The main attraction at Bathinda is the fort. As far as I know this is the only attraction. It is a long afternoon walk but because the streets are narrow, buildings lining them provide shady paths. I have been walking for nearly twenty minutes, may be more, when suddenly I step out into the sun. The massive fort is staring at me just a few paces away.
By first impressions, I am glad to have seen this. I am looking at the sole entrance into the fort. It is at the southern end of the eastern face. I have seen so many forts and palaces all across India but nothing as spectacular as this one when it comes to defensive bastions. The bastion to the right is 30 meters high and at its base has a width of 16 meters. The face of the bastion slopes up and in a way forms its own buttress. Above the arched gateway is a parapet with rooms of the barbican.
On the inside, the fort is a bit disappointing. The design isn’t appealing. What I find here is a confusing mix of bastions, towers, walls, parapets, ramps and partitions. There is even a gurudwara. Some of it has been recent reconstruction of fallen ruins. Others are restored brickwork of their original periods. Most of all, the buildings within the fort walls have come up at different times without any understanding of aesthetics. Understandably the builders were more concerned of defence rather than aesthetics. Much of it today appears as a patchwork, additions and modifications of older buildings. The fort was originally of mud bricks in the 6th century AD. Mahmud of Ghazni took it in the 11th century. Razia, the first female sultan was Delhi, is said to have been imprisoned here in the 13th century. As some point it went into Mughal occupation before coming into the hands of the rulers of Patiala.
I walk inside the fort among the open spaces and for a while on the high ramparts. I get a glimpse of a velvet blue hummingbird. My visit to the fort has been too quick. I think it’s a good idea to walk the streets around the fort. Indeed, the view of the bastions from outside is much more impressive that what I have seen inside. There is neatness, order and even beauty. There are four large bastions and 32 smaller ones along the lengths of the fort walls. Occasionally the crenellated ramparts are decorated with chhatris. At places the brick lining on the bastions have come off. The insides composed of mud and bricks are revealed.
An iron railing protects the fort from encroachments. Today’s laundry is drying on these railings. Modern buildings lining the roads sometimes block full view of the fort walls. I see workers recycling cotton from old mattresses. Women workers are reusing this cotton into newer mattresses and stitching them up by hand. Whether they realize it or not, they may be doing this for economy but really they are reducing India’s per capita carbon footprint.
In the evening I visit the Rose Garden. True to its name there are lots of roses in bloom. Beautiful and colourful as they may be they lack fragrance. Cultivating roses is really an art and tough decisions must be made. The pathways are beautifully laid. Radio music is playing all across the park, the speakers cleverly hidden in boxes that blend in with the low hedges. Water channels for once are not dry. There is a small theme park for kids. The lawns are green and bordered with rose beds. This is a pleasant place to end my day and take away good memories of Bathinda.