Exploring Kamlah Fort in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh

Mandi, a historic town nestled along the Beas River, serves as the gateway to the enchanting Kullu Valley. Renowned for its 81 ancient stone temples adorned with intricate carvings, Mandi is often referred to as the 'Varanasi of Hills' or 'Chotti Kashi". Besides its religious and cultural significance, the town boasts an impressive display of colonial architecture. In this article section, we delve into the intriguing history and architecture of Kamlah Fort, a must-visit attraction in the region.

A Glimpse into the Past

The Kamlah Fort, a historical gem nestled in the heart of Himachal Pradesh, stands as a testament to its glorious past. Kamlah Fort, perched atop the treacherous terrain of Kamlahgarh, owes its name to a local saint, Kamlah Baba. Rising to an impressive elevation of 4,772 feet, this fort is a testament to both architectural ingenuity and strategic positioning. The kingdom boasted an impressive array of 360 forts, each playing a crucial role in safeguarding the realm. The Kamlah Fort held a significant advantage due to its exceptional design and formidable defenses.

Construction and Resilience

Kamlah Fort stands as one of the most formidable fortresses in Himachal Pradesh, boasting a history that is intertwined with the rulers of the Kingdom of Mandi. The story goes back to 1625 A.D. when Raja Suraj Sen founded the fort. Legend has it that a shepherd, while tending his flock, discovered a miraculous site. As he idly chipped a tree on the hill's summit, milk gushed forth from the incisions he made. A few feet away, a lingam, representing the deity Siddh, emerged where the milk touched the ground. The Siddh, speaking through the idol, instructed the shepherd to convey to the Raja that building a citadel near the lingam would bring him victory over the surrounding territory.

A Sacred Legacy: The Siddh, revered as the guardian spirit of the fort, continues to be worshipped at Kamlah Fort. His shrine enjoys the patronage of the State, emphasizing the spiritual significance of the place. It gained a reputation for its strength in the region.

The fort is located on the hill known as Sikandar Dhar, which is known for its vast expanse. It got its name from Sikandar Lodhi (1489-1517), who camped here during his attack on Mandi in Raja Dilawar Sen's time (1472-1499). Dr. Vidya Chand Thakur, an etymologist, identifies a village named Sikandar in this area as the main campsite of Sikandar Lodhi.

Kamlahgarh fort remained the treasury of Mandi state from Suraj Sen's reign to Ishwari Sen's rule. During Shamsher Sen's reign (1727-1750), an Afghan, Nawab Adina Beg, the Governor of Jalandhar, tried to invade Mandi in 1745-46 but retreated upon realizing Kamlahgarh was too strong to be taken. Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra attempted to capture Kamlahgarh during Raja Ishwar Sen's rule (1788-1826) and managed to influence two generals, Murli and Manaku, responsible for its safety. But due to the loyalty of a soldier named Bhagu, they couldn't conquer it. Kamlahgarh alone resisted Sansar Chand's attempts to seize it.

In Raja Balbir Sen's reign (1839-1851), Prince Nau-Nihal Singh, grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and son of Raja Kharag Singh of Lahore, along with his Italian General Jean-Baptiste Ventura, made multiple efforts to capture Kamlah fort and succeeded with great difficulty in 1840. The Sikhs then ruled over Mandi through Shaikh Ghulam Muhai-ud-din. Raja Balbir Sen was arrested but was released in May 1841. He boldly attacked Sikh garrisons and reclaimed all the forts except Kamlahgarh, which didn't surrender until the war's end. On March 9, 1846, a treaty was signed between the British and the Sikhs, returning the fort to the state of Mandi.


Kamlah Fort is renowned for its exceptional architectural excellence, seamlessly blending the intricate styles of the Rajput and Mughal eras. The fort is made of locally sourced stone and showcases the unmatched craftsmanship of a bygone era. As one approaches the fort, they are immediately drawn to the exquisite details, including intricate carvings, graceful arched gateways, and ornate balconies that adorn its facades. These remarkable features, created by gifted artisans, stand as vivid testaments to the artistic brilliance that brought this magnificent structure to life. 

A Trekker's Paradise

Today, Kamlah Fort has become a haven for trekkers and history enthusiasts.While the fort has fallen into disrepair, it remains a fascinating historical site that is well worth a visit. Its geographical coordinates are 31° 48' 37" North, 76° 41' 0" East. Situated at an altitude of 4,772 feet, this magnificent fort offers a thrilling trekking experience through rugged terrain before visitors can revel in its grandeur. 

Upon reaching the Kamlah Fort, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. It is not the sole attraction awaiting your exploration. The Kamalgarh region is home to a cluster of five forts, including Chawki, Chabara, Padampur, Shamsherpur, and Narshinghpur. These forts are conveniently situated in proximity to one another, eliminating the need for extensive travel between them. The fort's elevated location provides visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the Mandi region. The lush green hills, meandering rivers, and the distant Himalayan peaks create a picturesque backdrop that is perfect for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers.

In conclusion,Kamlah Garh Fort in Mandi is a blend of history, architecture, and natural beauty make it a remarkable destination for those seeking to connect with India's past while being surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Himachal Pradesh.  Its strategic location, intertwined with the rise and fall of various dynasties, makes it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

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