Lastly, at suitable strategic points there were forts for the control of traffic and invasion. Two of these are at Rohtas and another at Gujrat. Yet another, still in occasional military use, guards the all important crossing of the Indus at Attock.
“In the month of Rabi-us-Sani of the year 989 A.H. (A.D. 1581) the emperor ordered to be built on the banks of the Indus, a fortress which he called Atak Banaras, to distinguish it from Katak Banaras” (in Orissa). So Writes Bada‘oni. At the same time Akbar established a ferry here and imported a colony of boatmen from Hindustan, the descendants of who still live at Mallahitola and enjoy the revenue of a village in Chhachh which was granted by the emperor for their support. His primary motive in building the fortress was to use it as a base against his brother Mirza Mohammad Hakim, Governor of Kabul, who had invaded the Punjab; but it remained in service as one of the principal forts whereby the Mughal Empire was held together in its prime. Akbar again went to Attock early in A.D. 1585 and spent the greater part of the year there; and he returned thither in 1588. At Attock he had a mint for copper coins, and dams struck there from his thirty-seventh to his forty-third year (A.D. 1591-97) and a specimen of his forty-eighth year are known. After Akbar, Attock is represented in the Mughal coin-series only by a solitary piece, a rupee of Muhammad (A.D. 1745), but it subsequently became a mint-town of the Durrani dynasty. In 1812 Ranjit Singh seized the Attock fort from the Wazir of Kabul, and it remained in possession of the Sikhs until its occupation by the British in 1849. The first Mughal, Babur, never mentions Attock, though he frequently speaks of Nilab, a few miles lower down the Indus; and it was presumably, therefore, during Akbar’s reign that the place became the main river-crossing.
The Attock fort stands picturesquely on the left bank of the Indus by the side of the Grand Trunk Road (Sarak-i-Azam). It was completed in two years under the supervision of Shams-ud-din Kawwafi, later Diwan of the Punjab, and the inscription on a slab of marble, now set above the inner north gateway, dated 991 A.H. (A.D. 1583) thus gives the date of the completion.
“Unlike the palace-fortresses of Fathpur Sikri and Lahore the Attock fort appears to have been a purely military post designed to hold the river-crossing and guard the bridge of boats which from ancient times until A.D. 1883, when the modern steel bridge was opened, adjoined the site of the fort.
The fortifications are over a mile in circumference and are strengthened with upwards of eighteen bastions, all circular except one, which is rectangular. They are built mostly of a local shaly rock set in thick lime mortar, but for arches, vaulting, domes, and external string-course small Lakhuri brick is used, and for the original gateways a sand-stone resembling that found at Taraki in the Jhelum district.
An interesting feature of the Attock fort is a narrow gallery contrived high up in the walls to give the defenders head and back cover. The greater part of the gallery has a vaulted roof but in one stretch thick fiat roofing-slabs replace the brick vaulting. The battlements, loopholes and machicoulis bear evidence of changes to meet new needs arising from changing armament.
Midway up the wall of a tower on the north and overlooking an extensive stretch of the river is a balcony approached through a four-centred doorway in the front of the tower, and sheltered by a pent or Chajja above. Attock fort is the only building in the fortifications which is designed for residential purposes and, with alterations, is still used as such.
None of the original gateways of Attock fort is now in use, but three are traceable, respectively near the modern Lahori, Kabuli and Water gates. A further modern gateway, known as the Mallahitola Gate, has been opened in the west wall, and another, known as the Delhi Gate, pierces the long modern wall of the British period running north to south from the Lahori Gate and dividing the fort into an upper and a lower area.
The present main entrance, the Mori Gate, facing the Grand Trunk Road on the north-east, probably dates from the Sikh period, but its horn-work and ramp are British.
The Kabuli Gate on the west is the only old entrance now open to view. It is double and flanked by round towers; the outer gate is in line with the fortification wall, and is backed by a square court from which the inner gate opens into the interior. The gates are of sandstone, with four-centred openings under musketry-slits. The inner gate also has three windows with balconies, and is panelled.
In the centre of the north wall is a rectangular projection known as the Magazine. Originally this must have been the principal entrance to the Attock fort, and the modern magazine occupies the courtyard between the inner and outer gateways. The latter is no longer traceable. The top of the inner gateway is still visible and is surmounted by an inscription of the year 991 A.H. In general design it resembles the Kabuli Gate but has on either side a small oriel window with Chajjas and decorated cresting.
There are no old buildings in the interior except some underground chambers in the upper part near the modern Delhi Gate. At present these are inaccessible, but traces of water-channels and reservoirs have been observed in one of them and they appear to have been cool chambers for use in summer. In the lower Attock fort area the small road from the Clyde Battery to the modern Lahori Gate at many places cuts through old walls and ruined vaulted chambers built in small bricks.