kusak fort chakwal

Janjua Heritage Kusak Fort Salt Range Chakwal

Kusak fort is a fortified camp built on top of a solid rock 400 meters high and 100 meters wide, right on the border of Chakwal and Jhelum Districts.

kusak fort chakwal
kusak fort chakwal

Forts in the Indus Valley that Protected India

Kusak is just one of the four strings of pearl forts that were established by Janjua rulers in the beginning of this millennium, to protect India.

The fifth one was Rohtas Fort, of Sher Shah Suri, established much later.

Also, see

These forts formed a protective arc running south to North-East as the first line of defense against invading Armies.

Salt Range forts were meant to slow down invading armies coming from the West long enough for reinforcements to arrive at the opposite bank of River Jhelum.

All four forts were built on cliff edges of Salt Range, just before the plains of India sprawled out down south.

Each Fort is guarding a crucial invasion route that has been used by Ambitious Afghan and Persian leaders trying to grab the Indian Goose that laid the golden egg.

The remaining three forts are Amb Sharif, Malot, and Nandna Fort.

Guessing from their height of around 800 meters from Sea Level, I am guessing all the four forts must have had some sort of visual signaling mechanism in place.

Amb Shareef
malot fort
Malot fort

Amb Sharif Fort in Khushab

Amb Sharif fort being the remotest of the other three, at the Western most end of Salt Range, was the first one to be abandoned because it did not have reserve support to back it up in case of a siege.

Amb Sharif Fort and Temple Complex is so ancient, it has both Hindu and Buddhist temples at its premises.

Amb Sharif Fort was meant to protect the Soon Sakesar Khushab Valley.

Malot Fort near Kallar Kahar

The next in the West to East defense line is Malot Fort guarding the Kallar Kahar ingress point that Babar the Mughal took too.

Malot Fort not only overlooks Peer Da Khara Ridge line that ends up at Bhera, but also the road that leads down towards Choa Saidan Shah in Kahoon Valley, Eastwards.

Malot Fort was used as an observation tower by Sikh Troops.

Kusak Fort Kahoon Valley End

Further eastwards, comes the Kusak Fort that was supposed to be impenetrable and guarded the road that climbs down from the Salt Range at Khewra Salt Mines.

Kusak Fort can only be accessed through a narrow passage that turns south from Wahali Zair Village of Lehr Sultanpur, towards Watli Village.

 The fort itself has a 400 meters drop on the reverse side, straight into Jhelum plains

kusak fort chakwal

Hindu Temple at Kusak Fort

A commander sitting on top of the highest temple of Kusak Fort, at 800 meters height, can see Jhelum, Chakwal, and Kallar Kahar too on a clear day.

Also, see

 

Kusak Fort, no doubt, has been well sited by military scouts, but they didn’t anticipate their enemy to be as desperate as Jalaluddin Feroz Shah Khilji.

Khilji, in 1290 AD with better resources, more eager and ruthless soldiers, over ran this fort and dispersed Janjua Clan.

The second defeat of this fort almost happened in 1398 AD under Amir Taimur, but Janjua instead preferred giving him a safe passage to India.

The last time this fort was overwhelmed was by Ranjit Singh in 1809 with Sultan Fateh Muhammad Khan Janjua on the opposing camp.

In the end it was lack of water that led to the vanquishing of this magnificent fort by Ranjit Singh on behalf of the British after a six month brutal siege.

Nandana Fort

Nandna Fort Pind Dadan Khan

The final fort on the Eastern Edge of Salt Range is the Nandna Fort, guarding the Pind Dadan Khan Invasion route that was used by Alexander of Macedon and Mahmood of Ghazni.

Nandna fort was also wiped out once the patron rulers were banished from their lands by the victors.

Remnants of an ancient Hindu Temple are still standing high on the 700 meters cliff.

kusak fort chakwal

Kusak Fort Distance from Islamabad

On early Saturday morning, I stocked up with drinking water and drove 3 hours to Kusak Fort, at a 140 km distance from Islamabad.

kusak fort chakwal

Trip to Kusak Fort

I planned to complete my trip of the fourth fort of Salt Range, like an itch that had to be scratched.

I took the Mandra- Chakwal- Choa Saidan Shan – Lehr Sultanpur route to reach Kusak fort that lies near Watli Village.

I must admit, I have never been to this Jhangar Valley, which has just one entry and exit points each.

