The Doraha Fort or Doraha Sarai is today popularly known as the RDB fort,courtesy the use of the location in Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehras movie Rang De Basanti (RDB) whose key sequence was shot here.
The youth from the region gradually started regarding it as their favourite getaway,post the release of the movie which brought the historical structure into the limelight.
The sarai is some 20 kilometres from Ludhiana city. Located behind Gurdwara Manji Sahib in Doraha,half a kilometre from the National Highway 1,this ancient grandeur oozes legacy and grace out of its two double-storied gateways,which still stand intact. The structure has a beautiful array of rooms and verandas on all four sides with the gates covered in brickwork.
Piecing together the long-lost bits of history of the fort,what we get is a story that narrates itself through the reign of the Mughal Empire in the country.
The historical records regard the structure as an inn rather than a fort as the old and dilapidated historical structure was once used as sarai (inn) by travellers on the Grant Truck Road. It was built during the Mughal Empire,which accorded utmost importance to the road network. The sarai was one of the many night shelters similar to the rest houses of modern times,for the huge armies travelling en route Lahore to Delhi and Agra.
Mughal emperor Sher Shah Suri is credited with the blueprint and creation of the Grand Truck Road during his brief but impressive rule. However,his plan is further believed to have been refined by Jehangir who improved on it and built various sarais on the route.
The many sarais including Noormahal Sarai,Amanat Sarai or the Doraha Sarai are believed to have been built by the Mughal emperors to provide night shelter to their marching armies from Lahore,which had developed into a big market in the region in addition to Multan en route to Agra which was the key location on this side of the country then, says Prithipal Singh Kapur,former pro V-C of Guru Nanak Dev University and a historian.
He says there is no evidence to prove the time during which the structure was built or even the ruler who founded it. But all these sarais were built in the Mughal times as the road communications were given high importance.
These Mughal time caravan sarais which housed many small rooms and a big area inside the rectangular square walls,which fortified the structure were built at regular intervals on the Grand Truck Road. The sarais had sufficient area in the courtyard inside the walls to house marching armies,huge quantities of goods being carried by them along with a large number of animals.
Apart from the armies,these sarais were a blessing for the traders and merchants,who used these night shelters during their journeys between the business locations of Lahore and Agra.
Unfortunately,the successive governments have never bothered to look towards the structure as a monument of historical importance and for want of renovation,the structure is slowly losing its sheen.