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Half day at Kotla Fort

February 22, 2013

Bagulamukhi Temple in Kotla Fort on the Bhed Khad in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India

Where to travel

Covert cultural capital is locked within every falling fort in Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh, India. One of these falling forts, Kotla Fort on the State Highway (SH) 154, features many tales to be told for cultural and historical reasons. Go there and try to read some of these tales and unlock some of the cultural secrets before the fort fully disappears.

Before wandering within the ruins, you have to overcome the fear of wading through a Himalayan brook, the Bhed Khad separating the fort and Kotla Village. While crossing the brook you would visualize how difficult it would have been for the enemies carrying arms and ammunition to wade through it. The brooks lapping and washing the foot of the isolated hill carrying the fort not only protected it but also provided plenty of drinking water. The hill affords views of nearby villages and the Dhauladhar Range, ensuring good visibility for better administration and security of the territory. These geographical advantages placed the rulers in enviable position and gave a sense of security.

Who will enjoy this short adventure trip idea?

People looking for short soft adventure

People interested in art, architecture, archaeology and history

What to do & see: physical, cultural

Kotla / Kotila / Koteleh Fort

The fort at an altitude of about 650 meters (about 2,151 feet) in Kotla Village, Nurpur Tehsil crowns the lush hill surrounded by deep valleys and washed by brooks, Bhed and Dehar khads. The fort was probably built by Raja Ram Chand of Guler in the sixteenth century. The fort in the corridors 15 and 16 (Dehar-Ranital-Kotla) comes in High Environmental Impact Category. The Kotla Fort, erected on a conglomerate rock, follows the building style of Kangra Fort.

The Shimla Circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is trying to restore the protected heritage monument. In 1999-2000, ASI, for example, built steps to the fort and other repair work was completed.

Bagulamukhi Temple 

The yellow color temple, at the entrance of the fort, is dedicated to Goddess Bagulamukhi (Bagalamukhi), an incarnation of Durga.

Ganesh Temple within the fort

The temple walls are decorated with paintings. Some paintings have been restored while others have been faded by natural elements.

Shiv Temple 

Shiv Temple in main bazaar, Kotla is popular among locals. The newlywed brides even offer their chuda, a special set of bright bangles, mainly of red and white/silvery color, worn by brides in north India, to the temple. We found the bangles stored in one of the recesses carved into the temple walls. The terrace commands panoramic view of the village.

The bridge over Bhed Khad

The pillars of the incomplete bridge that was planned to connect the fort with other part of the village are standing idle, staring at the sky and feeling ashamed of not able to help the commuters. That is via locals cross the river bare foot daily.

Confluence of Bhed and Dehar khads

The two mountain brooks meet at the foot of the fort. If you are facing the entry gate of Bagulamukhi Temple, the Bhed Khad drains the right side and the Dehar Khad spanned with an old bridge drains the left side. The old bridge on the SH 154 is fully operational. Both the brooks add up volume to the Beas River.

When to go

You can go any time but river crossing would be risky during rainy season and the trail within the fort would be slippery. The water will be cold in winter.

How to reach

Delhi-Pathankot: about 510 kilometers

Pathankot-Kotla about 50 kilometers

Delhi-Dharamshala: about 500 kilometers

Dharamshala-Kotla about 43 kilometers 

Bus

Mao Fort Hotel, Raja Ka Bagh (Jassur)-Kotla Main Bazaar: The ticket price for about 50-minute bus ride is INR 30.00 per passenger.

You can book tickets for long distance bus journeys online at Himachal Road Transport Corporation (H.R.T.C.), Punjab Roadways (PunBus), Red Bus and Travel Yaari websites.

Car, taxi 

You can drive your own car or hire a taxi. The fare for Standard Class car rented from New Delhi starts from INR 20 per kilometer. For more information and online cab booking try Rail Tourism India.

Rail 

Kangra Toy Train stops at Raja Ka Bagh during the season. However, there is no advance reservation for the train starting from Chakki in Pathankot. 

