A hidden story no one likes to repeat

From where
From where

Kangra Fort was captured by various Muslim rulers a number of times but full control was not possible, because it was difficult terrain to reach, conquer and maintain a possession. Even Raja Todar Mal of Lahore was put as resident there by Emperor Akbar but of no avail in the long run. Finally Emperor Jahangeer had set eyes on it. A fragmentary story is told of a parrot which Prince Saleem liked and the Prince of Kangra was not willing to give same to him. In any case Jahangeer set an eye on the Fort and it was finally in Mughal hands in 1621-22 AD. When news reached of same, the Emperor was in Lahore and overjoyed with the idea. He took Empress Nur Jahan herself and went to the Kangra Fort.

The allure of Kangra was very strong. The funniest thing missed by historian is that even the name Kangra meaning fortress was given by the Mughals, as the ancient name of Kangra was Susarmapura. That is why Jahangeer went on work here immediately on arrival. Jahangeeri Darwaza was commissioned and mosque made there and Jahangeer had his inscriptions put on it. The inscriptions were removed later on and were in the Kangra Fort from where they were brought to Lahore by Prince Nau Nehal Singh. Later on the inscriptions were moved to the Lahore Museum and not all of them, but some are still there in broken form.

Emperor Jahangeer wanted to place his presence there and sent for architects to build him a palace there. Even the foundations of the palace are still there and it commenced in its buildings. He had also taken Court painters with him, as he usually did on his tours, to record whatever he liked, and as Kangra was new and exciting for him, the painters must have recorded each and every detail of the Fort at that time. Unfortunately with time what remained and what gets lost is not in the custody of anybody.

There are paintings in the Lahore Museum which show Willim Moorcroft along with Raja Sansar Chand, but Moorcroft was not new to Kangra. Forster passed Kangra in 1783 at the time of great change. It was mentioned by William Finch, visited by Thomas Coryat 1615, Thevenot 1666, G. Vigne 1835, as well as others. In fact in the story of Raja Sansar Chand, he too had two foreigners working for him in the army, mainly Irishman O’Brien and James.

messenger boy
messenger boy

The question remains. Kangra Kangra Kangra! Actual ancient name Susarmapura not mentioned by anyone as Kangra is a Mughal name. Where were these so called Kangra paintings actually discovered. In the storeroom of Kangra Fort or somewhere else? The truth is that these so called Kangra paintings were discovered all over Punjab, in Amritsar, in Lahore and in other places, but most of them were in the store room of Harmandar or the Golden Temple itself. That is the place from where Bharani the art dealer of Amritsar was being supplied with these works. To put an allure to them, he stated talking about KANGRA to his clients. Even he did not knew their origin at all.

Who formed hundred and one schools of Pahari? William Archer the Indian Civil Servant did and he himself was paragon of confusion about it. When he came to see us with his wife, we had long talk with him and he left written note for us. But his confusion took the better of his sanity and he said he could not reconcile the various facets in his mind. In the end, as told to me by Doris Wiener, he commit’ed suicide for the disturbances in his mind. God bless his soul!

We have in our possession actual wrongly labelled works done by actual Mughal Artists. I never liked to call these works Rajput, or Pahari, or else, as in our view those are all wrong nomenclatures. They are done by artists of all religions and are done of all kind of subjects. I told Malik Shamas (Pakistani expert) the best nomenclature is PUNJAB PAINTING and it stands like that. Different styles of artists cannot be termed as different Schools of Art. So do not rant Kangra with us. Research yourself. Western scholarship is already in great decline and they have lost their ability of connoisseurship of art long time back. Now they see the world through Hindu eyes only!


  1. The legend of M.A. Rahman Chughtai as an immortal Master of this region is there but the phenomena of him being an avid research scholar is still awaiting discovery. Of course the research of Dr Abdullah Chaghatai is well known.

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