Updated: December 31, 2019 4:53:20 am
By Ananya Jain
A narrow passage in Ludhiana’s Fatehgarh Mohalla leads to a forgotten monument, buried under years of bureaucratic and administrative neglect — the Lodhi Fort or ‘Purana Qila’, as it is locally known.
For the city, now a bustling industrial hub, Lodhi Fort is the only structure that still stands as testimony of its roots with the Lodhi dynasty, and from where it got its first name — ‘Lodhi-ana’ or town of Lodhis. It is said that earlier, Ludhiana was just a village called ‘Mir Hota’, before Lodhis developed it into a town.
Today, however, Lodhi Fort is a crumbling structure used as a den by drug addicts, not tourists or visitors. The present generation is largely unaware of any such Lodhi-era structure existing in the city. Worst still, the fort, also known as Lodhi Qila, said to be built under the rule of then Delhi ruler Sikander Lodhi in the 15th century, is still not a ‘protected monument’ under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It is still not listed as a monument of national importance under the ASI.
The Punjab government’s department of cultural affairs, archives, archaeology & museums continues to be the caretaker of the monument. As per information on the website of the department of museums, the Qila was declared a ‘state-protected’ monument in a notification issued on December 19, 2013.
Akash Prasad, a local rickshaw-puller, feels that the fort is a ‘bad influence’ for local youths and has become “a spot for couples”.
Kanta, a roadside vendor, says, “It has become a hotspot for gamblers and drug addicts. Government should do something and develop it instead of letting it become a hub for such activities,” he says.
The fort stood as the military citadel nearly 500 years ago when Lodhis had developed Ludhiana town. It was built on a strategic location along the banks of the Sutlej. It is said that Maharaja Ranjit Singh was also aware of the strategic and historic importance of this fort, which explains why it was acquired and well-maintained during his era.
A senior citizen says, “The fort was well-kept even until the time of Britishers who frequented it as tourists. Today, if it was well-maintained, it would have been a tourist hub but we failed to preserve our roots.”
Ram Chandra, a retired government employee who voluntarily cleans a portion of the fort every week, says, “It is sad that despite being at least a 500-year-old monument, Lodhi Fort is not on the list of ASI protected monuments of national importance.”
According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, an “ancient monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years.”
Zulfiqar Ali, superintending engineer, ASI (Chandigarh circle), told The Indian Express, “The Lodhi Fort of Ludhiana is not under ASI and hence the body is not responsible for its maintenance. It is yet not listed as monument of national importance or a protected one under ASI.”
Ludhiana Mayor Balkar Singh Sandhu said that Lodhi Fort is facing severe neglect but the municipal corporation does not have possession of it. “I visited it twice to see the condition and drug addicts keep sitting there. There are safety concerns. It can be developed as a tourist hub and MC is ready to take responsibility of it. But first the state archaeology department should hand it over to us. We will ensure regular cleanliness and its development into a picnic spot. We had even thought of roping in some NGOs for it but it can’t be done till we do get its possession,” he said.
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