Nitish visit draws tourists to forgotten fort

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  • Published 12.01.12

Purnea, Jan. 11: Jalalgarh Fort in the district, shrouded in obscurity and neglect for decades, has suddenly become a tourist attraction following chief minister Nitish Kumar’s visit during the ninth leg of his Seva Yatra this month.

Nitish visited the fort on January 6. Sources said he asked tourism department officials to repair and renovate the remains of the historic structure and develop it as a tourist spot. But even before the renovation project could get underway, the dilapidated structure, around 20km north of Purnea, has started to attract visitors from near and far.

Most visitors claim they decided to come to the fort after hearing of Nitish’s visit.

Araria resident Beauty Das, who came to see the fort today, told The Telegraph: “We have come to see the Jalalgarh Fort after hearing of Nitish Kumar’s visit. He said it is a site of historic importance and could be developed as a tourist spot. We wanted to see the fort before the renovation and changes.”

The fort, plastered with sand and limestone, did once embody the beauty of both Hindu and Islamic architecture, claim experts. The lofty walls of the quadrangular structure had stood strong against the assault of enemy forces.

What Das got to see today, however, was not historic glory but atavistic ruins. “The fort is in a dilapidated condition,” she said.

All that could, however, change soon as the authorities have up their sleeves a revival plan for the fort.

Purnea district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar told The Telegraph: “The fort was declared a state heritage site in 1999. It will now be developed as a tourism centre. The chief minister has asked the tourism department officials to renovate the fort.”

Located at a place what was once an island in the old channel of the river Kosi, the origin is also a topic of debate among experts.

Some claim that Saiyad Muhammed Jalaluddin Khan of the Khagra family, on whom Mughal Emperor Jehangir conferred the title of raja, built it. The fort was supposed to deter an attack by the raja of Nepal.

Others contend that Saif Khan, the nawab of Purnea, constructed the fort in 1722.

Naresh Kumar Shrivastava, a history teacher at National Degree College, Purnea, told The Telegraph: “Experts differ on the construction of the Jalalgarh Fort. Some of them claim that Saiyad Muhammed Jalaluddin Khan, a raja from Kishanganj, built the fort during the reign of Emperor Jehangir to protect his kingdom from attacks by the raja of Nepal. Jehangir ruled the Mughal Empire in India from 1605 to 1627. The fort may have been built during this period.”

He added: “Others argue that Saif Khan, the nawab of Purnea, built the fort in 1722.”

Though its past may remain a subject for academic hair-splitting, the fort’s future could be bright. So could be the future of the villagers who live nearby.

Visitor Beauty Das said: “If the state government pays attention to its renovation, it could be developed as a tourist centre. Once it becomes popular, the economic growth will automatically follow in nearby villages.”