In Pakistan, the earliest characteristic Work of the Mughal period was, in fact, built by the Afghan interloper, Sher Shah Suri, who usurped the throne of the second Mughal emperor Humayun, in A.D. 1539, carried out a number of important constructive works in Delhi and the Punjab, and was eventually buried in a remarkable and famous tomb at Sasaram in Bihar. The most important surviving structure of this reign in the West Punjab is the great Fortress of Rohtas sprawls along a commanding ridge 12 miles north-west of Jhelum. Rohtas Fort was named from an ancient and redoubtable fortress in Western Bihar, where Sher Shah Suri had ousted the Hindu ruler in A.D. 1539. The new site was chosen with skill for a double purpose: to bar the possible return of the deposed Humayun, who fled to Sind and subsequently to Persia, and to control the exile’s nearer potential supporters, the turbulent Gakkhars, north of the Salt Range. Prior to the construction of the Grand Trunk Road, Rohtas Fort lay already on the main road between Lahore and Peshawar, and a relic of former traffic between the mountainous country north of the Salt Range and the plains south of it is preserved in the remains of a Mughal Serai about a mile to the north of the fortress. The broken country hereabouts tended to canalize such traffic along the defile beside the ridge, and, but for the accidents of history, this strongly built Western outpost of Hindustan might easily have played a highly important strategic and tactical role. In the event, it never stood a siege, and its best title to fame is that it supplied the Emperor Jahangir with some particularly succulent partridges when he halted there, as he did more than once during his journeying.
For the general design and present condition of the Rohtas Fort, the description in the Punjab District Gazetteers may be quoted:
“The Rohtas Fort has a circumference of about 2.5 miles, and a dividing wall in addition, about half mile long; the walls are at their base, in many places 30 feet thick, and from 30 to 50 feet high: there are 68 towers or bastions and 12 gateways, and the walls are everywhere pierced for musketry or archery, and here and there for cannon: in the parapets near the gateways are machicolations, from which molten lead could be poured on attacking troops. The Rohtas Fort has never stood a serious siege, and even in medieval warfare would have taken a large army to hold it, for some of the gates are remarkably easy of access and but poorly constructed. Rohtas Fort is now in parts ruined, especially on the north side, where a considerable section of the walls has collapsed; in other places the foundations of soft sandstone have worn away, leaving the walls supported only by the excellent mortar with which they were constructed. Many of the gateways are however, still imposing the finest being the Sohail Gate facing Tilla Jogiyaan which is over 70 feet high, the balconies on the outer walls of this gate are line specimens of the work of the time, and the whole gateway is perfect in spite of the use to which its upper part has been put as a district rest-house. The best gateways after the Sohail Darwaza are the Khwas Khani, where the road from Jhelum enters the fort, and the Langar-Khana, on the north side. The northern part of the Rohtas Fort is separated from the rest by an interior wall, much the same as those on the outside, so as to form a kind of citadel (Andarkot): within it is a small high building of incongruous appearance, said to have been erected by Man Singh in the time of Akbar. The Rohtas Fort contains two Baolis or wells with long flights of steps on one side giving access to the water, now no longer to be found in them: the citadel contains a small ruined mosque of the same period as the rest of the fort: and there are several inscriptions over gateways, but nothing of importance.”
It would appear that no extensive residential buildings were ever constructed within the Rohtas Fort, and the most elaborate architectural features are the gateways referred to above. They are built of fine ashlar, and consist of an archway set in a tall arched recess, which is flanked by oriel windows carried on Hindu brackets, the whole combining moderate strength with grace in a manner that was to characterize the mature Mughul architecture for 150 years.