Red Fort Muzaffarabad

The Red Fort or Muzaffarabad Fort, locally known as Laal Qilla or Rutta Qila, in Muzaffarabad city of  Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan, is a 17th-century fortification. The fort is accessible at a 20 min drive from the city center and about a 4-hour drive from the capital city, Islamabad. One can also drive from Mansehra and Abbottabad via Gari Habibullah in 3 hours.

The Red Fort is positioned strategically and standing on a huge rock as a raised defensive post purposefully built to serve as a ground for a counter-offensive. The fort is surrounded by the Neelum River (also known as Kishenganga River) flowing through its eastern, northern, and western sides by making a U-shaped curve. The northern part of the Red Fort had access to the bank of the river through terraces with steps while the eastern part of the fort was well protected from the risks of flood damage.

The fort’s construction was initiated in 1559 by the Chak dynasty of Kashmir to ward off the expansion of the Mughals. However, the Mughals took over Kashmir in 1587 and the fort lost its significance because their interest was Kabul, Bukhara, and Badakhshan rather than Kashmir. However, the fort regained its glory during the rule of Durranis. Later, in 1646, the construction of the fort was completed by Sultan Muzaffar Khan, a ruler of the Bomba Dynasty, known as the founder of Muzaffarabad. The name of city, Muzaffarabad, was named after him.

During the Sikh rule, Maharaja Gulab Singh initiated the necessary renovation of the fort in 1846 and his successor Maharaja Ranbir Singh accomplished the restoration. The fort was used as a military camp before it was eternally abandoned in 1926.

The material used, particularly stones and red brick masonry with rubble, clay, and lime speak of architectural dexterity during construction and subsequent repairs. Even after the massive earthquake in 2005, the fort still stands with all its glory and hopes to be overhauled once again for future generations.

The Red Fort was accessible through a main gate on the eastern side. It had three levels with the lower level providing access to the river. However, the decay over the years has turned the fort into ruins – only the site with retaining walls and damaged rooms serving shelter for animals can be seen. Currently, the Red Fort presents a gloomy picture.

Red Fort is open and accessible to visitors including Pakistani nationals and foreigners. The raised podium making the top of the fort provides mesmerizing views of the surroundings.

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