Palamu Fort – A Close Encounter with a Tiger


Palamu Fort - A Close Encounter with a Tiger

Some parts of this blog was already mentioned in my earlier blog about my Betla – Netarhat trip but I have decided to write a separate blog about Palamu or Betla forts since its importance is often not recognized in the history of that particular region. But the main reason for me to write this blog separately would be to tell you a fascinating story of our encounter with a tiger. Do read the whole blog then you would actually feel wehat we felt exactly.

Me and two of my friends decided do go for a short trip during the March 2015 Holi vacation to Betla and Netarhat. This was planned to be mainly a photography tour where we would spend the entire day just walking around with our camera.

Even though it was March but it was still quite cold around Ranchi and when the train arrived at the Ranchi station we could feel the chill in the air. We first reached my in-law’s place where we freshened up and were ready by 8.00 AM, luckily our designated vehicle also reached on time ready to take us to our first destination Betla.

Route Map – Ranchi to Betla
Route Map – Ranchi to Betla

We took the Ranchi -> Kuru -> Latehar -> Daltonganj route to Betla. The journey was uneventful as such, we made numerous stops to click photos en route. Latehar was bit scary as we could see heavily armed Special Forces at every turn. This was due to the fact of high insurgency activity in this particular district. We could see the hesitation in the eyes of Aftab (our driver) as he kept repeatedly kept telling us not to make so many unscheduled stops. Initially we decided to have lunch at Latehar but it was quite early so we decided to have tea at a road side Dhaba.

En Route to Betla – This Stretch Is At Kuru
En Route to Betla – This Stretch Is At Kuru
Local Women with Their Daily Chores
Local Women with Their Daily Chores
Latehar
Latehar
Latehar – The Trees Look Gold from the Afternoon Sun
Latehar – The Trees Look Gold from the Afternoon Sun
Approaching Daltonganj
Approaching Daltonganj

We took a left turn towards Betla once we reached Daltonganj. A big gate welcomed us to Betla and after driving few kilometres we crossed Kechki (confluence of North Koel and Auranga rivers). This meant that our adventure has finally started as we are now within our travel plan. We stopped by Kechki and took numerous photos of the bridge and its surroundings.

Road Diversion - Betla to the Left and Daltonganj Town to the Right
Road Diversion – Betla to the Left and Daltonganj Town to the Right
This Gate Welcomes You to Betla
This Gate Welcomes You to Betla
Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel from the Bridge
Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel from the Bridge
Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel
Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel

After a twenty minute drive we finally reach Van Vihar Hotel at Betla. The hotel was in the process of a makeover so we could still see open electric wired etc. Flooring was done recently but the walls lacked a fresh coat of paint. Even though all rooms were AC but we were warned that since most of the time the facility will be run by generators thus AC will not be operational. However we were surprised to see new bed, blankets, LED television etc. in every room and all of them were branded. I am sure in a year or so the entire hotel will get completely modified.

By now we were hungry like tigers and quickly dumped our bags in our room and went to the dining room. Lunch was simple with rice, daal, potato fries and an option of egg curry or mixed vegetables. Post lunch we decided to go to Betla fort. We had informed Aftab earlier so he was ready to take us to our destination. To go to the fort you need to buy a ticket from the Betla Forest office. They charge Rs. 150 per vehicle, guide charges are additional and optional.

Hotel Van Vihar
Hotel Van Vihar

Palamu Fort…s

Van Vihar Hotel to Palamu Forts
Van Vihar Hotel to Palamu Forts

History

 This portion has been taken from The Imperial Gazetteer of India – Volume 19
– New edition, published under the authority of His Majesty’s secretary of state for India in council. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1908-1931 [v. 1, 1909]

Page 337 & 338

The Imperial Gazetteer of India – Volume 19
The Imperial Gazetteer of India – Volume 19

Reliable history does not date back beyond 1603, when the Raksel Rajputs were driven out by the Cheros under Bhagwant Rai, who took advantage of the local Raja’s absence at a ceremony at Surguja to raise the standard of revolt. The Chero dynasty lasted for nearly 200 years, the most famous of the line being Medni Rai surnamed ‘the just,’ who ruled from 1659 to 1672 and extended his Raj into Gaya, Hazaribag, and Surguja.

