Morning symphonies: Harkishangarh Fort Haripur a reminisce

Whenever I recall early life memories, a page from my book of the nostalgic collection appears with the title “morning runs”. I was born in a beautiful and historical house, or we can name it as a haveli amid of bustling city life of Haripur Hazara. The silent, misty dawns, starting with brisk walk-through narrow time stricken, brick alleys and cobbled streets, like moving through a time capsule and the spellbinding scenes would always enchant me.

Facade Gate walls and reinforcements

Crossing the quite circular road leading to Fort Road was always my route. I Used to bid good morning to old hunch back banyan tree standing firmly on the left side, whose, tall trunk soaring like a minaret, piercing up in the skies, giving loftiness to my thoughts, and the long bare branches hanging down like beard of an old, rugged sage of the age, surely, must have witnessed generations. Just before the old brick building of the agricultural department, the nurseries related to the agricultural department containing the baby plants creating thick foliage, the dense green would give my eyes immense coolness in the mornings of June and warmth in December and January months.

Even today in my mind these mornings are vivid, fresh, still, feel like I am cursing like a free bird, an airborne or perhaps a drone hovering through the old vicinities, clay and cemented roofs, streets, landing on Fort Road approaching a mound, rubble and foliage.
The first glance of the lofty walls of qalah (Harkishangarh Fort) stands firmly for ages, resisting not to decay against the raid of ancient raiders and now the victim of pitiless time.

Silsali-e-roz o sub…

Naqsh gar-e-hadasat

(Masjid-e-Qurtaba by Dr. Iqbal)

Across the twenty or more meters deep trenches these walls had always mesmerised me: full of surprises, decipher to decode the hidden secrets, perhaps the prints of human race on the surface of the world, the hands who raised these magnificent walls and façade. Once mighty and invincible. The generations no more…alas…perished in time, levelled in the debris, and heard no more.

Reaching on the brink of the circle of the deep trench, I would sprint around the trench; at a point, the trench was filled for purposes, a makeshift bridge, to cross and to reach the open courtyard of ruins of majestic Harkishangarh fort. The lovely gate arch and decaying walls are piled up with heavy square grey-black, white and light blue hand-crafted square stones. Cracked walls, where ivy and green oozing out in abundance, a resonance from Robert Browning’s poem: “love among the ruins”.

The morning jogging also would become more interesting when it often ends up in Hari Singh’s Chota Bagh (Sarkari bagh) under the numbered pine trees, where few unlucky, fallen British army soldiers resting in peace (I will try to encompass chota bagh in another article in future).

The citadel’s stone-studded walls are slanted inwards, and with round joineries with decaying turrets and pickets at the corners, some parts are still intact in great shape boosting the great skills and craftsmanship of the once great architectural facade from the past. The remaining decaying edges of the walls boasting the glorious details once the fort must have adhered.

At a later stage, now as I relocated to the United Kingdom, being a member of English Heritage and National Trust, viewing numerous historical sites in the United Kingdom and around the world, in my imagination often, I entwined many ancient historical buildings with this fort, especially, the moat forts in the Kent United Kingdom. The awe-inspiring four wooden gates and the stone archery depicts the grandeur, and stone masonry of the gone by era. The symmetrical square stoned walls four-meter-wide and green pastures, sprawled around the decaying walls through the then trenches reminded me the famous lines of Browning’s “Love among the ruins”:

Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Bounding all
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest
Twelve abreast.
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass.
Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summertime, o’er-spreads
And embeds.

(Love among the ruins by Robert Browning)

Turning back to history, Pakhli formed a part of the Kingdom of Kabul (modern-day Afghanistan) also part of the passage joining Kashmir to Kabul. Due to the constant wars between Afghans and Sikhs around 1813, the Afghans lost their bastion, a defining stronghold the Attock fort strategically placed on the left bank of mighty Indus, and the victorious Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh’s stampede never stopped and by 1819, eventfully the Sikhs marched triumphantly and after a siege, they toppled the Afghan stronghold of Kashmir valley. This time the victory was celebrated, and the credit was given to renewed general of Khalsa brigade Hari Singh Nalwa. His traits were rather fierce, and his battle manoeuvres were not next to Napoleon.