Shergarh, a natural hill fort amidst gorgeous scenery is 32 Km South-West of district headquarter Sasaram. Carrying the several untold stories, the top of this hill fort has several natural rampart well-fortified by a number of bastions and bulwarks.
Connected to the main plateau from one side only and protected by two sides by the river Durgawati, the ascent to this fort is not motorable. One has to disembark from the vehicles at Badalgarh, then walking for about 1 to 1.5 km, one reaches the foot of the stairs that lead up to the fort bastions. The grand fortifications of the Shergarh fort are visible from a distance as one approaches it.
While ascending the hill through the wide-open stairs one will surely mesmerize with beautiful sceneries. But at the same time, it will give you a feeling of being in a mysterious settlement, as no proper houses or construction are visible in the vicinity.
one reaches the first bastions, which still retain the glory of the bygone days, and you will start envisaging the scene of a few centuries ago when the fort was buzzing with activities and sentries on the bastions keeping a close eye on the movements.
In absence of any concrete knowledge about the history and origin of Shergarh, Francis Buchanan, who was first to visit this place in 1813, assumed without many bases that it may have been constructed by Sher Shah after his fortification of the Rohtasgarh Fort.
The same assumption has prevailed in the writings of Bloch and Kuraishi on the subject, which, however, does not seem to represent the actual facts. As it is easy to conclude that such a massive fort that too underground on the top of the hill must have taken considerable time and would not have been possible in five years of rule of Afghan ruler.
In the Gazetteer of Shahabad (1966), P.C. Roy Choudhary clearly mentions that the origin of this fort is a mystery and also confirms that the casual remark of Francis Buchanan due to its name of Sher Garh.
Might be this led to his doubtful theory that Sher Shah had built this fort, which appears to have persisted. Through different reasons, he confirms that the fort was existing much before Sher Shah and the stronghold of the Rajput chieftains, who were ruling Shahabad before Sher Shah.
As Sher Garh does not contain any inscription ascribing its erection to Sher Shah, and nor has any building symbolic of his rule, he found it intriguing that Sher Shah would build this fort without leaving any inscriptions or representative buildings. Also, the drawings and scrolls on the conglomerate along with the underground dancing hall do not typically represent Sher Shah’s legacy.
P.C. Roy Choudhary thus reasons out that in his very brief span as a ruler, Sher Shah after capturing Rohtas Garh might have turned his attention to the existing fort of Sher Garh, ideal as the second line of defense.
Legends say that around 1400-1500 years ago it was originally the fort of Kharwar dynasties. There were three rulers of Kharwar clan ruling from Rohtasgarh, Shergarh (nowadays name) and Sarkigarh. Bhurkuda king used to rule from this mysterious fort. In the 15th century, Bhojpur King Raja Gajpati Singh defeated the Bhurkuda’s and established their kingdom here.
In 1537 when Humayun seized the Chunargarh from Sher Shah, then he fled here and asked Raja Gajpati Singh to give this fort for the shelter of his families and soldiers. Raja Gajpati Singh acceded that request and from that time this fort became famous as Sher Garh.
Legends also say that after the war with Mughals, thousands of men and women died inside the fort. And from then only this fort is cursed and abandoned till now.
After climbing through twenty-eight feet wide stairs constructed the whole way with awesome skill, forming short flights from one corner of a zigzag to another, easing the ascent, one reaches to the main entry gate of this fort. The entry gate to this fort, encircling about six miles of area, is so grand and striking, that no one can trespass it.
The main gate opens out into two large covered halls supported by pillars and either of them could accommodate about 1000 persons, as mentioned by the Gazetteer.
A further flight of steps will lead you to a small gate, now in ruins, but one can trace the elaborative carvings.
There are two courtyards in the palace building. The larger one is Bada Angana and the smaller one is Chhota Angana.
The larger court is surrounded by a series of oblong rooms for the attendants. The galleries are covered with stairs and there is a set of ladies chambers in the middle of each side. The elaborate carving with geometrical designs is on some of the door jambs. The roofs are flat and supported on pillars and brackets. In the center of this larger court, there is also a water tank.
On entering the larger court, the first thing that strikes is the near absence of over-ground structures. However on a careful perusal, one notices the hidden passages to the underground chambers within. Standing on level ground, as one discovers the underground passage, one realizes that one is actually standing on a hidden group of chambers within.
Referring to this, Buchanan described that the area formed the roof of a number of apartments that had no light or air except through some small apertures in the terrace. A first-time visitor even today can miss these chambers, if not acquainted with their existence.
As the purpose of these underground chambers is not yet clear, they do add to the mystery surrounding the place.
Buchanan says that these underground chambers were might be for the accommodation of ladies in the time of a siege and as cool resorts in hot weather, but Kuraishi took them as storerooms.
The strong plaster on the wall which was intact until the Buchanan’s visit to Shergarh, and hence he believes that these chambers are for residential purposes.
The three underground chambers explored till now is:
Nach-Ghar or dancing hall measuring about 48’x45’, in the southwestern corner consists of a 24’ square chamber surrounded by an 8’ wide verandah and lighted by arched openings on all sides.
RaniWaas in the north-western corner, perhaps meant for the chief lady of the harem, consists of a larger chamber, 59’x37’, with a narrow gallery on its east, and covered by a series of domes and vaults, supported on masonry pillars, and provided with square ventilators at the top.
Chhota Raniwaas to the north of the tank or to the east of the Raniwaas as above, consisting of a small domed room only, but with very fine plaster.
Several aspects of this fort including the date of its first construction and the builder still remain mysterious. Adding to the mystery are the several underground chambers that the Fort possesses, the remnants of which indicate very superior engineering skill. This mystery is deepening by the remains which lie buried under the debris and the jungle, which have the potential to spring major surprises upon proper excavation.
This massive fort is neither properly protected and nor proper excavations have taken place for the last several decades.
Even the last published Gazetteer of Shahabad (1966), confirming that the Shergarh fort was being a wonderful piece of nature’s handiwork, human skill, and architecture and is a beautiful spot but the same time he says that it is secluded.
The site of Shergarh has rather been unfortunate since, despite the unique features, it has never emerged as a tourist destination. No significant subsequent examination seems to have taken place, and perhaps the place has not been excavated at all.
It lies unprotected left to decay at the hands of the various vagaries of nature. The ramparts and the bastions are fast decayings and the first gate will now not stand its own for a long time. The beautiful courtyards with the pillars having very delicate and artistic designs are full of jungles and snakes.
Locals say that the fort chambers have now been a shelter for outlaws people because of less influx of law enforcers as well as tourists.
The future too of the site of Shergarh doesn’t appear bright as for almost two hundred years since Buchanan had noticed it, hardly much has changed. The site badly needs strong measures for its conservation, even more than it needed two centuries earlier if the remains are to be preserved for the benefit of the upcoming generations.
A proper study and research are required for deciphering and unearthing the hidden truth of its origin. A clearing of the jungles which are eating into the bulwarks of the fort needs to be taken up urgently along with the restoration of the main ascending stairway. It is sure that proper excavations will definitely enlarge our scant knowledge about the history of this region.
And that would also serve as an actual tribute to the author of the Bengal List, who is 1896, had lamented about the lack of much knowledge about this mysterious yet grand fort.
P.S: All the above contents are inspired by Silent Pages India, a complete blog to understand the historical legacy of India by Vikas Vaibhav and excerpts of a conversation between Gargi Manish and Dr. Shyam Sunder Tiwari, whose intensive research for Sasaram, especially for Rohtas will be remembered forever.
Happy Travelling !!