The erection at Palamau of teh older of the two forts which form the only places of historical interest in the District is ascribed to him; the other, which was never completed, was begun by his son. These Rajas apparently ruled as indipendent princess till between 1640 and 1660, when the Muhammadans made several attacks on them and forced them to pay tribute. In the latter year occurred the attack on Palamau fort and its capture by Daud Khan, which forms the subject of a large picture (30 feet by 12) preserved by Daud’s descendants and described in detail by Colonel Dalton in the Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1874.

In 1722 the ruling Raja, Ranjit Rai, was murdered, and Jay Kishan Rai, descended from the younger son of a former Raja, was placed upon the throne. A few years afterwards Jay Kishan was shot in skirmish, and his family fled to Megra in Bihar. Here they took refuge with one Udwant Ram, a Kanungo, who in 1770 took Gopal Rai, grandson of the murdered Raja, to Patna and presented him to Captain Camac, the Government Agent, as the rightful heir to the Palamau Raj. Captain Camac promised the assistance of the British Government and, after defeating the troops of the ruling Rajas gave a sanad for five years to Gopal Rai and two of his cousins. From this time Palamau was included in the British District of Ramgarh.

A year or two later, Gopal Rai was sentenced to imprisonment for being concerned in the murder of the Kanungo who helped him to power. He died in Patna in 1784, and in the same year died Basant Rai, who had succeeded to the gaddi on his imprisonment. Churaman  Rai succeeded; but by 1813 he had become insolvent, and Palamau was sold for arrears of revenue and bought in by the Government for the amount due. Three years later old disturbances between the Kharwars and Cheros were renewed, and Palamau was given to the Deo family in Gaya as a reward for their services in helping to quell them.

Their regime, however, was unpopular, and in a year the country was in open rebellion. So Government was again forced to take up the management of the estate, giving the Deo family as compensation a reduction of Rs. 3000 in the Bihar revenue payable on their estates in Bihar. In 1832 the Kharwars and Cheros again broke out in rebellion, but this rising was soon put down. There were not further troubles until the Mutiny of 1857, when the Kharwars rose against their Rajput landlords; and the mutineer of the Ramgarh Batatalion, taking refuge in Palamau made common cause with Nilambar and Pitambar Sigh, the malcontent landholders. The 26th Madras Native Infantry and a portion of the Ramgarh Battalion which had remained loyal defeated the insurgents at the Palamau forts. Nilambar and Pitambar Singh were taken prisoners and hanged. In 1834 Palamau was included in the District of Lohardaga (now Ranchi), and was only formed into a separate District in 1892.

Some Details of the Forts

 This portion has been taken from Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1925 – 26

Page 30 & 31

Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1925 - 26
Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1925 – 26

Further work was also taken on hand on the two old Chero Forts at Palamu the Purana and the Naya Quila which date from the 17th century. A description of these Forts and a brief note on their history has been given in the report for the year 1922 – 23.

The forts are situated deep in the jungle of the forest reserve and repair work that has to be done for their preservation in the removal of the dense jungle growth that all but obstructs them. Substantial progress to this end was made in the previous two years against an estimate of Rs. 3557 but the work was far from complete and a sum of Rs. 1579 against a further estimate of Rs 4281 was spent during the year under review in constructing it. Great trees and thick jungle have been cleared from the encircling walls of the two forts and from a margin of some 10 feet along them both inside and out. Tall trees have been cut down and the work in hand aims at the removal of the great intertwining Pipal roots that spreads over and penetrate into them for unless they are removed the jungle will only spread again.

The conservation of the fort walls generally will be limited to the removal of this jungle for funds will not permit of their constructional repair. The main gates with their outworks and enclosed courts will however be kept up in sound structural condition. They are an interesting example of the fortifications of this period and the Nagpuri Gate of the New Fort has the further merit of being a particularly fine example of Early Mughal architecture. It is sadly ruined and almost everything but the actual archway itself has collapsed but such as remains is well worthy of preservation. The elaborate arabesques raised in relief of the outer facade of fine grained white sand stone are exquisitely wrought and are comparable with some of the best work at Agra.

The fall of the adjacent fabric has left exposed the outer abutment of this archway and it is proposed to erect a buttress against it fir its support.

Paths through the dense jungle in the interior of the forts have been cut and it is now possible to approach the remains of the several small palace buildings within the walls of the Old Fort. These buildings are generally too badly ruined to repair and it is proposed merely to keep them free of jungle and clear the debris from about them.

