The Lost Kingdom of Navratangarh


 

No idea is simple when you need to plant it in somebody else’s mind. This line from the movie Inception sums it all up for what I am going to write. Well unlike the movie this was not planted in my dreams but came to me while I was wide awake and eating breakfast.

It was 16th of December 2014 and I was invited along with my family for a breakfast at my in-law’s neighbour’s house. I was served bread toast with butter as this was favourite breakfast menu. The breads were crisp and brown with a thick layer of molten butter on top. I was busy enjoying the bites when I realized that the bread crumbs were falling on the carpet below so I decided to spread out the morning newspaper around the plate.

On the second bite when I looked down to keep down the bread and grab some tea I saw a news clip that was just laid in front of me. I stopped eating and immediately picked up the newspaper to read the content. It was a Hindi news daily called Prabhat Khabar and this article was just in front of my face like a read beacon. Hindi was my second language so I could manage to read the entire content though a bit slowly and I was already roaming around this magical mystical place just like the movie Inception. I took my mobile phone and clicked some snaps of the news article so that I can re-read it in details later.

The newspaper clipping from Prabhat Khabar
The newspaper clipping from Prabhat Khabar

By now it was New Year 2015 and I was still planning the trip to this mystical place called Doisagarh. My wife Smita wanted to visit her father during the extended Republic Day 2015 weekend, 23rd of January is celebrated in Bengal as Netaji Jayanti so her school will be off from 23rd till 26th of January at a stretch. Same applies for my daughter’s school so I decided to utilize this somewhat long gap for an opportunity to visit Doisagarh.

(Navratangarh) Doisagarh is located in Gumla district of Jharkhand and is not much far from the capital city of Ranchi thus my calculation with the help of Google Map was around 1.5 hours of drive each way. Smita wanted her father to come along so that it will be a good change for him also and added advantage would be that he loves to do long drives and would be thrilled to drive us in his car. Smita called up her father and informed about the plan and as I had guessed he was very eager to come along.

Since we were travelling to Ranchi so we could not think of missing out meeting our common friend Aerbin who had also accompanied us to North Sikkim trip thus a quick chat on WhatsApp confirmed his availability during that time and he also agreed to come along. Since Aerbin is also an avid biker so he was aware of the route thus would be an asset to help my father in law navigate.

We took the Howrah – Hatia Express train from Howrah station on 22nd of January. We booked the ticket late thus our tickets were RAC (Reservation against cancellation) but I had received a confirmation SMS from IRCTC about our confirmation along with the coach and the berth. On occupying the mentioned berth I was approached by another passenger claiming that the berth occupied by me we his. I was surprised since he was carrying a paper ticket with the berth mentioned. He also informed that he was a Railways employee and the seat I was occupying was a Rail Employee Quota. Confusion continued for a minute or so as I was trying to log into IRCTC from my mobile to re check. Right at that moment I received another SMS from IRCTC confirming that the reservation chart has been re done due to technical error and followed by the new berth number. Luckily I was assigned a different seat in the same coach thus we could easily relocate.

The departure time was around 10.10 PM and the drain departed with a 15 minute delay. The journey was uneventful except the biting cold at night. The train reached Ranchi station at the scheduled time of 7 AM the next day. My father in law was waiting for us at the station and after navigating amongst the 1000 passengers all cramping to cross to the e xit using a single walk over bridge we reached the parking lot.

We had no travel plans for 23rd as there was a prayer service arranged in the memory of my mother in law thus we had planned for the adventure the next day on 24th of January. Aerbin had confirmed that he would reach our house by 9 AM the next day so that we can plan for a departure at approximately 9.30 AM. That night I sat with my father in law mapping out routes on the map. The route planned will be as following :-

Ranchi -> Nagri ->  Bero -> Bharno -> Sisai

From Sisai we would have to take a left turn towards (Navratangarh) Doisagarh.

