The Ranikot Fort also known as Dewar-e-Sindh (Great Wall of Sindh), with a circumference of about 26 km or 16 miles, is reputed to be the largest unexplored fort in the world. Since 1993, it has been on the list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is located in the Kirthar Range, about 30 km southwest of Sann, in Jamshoro District, Sindh, Pakistan.. Sann is a rail head on the Kotri-Larkana line of the Pakistan Railway. It is inside the Kirthar National Park, the second largest national park in Pakistan.
The original purpose and architects of Ranikot Fort are unknown. However, it is believed that the fort was built during the regimes of the Sassanians, the Scythians, the Parthians or the Bactrian Greeks. Archaeologists point to the 17th century as the time of its first construction but Sindh archaeologists now agree that some of the present structures were reconstructed by Talpurs in 1812 at a cost of 1.2 million rupees (Sindh Gazetteer, 677). The battlements of Ranikot formed the last capital of the Amirs of Sind, when they were brought under the colonial rule of the British Empire. Radiocarbon tests were conducted at the Sann Gate on the charcoal embedded in the mortar of a collapsed pillar of the eastern gate of the fort. These tests have confirmed that this gate was probably renovated between the early part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century, prior to Britain invading the fort when the Kalhoras, or most likely the Talpur Mirs of Sindh ruled over the area.
“The size of Ranikot defies all reasons. It stands in the middle of nowhere, defending nothing”
writes Isobel Shaw. So why was this fort built here in the desolate terrain of the Kirthar range? Many theories have been developed to answer this question. According to Ishtiaq Ansari, the Talpurs had sent their families to Thar and Kachchh when Afsharids attacked Sindh during the times of Kalhoras. However, after acquiring the rule of Sindh, they wanted a safe and secure place where they can send their families during the troubled times. This might have prompted them to rebuild this fort to their needs. Rahimdad Khan Molai Sheedai holds view that its location in Kohistan on the western frontiers of Sindh gave it its strategic value. Whereas Mazher Ansari is of the opinion that, it was first constructed in the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire (550 – 330 BC). As this empire stretched from Turkey in the west, where a similar wall is constructed near the Caspian Sea called The Great Wall of Gorgan, which is 155 km in length and to the east up to River Indus in Sindh, where this majestic fort is located.
The fort is huge, connecting several bleak mountains of the Kirthar hills along contours, and measures 31 kilometres (19 mi) in length. The fort is interspersed with several bastions in between and three are of semi-circular shape. The northern part of the fort’s perimeter is a natural high hilly formation while on the other three sides it is covered by fort walls. Within this main fort there is a smaller fort known as the “Meeri” which is about 5–6 miles from the entry gate of the main fort, and is reported to have served as the palace of the Mir royal family. The entire fort structure has been built with stone and lime mortar. The fort is built in a zig-zag form, with four entry gates in the shape of a rhomboid. Two of the gates, facing each are crossed diagonally by the Sann river; the first gate is on the western side and is skirted by the river water and is difficult to approach. The southern entry gate has a double doors gate. Within the gates there are two niches which have floral ornamentation and carved stones. The Sann gate is well preserved and can be climbed to reach the top of the fort from both sides to get a scenic view of the terrain around the fort. This gate is also the entrance to the Meeri.