The Raja’s Kuchari on the New Fort is generally in better condition and a few minor repairs will be put in had for its preservation. A path cut through the thick jungle up the hill side to the entrance of the New Fort has greatly facilitated access to it and it is learned that the jungle clearance effected here has induced many more people to visit the remains than formerly. It is of course impossible to clear the whole area within the walls and no more will be attempted than to maintain free of jungle the paths and margins that have already been cleared.

The small brick mosque situated close to the breach made in the wall of the Old Fort by the British in 1772 and through which one now enters the fort is also being preserved and the broken parapets and roof with its low triple dome are being made watertight and the undermined walls repaired.

Old Palamu Fort (Purana Quila)

Panoramic View of Old Palamu Fort
Panoramic View of Old Palamu Fort
Fort Walls and Tower As Seen From the Road
Fort Walls and Tower As Seen From the Road

As you enter and go towards the forts you will first find the fort atop a hill. This fort resembles quite like the Jailsalmer fort in terms of its outer design structures. Initially the fort remains well hidden behind tress but as you come closer you can feel the grandeur. It must be noted that the fort area also comes under the extended Betla forest so it’s not uncommon to see some wild animals around.

From Main Road This Narrow Passage Takes You Top to the old Fort
From Main Road This Narrow Passage Takes You Top to the old Fort

The fort is atop a small hill so you have to climb some steep hillside. It can be made out that originally there were stairs carved into the hill side but nature has taken its toll and most of them have completely vanished. I must also warn that some portion of the climb are pretty steep and very slippery.

Most Portion of the Road Are Like This Full Of Stones
Most Portion of the Road Are Like This Full Of Stones
Langurs You Will Find Them Everywhere
Langurs You Will Find Them Everywhere

After about 15 minute climb we finally reached the main gate of the fort. This place is infested with Langurs thus one needs to be careful not to intimidate them. Avoid any direct confrontation with them as they usually do not disturb any human population. Do not feed them as that can cause more nuisance, if you feed one them whole group will come and you might get surrounded. Secure your bags, sunglasses, cameras etc. as these are easy snatching objects for the Langurs.

Main Entrance to the Fort
Main Entrance to the Fort

Visually this fort is stunning as one can feel as if you are transported back to the 16th century and the trots of horses can be felt echoing in the distance. People hardly visit this fort as we were the only ones roaming around. Sometimes thought it felt bit eerie to find no other human soul around you.

Once inside the fort you can see that the entire fort was well fortified with very high and thick walls with watch towers in every directions. These watch towers were very effective in watching advancing army in the distance. This I also the very reason why the Cheros had managed to repel so many attacks by the Mughal Generals.

This Portion Is Actually In-Between the Walls That Fortify the Fort
This Portion Is Actually In-Between the Walls That Fortify the Fort
The Main Courtyard
The Main Courtyard
The Main Courtyard
The Main Courtyard
Walls inside the Fort
Walls inside the Fort
One of the Main Room Still Existing In the Fort
One of the Main Room Still Existing In the Fort
Interiors of the Room
Interiors of the Room

Many portion of the fort have collapsed due to the complete lack of maintenance thus you need to be very careful when navigating through the broken stair cases.

We also spotted a temple in the highest point of the fort, the stones covered in vermilion and the red flags suggest that the villagers still pray here.

View from Top towards Betla Forest Range
View from Top towards Betla Forest Range
Walkways On Top Of the Fortifying Walls
Walkways On Top Of the Fortifying Walls
View of Auranga River from the Top of the Fort
View of Auranga River from the Top of the Fort
The Centre of the Fort Completely In Shambles
The Centre of the Fort Completely In Shambles
Archway On Top Of the Fort Walls
Archway On Top Of the Fort Walls
Narrow Staircase Which Connects the Courtyard to the Top of the Fort
Narrow Staircase Which Connects the Courtyard to the Top of the Fort

The whole fort complex is quite huge thus would suggest you give it enough time ideally a day specifically for each of the fort if you are seriously interested in history.

One needs to be extra careful when climbing down as there are high chances of slipping. All three of us slipped at least once while climbing down. Jokingly we called this incident “curse of the Cheros”.