Route map from Ranchi to (Navratangarh) Doisagarh via Sisai

24th morning came and I was excited with the anticipation that my dream would become true soon. Smita prepared some stuffed parathas to carry during the journey. My father in law also packed some fresh  banana that were ripe in his garden. Aerbin arrived at around 9.20 AM and we were all set for the departure. As my father in law was about to start the car the self-start was not getting activated. I was fully prepared to push the car to start but my father in law reconfirmed that the battery was new and fully charged. It was just a loose contact so on the second try the car started like a hot knife through butter and was ready for the journey ahead.

The roads were smooth as such occasionally there were few pot holes on the way. All around Ranchi I could see new infrastructure projects coming up. This was a good sign as the state needs to develop a lot and very quickly. What struck me was that most of the bridge and over passes were half completed across the stretch. Most of these projects were left half done and were the main cause of traffic congestion.

Going towards Sisai
 
Going towards Sisai – Small houses, yet very colourful
 
 
Varied landscape
 
 

We drove through beautiful landscapes with farm land and some barren red soil landscapes. It was a ride that I enjoyed with the cool breeze and the warm sun above. We reached Sisai and now had to turn left somewhere, this job was left to Aerbin for him to figure out and after a quick enquiry with the locals we were told to take the very next left turn. Till now the road was well paved but as we took the left turn the roads almost vanished and were we driving in half paved roads.

Canyon made from soil erosion en route from Sisai towards (Navratangarh) Doisagarh
 
 
Canyon made from soil erosion en route from Sisai towards (Navratangarh) Doisagarh
 
 

After driving around 10 – 12 kilometres we decided to ask for further direction since I was almost certain that we were somewhere nearby. I could see two villagers standing ahead, one was well dressed and the other looked old and had an axe in his hand. I Advised Aerbin to ask the well-dressed man as he looked more appropriate. Aerbin quickly went out and asked him, this well-dressed guy looked stunned and could not give us any direction when Aerbin showed him the new paper article to confirm if any such structured are around he still could not give us any clue.

Aerbin asking for direction
Aerbin asking for direction
 

Just at that moment the other man who looked like he just returned from the nearby forest after gathering firewood took the piece of paper in his hand and gave us the nod that he knew where it was. He directed us to take the small almost hidden road in between the bushes and trees. We thanks him and moved on. We all laughed since the man who we almost thought was negligible was more informed.

The narrow road takes you towards  (Navratangarh) Doisagarh
The narrow road takes you towards  (Navratangarh) Doisagarh
 
The road takes sharp turn between the woods
The road takes sharp turn between the woods
 
 

After taking a right turn we entered a narrow passage and slowly the road became smaller and smaller. After some sharp twists and turn finally we arrived at a gate and beyond the gate Behold… lies  (Navratangarh) Doisagarh… the lost kingdom of the Nagvangshis. Since there was no one at the gate we drove the car inside and parked in a shade.

 The main structure
The main structure
 

The whole surrounding area were full of ruins and almost looked identical to that of Hampi of Karnataka. There were around 10 to 12 identifiable structures all around the place. Some were still standing and some almost down to the ground. The centre piece was the 4 storied structure which stood out. There was also a large pond like structure right in the middle. Almost green in colour there was still some water in the pond.

 Terracotta Structure 1
Terracotta Structure 1
 
Ruin Terracotta Structure 2
Ruin Terracotta Structure 2
 
 
Stone Structure 1
Stone Structure 1
 
 
Water tank at the centre
Water tank at the centre
 
 

The whole area is spread over between 25 – 28 acres. As per a news reported by The Telegraph the structures are made up of Dhobi Math, Wakil Math, Panch Math and Hamam Math. Some other structures are unidentifiable. There are approximately 10-12 monuments and countless artifacts.

We found some local women attending to their cows and I approached them to ask if they knew what this place was. Unfortunately they had no clue what they were standing on, only they could tell me that the main four storied structure was actually six storied and the rest of the two are still below the ground.

