rohtas

The administrative headquarters of the district, Sasaram is a place of historical importance. Another important symbol of national pride are the parallel bridges built over the Sone River – one for road and another for railway. The road bridge (Jawahar Setu built by Gammon India in 1963–65) over Sone was the longest (3061 m) in Asia until it was surpassed by the Mahatma Gandhi setu (5475 m) over the river Ganges at Patna. Nehru Setu, the railway bridge is the second longest railway bridge in India.

The district is also home to the Rohtasgarh fort, which was one of the strongest forts in the medieval age.

The early history of Rohtas is obscure. According to the local legends, the Rohtas hill was named after the Rohitāśva, a son of the legendary king Harishchandra. However, the legends about Rohitāśva make no mention of this area, and no pre-7th century ruins have been found at the site.

The oldest record at Rohtas is a short inscription of "Mahasamanta Shashanka-dava", whom John Faithfull Fleet identified with the Gauda king Shashanka. The Chandra and Tunga dynasties, which ruled in Bengal and Odisha regions respectively, traced their origin to a place called Rohitagiri, which may possibly be modern Rohtas. However, no evidence has been found at Rohtas to confirm this theory.

The folk traditions of the Kharwar, Chero and Oraon communities state that Rohtas was their original home. A 1223 CE (1279 VS) inscription suggests that Rohtasgarh was in possession of one Shri Pratapa.[4]The inscription states that he defeated a "Yavana" army; the "Yavana" here probably refers to a Muslim general. F. Kielhorn identified Shri Pratapa (Śrī-Pratāpa) as a member of the Khayaravala dynasty, whose inscriptions have been found at other locations in the Rohtas district. The members of this dynasty ruled the Japila territory as feudatories, possibly that of the Gahadavalas. The Khayaravalas are probably represented by the modern Kharwars.

In 1539 AD, the Fort of Rohtas passed out of the hands of the Hindu kings into those of Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah Suri had just lost the Fort at Chunar in a fight with the Mughal emperor Humayun and was desperate to gain a foothold for himself. Sher Shah requested the ruler of Rohtas that he wanted to leave his women, children and treasure in the safety of the fort, while he was away fighting in Bengal. The king agreed and the first few palanquins had women and children. But the later ones contained fierce Afghan soldiers, who captured Rohtas and forced the Hindu king to flee. During the Sher Shah's reign 10000-armed men guarded the fort.

Haibat Khan, a trustworthy soldier of Sher Shah built the Jami Masjid in 1543 AD, which lies to the west of the fort. It is made of white sandstone and comprises three domes. There is a mausoleum of perhaps Habsh Khan, the daroga or the superintendent of works of Sher Shah.

In 1558 AD, Raja Man Singh, Akbar's Hindu General, ruled Rohtas. As the Governor of Bengal and Bihar, he made Rohtas his headquarters in view of its inaccessibility and other natural defenses. He built a splendid palace for himself, renovated the rest of the fort, cleared up the ponds and made gardens in Persian style. The palace was constructed in a north-south axis, with its entrance to the west with barracks for soldiers in front. The fort is still in a fairly good condition.

After the death of Man Singh, the fort came under the jurisdiction of the office of the Emperor's wazir from where the governors were appointed. In 1621 AD, the Prince Khurram revolted against his father Jahangir and took refuge at Rohtas. The guardian of the fort, Saiyyad Mubarak handed over the keys of Rohtas to the prince. Khurram once again came to Rohtas for safety when he tried to win Avadh, but lost the battle of Kampat. His son Murad Baksh was born to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. During Aurangzeb's reign the fort was used as a detention camp for those under trial and housing prisoners sentenced for life.

In 1763 AD, in the Battle of Udhwa Nala, the Nawab of Bihar and Bengal, Mir Kasim, lost to the British and fled with his family to Rohtas. But he was not able to hide at the fort. Finally the Diwan of Rohtas, Shahmal handed it over to the British Captain Goddard. During his two-month stay at the fort, the Captain destroyed the storeroom and many of the fortifications. Goddard left, keeping some guards in charge of the fort, but they too left after a year.

There was peace at the fort for the next 100 years or so, which was at last broken at the time of the First War of Independence in 1857. Amar Singh, the brother of Kunwar Singh, together with his companions took refuge here. There were many encounters with the British where the latter were at a disadvantage, for the jungles and the tribal in them were of great help to the Indian soldiers. Finally, after a long drawn out military blockade and many clashes, the British overcame the Indians.

Many tribals like Oraons and mundas of Jharkhand believe that It was their fort before arrival of Mughals. It is in their folklores.

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