It was time to say goodbye, the train was about to leave, I had gone to Howrah station to drop my wife and daughter as they were going to Ranchi to my in law’s place for the Durga Puja vacation, unlike any other year we always travelled together for a vacation but this year it was scrapped. My daughter would just not let go off my hand and I could feel the tear drops rolling down her eyes and drop one by one on my feet. She just wouldn’t stop sobbing and kept begging me to come. Just to cheer her up I told her not to worry as I would take the next train to Ranchi as I did not get a train ticket in this one. She stopped crying and held my hand; then she asked me to promise that I would be coming in the next train. I had to say yes as the train was about to leave but she kept reminding me that I had promised to be with her when she opens her eye the next morning from sleep.
The train leaves and suddenly I feel a chemical rush in my blood, somehow I have to be in Ranchi the next morning as I had promised to my daughter. On reaching home I got on my laptop to see the next available train to Ranchi, the next one was at 10.10 PM Howrah – Hatia Express, by luck I manage to get a RAC ticket.
Next morning the train reached its destination Ranchi ten minutes earlier than scheduled and managed to find an auto waiting right outside and went straight to my in law’s house. As promised my daughter was still sleeping and I quietly sat next to her and tapped her shoulder, reluctantly she opened her eyes and it lit up seeing me beside her, she hugged me and thanked me for keeping the promise.
Day 1 – Ranchi
We skipped visiting anywhere else as being Asthami it would be extremely crowded and all traffic movement would come to a halt. We postponed our trip for next day, but on the same day we had to also travel to Chaibasa which meant that we had to leave Ranchi by 9 AM, the only other option was to start early at around 5 AM for the sightseeing. For this the best person would be Aftab, the same guy who took me and my friends around Betla and Netarhat earlier this year. Called Aftab and he immediately recognised me and agreed to reach at 5 AM the next morning for an adventure which by now he is quite used to.
The Search for Jagatpal Singh’s Fort
I had read about this place called Jagatpal Singh’s Fort at Pithoria but as usual not much information were there on the net except for the fact that the place is cursed and every year lightning would strike this fort. The curiosity in me was again at its peak and I had to visit this place. Even Aftab our driver had never heard of this and only knew the road from Ranchi to Pithoria Chowk.
As promised Aftab reached our house by 5 AM and we were off to Pithoria to find more about the cursed fort. Being early in the morning there were very minimal traffic and we cruised on to Pithoria Chowk. It was late October the weather was quite cooler and Rianna had to be all wrapped up.
Ranchi to Pithoria Chowk
Within 45 minutes we reached Pithoria Chowk and now it was adventure time, we had to locate the fort and the only direction that I had with me was to take left from Pithoria Chowk. Asked a couple of local shop owners and they were all giving different directions, some of them had no clue about any fort in that area. Then we changed our strategy and started asking about old broken buildings which might be in that locality, we started getting some directions and one of them told us that there is an old “Raja’s Mahal” and we immediately knew that we were in the right direction.
We were now driving inside the small village and the roads became narrower and narrower, the villagers were up and were busy in the morning activities, the village market was about to start its business so from all around we could see people carrying vegetables for selling in the market.
After much navigation we finally reach a dead end and now it was adventure on foot, after walking about 100 meters finally I got a glimpse of the old fort. Finally I have managed to track it down and what I had read earlier was right in front of me.
Location of Pithoria Fort
Now there was another problem, I could see the fort in the distance but could not reach near as the fort was completely surrounded by agricultural land and all of them were barricaded. On asking a local the direction to reach the fort I was given a very pessimistic reply “You want to visit the old raja’s fort now early in the morning? Don’t you know that there are ghosts insides and of course the hundreds of snakes that infest the hollow walls”. Quite stunned by this I still insisted for the direction to reach the fort walls, I was then told to take another route from the other side and cross a field full of cabbages.
Finally I had the way and signalled Smita and Rianna to join me in my quest. We crossed the cabbage fields and reached the edge of the fort. There was no direct way to enter the fort and only could be photographed from outside, however even from outside the grandeur can easily be seen. Large pillars and decorated windows, I am sure that during its peak this fort would have stood out in its isolated surroundings.
The fort is basically a two storied structure, as far as I could see there are three visible sections. Section one has a single floor structure with decorated windows and doors, the second section is a two storied structure, the third section is the one with huge columns and there can be a forth section but cannot be seen directly. According to the locals there is a temple structure inside the fort also.
Unfortunately significant portions of the fort had been encroached upon by the local population and access to some sections of the fort is not possible as residential buildings have come up preventing any visitor direct access.
The Curse of Jagatpal Singh
Now why was this building cursed, some quick research gave me a vague idea about its origin, with no direct document as evidence it was time to stich different sources to create the following story.
The story goes like this, King Jaimangal Singh and his son King Jagatpal Singh established Pithoria as a local trading hub. This place under their rule became an important cultural hub of the Chotanagpur region. Notably King Jagatpal Singh was very popular and was very much loved by his subjects. It was also known that he in turn kept good care of the residence of his kingdom. He was also instrumental in lot of developmental work which established him and his kingdom known far and wide.
The British rulers in India were already having well established links in Chotanagpur area and the rise of popularity of the king of Pithoria signalled them to start showing interest in this locality also. This was a new territory which was not under their rule and they were desperate to bring this region under their influence.
During the 1830’s The Great Rebellion had already started in the plateaus of Chotanagpur and the British Forces were continuously fighting the different tribal groups under the command of Captain Wilkinson. King Jagatpal Singh decided to side with the East India Company and not with the rebelling tribals. This however did not go down well with the local population and in peoples eye he was being seen as a traitor to his motherland.
In the year 1857 when there was a mass uprising the East India Company there were fierce war in this region and since King Jagatpal Singh supported the British so he provided much logistical support which helped the forces to overpower the rebellion. This rebellion was mainly led by Thakur Vishwanath Sahdeo who was captured by the forces of East India Company and was hanged on January 8, 1858 at the gate of Ranchi Zila School. This was done to bring fear in the hearts and minds of the local population to avoid further rebellion.
But before being hanged Thakur Vishwanath Sahdeo cursed Jagatpal Singh that his reign and his kingdom will soon come to an end, further he cursed that his fort will be struck by lightning till it collapses completely.
Thus the locals say that till date every year especially during the monsoon lightning will definitely strike this fort destroying it further and further. However some scientist refute this claim and say that the lightning keeps striking this fort due to its isolated location and being the tallest structure in the locality is more prone to lightning strikes.
Future of Pithoria Fort
This fort is a piece of his history and requires an urgent maintenance else our next generation will not be able to see any of its portions ever. With the local population fast encroaching on its property in no time most of the sections will soon fall prey to land grab. So don’t waste time, whenever you are in Ranchi do visit this place, who knows if you wait a little longer this place will no longer exist.