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.
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 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
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 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.
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.
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|
|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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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
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
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.