruled up to 1918. The next and the last ruler of
Faridkot state, Raja Sir Harinder Singh Brar Bans Bahadur, ascended the
rajgaddi in 1918 after the death of Raja Barjinder Singh. On assuming power,
he established many educational institutions and other important buildings
in the town.
The beauty of this fort lies in its magnificent architecture. Elegantly
designed in European style and constructed by skilled masons, it is a
masterpiece of workmanship. Its floors, ceilings, walls and arched openings
have been executed with artistic precision.
Fashioned out of small Nanakshahi bricks and lime mortar, more than
20-foot-high ramparts and large bastions (burjs) constructed for the
security guards and to mount the guns are still safe and sound, thanks to
the repairs carried out by the Maharawal Khewa Ji Trust, Faridkot. But the
main building and other structures of the complex (except Sheesh Mahal and
Moti Mahal) need massive repairs and restoration work.
The entrance to the fort is provided through a beautiful multi-storeyed
deori. It has a 14-foot-wide and 22-foot-high heavy wooden gate, which was
used as a protective shield during war. The splendid artistic pattern on the
ceiling of the deori is praiseworthy and attracts visitors. On the first
floor of the deori is the beautifully designed Sheesh Mahal or hall of
mirrors. The concave and convex glasswork is quite romantic. Some beautiful
paintings decorate the walls. The desire of Raja Sir Harinder Singh to have
a large museum in Sheesh Mahal is yet to be fulfilled. To make the fort
impressive, two big guns placed in the baradari welcome visitors to the
fort. The main building and other structures of the fort have been
constructed on a ground which is 12 feet above the main road and entrance
gate, for safety reasons.
The huge building of Moti Mahal built to the south of the entrance, now
houses the offices of the Maharawal Khewa Ji Trust (which looks after the
properties of Raja Harinder Singh). Gurdwara Sahib and Modi Khana (military
barracks) have been constructed to the north of the entrance. For the
protection of the royal family from air attacks, an air-raid shelter was
also built in the fort complex.
The 34-foot-wide, 90-foot-long and 22-foot-high Darbar Hall of the main
building has been built in such a way that it remains cool even during the
hot season. The architectural beauty of the Darbar Hall dazzles one and all.
Although the false ceiling stands damaged at many places, the artistic work
done on the false ceiling in plaster of Paris and woodwork executed on big
arches of the Darbar Hall is unmatched. Carved wood panelling on the Darbar
Hall walls and its marble flooring still look graceful. But artistically
designed wooden chhajjas built around the main building on the first floor
are unsafe. The fort building, except Sheesh Mahal and Moti Mahal which is
vacant these days, was earlier used by the District Administration. It did
not pay any rent for a long period even after the dissolution of the state.
The Archaeological Survey of India maintains around 3600 ancient buildings
all over the country and 30 important historical buildings in Punjab, but it
has not given protected status to Qila Mubarak. There are a number of
historical buildings in Faridkot like the Civil Secretariat, Darbar Gunj,
Clock Tower, Raj Mahal, Shahi Samadhan, Panchvati, Thakur Dwara, Gurudwara
Godri Sahib and Tilla Baba Farid. If the town is developed as a tourist
place, it could earn revenue.
According to available information, the repair and restoration work of the
Darbar Hall is being entrusted to a Delhi-based company. The company has
worked for UNESCO and other organisations. It will complete this gigantic
task in 15 months and it will cost the trust approximately Rs 50 lakh in the
Aagman Purb of Baba Farid is celebrated every year from September 15 to 23
by the Faridkot District Cultural Society with great fun and fare. The
Government of India has sanctioned national status to this Farid Mela.
People from all walks of life participate in it. Devotees also pay obeisance
on every Thursday at Tilla Baba Farid. History or civilisation of a town can
be studied to a great extent through its temples and forts. The fort should
be opened to public on such occasions and information boards carrying the
history of the fort and town should be fixed inside and outside the fort for
the knowledge of the public.