A few weeks ago, I took a walk atop Kot Diji Fort, 25 km south of Khairpur, Sindh. We got to our destination after driving through crowded towns and meandering roads, at the edge of the Nara Rajasthan dessert. There it was, suddenly emerging out of a stone rubble hill, after we turned a corner on a narrow road.
The access into the fort was through a large wooden “elephant proof” gate called the Shahi Darwaza with iron spikes embedded into it.
Many flights of stairs and inclined pathways take one through its various levels. I was transported to the time in the 18th century when the founder of the Talpur Kingdom of Upper Sindh, Mir Suhrab is said to have built it. Accepted history suggests that Mir Suhrab Khan reigned from 1783 – 1830 AD and built Ahmad Abad Fort (now known as Kot Diji Fort) in 1790 AD, in addition to two others.
As you climb up, you can see the village through windows carved out of the thick stone walls, which pay testament to how difficult it would be for anyone to breach them. I could just imagine the soldiers being able to spot enemy armies from miles away.
Not much else is known about the fort because no excavation or research has been done since the 1950s. A local man who served as a guide told us how there were different living quarters for the various categories of soldiers. At the top of the three overlapping levels there was a huge well, which brought water from Mirwah Canal, built specifically to provide water to the fort, so that there was plenty at times of enemy attacks and sieges.
The limestone hill over which the fort is built rises 110 feet, already providing much needed protection from enemy forces.
The walls rise 30 feet above the hill and the fort is said to have 50 bastions atop which cannons would have been placed, as well as countless musket holes in the walls, in order to fire at enemies from all directions.
The outer perimeter wall is 1.8 km long and follows the crescent shape of the hill on which it is built. The fort is made out of locally accessible kiln-baked bricks. It also houses a prison, a place to hold court, as well as the Mir’s harem.
The view from the top is splendid and one can gaze over the whole Kot Diji area. Any trip to Sindh would be incomplete without seeing the fort. Unfortunately, since the 1950s, it has been neglected and fallen into extensive disrepair. The limestone plaster has disappeared and the bricks are now completely exposed to the elements.
But the fort is not all there is to Kot Diji. If you are not well versed in local archeological history, you would not be able to tell that the whole area is itself an ancient site occupied from 3300 BC, located near an ancient flood channel of River Indus and adjacent to the modern town of Kot Diji. The ancient site consists of a stone rubble wall surrounding a citadel and residences, which were also last excavated in the 1950s. The time period starting from 3300 BC suggests that it belonged to the early Harappan period. The site lasted till the mature Harappan period (between 2600 BC to 1750 BC) and artifacts found in the area show a unique Kot Dijian style. One can only wish that these sites would be excavated and researched further, so that we can also know more about our past and contribute to world history, like the other great ancient civilizations.