Destination Ramkot | Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK)
Ramkot Fort is an ancient fort situated in Mirpur of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. The view of its interior from above shows a style of use not confined to warfare but also of peaceful living with children and women.
The fort is located on the confluence of Rivers Jhelum and Poonch, on a vertical cliff looking over the shiny blue waters. Due to its peculiar architecture, the Ramkot Fort is distinct amongst fortresses built in the Kashmir region. It is believed that Ramkot was very likely built in the second half of 16th century. .
During excavations relics of the 5th – 9th century AD have been discovered showing a previous ‘pucca’ structure, indicating commerce and religion of times gone by. During the period between the 16th – 17th centuries AD, the Muslim rulers of Kashmir had built numerous forts because of the terrain they ruled over and the constant fear of attack by invaders. Ramkot Fort was the larger and more pivotal of them. The subsequent Sikh Rulers of Kashmir further fortified Ramkot which came into disuse under the British Rule.
The best time to visit the fort is from July to September because during that period time the lake remains full of water and in other months the Mangla lake goes dry and reaching Ramkot becomes bit hard. Whenever you go there, don’t forget to take drinkable water with you. To approach the fort, you have to take a boat from the water sports club at the Mangla Dam, which, after an almost 10-minute ride, would reach the northern extremity of the reservoir. Here, you will find a gigantic fort structure located on the summit of the hill.
From Mirpur the Fort is about 79km by road, from Dina it is 13 km and from Dadyal it is a 30 minute walk; with Mangla Dam beside it, the site is accessible also by boat which is preferred by tourists. Being identical to the architectural characteristics of Mangla and Muzaffarabad Forts, Ramkot was very likely built in the second half of 16th century.
Neither the Azad Jammu Kashmir government nor the federal government, which manages affairs of the Mangla Dam seem to be taking any interest in the protection, restoration and development of this decaying heritage. Although most of the fort lies in ruins, signs pointing to its past life and grandeur are still alive.
Curiosity about the water tanks even being situated on the bank of river still prevails. The historians are not sure why such a relatively small fortress used such large tanks. Although the fort is ruined, there are marks of its past grandeur, for example, the gateway which is strategically designed with firing sits on every angle. The ramps and crenellations for cannons are alterations of the time when Dogra of Kashmir held this fort in 19th century.
It is said that the fort was fully neglected till the late ’90s, when Dr. Anis ur Rehman, head of the Islamabad-based NGO Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, first came across Ramkot on a fishing trip to Mangla. Mr. Rehman told that the fort, when he saw was entirely ruined and inaccessible, it was full of mud and thick vegetation all around the fort and when he contacted the Federal Ministry of Archaeology and told about Ramkot Fort, he was absolutely surprised to know that the ministry had no idea about the fort. With the permission of the government he started working on cleaning and restoration of the fort single handedly.
Than later a roof and door were fixed at the main entrance and whole fort was cleaned and old canons, provided by Pakistan Army were brought in especially from Quetta for the Ramkot Fort. Due to carelessness towards the fort, those old model canons are now broken.
Like many other heritage sites, Ramkot has its own share of myths surrounding its establishment. It is said that the fort was built over the site of an old Hindu Shiva temple, but looking at the present structure of the fort, no one can doubt that it is a construction of the 16th century but like other fortresses in Azad Kashmir such as Throtchi, Mangla, Barjhan and Muzaffarabad, the Ramkot Fort could not make much of a place in historical records.
Holiday Weekly request to both, Federal and AJK government to restore, protect and provide with all necessary facilities for impressive heritage site, the Ramkot Fort so that it could become a major tourists attraction and resultantly it will generate many other tourism based economic activities for the people of the area.