Delhi-Pathankot trains

The train journey between Delhi, the capital of India, and Pathankot takes 7-15 hours depending on the type of train you choose. Here is a list of the direct trains starting from Delhi and / or New Delhi for your ready reference:

Train Departure Arrival Days Fare range in INR
Name No       Minimum Maximum
Jammu Rajdhani 12425 New Delhi Chakki Bank All 7 days 780 1824
Uttar S Kranti 12445 New Delhi Chakki Bank All 7 days 236 1474
Jammu Mail 14033 Delhi Pathankot All 7 days 216 1424
Dauladhar Express 14035 Delhi Pathankot Mon, Wed, Fri 222 1470
Dli Ptk Express 14037 Delhi Pathankot Tue, Fri, Sun 143 514
Shalimar Express 14645 Delhi Chakki Bank All 7 days 242 1599

 

Book the train ticket online.

 

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Accommodation 

Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department rest house (H.P.P.W.D.) 

You can stay at the Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department rest house in Kotla. The rest house is within walk distance of the Bhed Khad from where you would start the trip to the fort. The accommodation tariff starts from INR 250 per night. Get more information about PWD rest house in Kotla.

Hotels in Jassur 

Hotel Vatika: INR 500-1000 per night plus taxes. Contact 91-9418067085

Hotel Shagun: The tariff starts from INR 700 per night plus taxes. Contact 91-01893-226207

Mao Fort Hotel: The tariff starts from INR 750 per night plus taxes. Contact 91-01893-226830

Hotel The Heights: INR 1,200-3,000 per night plus taxes. Book accommodation online.

Hotels in Pathankot  

Hotel Venice

Hotel Unite

Hotel Alishan

Hotel Capri

The Grand Hotel

Indian Railway’s retiring room in Pathankot

Indian Railway offers accommodation in the retiring room located at Pathankot Railway Station. The rooms are allocated on first come, first served basis. The tariff is nominal: INR 100 for 24 hours for a non-AC room and INR 200 for AC room. Check at the railway station enquiry counter for availability.

Hotels in Dharamshala 

Victoriya Palace

Welcome Heritage Grace Hotel

HPTDC The Bhagsu

HPTDC The Dhauladhar

HPTDC The Kashmir House

HPTDC The Club House

HPTDC The Kunal

Glenmoor Cottages

Hotel Anand Palace

Field Notes 

We enjoyed the half day soft adventure consisting of river crossing and hike on September 19, 2012.

We reached at Kotla Main Bazaar at the bank of the Bhed Khad around 8:00 AM. Since we were not sure about the depth of the brook, we thought several times, “Is it really shallow?” “Shall we cross it?”

After a short wait, we saw school kids preparing to cross it. They removed the shoes, carefully folded their pants or salwars, and shortened the bag slings to ensure that the items do not get wet. Then they crossed the brook without any problem. Some local adults also swiftly crossed it. They gave us confidence to cross the brook. We watched passersby for some more time to chart our course. Our eyes carefully followed their path in water and we memorized the route meandering through the shallow part.

The stream was dragging its feet. The soft sounds died in the highway traffic noise. The sun was bright. We also dared to follow the river crossing ritual: removed our shoes, folded our pants and held our knapsack high to avoid contact with water. Slowly we moved through the water. The cool and quite clean water was refreshing.

Pebbles and sand moved under our feet and we sunk a few inches into the water, making us a bit nervous. But we continued ignoring the shifting sand and pebbles, and reached to the steps leading to the fort in about 15 minutes on our own. It was an enjoyable effort because we get such opportunities rarely. For us, it was a thrilling experience. But it was an inconvenience for locals.

We realized the stark dichotomy between the two perceptions of thrill: A “routine thrill” is a necessity and inconvenience for locals. For tourists, an occasional thrill is an adventure to be performed in leisure for pleasure.

Stony staircase behind the yellow-color temple was partly covered with moss and slightly wet and thus slippery. The short staircase with wide steps merged into the forest trail that stopped at the gate of the Kotla Fort.  Bare and broken bones of the fort still stand tall. The fort ground was full of bushes. Simple art work of the Ganesh Temple attracted our attention. The temple within the fort draws some devotees.  But, no one was there when we stopped at the monument.  We spent some time there and returned to cross the brook more confidently.

 

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