MULTAN: The Punjab government is all set to restore and rehabilitate the historical Harand Fort in district Rajapur which faced a long period of neglect.

“The initial restoration and rehabilitation of the fort will be done with the estimated cost of Rs90m and the scheme has been included in the Punjab annual development programme 2018-19. The work will start as soon as the funds are released,” said Malik Ghulam Muhammad, in-charge of the Archeology Department, Multan.

Protected under the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance 1985, Harand Fort is located on the footsteps of Sulaiman Range. It is spread over 50 acres with 16 bastions to support its wall. The outer wall of the fort is made of thin red baked bricks.

“Located near the town of Harand, the fort was constructed by a Hindu Raja Harnacus and his son, Lok Bhagat, on the pattern of Mohenajo Daro. The Muslim conquerors from Muhammad Bin Qasim to Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded the fort,” said researcher and scholar Mehboob Tabish.

The fort witnessed periods of Hindu, Macedonian and Muslim rulers.

The Sikh army got the control of the fort by defeating local Gorchani Baloch tribe while in 1831; Multan’s Sikh governor Diwan Sawan Mal Chopra utilised the material of the old fort to reconstruct it on its new location to control the Baloch tribes.

There is a myth regarding the arrival of Alexandar in the area of his conquest in the folklore. They say the Hindu ruler of that time had a beautiful daughter, Naushaba, who was strong beautiful, intelligent and adventurous. Alexander heard of her and was intrigued to see her in person. He disguised himself as a messenger and went to the court of Naushaba who had seen through the plot of Alexander and reconised him. The Macedonian invader married her. However, there is no validation of this story in historical records.

“Persian poet Nizami has narrated the story of Alexander and Naushaba in his book Eskandar Nameh,” says Mr Tabish.

He said all the Muslim invaders from the East conquered the Harand Fort and used it for their next moves in India.

“The British fought for the fort with the Baloch tribes in 1867 and used it as a cantonment after victory. They also carried out excavation of a small portion of the fort and sent the recovered artifacts to the British Museum in London,” added Mehboob Tabish.

“The border military police is currently occupying the fort and they saved the site from robbers,” said Malik Ghulam Muhammad.

He said inside of the Harand Fort is also bad condition and there is a need for the archeological excavation of the fort to trace the structure, settlements and plans of the fort.

“Attached to the entrance inside the fort is a structure of rooms. The structure has been damaged due to negligence and intervention of humans with passage of time,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2018