Dead prisoners make merry at Salimgarh
Salimgarh Fort, which was used by Britishers as an artillery cache and fatal prison, is believed to be haunted by dead prisoners who were valiant freedom fighters. Their peal of laughter and whispered conversations in the night are linked to their tales of bravery. Sarat C Das tells more.Updated: May 20, 2008, 00:07 IST
Salimgarh Fort was built by Islam Shah Suri (also known as Salim Shah), son and successor of Sher Shah Suri in 1546. Located near Red Fort, Salimgarh Fort was constructed on an island of river Yamuna enclosed by rock-hard rubble masonry ramparts. But the river Yamuna shrunk over the years, thus left the fort landlocked with its lofty bastions and a few towering citadels.
Salimgarh Fort is considered as one of the most haunted places in Old Delhi. Because, the British used it as a death prison in which the leaders of Indian National Army were incarcerated in 1945. Some prisoners died within its walls and a few in the dark dungeons. The people, who keep a watch on this fort, hear the groans, the whispered conversations and the rustling of iron shackles.
The fort has now been renamed as Swatantrata Senani Smarak (Freedom Fighters' Memorial) and a memorial has been built for the freedom fighters in side the fort. The barracks where soldiers were kept as prisoners have been converted into their memorials. The memorial houses INA uniforms, personal belongings and an array of sepia-tinted photographs.
Several Mughal rulers camped here before the creation of Shahjahanabad, which includes Humayun who stayed here for three days before recapturing Delhi in 1555. In 1622 AD, Jahangir constructed a bridge and connected it to the mainland, which was later removed by the British when they built the railway line through it. Shah Jahan, the next emperor connected this fort with Red Fort and the fort finally became a state prison during the reign of Aurangzeb.
The Emperor Aurangzeb incarcerated his favourite daughter Zebunissa, in the fortress prison of Salimgarh, where she languished for twenty years until her death. The aggrieved ghost of Zebunissa haunts Salimgarh - in the moonlight she sings her own composed couplets wearing a dark veil. Zebunissa had spent the prime of her life in Salimgarh fort and it is said everything about Zebunissa's life seems shrouded in mystery. Howerver, if her poems believed to be a mirror to her heart she seems a very humane person with an indomitable pride.
Many swear there is something unnatural about Salimgarh place. An authoritative eyewitness account published as a media report, claimed: "While working at nights, I sometimes hear vicious laughter echoing off the walls of Salmigarh. But when I try to follow the sound, it fades out."
There are many others who claim to have heard footsteps of people walking about but nothing appears in the torchlight. The haunting feeling of Salimgarh permeates to its crowded neighbourhood -- the famous Chandni Chowk, Nai Sarak, and Chor Bazaar.