Light and Shadow
Light and Shadow
Architecture of the Central Main Building
Architecture of the Central Main Building
Entrance to the Main Building
Entrance to the Main Building
Stairs Leading From the Main Building to the Roof
Stairs Leading From the Main Building to the Roof
Tunnel to the Roof
Tunnel to the Roof
The Red Flags Marking Some Holy Spot – Locals Still Pray Here
The Red Flags Marking Some Holy Spot – Locals Still Pray Here

New Palamu Fort (Naya Quila)

Panoramic View of the New Fort
Panoramic View of the New Fort

As you drive another 1000 feet you will reach second fort which is mostly talked about and most of the Palamu Fort images on Google refer to this.

On the left of the main entrance gate (Nagpuri Gate) you will find a ruined mosque. I am assuming this was built after the conquest of Daud Khan since its structure are much newer to that of the fort.

The main Nagouri Gate is a true architect’s delight, the Minakari works can be still seen thus depicts the diversity of the Chero rulers in incorporation of architectural styles from across the country.

Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort
Meenakari Design on the Nagpuri Gate
Meenakari Design on the Nagpuri Gate
Mosque – North of the Nagpuri Gate
Mosque – North of the Nagpuri Gate

The main gate had huge wooden doors but are missing now, the hinge position can still be seen and one needs to assume the enormity of the entire structure.

Holding Area after the Nagpuri Gate
Holding Area after the Nagpuri Gate

Once inside you come to the first holding area, on the left wall there is a small doorway that leads to the watch towers. One needs to assume that these were used by the soldiers to defend the fort when it came under attack.

Mosque in the Courtyard
Mosque in the Courtyard
Interior of the Mosque
Interior of the Mosque

On the right you will find the entrance to the main courtyard of the fort. Surprisingly you will find another small mosque here. Looking at the position of this structure you can safely assume that this was built later as this particular structure is not in sync with the overall design of the fort. In most probability this was built after the conquest by Daud Khan.

Interior of the Mosque
Interior of the Mosque

Moving forward you will find the water well as described in the history books this was done to keep the fort self-sufficient so that during war there would not be any problem of accessing fresh water.

Most of the walls surrounding the fort have either fallen down or dangerously tilted thus one needs to be extra careful when moving around. Another nuisance is that of wild plants and grass growing all around, there is a constant threat of snakes and wild animals also. The next day we were told that a tiger had been spotted by the villages behind the fort and it had attacked a herd of cows. Keep stomping your feet and carry a stick around. During the rainy season I am sure most portion will become inaccessible due to the growth of wild plants.

One of the Water Well
One of the Water Well
Inside of the Water Well
Inside of the Water Well

It will take some energy to climb the steeper section of the southern part of the fort but the climb is worth it considering that you will get some of the most fantastic views from here. You can also get a panoramic view of the Fort on top of the hill.

This fort will also take some considerable time to see through thus it’s recommended to give it a day if you really like old torn down structures with architectural value.

Second Gate inside the Fort
Second Gate inside the Fort
Design on the Wall
Design on the Wall
Second Well Inside the Fort
Second Well Inside the Fort
Passage Leading To the Watch Towers
Passage Leading To the Watch Towers
Most Portions of the Watchtower Have Fallen Off
Most Portions of the Watchtower Have Fallen Off
Remaining Watch Towers
Remaining Watch Towers
Stairs Leading to the Top of Nagpuri Gate
Stairs Leading to the Top of Nagpuri Gate
Structures above Nagpuri Gate
Structures above Nagpuri Gate
Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls
Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls
Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls
Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls
View of the First Fort from the Second Fort
View of the First Fort from the Second Fort
Many of the Broken Structures
Many of the Broken Structures
A Two Storied Structure Still Standing Within the Fort
A Two Storied Structure Still Standing Within the Fort
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
Interiors of the Two Storied Structure
An Unidentified Piece of Stone within the Two Stored Structure
An Unidentified Piece of Stone within the Two Stored Structure

By now it was late evening and the sun was setting behind the hills but we kept going around the fort as we were completely mesmerized by its sheer magnanimity completely forgetting about the fact that the fort is completely secluded and quite far from the hotel. To top it we were actually in the middle of the Betla forest which encompasses the two forts.

Years of neglect meant that the foliage inside the fort have grown quite dense and a presence of wild animal between them can never be ruled out. At a distance we could see our driver sitting quietly inside the car with all the window rolled up, visibly he was really scared to be alone out there.

