Fort that held Nehru

Rajendra Rajan visits Ahmednagar fort in Maharashtra, where Jawaharlal Nehru penned
his famous The Discovery of India, during his imprisonment there from 1942 to 1945

The Ahmednagar fort is a picture
The Ahmednagar fort is a picture of neglect

HOME to 19 sugar factories and also the birthplace of the cooperative movement, Ahmednagar, the largest district of Maharashtra, is known for its sugar, milk and bank cooperatives. About 120 km northeast of Pune, Ahmednagar also houses one of the popular attractions of the region, the Ahmednagar fort.

The mighty fort built by Ahmed Nizam Shah in 1490 AD is one of the best-designed forts of Maharashtra and is counted amongst the impregnable forts of India.

Because of its invincibility, the fort had been used as a royal prison many times.

Among its most famous prisoners was Indiaís first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Apart from Nehru, the entire Congress Working Committee was detained here during the Quit India Movement of 1942. It included Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Pt Govind Ballabh Pant, Acharya Narendera Dave, Acharya J.B. Kriplani, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Asif Ali, P.C. Ghosh, Pt Hare Krishna Mahtabh, Shankar Rao Dave, Dr B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya and Dr Syed Mahmood.

This tree outside the museum was grown from the seed of the laburnum
This tree outside the museum was grown from the seed of the laburnum (amaltas), brought from one of the trees at Teenmurti Bhawan, Delhi, under which Nehru used to sit Photos by the writer

Some pages of the manuscript
Some pages of the manuscript of The Discovery of India are on display
in the museum

The fort houses a museum of freedom fighters, who were imprisoned here between 1942 to 1945. Nehru was jailed here from August 10, 1942 to March 28, 1945.

A small room has been dedicated to Nehru. His belongings, during the course of his detention, have been exhibited in this room. The exhibits include the table and chair, which were used by him to pen his most famous publication, The Discovery of India.

Even the bed used by him has been preserved apart from a few other few items, including furniture, utensils etc. The single charpoy can be seen covered with a clean white sheet. Atop the charpoy are black steel rods still intact. These were used for the mosquito net. Some of the pages of manuscript of The Discovery of India and pages of diary can be seen in two glass display boards fixed on the left wall of the room.

But for the detention of Jawaharlal Nehru at Ahmednagar fort, probably The Discovery of India could not have seen the light of the day. After 20 months of detention, Nehru took to writing it in April 1944 and within a short span of five months i.e. on September 7, 1944 he completed it. The manuscript ran into a thousand handwritten pages.

In one of the pages exhibited at museum, Nehru writes, "Prison is not a pleasant place to live even for a short period much less for long years. But it was a privilege for me to live in close contact with men of outstanding abilities and culture and a wide human outlook, which even the passions of the moment did not obscure. My eleven companions in Ahmednagar fort were an interesting cross- section of India.í

One of the trees grown outside the museum building is also of historical significance. The tree was grown from the seed of the laburnum (amaltas) brought from one of the trees at Teenmurti Bhawan, Delhi under which Nehru used to sit. The tree was grown and planted by Major General A.S. Vaidya, the then Commandant of Armoured Corps Centre and School on August 9, 1973.

The fort, situated in the heart of city, has the portraits of all 12 CWC members, which have been exhibited in a bigger hall adjacent to Nehruís room.

Counted amongst the impregnable forts of India, it has 24 citadels and a moat that is 30 metres wide and at least six metres deep. The huge stonewall of Ahmednagar Fort reaches to a height of 25 metres, from the bottom of the ditch.

From 1817 till 1947 the fort was controlled by the British. At present it is under the control of the military command of India.

It is believed that Ahmednagar fort was one of the strongest and most difficult to breach and capture. Legend has it that the fort was captured only by means other than assault perhaps by deceit and conspiracy.

Sadly, the museum has fallen prey to the neglect and the apathy of the authorities.