While India is full of temples, beaches, mountains and historic monuments, there are many unknown, hidden places the tourists haven’t explored yet. Cuttack is a city of such surprises because of its ability to have something for everyone. The Silver City of India is home to famous temples, a legendary mosque, festivals and fairs and a stadium.But the city’s throbbing heart and soul is the Barabati Fort. The ancient fort is in ruins today but the history, the memories all have kept it alive and the tourists can’t stop visiting it.
The city was built around the Barabati Fort and because it flourished, they named the city ‘Katak’ (Fort). Currently we know it by the anglicized version of ‘Katak’- Cuttack. The Ganga Dynastybuilt Barabati in around 989 AD. An impressive structure, it is spread over an area of 102 acres. The entire fort wall except the entrance seems to be missing.
In 1915, the Archaeological Survey of India declared Barabati Fort a protected site. It has helped maintain the fort and understand its historic and cultural importance. In 1989, Archaeological Survey of India started excavating around the fort to understand the architecture, history and culture behind it.
Structure of Barabati Fort-
Built upon a square plan, a stone-paved moat surrounds the fort on all sides. Tourists, visitors and locals can pay their respects to the mosque and Mazar of Hazrat Ali Bukhari even today in the fort. Excavation work has left the fort disrupted but green grass and trees still stand strong to soothe and please visitors during the cooler months.
Barabati Fort has seen as much history as the city of Cuttack and perhaps even more. The fort has withstood sieges, tyrannical rulers, emperors, attacks and welcomed guests, royalty and soldiers with equal strength and fortitude.
In 1361, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq invaded Orissa and captured Barabati Fort. Grabbing all the rich booty and treasure, he returned to Delhi a victorious man.
Hindu kings and citizens considered Barabati Fort a girdle of the earth goddess. A Hindu King brought a statue of Lord Gopal and enshrined it in the fort.
Even the British couldn’t stay away from Barabati. They didn’t occupy the fort but they used the stone and brick from the fort to build roads and houses nearby.
The years kept passing, rulers kept changing but Barabati handled them all. They ravaged, shattered and tore through the fort either trying to get in or trying to keep the attackers out. Now the walls remain silent and a remnant of the golden era and men gone by.
The Archaeological Survey of India has managed to find statues, instruments, weapons, tools, and antiquities during their work at the Barabati Fort.
The team found idols of Lord Surya, Lord Ganesha, dancing figures among the excavations. Archaeologists also discovered weapons such as lead bullets, iron cannon balls, arrowheads. They also found a silver coin minted at the factory of Mughal ruler Shahjahan.
A major discovery was the possibility of ruins of a temple belonging to Lord Purusottama was found at the fort. Considered to be built by the same Ganga dynasty, it was assumed that Tughlaq destroyed the temple during his invasion of Cuttack.
Hindu forts and palaces often had a grand shrine during the old days and the archaeologists stumbled upon pillars, moldings, and carvings that reiterate that idea.
Barabati stands still today, near its namesake stadium and watching over the city. Excavation work continues even to present day. Historians and archaeologists want to understand what went on and help bring Barabati Fort back to its former glory.