It was a beautiful place, because not many people come here.

Breaking off towards Kusak fort at Wahli Zair Village, you’d have to drive the next half hour on a single gauge, bumpy road.

This road is the only way out of the place too.

That’s how forts are supposed to be, I guess.

The whole valley had rain water harvesting ponds made by intelligent people of olden days.

Now the ponds seemed dilapidated and are being used to play volley ball.

I wonder where the brain went to.

kusak fort chakwal

The Rock Quarry that built Kusak Fort

Passing through fields of yellow saffron, I drove over a quarry of rocks that seemed too freshly cut to look like a mountain.

The box shaped stones strewn all around meant that this was the very quarry that provided the stones for Kusak Fort.

The 370 ft. walls of Kusak Fort were however made of red colored stone, the source of which I couldn’t locate.

When I reached the top of the quarry, I could see Kusak fort perched on top of a massive rock about 100 meters in width and 400 meters high.

The highest observation post of the Fort was visible from my position at the rock quarry 10 km away.

Moving further ahead, the road dropped steeply into a ravine and climbed up again on the other side.

Every difficult turn had guard posts meant to force the hostiles to fight for every inch to advance.

Rainwater pond and British Bungalow at Kusak Foothills

When I got to the foot hills of Kusak fort, I saw the infamous water pool that Ranjit Singh had commandeered to parch Fateh Khan’s troops high up in the fort.

Looking left across the water pool, is the run down building of British Raj Bungalow.

Apparently, the valley’s beauty and precarious ledges overlooking Jhelum a few hundred meters away, were attractive to the British as well.

kusak fort chakwal

The last Battle at Kusak Fort

Legend says that Ranjit Singh personally lead a charge at the Eastern wall of the  fort, to dislodge the defenders, and was in the cross hairs of Fateh Khan – who let him go.

Ranjit Singh, after taking over the fort granted a huge estate to the Raja.

My Climb to Kusak Fort

I asked a local Sheppard boy to point me towards the trail that would take me to the entrance gate of the fort.

kusak fort chakwal

The climb to Kusak Fort entrance gate is not difficult at all – even women and kids can do it.

The tricky part is getting into the broken main entrance of the fort.

Fort entrances are always kept tight so that large formations do not gather momentum to strike down the main door.

I climbed into the fort to find reinforced walls raised all around the top deck of this huge granite stone, with Bastions and sentry towers spaced equally apart.

On the left hand side were the soldiers’ quarters, straight ahead was the fort water storage pond that was still holding out and on the right was a 400-meter drop into Jhelum valley.

Water was all rain-fed, as nothing came up from down below.

I am told the moist winds that blow up from Jhelum plains cool down here and it drizzles quite frequently here.

Climbing upwards from the pond I reached the highest observation post, which was also the temple of the fort.

The farther end was also a steep enough cliff so as not to allow any army of the 11th Century to scale it.

Quite understandably, the rear side of the fort that faced Jhelum, was not defended by any wall or sentry towers.

The fort’s external walls had gun positions for muskets, because of which I gather, this fort was probably renovated after the 16th century.

After spending some time dreaming in the shoes of Fateh Khan Janjua, I climbed down Kusak Fort to the village down below.

kusak fort chakwal

Things to do at Kusak Fort, Chakwal

As I still had a few hours before I turned back, I came up with a brilliant plan to explore other fun places around Kusak Fort.

kusak fort chakwal

Hindu Temple at Wahali Zair Lehr Sultanpur Salt Range

This temple is sited smack in the middle of vast agricultural fields that were once fed through a network of rain water catchment ponds and wells.

The temple still had some of fresco markings intact.

There were signs of another run down temple but I wouldn’t make out which religion it belonged to.

The local Hindu notables left for India in 1947 and one of the two great Mansions or Marhi that they owned locally, collapsed due to disrepair.

The other majestic mansion was reduced to a run-down shanty in the middle of a grimy lane.

Half an hour drive from Wahali Zair is the Ara Basharat mansion which is famous for its breath taking views of Jhelum River.

Sikki Waterfalls, Chakwal Salt Range

I drove on to a water fall called the Sikki Water fall, which is 22 km from Kusak Fort on the road towards Ara Basharat.

Local signboards call it Sikki Lake, but a 20 meters pond does not qualify to be called a lake.

This waterfall grows in volume during the rainy season and slows down to a trickle in winters.

The blue colored pond down below even had tiny fish.