Locals giving us their point of view
Locals giving us their point of view
 
 

We went inside the main four… I mean six storied structure and it did show some signs that there can be two more level buried under the ground. Basically the entire structure was created with clay and stone and there were still some sign that wood might have been used. The stairs inside the structure had collapsed so there was no way for us to climb up. The locals have placed a bamboo pole to climb up but since I am not that athletic thus decided against it.

Inside of the main structure. A massive section of the ceiling is missing
Inside of the main structure. A massive section of the ceiling is missing
 
 
Staircase within the main structure. Most of has completely vanished
Staircase within the main structure. Most of has completely vanished
 
 
Visible upper floor of the main structure
Visible upper floor of the main structure
 
 

The whole are remains hidden from the main road because of the perfect placement of the structures with the natural stone hills all around it. This may have been done purposely since the Nagvanshis were escaping the Mughals and had settled here, by looking at the whole place I am sure hundreds of years back this place were surrounded by thick forest which also acted as a natural barrier along with the surrounding hills.

Black stone hills surrounding the entire area
Black stone hills surrounding the entire area

On enquiring the locals had also informed that there are some more such structures a bit far from that place. I would imagine that those must have been other extensions to the kingdom. What they could show me were small stone structures in the far hills which I assume that it must have been a lookout tower or temples. I wanted to visit these structures also but was informed by the locals that there are no roads as such and one needs to walk in-between the bushes and then climb up a steep hill.

Some structures are out of them main area, like this one on top of the hill
Some structures are out of them main area, like this one on top of the hill
 
 

There other structures also and most of them resembled some kind of temple. Since the deity were missing thus could not determine to whom the temples were dedicated to. Amongst the ruins there was also a well but now it was filled with stones and gravels.

 Terracotta Ruin 2
Terracotta Ruin 2
 
Stone ruin 3
Stone ruin 3
 
 
A big courtyard type structure mostly made of Terracotta and lime
A big courtyard type structure mostly made of Terracotta and lime
 
 
Stone archway
Stone archway
 
 
Terracotta and Lime temple, there is no deity inside the temple
Terracotta and Lime temple, there is no deity inside the temple
 
 
Terracotta ruin 4
Terracotta ruin 4
 
 
Terracotta ruin 5
Terracotta ruin 5
 
 
Terracotta ruin 6
Terracotta ruin 6
 
 
Roof structure of terracotta ruin 6
Roof structure of terracotta ruin 6
 
 

What is striking is the design of the structures. Some of them were terracotta design while some were carved out of stone. The whole area did not follow a single pattern which indicated that this place had been built over the years thus the difference in style.

Stone Temple front view
Stone Temple front view
 
Stone Temple Side view
Stone Temple Side view
 
 

The only inscription that could be identified was in one of the stone temples which was in ruins abut some written text could be identified. It looked like Sanskrit but unfortunately I still cannot find anyone who could translate the exact text. The date written in Devnagri Script which makes the structure 833 years old if taken into consideration the Indian Hindi Calendar.

Inscription within the temple
Inscription within the temple
 
A hunting scene is depicted within the walls
A hunting scene is depicted within the walls
 
 
Inscription within the temple
Inscription within the temple
 
 

Rianna by now was running around and since there was no other people around she had the whole history wither as her friend. My father in law was truly amazed by the whole setting and was much surprised that this place being such near to Ranchi he had never heard of it. Aerbin is a photo addict just like me so was busy clicking whatever he could set his eyes on. Smita as usual was very enthusiastic and even climbed up one of the structures just to get a better view.

Rianna enjoying the History
Rianna enjoying the History
 
Smita taking deep interest in the terracotta structure
Smita taking deep interest in the terracotta structure
 
 
Smita, Rianna, Niral (Father in law) & Aerbin
Smita, Rianna, Niral (Father in law) & Aerbin
 
 

We roamed around for more than an hour and by now the sun was right above our heads. We headed back to our car like victorious warriors. By now the mouse in our stomachs had also started dancing so it was picnic time. Alu Parathas , Chips, Banana, Cake etc. were out from the bag and was much enjoyed.

