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Garh Panchkot – still stands as a witness to Maratha Bargi attacks

6 May, 2020 04:52:54
Garh Panchkot – still stands as a witness to Maratha Bargi attacks

Nestled in the arms of Panchet Hill, lies what used to be the fort of one of the most formidable rulers of the land. Almost 266 years ago, Maratha ruler Raghoji Bhonsle made his way to Bengal via Panchet and plundered everything in sight. Popularly known as the Maratha Bargis, these plunderers were then a terror to Bengal. When Alivardi Khan became the Nawab of Bengal in 1740, having defeated and killed Sarfiraz Khan, Rustam Jung, Sarfiraz's brother-in-law, challenged Alivardi but failed in his endeavours which prompted him to seek the help of the Maratha Rulers of Nagpur and Raghoji Bhonsle. A Maratha cavalry was sent by Bhosle who entered Bengal through Panchet and started looting the countryside. These Maratha men came to be known as the ‘Bargi's.’ For about 10 years they looted and plundered Bengal. It ended in the year 1751 after a settlement was reached between the Nawab of Bengal and the Maratha King.


During one such Bargi encounter, Garh Panckot was attacked by the plunderers and having defeated the King’s guards, they destroyed it after looting and plundering the palace. It is believed that all the 17 wives of the king committed suicide in a nearby well during the attack. Garh Panchkot has lain in ruins ever since but retains the beauty of its architecture and detailed design frame. One still gets the chance to explore the ruins of the fort that is roughly 250-year-old, steeped in history. 


The fort had a semicircular moat which started from one end of the foothill to the other end. The only way to enter was by crossing the moat by using a boat at the centre of the semicircle. The rest of the area was either inaccessible due to large growth of a special type of bamboo tree which grew thick wild making it very difficult for intruders as well as a thick and high stone wall that was constructed. The guard’s quarter had a strategic position. Spread over a 500 square meters area it itself is a miniature fort surrounded by solid rock walls with only one entry point, the pyramid like hollow gate from where the entire palace below and the surroundings could be watched. 


Once inside the fort, on the right as well as left there are two long and narrow rooms with small vents overlooking the plains. In the centre stands a stone temple dedicated to Lord Rama. A hollow lion’s head made of stone known as the ‘Singh Mukh’ or other artefacts mostly made of stone can still be seen. Not much information is available about the arches and the pillars scattered across an area of about 20,000 sq feet. It is believed the Palace alone was a massive structure. As legend has it, the king had 17 wives and they all stayed in this palace lending credence to its size. The material used to build the Rani Mahal is a bit different from that of the temples and the Guard's quarter. It used ‘Choon Surki’ or a paste made of lime and powered clay bricks fused using water as a base to hold the fire clay bricks. This style of masonry was quite prevalent in that particular period.

What to see around: 
Nestled between Panchkot Hill on one side and Bhaioanath Hill on another, the surreal Baranti Lake is a beauty that one can visit. In winter, the lake has several migratory bird species.

Another place worth visit is the Panchet Dam, built on the Damodar river and the Maithon Dam, situated on the Barakar River on West Bengal-Jharkhand border. While returning from Garh Panchkot, you can visit the famous Kalyaneshwari temple and the huge piles of rock forming hillocks- the Joychandi Hills. The Joychandi Hills constitute the last leg of the Chhotanagpur plateau. Aspiring rock climbers are trained here. This is also an exquisite place ---- the red soil, grey rocks, lush greenery, blue sky ---- all add up to compose a beautiful scenery. 

How to reach: 
By road take the Durgapur Expressway and Right before Asansol, take NH2. Continue on Asansol-Chittaranjan road to Asansol-Purulia road. The amazing picturesque highway is also mesmerizing. 

Where to stay: 
West Bengal Tourism Department’s Garpanchkot Bungalow.

Story Tag:
  • Garh Panchkot, forts of Bengal

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