I have an inexplicable fascination for sepia- for the old and worn out , faded photographs, for stories that permeate into the grain of discoloured paper. As the SUV halted outside the gate of the antiquated stone fort on a bright summer afternoon I glanced up and knew- this was my sepia moment in the mountains. A kaleidoscope of colour all around – crisp ,bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds the reminder of rain the previous afternoon, a landscape dotted with enchanting shades of hazy purple –blue jacaranda flowers on the banks of the Banganga , crystal clear waters gurgling across smooth grey and white rock, vibrant green pine and deodar on the hill side , the mighty snow clad Dhauladhar peaks in the distance and the steely grey solidity of a stone fort that overlooked the colour and the buzz all around with a stately demeanour –after all it had withstood generations of conquerors and the ravage of time.
The sun was harsh and afternoons in hill stations are not meant for trudging up slopes of cobbled stone and breathing in stories of antiquity. But the minute I stepped out of the SUV and stood outside the Kangra fort gate, I knew this was my moment of complete bliss. Above me the fort stood damaged by the earthquake in 1905, invaders and time yet holding its own blissfully aware of the epithet attached to it-“whoever conquers the fort will rule the hills”.
Pariah kites flew in lazy abandon encircling the fort, surveying the ruins that lay below. Splotches of colour here and there dotting the quiet imposing sedate grey – an information board here, a newly planted bougenvellia bush in rampant bloom there.
I stood there atop the fort, trying to catch my breath post the climb and trying to take in the mystique of the structure timeless and eternal. Grey-brown stone columns standing tall , the remains of a temple, carvings on the wall, ghostly silhouette of a peepal tree that knew more stories than the historical narrative could retell. It stood there wise and majestic its leaves gently whispering in the breeze casting patterns on the stones.
Forts and ruins have their own stories ones that I prefer to breathe in on my own, with no guide or informer. The Kangra Fort is not just one of the oldest forts packed with history , mythology and stories. Standing there looking through the ramparts nearly swallowing a heartbeat and soaking in the history I was mesmerised nearly willing time to stand still ,not wanting to go back to buzz and rush of the city and work back home. The fort overlooks the confluence of the Banganga and the Majhi rivers and the windows present a visual delight of the rivers and the valley carved through. I have a penchant for clinging to old stories and each of the walls , corners and doors seemed to have a repertoire of endless stories of mystic and lore imprinted on them.
Silence permeated the broken bits of architecture yet the stone walls wove their magic over me. Perhaps it was the solitude, the exhilaration of having explored something so mesmerising all by myself. Perhaps it was the dull thought in my head that maybe some of my ancestors walked these cobbled stones before me. The fort held a quiet, un-settling ,elusive quality that I could not put my finger on.
Maybe some magic still lives in these walls.