Dinanagar, India: Dinanagar, a tiny town in Gurdaspur District, can boast of being the erstwhile summer capital of the great Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but it has failed to maintain the glory of the monuments related with him.
The structures once owned by the emperor are turning into ruins as nobody is bothered about their continuous collapse. Even the historic gates of the town built by him, through which hundreds of local residents pass daily are also on the verge of collapse.
The Maharaja’s ‘Kothi’ (palace), does not even have a roof and is inhabited with wild bushes, while some litchi orchards owned by local residents surround this ancient structure.
Though the king used to spend his summers in the town due to its rich green belt with a large number of mango and litchi trees, Dinanagar has lost almost all of its old trees, except a few still left in an old building of the Arya Samaj sect.
The wildlife in the area, including a large number of peacocks which used to enhance the beauty of this fort, has also become a thing of the past. Apart from peacocks, the rich forest was once home to wild boars and other wild animals who wandered freely in the area. The wild life officials now visit the area only to collect the dead bodies of peacocks, which are killed by stray dogs.
Madan Lal (70), a local resident, claimed that the ‘Kothi’ of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which once had a magnificent structure, should have been taken over by the ASI as it now stands in bad shape.Lal claimed that the palace, now surrounded by thick litchi and mango orchards, had two secret tunnels which were used by the Maharaja in the time of danger to reach Jammu and Kashmir.
Inside the Kothi, he also showed the HT team a manger for the king’s horse on its third floor. As per the local folklore, his horse used to come running from a distance and jump to the third floor of the palace where he got his feed.
Lal also claimed that the legendary Kohinoor diamond, which was later taken by the British, was once studded in the centre of the palace.
Lal said that the stable used for Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s horses is now owned by a government school, while the old fountains have been dismantled by the municipal council which have set up their office at the place.
The six old gates, built with the old Nanakshahi bricks and used as entrance to the town, are now collapsing and posing danger to the lives of local residents as these may fall any time.
Rajinder Saini, another local resident, said Dinanagar has always remained neglected, despite having a rich history linked with the great Sikh emperor. “If the administration makes some serious efforts to restore the old glory of these monuments, this place can become a destination for tourists,” he added.