The Rohtas Fort is a seat of power and a source of legend that offers a mesmerizing view after a climb of the hill.
The Rohtas Fort is constructed on a plateau over the top of a hill with steeply rising sides. The steps directing to the fort are cut into limestone of the hill. In the past, many streams crossed the plateau and the soil was productive, which helped in easy growth of the crops, so that the inhabitants of the fort could hold out for months against any enemy besieging the fort. Thick forests and wild animals surrounded the hill providing natural barriers and dacoits provided other man-made barriers in the past. Thus, the fort which was believed to be invincible, could not be taken by force but only by means of deceit.
Location and ascent It takes around two hours from the district headquarters at Sasaram to reach the foot of the hill over which is the Rohtas Fort. The fort is situated at about 1500 feet above sea level. There are about 2000 odd limestone steps at Medha Ghat meant for the most common mode of ascent to the fort on foot at present. For the visitor they are an exhausting climb of an hour and a half. At the end of the climb, one reaches the boundary wall of the fort. A lovely waterfall is seen during the rains, which falls over the fortifications, and is mesmerizing to watch and hear from a distance. A dilapidated gate with a cupola can be seen, which is first of several provided for well-guarded entrances to the fort. From here one has to walk another mile or so before the ruins of Rohtas can be seen.
Early Period In the Harivamsa Purana it is stated that Rohita, the son of Harishchandra, had Rohitpura constructed with a view of consummation of his dominion (Buchanan, Appendix C). Even though the Fort is ascribed to have been constructed by the legendary Rohitaswa, son of the great King Harish Chandra, there are no historical remains to corroborate the existence of early kings on the fort. The oldest historical record found on the fort is an inscription which is ascribed to the 7th century, thereby implying the existence of the rule of Sasanka in the 7th century over Rohtas.
The legend of Harish Chandra, king of the solar race is well known. It is believed that his son Rohitaswa spent his time in exile from the kingdom at Rohtas, and also married a local tribal lady here. The Gazetteer records that “The tradition that Rohtas was once the seat of their race lingers among the Kharwars, Oraons and the Cheros; the Kharwars call themselves suryavanshi and allege that, like Rohitaswa, they are descended from the Sun; while the Cheros claim that they held the plateau till they sallied forth for the conquest of Palamu. Similarly, the Oraons assert that Rohtasgarh originally belonged to their chiefs and was finally wrested from them by the Hindus who surprised them at night during one of their great national festivals, when the men had fallen senseless from intoxication, and only women were left to fight.” Rock inscription of Sasankadeva About the oldest inscription from Rohtas, Dr. D R Patil has given details in his work “the Antiquarian Remains of Bihar” as follows “the exact location of the inscription on the hill is not given by Fleet, who noticed it earliest in his well-known work on Gupta inscriptions. The inscription is in reverse on the rock and the whole, perhaps, according to Fleet, represents a mould or matrix for casting copper seals in relief. The seal matrix is circular in shape, 4 1/4” inches in diameter, and has, in its upper smaller half a damaged figure of a recumbent bull facing to the right. In the lower bigger half is the inscription in Sanskrit, in two lines, which reads Sri-maha samanta Sasanka-devasya. Fleet’s suggestion that the Sasanka of Bengal who killed Rajyavardhana, the elder brother of King Harsha of Kannauj, is generally accepted. He assigned the inscription palaeographically to 7th century AD.” The only records of Hindu times connected with Rohtasgarh are a few rock cut inscriptions at various places on the plateau. The first at Phulwari, dates back to 1169 AD, and refers to the construction of a road up the hill by Pratapdhavala, theNayak of Japila. Japila is evidently the modern Japla, on the opposite side of the Sone, in the district of Palamu; and Pratapdhaval appears to have been a local chief, who is also known from the inscrioptions at Tarachandi near Sasaram and at Tutla Bhawani near Tilothu. From another inscription at Rohtas, Pratapdhawal is referred to belong to the Khayaravalavansha, which survives in the present day as the tribe of Kharwars. The only other record of Hindu Rule over the Fort is an inscription at Lal Darwaza, dated 1223 AD, which mentions a descendant and successor of Pratapdhavala, called him like Pratapa.