The track that leads to Sikki waterfall is stony and cannot be navigated on a normal car.

It is about 3 km from the main road.

You’d have to drive back the same way you came, so make sure you know how to drive on rocky surfaces.

The last stop before the water fall is an abandoned coal mine shaft.

There is nothing to eat or drink here, so bring your own stuff from the local market before you get here.

The hike from the parking places to the water fall is about 10 minutes and is downhill.

Women and Kids can easily do this hike.

It is safe at Sikki waterfall but I kept a dagger, just in case.

Also, see

kusak fort chakwal

Ara Basharat- Kusak Nature Reserve

Driving back to town center, you’d see a signs of Ara Basharat nature reserve.

This road takes you through un-inhabited territory of this valley which has a beauty of its own.

For the journey back, you’d have to turn back towards Khanpur Chakwal, because of better road condition.

I stopped for a tandoor lunch of Chanay and Kalaijee with tea and then raced back to Islamabad before sunset.

kusak fort chakwal

The sunset at Kalabagh Chakwal looks beautiful over the seasonal marsh lands

Even more gorgeous were the views of Chakwal plains while driving down from 1000 meter high vantage points on the salt range.

Heritage visit to Choa Saidan Shah and Kallar Kahar

Choa Saidan Shah is the strategic town that straddles the pass way through Salt Range, no wonder it is loaded with Historical symbols, Temples and Shrines.

Kallar Kahar is the other significant town that comes before Choa Saidan Shah in the West to East invasion route to India.

Conclusion

It’s about time we Pakistanis pay tribute to local warrior kings that tried to keep marauding invaders at bay. Janjuas’, Kiyani and Gakhars’ may not be angels, but some of their forefathers’ have displayed exemplary bravery, against overwhelming odds, that deserve recognition in our history books, whatever their religion was at that time.

If you found my writing interesting, please do comment below it, share and subscribe.

Also, read


Enjoy the video

Similar Posts

10 Comments

  1. Kussak Fort के बारे में आपने जो जानकारी दी उसके लिए धन्यवाद। आशा करता हूँ कि इस किले को कुशक क्यों कहा जाता है उसके बारे में भी जरूर जानकारी देंगे। साथ ही कुशक में ही जिस जगह पर युद्ध बन्दी बना कर अलक्क्षेन्द्र (सिकन्दर) को लम्बी दूरी तक पैदल चलाते हुए राजा पोरस के द्वारा लगाए जाने वाले न्याय शिविर में पेश किया गया था उस Kussak Fort Hiking Alexander Trail के बारे में भी विस्तार से जरूर लिखेंगे।

    1. Bohat Shukriya mera blog parhnay ka.

      Mai zaroor mazeed research kar ke 1) kusak fort naam ka origin batao ga 2) Alexander ka trail bhi maalum karun ga

      Aap say guzarish hai ke “nyaay shivir” ka matlab bata dein

      Aur aap ke paas kuch information ho to zaroor likhna

      Thanks Prasenjeet Sahib

  2. Mohammad Farooq Khan says:

    Very well documented.

    1. Thank you for appreciating the effort.

  3. Status Lovers says:

    U described my place very beautifully. I don’t even know these things about kusak, as i visited this fort many times, i live i Choa saiden Shah its another beautiful valley near Kusak Fort

    1. Thanks for your appreciation.

  4. Raja Ali Janjua says:

    Great work. The Raja’s of potohar have always marked the boundaries between Sub continent and foreign lands. Very few people know how great the Raja G’s of potohar had been. Whether it was Peer kala (Raja Ahmed janjua of Khauta 1130 – 1191), Raja Hast Janjua 1499 – 1545 , Raja Tattar Ghakkar or Raja Saranga Ghakkar they have fought bravely against the immense invading armies. They (Janjua/Ghakkar) have also played their part along side the Mughals in contest of India.
    No matter how many times they were annihilated (Ghaznavi,Khilji,Mongol, Taimoor, Gokturk, Sher Shah Suri) they also got their reign back. It was ultimately their Punjabi brother how brought the end to their rule known as “The Sher e Punjab Ranjeet Singh.”

    1. Thank you for reading. Do subscribe to our blog. All of this should be part of Pakistan’s history book, our children read.

  5. farooq hussain says:

    Very well documented. I like the photographs, they are framed well and colors are beautiful. Video is good too. Very knowledgeable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *