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Rehlu Fort ~ Exploring the Past

Shahpur is a small town on Pathankot-Mandi National highway. From Shahpur to the left, the 9 kms long Shahpur-Chambi link route connects the highway while providing connectivity to many nearby villages. On the same link road Rehlu village is located within 4 kilometers.

Hanging Garden in Rehlu Fort
Hanging Garden in Rehlu Fort

Today, Rehlu village is lost in the darkness of anonymity; it has been a special place in the history of Himachal Pradesh. The ancient fort of Rehlu is situated on a ridge at an altitude of about 300 feet from Rehlu.
The Rehlu Fort which now is transformed into ruins has very interesting history. At present Rehalu is a part of district Kangra, earlier it was part of the erstwhile Chamaba royalty.

Due to its fertile lands, the far-spread Rehlu Estate in the Kangra valley had been the subject of controversy among neighboring homesteads from the beginning.

According to the history, mention of Rehlu is first found in the reign of King Pratap Singh (1559 A.D.) of Chamba. Todarmal, the finance minister of then Mughal Emperor Akbar took this Estate from Chamaba kingdom and got it merged with the Estates controlled by the Mughal.

For about 200 years Rehlu was under the rule of the Mughals and during the period Fort of Rehlu also served as the residence for famous coutr member, Birbal the Vajir of Akbar.

Birbal in Rehlu Fort
Birbal in Rehlu Fort

Construction of Rehlu Fort

When the Mughal empire was poised to collapse, King Sansar Chand of Katoch dynasty took power of Kangra Estate and he then claimed ownership of 11 Estates, which were under the rule of old Trigarat Estate Jalandhar.

As the Mughal dominance came to an end, the local tiny kings started to take control of their free hold estates, which they had lost to the Mughal Emperors.

During the same period the ruler of Chamba, Raja Raj Singh also reclaimed the Estate of Rehlu and merged it in to Chamba.

Chamba being a mountainous kingdom, the Estate of Rehlu was very important for Chamba, considering the economical and war strategy.

The earstwhile Mughal subedar had merged Chari-Garoh and other minor villages with the Estate of Rehlu.
So, the ruler of Kangra Raja Sansar Chand started to put claim on this villages and told the ruler of Chamba, Raja Naresh Raj Singh to handover these regions to Kangra.

Raja Naresh Raj Singh of Chamba, declined the orders of Raja Sansar Chand. Raja Naresh Raj Singh arrived at the Estate of Rehlu and got the Fort of Rehlu constructed.

For this very Estate of Rehlu, in the year 1794 the armies of Chamba and Kangra fought within 2Km of Shahpur in place named Nerti. Now it is known as “the War of Nerti”.

Despite having a small army of about 45 soldiers, the King of Chamba Raja Raj Singh bravely fought beside his army and sacrificed his life instead of retreating.

The small army of Chamba was successful in holding the control of Rehlu Estate, even though their King was martyred.
The aggresor king of Kangra Raja Sansar Chand was able to take few villages under his control.

In the year 1796 for the memory and wishes of his father, the son of Raja Raj Singh, got a Shiva temple constructed where Raja Raj Singh was martyred.

Rehlu Estate remained under the rule of Chamba kingdom till year 1821.

Raja Naresh Raj Singh got the Fort of Rehlu constructed
Raja Naresh Raj Singh got the Fort of Rehlu constructed

In year 1809, Raja Sansar Chand took the help of Mahraja Ranjit Singh to expel Gurkha King Amar Singh Thapa, who had defeated Raja Sansar Chand and with the help of local village chiefs had took control of Kangra for over 4 years.
As per the agreement in Devi Jawalamukhi temple, Maharaja Ranjit Singh will help Sansar Chand to expel Gurkhas and in return Mahraja will rule Kangra.

The effects of Sikh rule over Kangra had its own pressure over Rehlu Estate. Dessa Singh Majithia, who was appointed as the governer of Kangra fort and nearby hilly regions.
In an attempt to take control of Rehlu of Chamba kingdom, Dessa Singh Majithia surrounded the fort of Rehlu.

To avoid war with Sikh, the Queen of Chamba decided to handover the Estate of Rehlu to Sikh governor.
Hence in year 1821 Rehlu Estate was under Sikh rule.

As per the senior residents of Rehlu, the Estate of Rehlu also remained under the control of Mirza’s.
The Mirza’s ruled Rehule Estate for over 5 years and they had friendly relations with the local residents.

Question arises how did Mirza rulers were in Rehlu

This is interesting because with the agreement between Sikh army and the British, Kangra was under the control of the British army. During that period no Mughal emperor attacked Kangra or Rehlu Estate.

It was a golden period of Sikh rule and with the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sikh rule was expanding in whole north west of Bharat.

During this period in the year 1821, Gulab Singh the then prime minister of Sikh Empire, defeated Aghar Ulla Khan the ruler of state Rajouri and merged Rajouri with Sikh empire and gave some part of Rajouri to the Mirza family.

In year 1846, Gulab Singh became the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. In the charge of conspiracy to murder him, Gulab Singh ordered to arrest Rahim Ulla Khan, the last ruler of Rajouri and sent him to prison in Gobindgarh.
Gulab Singh expelled the son of Rahim Ulla Khan to Kangra and handed over the charge of Rehlu Estate to him.
Thus Rehlu Estate remained under the control of Mira family.

Till the independence of India, the Mirza family remained in Rehlu fort. After partition, the Mirza family moved to Pakistan.

Present condition of Rehlu fort is very deplorable. Rehlu fort, one of the historical assets of Independent India, which should have the care of Archaeological Survey of India is lying in ruins.

It has now become the meeting point of the gamblers and drunkards. There are numerous proofs that speak of the hard working administration.

Within Himachal Pradesh, there are many forts of historical importance and which have the ability to provide job to local youth and attract tourists of local and international level.

Rehlu Fort, which should have the care of Archaeological Survey of India is lying in ruins
Rehlu Fort, which should have the care of Archaeological Survey of India is lying in ruins

But they all are lying waste due to the negligence of local administration and the public.
Here is the beautiful sunset View from Rehlu.

Sunset View from Rehlu
Sunset View from Rehlu

Disclaimer/Note :
Original story from republished with due consent from Sh. Mayank Jaryal

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