The Palamu forts, situated just 3 kilometers from the scenic Betla National Park in the Latehar district of Jharkhand, are a testament to the rich history of the region. Nestled on the banks of the meandering Auranga River, these two ancient forts have stories to tell that date back centuries.
Origins and Evolution:
The history of these forts is as intriguing as the landscape they occupy. The older fort, situated on the plains, predates even the Chero dynasty and is believed to have been constructed by the King of the Raksel dynasty. Over time, it was fortified and expanded, becoming a defensive structure under the rule of King Medini Ray. King Ray, a Chero tribal king, ruled Palamau for thirteen years and significantly influenced the region’s history.
Clashes and Conquests:
The forts witnessed numerous clashes and conquests over the years. The Mughals, during Emperor Akbar’s reign, made attempts to capture them, and the Chero rulers successfully defended their territory. However, the Mughal invasions continued during Jahangir’s rule, leading to a series of conflicts.
Rise and Fall of Dynasties:
The fortunes of the Chero dynasty, which held sway over Palamau, took a downturn after the death of Medini Ray. Internal rivalries and external pressures led to its eventual downfall. The fort was strategically important, and the British East India Company made efforts to seize it.
In 1771, Captain Camac led an attack on the new fort, which was captured without significant resistance due to a water shortage. The Chero soldiers retreated to the old fort, which faced a prolonged siege and was eventually occupied by the British in 1772. Although there were subsequent uprisings, the forts remained under British control.
The old fort, sprawling over 3 square kilometers, boasts impressive defensive features, including three main gates and a rampart. Its architecture incorporates lime and surkhi mortar, with lime-surki sun-baked bricks forming its outer boundary walls. Notable structures within the fort include the “Singh Dwar” (Lion Gate) and a two-storied courtroom. The fort also had an aqueduct and temples, later modified into mosques.
Exploring the Ruins:
Perched on a hill to the west, the newer fort was commissioned by Medini Ray in 1673, just before his passing. It features the Nagpuri gate, adorned with intricate carvings, and an inscription that provides historical insights. Unfortunately, this fort remained incomplete as Pratap Rai, the heir, couldn’t fulfill his father’s vision.
The Palamu forts, hidden in the dense forests of Betla National Park, stand as silent witnesses to centuries of history, culture, and power struggles. Visiting these ruins is a journey back in time, offering a glimpse into the resilience and legacy of the people who once called them home.