Picnic time
Picnic time
 
Rianna enjoying some chips
Rianna enjoying some chips
 
 
Smita munching away Alu Parathas
Smita munching away Alu Parathas
 
 

After the short food break we again roamed for around thirty minutes and then headed back to Ranchi. On our way back we stopped at a small village snack shop for some true urban nomad experience. Next day was Saraswati Puja so the local sweet shop was preparing Jalebisand other sweet items. We settles for some pakorasserved with tomato chutni. They tasted really yummy and we gobbled down three plates full of them.

A food stall in the village market
A food stall in the village market
 
Hot Pakoras with tomato Chutni
Hot Pakoras with tomato Chutni
 
 
 
 

On our way back we also stopped at a local vegetable market where we picked up some fresh produce so that we can have that for dinner. We reached back to Ranchi by 3.30 PM and was real tiered, rested for some time and then discussed the whole experience over a cup of tea while relaxing on the sofa. Like an explorer back from finding a new land I declared that this was just the icing on top of the cake. We will embark on more such journeys this whole year and rest cheered accepting the challenge.

So dear friends’ thanks for being with me in my journey of words will meet again with another adventure someplace else. By the way do suggest me some more obscure tourist spots like these.

The director making a cameo appearance 😉
 
 

Some FAQ’s :-

Time taken by car from Ranchi to Doisagarh = 1 hour 45 minutes (each way thus around 3.5 hours of travelling)
Hotels (staying)  = Only in Ranchi or in Gumla no hotels in and around Sisai
Hotels (food) = Some at Sisai but basic food
Security issues = None as such but would suggest to visit during daylight and avoid late evenings
Food & Water= Carry your own snack, specially water since at the site nothing is available

Some facts on Nagvanshis of Chotanagpur :- (courtesy Wikipedia)

The name Nagpur is probably taken from Nagavanshis, who ruled in this part. Chota (Hindi-छोटा) is a corruption of the word Chhutia (Hindi-छूटिया), a village in the outskirts of Ranchi, which has the remains of an old fort belonging to the Nagavanshis. The first Nagvanshi ruler was Phani Mukut Rai born in 64 AD. He was the adopted son of Madra Munda, the Partha Raja of Sutiambe. It is said that when Phani Mukut Rai was found near a tank as a newborn, a hooded kobra (Nag) was protecting him. Perhaps this was the reason why he and his successors were called the Nagvanshis. Phani Mukut Rai ruled from 83AD to 162 AD. Nagvanshis ruled over Chhotanagpur plateau in India for close to two thousand years, from the 1st century to 1951 when the Zamindari was abolished.This would put the Nagvanshis among the top dynasties that ruled the longest in the world, which include the Dulo clan in Bulgaria, The Imperial House of Japan and Hong Bang dynasty of Korea.
 
 

Nagvanshis of Chotanagpur under Mughal period :- (courtesy Wikipedia)

 
In ‘Akbarnama’ the region of Chhotanagpur is described as Jharkhand (Jangal Pradesh). The Jharkhand region was famous by another name Khukhra during the Mughal period which was famous for its Diamonds. Akbar was informed of a rebel Afghan sardar, Junaid Kararani, was taking shelter in Chotanagpur. Besides, the emperor also got information of diamonds being found in this area. Consequently, Akbar ordered Shahbaz Khan Turbani to attack Kokhra (the then seat of Nagvanshi kings and capital of Chotanagpur). At that time Raja Madhu Singh, the 42nd Nagvanshi king was ruling at Kokhra. Consequently Kokhra was subdued by the armies of Akbar and a sum of rupees six thousand was fixed as its annual revenues payable to the Mughals. Till the reign of Akbar, Chotanagpur had not come under the suzerainty of the Mughals and the Nagvanshi rulers had been ruling over this region as independent rulers.
 
