Hari Parbat Fort is among the most prominent buildings in Srinagar, not least because it is perched on a hill that gives it a marvellous view of Dal Lake. The hill itself has many names, from Koh e Maran to Sharika Hill. Both of these names relate to the legendary origins of this geographic feature in the land.
Hari Parbat Fort is said to have been started by Emperor Akbar of the Mughals at the end of the 16th century, who put into motion a project that was originally intended to erect a fresh capital for the area. This may have been the original intent of the walls bounding the fort, but plans changed as time went on, as indeed was the case for many constructions in that era. Most of the great monuments of India, in fact, are ones that were completed only over the course of several rulers’ reigns: it was very rare for forts and palaces to be finished back then within a single emperor’s time. It was only to be expected, then, that certain variations would be made upon a foundational theme, alterations commanded by rulers with different interests and concerns, modifications ordered due to changing political and geographic climate. Hence, over two centuries later, at the very conclusion of the 19th century, a ruler of the Durrani went on to complete what Akbar had started, although not in the way Akbar had intended. Instead of a new capital, a massive fort was built within the walls of Akbar’s construction, and this became Hari Parbat Fort.
There are several things of note in the fort. For instance, within the walls is a two-story shrine built in honour of a Sufi saint who lived in 16th century, Sheik Hamza Makhdoom. Then there is the Gurdwara Chatti Patshahi in honour of Saccha Badshah, the sixth in the procession of the Sikh Gurus and a dedicated foe of the Mughals. Finally, you have the Shakti Temple, which was built in honour of one of the forms of the goddess Shakti, the 18-armed Jagadamba Sharika Bhagwati. She is believed to be the deity looking over the city of Srinagar, so the Kashmiri Pandits hold the temple in high regard, as do most other Hindu communities in the area due to the Sharika being identified as the goddess Parvati locally. This particular temple and deity are of primary importance in the myths surrounding the fort, in fact-or more specifically, the hill on which the fort stands.
There are several versions of the story as to how the Koh e Maran was created, but all of them feature some maleficent power, be it a daemon or god of some kind, wreaking havoc in the area. The stories typically feature the goddess Parvati taking on the form of an avian creature, then flying up into the air with a stone. The stone in her talons is then dropped onto the head of the evil being in the tales, growing in size as it falls to the earth, and thus slays the daemon and succours the people. As for the stone, it is said to fall off the creature’s head and land nearby, creating a hill-the same hill on which Hari Parbat Fort stands today.