Gurkha Castles are an indispensable part of heritage tourism
in Himachal but most visitors miss out on these monuments. The erstwhile
Hindoor, Kehloor, Bhagat, Arkti, Mahlog, Kuthar, Sirmour, Jubbal and
Kyonthal princely states that now form Bilaspur, Solan, Sirmour and Shimla
districts, were under complete Gurkha away until 1815 when the operation
against Gurkha rulers was set in motion by Major General David Ochterlony.
The Gurkha castles in Solan, Sirmour, Bilaspur and Shimla districts remind us of the life and time under the Gurkha regime. While most of the structures built by the Gurkhas have crumbled, the remaining few beckon tourists. The star attractions are the Malaon, Banasar, Subathu and Dhar castles in Solan district.
ABOUT GURKHA CASTLES
It is said that most of the Gurkha castles were built by forcing the citizens of the occupied states to work as unpaid labour. In most of the castles a fine grind of lime, surkhi and mash-dal (pulse) was used to build stone walls.
The Malaon castle near Nalagarh in Solan district, was built by Amar Singh Thapa and reminds us of the Gurkha advance into the territories of the western hill states occassioned by the struggle between the states of Sirmour, Hindoor and Kangra for the control of Bara Thakurai - the petty states to the west of Garhwal.
On January 16, 1815 Major General David Ochterlony sealed the eastern, southern and northern approaches and compelled Amar Singh Thapa to quit Ramgarh Fort and concentrate his establishing a position close to Malaon castle. It is said that Bhakti Thapa of the Gurkha Army did his best to tend off the British soldiers but the superior gunpowder used by the British army led to their defeat. Bhakti Thapa fell in the field as of British Army on May 15, 1815 captured the fort, which was the first Gurkha batallion to enter the British army.
Gurkha Fort of Banasar:
Another Gurkha fort lies in Banasar, which is at a distance of 22-kms, off the Kalka-Shimla national highway on the Kumarhatti-Nahan road. The fort lies one kilometere before the village Banasar. A smooth ten minutes climb on foot takes one up to the fort. This structure is about 150-years-old.
Subathu Gurkha Fort:
The Subathu Gurkha fort, 70-kms from Malaon and now under the 14 Gurkha training centre, houses the 181-year-old cannons of Malaon fort.
The Dhar Moutain Fort:
Another fort lies near the campus of Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, off the Kalka- Shimla national highway on the Solan-Rajgarh road. Perched atop the Dhar mountain (6,999ft), this structure looks imposing from Nauni. The fort is in ruins and the path leading to it is rocky and meandering. Constructed in order to commemorate the Gurkha triumph over the then Bhagat princely state, this structure is about 190-year-old.
A pathway to the east leads to the main entrance. After stepping in, one can find a gallery - like hall, which provides access to a couple of rooms. A water tank has been built at the centre of this hall as smaller doors were advantageous and were designed to protect themselves from British sepoys. The doors provided armour and prohibited the entry of enemy. The upper storey was like a ceiling where it was possible to take up position in a crawling posture.
While in the third hall of the fort one can make some more hypotheses, particularly about the Gurkha's engineering skills. The eastern part of the third hall has an attached dark oval shaped room. The reason being that this is the only part of the fort where the roof has not collapsed.
Road: Road distances of major Gurkha Forts from
Rail: Kalka Railway Junction is 40-kms from Malaon Fort, 80-Kms from Nalagarh, 45-kms from Banasar Fort, 20-kms from Subathu Fort and 15-kms from Dhar Fort.
All budget hotels are available in Solan and Nalagarh. The forts located at Subathu and Banasar can be visited in 2 days from Solan