There are five Qilas (forts) of Anandpur Sahib (sometimes quoted as six which includes Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib); these are the defensive forts which were constructed by Guru Gobind Singh, during the 25 years that the Guru spent at Anandpur Sahib for the defence of the Sikhs and the community.
The neighboring hill Rajas and their Mughal allies became increasingly hostile towards the success of the Sikh community and their associates thriving in their midst in this region. Seeing the need to protect Anandpur from its hostile neighbors the Guru ordered the construction of a series of defensive forts (Qilas in the Persian language).
Sometimes, Keshgarh Sahib is not counted in the total and so reference is made to the 'Five Forts' of Anandpur Sahib; one central location with five forts encircling the town.
There were, as well, several other minor forts around the city, but the five forts encircling the fort surrounding the city were the main defensive forts that bore the series of attacks and siege that led to the Guru's eventual decision to leave the city under its attackers solemn promises of safe passage to Punjab.
Unfortunately, most of the original buildings were demolished by the hindu hill rulers and mughals.
The forts constructed by Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib are:
Keshgarh Sahib - Keshgarh is the name given to the main location that Guru Gobind Singh constructed in Anandpur Sahib in 1699 where the Khalsa were born. The location is where Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib is now. The other five forts surrounded Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in a masterful defensive strategy.
All the forts were joined together with earthworks and underground tunnels. Sometimes Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib is not regarded as a fort as the construction was different from the other 'proper' five forts.
The construction began in 1689 and took over ten years to complete. Guru Gobind Singh used to hold congregations on the hill where Keshgarh Sahib is located. His revelation of the Khalsa and its first initiation (Khande Di Pahul) took place here in 1699.
At that time the hill of Keshgarh Sahib was at least 10-15 feat higher than it is today. It was a very strong fort and before reaching the gates of this fort the armies had to capture the fort at Anandgarh, Fatehgarh, Holgarh, Lohgarh and Taragarh. This fort was never taken in the history of Anandpur Sahib, until Guru Gobind Singh Ji's decision to leave the city.
Qila Anandgarh (Fort of Bliss) - Gurdwara Qila Anandgarh Sahib is situated in the middle of the town of Anandpur Sahib. It is a newly constructed building though marks of the old, original structure are also still traceable. It was the strongest on the five forts.
During the 1930's, Kartar Singh Kalasvalia built a new Qila which is still intact on top of the hillock. The present Gurdwara, separated from this building by a spacious terrace paved with slabs of streaked marble, is a 15-metre square hall with an 8x3 metre porch in front.
The present Gurdwara building complex was raised during the 1970's by Seva Singh (d. 1982) whose successors are now managing and further developing it. Under the Gurdwara Sahib there is also a sacred Baoli Sahib. It is situated in the south east side of Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib.
The 6-metre square sanctum within the hall has above it a lotus dome topped with a gilded pinnacle and khanda. The entire wall surface has a facing of streaked marble. This building was completed in 1970. The water level of an old baoli, a stepped well 4-metre in diameter, is approached through a covered passage.
The baoli has 135 marbled steps. At the lower levels on the eastern flank of the main building are a spacious hall for Guru ka Langar constructed in 1972, and 300 rooms for pilgrims and administrators.
Qila Fatehgarh (Fort of Victory) - When Gurdwara Qila Fatehgarh Sahib was being constructed, Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji was born hence it was named in his honor as Qila Fatehgarh Sahib.
The Gurdwara is a two-storeyed domed building. In front of it is an old well which once served the needs of Fatehgarh Fort.
The present building was constructed during the late 1980's under the supervision of the successors of Seva Singh.
Qila Agamgarh or Holgarh (Fort of Colour) - Gurdwara Qila Holgarh Sahib was the Qila where Guru Gobind Singh introduced in the spring of 1701, the celebration of Hola Mahala on the day following the hindu festival of colour, Holi.
In order to keep Sikhs away from the fake and meaningless rituals of the hindus in which they would throw colour and water, Guru Sahib used to organize competitions of wrestling, sword wielding, arrowshooting, skills at arms in simulated battles, etc.
The fort is about one and a half km north-west of the town across the Charan Gariga rivulet. It was the third strongest fort built by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Hola or Hola Mahalla, thereafter became an annual event of warlike sports in Anandpur Sahib as long as the Guru stayed there. The observance of Hola Mahalla was revived after the Sikhs had established their rule in Punjab. It is now the biggest festival of Anandpur.
The mahalla or the march on this occasion starts from the Takht Sahib on the concluding day of the week-long festival and ends at Holgarh, where sports like fencing, coil-throwing and tent-pegging are held.
The present building, a three-storeyed octagonal, domed edifice, was constructed under the supervision of Sant Seva Singh and was completed in 1970. The sanctum is in the middle of the marbled ground floor.
Qila Lohgarh (Fort of Iron) - Gurdwara Qila Lohgarh Sahib was the second strongest Qila after Qila Anandgarh Sahib as it was on southern side of the city. Guru Sahib had set up a factory for manufacturing of arms. The hill armies attacked city Anandpur Sahib many times but were defeated by the Sikhs from this Qila, its gate could not be broken.
It is situated at one and a half kilometre southwest of Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib. The fort was constructed by Guru Gobind Singh to protect the river flank of Anandpur. It was here that Bhai Bachchittar Singh faced and turned back a drunken elephant which the hill chiefs, during their siege of Anandpur in 1700, had sent to batter down the gate of this fort.
Qila Taragarh (Fort of Stars) - Gurdwara Qila Taragarh Sahib is situated on the outskirts of Anandpur Sahib. It is located 5km from Anandpur Sahib and was built to stop the advancing hill armies before they arrived in Anandpur. Qila Taragarh was built on the top of a hill where one could see for miles around.
There was also a baoli (open well with steps leading down to water level) dug to ensure supply of water for the garrison.
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