Fort of the Panchokots

Garh Panchkot is located in the eastern part of India, West Bengal, situated at the foothills of Panchakot (panchet hill), in the north east corner of Purulia District, close to the boundary with district Burdwan and Jharkhand.  ‘Gar’- means Fort in Sanskrit and ‘Panchakot’ is the local name of Panchet hill. img_1047This fort was surrounded by “Parikha” (large canals) at 3 sides and guarded by the Panchokot hills (which is around 2000 feet high) behind. A semicircular moat (parikha) was built which started from one end of the foothill to the other end and the only way to enter was by crossing the moat by using a boat at the center of the semicircle. The rest of the area was either inaccessible due to large growth of a special type of bamboo tree which grew wildly thick making it very difficult for intruders as well as a thick and high stone wall that was constructed. img_1058Alivardi Khan had become the Nawab of Bengal in April 1740 after defeating and killing Sarfiraz Khan. Rustam Jung, Sarfiraz’s brother-in-law challenged Alivardi Khan but failed in his endeavours which prompted him to call for the help of the Maratha Rulers of Nagpur, Raghoji Bhonsle. img_1065A Maratha cavalry was sent by Bhosle who entered Bengal through Panchet. Panchet was a part of an ancient East Indian kingdom known as Rajchakla Panchkot . Damodar Sekhar, established Panchkot Raj probably during early 900 AD with the help of Sardars of Jhalda and expanded his kingdom over several other parganas. To give recognition to the main five (panch) clans (khunt) of the locals the kingdom assumed the name Panchkot.

img_1068Panchkot Giri has its references in the Puranas also. Panchakot Raj was probably a part of Tilakampa Kingdom. Telkupi was capital of Tilakampa Kingdom. Telkupi, a village under Raghunathpur police station, was submerged with the construction of Panchet Dam. Garpanchkot name evolved from the gar or garh (fort) of the king of Kashipur, who constructed a garh and a temple in this hill.img_1064The kings of Panchakot family, who are still surviving had ruled this region uninterrupted from 940-1750 century under the name Garh Panchkot. They had to shift their fort to Kashipur due to Mughal attacks.img_1087Now these Maratha men came to be known as “Bargi’s” started looting the countryside. 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 Maratha King. During one of these encounters Garh Panckot was attacked by the “Bargi” and having defeated the King’s guards. They destroyed Kashipur Rajprasad after looting and plundering the palace which was made of  “Choon Surki” or a paste made of lime and powered clay bricks fused using water as a base to hold the fire clay bricks.img_1072It is believed that all the 17 wives of the king committed suicide in a nearby well during the attack. Since then this L-shaped “Kashipur Rajbari lies in ruins (about 20,000 sq feet, the Palace alone) would have been a massive structure. The whole surrounding created a silhouette that made those facades look like some ghostly figures standing and hiding some untold mysteries related to this land. The ruins of the Panchkot Palace are a silent testimony to the Bargi attack during the 18th century.

The only remnants are the main entrance of the “Kashipur Rajprasad”, parts of brick walls and 6 arched entrances to the “andar-mahal” now a days.img_1073A group of temples are still standing as mute spectators of the rise and fall of the dynasty. The temples are of different architectural styles, the principal one being a ‘Pancharatna’ temple accompanied by ‘Jor-Bangla’ type and more than one ‘Pirha’ type temples made of stone.img_1082The Pancharatna temple carried some depleted but exquisite piece of presumably pre-muslim period terracotta work on its arches and pillars but it was restored recently after which it lost its charm and is an absolute mismatch.img_1093500 meters away and a bit up-hill from the main ruins of the GarhPanchkot, lies ‘Dhara’ a perennial spring channeled through a ‘Cow mouth’ made of stone.IMG_1076.jpg600 ft above sea level in the middle of Panchakot hill the guard’s quarter stands as a formidable fort. The watch-tower was two storied but there was no sign of any staircase or ladder from the ancient times. They used some kind of light for “signalling purpose” that time from this tower. img_1095

 

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