We were actually not satisfied and wanted to stay a bit longer in order to complete photographing some more portions of the fort but decided to call it a day and come back the next day. When we finally reached our vehicle we could see the fear in Aftab’s eyes, he just uttered “Chaliya Sir…. Yahan pay khatra hai… aas paas dekhiye koi nahi hai. Yeh jungle hai… kuch bhi ho sakta hai.” Sir lets go, there is danger out here, this is a jungle and anything can happen. We simply started laughing at him but he was not buying into our causal approach.

The tiger story…

Next day we decided to have a guided safari inside Betla forest and did our booking at the main gate where we were allotted an old guide. He was able to show us quite a few animals and birds but unfortunately could not show us the famous illusive tiger of the Betla forest. We had photographed all of them and wanted desperately to photograph a tiger at the Betla forest. Regretfully the old guide informed us that the tiger was actually tracked and spotted behind the New Palamu Fort the previous evening at around 5 PM and not only was it spotted but was involved in an attack on a herd of livestock where it managed to kill a cow and take it away.

We were speechless and knew we were really close to it the previous evening and we had taken unnecessary risk staying back till 6 PM the other day when we should have been back much earlier. In fact we were planning to take some shots of the fort from the back of the Palamu Fort to get an overall view. We were all alone last evening and in that dense shrubs inside the fort even an Elephant could have hidden inside without us noticing and for a tiger we could have been a perfect kill.

This meant that while we were still hanging around the fort last evening and making fun of our driver the tiger was busy looking for an easy catch and I would have been the perfect candidate, I am sure I would not have been able to out run the cat and my friends would have managed to get a really good viral video for YouTube. We were actually lucky not to see the tiger else I would not have been writing this blog today. This was not a close encounter with a tiger but more of a close encounter of a different kind….

Don’t worry readers, next time I sill definitely shoot the tiger… I mean click the tigers photograph for you.

Jharkhand Tourism Helpline  :-
18003456571

Hotel Information  :-

Betla
Van Vihar (Jharkhand Tourism)
94303 76275 (Ranjit Singh)

Rs. 900 for AC Double Bed + Tax. Extra Person Rs. 200. Tax and Extra Person payable at hotel

Booking at: Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), Usha Kiran Building, Flat 8B, 8th Floor, 12A Camac Street , Kolkata 700017 Phone – 033 2282 0601

Hotel Debjani

Forest Rest House Betla
72095 98435

Forest Rest House Koel
06562 222993


Netarhat
Prabhat Vihar
93046 76275

Rs. 900 for AC Double Bed + Tax. Extra Person Rs. 200. Tax and Extra Person payable at hotel

Booking at: Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), Usha Kiran Building, Flat 8B, 8th Floor, 12A Camac Street , Kolkata 700017 Phone – 033 2282 0601

 

Sightseeing Information  :-

Betla

Betla National Park = 0 KM
Palamu Fort = 5 KM
Kechki = 10 KM
Barwadih Temple = 15 KM
Suga Bandh = 60 KM
Lodh Falls = 101 KM
Tatha Hot Water Spring = 35 KM
Mandal Dam = 45 KM

Netarhat

Sunset Point = 10 KM
Sunrise Point = 0 KM
Pine Forest = 2 KM
Nashpati Garden = 3 KM

Car Booking :-

Sumo
Sjiraz – 99050 47974

Tata Indica
Aftab – 82298 36263
(Rs. 700 per day + Rs. 200 Driver Allowance OR food for the driver + Fuel*)
* Fuel @ Non AC 12 Kilometres per Litre OR  AC 10 Kilometres per Litre

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14 thoughts on “Palamu Fort – A Close Encounter with a Tiger

  1. Just returned on 11/03/2016 from Netarhat-Betla-Mclucsigunge circuit from my house at Ranchi. Van Vihar, Betla nearly complete. Spotted bisons , langurs and spotted deers only during jungle safari and was informed that only 2 tigers are existing there at present.Now you cannot take your vehicle inside the sanctuary during forest safari but have to hire jeeps from local driver at the total costs of Rs 750/-(Rs.500/- for the vehicle+ Rs. 100/- for the guide who will accompany you and Rs. 150/- as entry fees payable to forests deptt.Enjoyed thoroughly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great trip report and I really enjoyed it. Enough effort and information gone into it. Van Vihar at Betla has been totally renovated, transformed and it does not resemble like the one you have shown here anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

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