By the advent of the reign of Jahangir, Nagvanshi Raja Durjan Sal had come to power in Chotanagpur. He refused to pay the rent fixed by the Emperor Akbar. Jahangir ordered Ibrahim Khan (governor of Bihar) to attack Kokhra.
 
The details of this invasion are mentioned in Jahangir’s memoirs, Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. There was also another reason behind the invasion. This was the acquisition of the diamonds found in the bed of the river Sankh in the region. Due to its diamonds Chotanagpur was also known as Heera Nagpur and its Raja Durjan Sal, being an expert of diamonds, was known as Heera Raja among the people. Thus to subdue the Raja of Chotanagpur and to acquire valuable diamonds, Jahangir decided to invade chotanagpur. On getting orders from the emperor, Ibrahim Khan marched against Kokhra in 1615 AD.
 
He entered the Nagvanshi territories easily with the help of his guides. The Nagvanshi Raja Durjan Sal found himself beleaguered himself within the hills and vales. He fled and was at last found in a cave with some of his family members. He was arrested and all diamonds which were in the possession of Durjan Sal and his family were captured by Ibrahim Khan. Twenty four elephants also fell into the hands of Ibrahim Khan. After this, Kokhara was subdued and the diamonds found there were sent to the Imperial court. After his defeat and arrest, Durjan Sal offered as ransom jewels, gold and silver to the value of crores of rupees, but Ibrahim Khan did not release him and took him as a captive to Patna. From there he was sent to the Imperial court and subsequently imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior.
According to Nagvanshi traditions and Col. Dalton, Raja Durjan Sal’s confinement lasted twelve years. Ultimately, the very diamonds which had caused the misfortune of Durjan Sal secured him his release and former prosperity. It so happened that from some place, two very large diamonds were brought to Emperor Jahangir’s court. A doubt arose in the mind of the Emperor over the genuineness of one of them.
 
As no one in his court was able to confirm or relieve his suspicion, the Heera Raja was brought to the Imperial court from his incarceration. When the two diamonds were brought before him, he without any hesitation pointed out the fake one. To prove it to the court and the Emperor, he requested two rams to be brought to the court. He then tied the two diamonds on the horns of the two rams and made them fight each other. As a result of the fight, the fake diamond shattered but there was no scratch on the pure one.
 
 The Emperor was so impressed and pleased with Durjan Sal that he not only released him but also restored the prosperity taken from him in addition to his kingdom. The generous Durjan Sal further begged the Emperor to release the other Rajas who had been his companions in prison and his prayer was granted. Being pleased with Durjan Sal, Jahangir conferred the title of ‘Shah’ on the Kokhra ruler.
 
On his return to Chotanagpur, Durjan Sal assumed the title of Maharaja and changed his surname. Most probably from that time ‘Shah’ was added with the names of the Nagvanshi kings. The reign of Durjan Sal lasted for about thirteen years. He died in 1639 or 1640 AD.

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5 thoughts on “The Lost Kingdom of Navratangarh

  1. Hi Subhadip,
    A ton of thanks for what you have complied here.. I am from Sisai only and I can say ” Ghar ki murgi dal barabar perfectly fits for Navratangarh”. As you mentioned a negligible man who just returned from forest was more informed about the place..
    Anyway keep travelogging…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simple language , yet intriguing and in-detailed post of an almost unknown place with so much of history and value in understanding the history of this part of the country. Thanks a ton to share this with rest of the world with perfect photographs, itinerary and the piece of history at the end as well!
    Wish your happy feet to explore more such unknown, hidden treasures of our country!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debjani, Thanks a lot for the wonderful comments. My habit or rather I should say hobby of blogging started when I decided that I need to tell this story to the world. Not only this but I have come across such many sites which hardly anyone visits as most of them are off the main tourist maps. Thanks again 🙂

      Like

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