About 20 km from Ludhiana, near Gurdwara Mani Sahib, Kotan (near Doraha) and nestled amidst the lush landsape of a typical Punjab’s village is the ‘Serai Lashkari Khan’ or ‘Doraha Fort’, also known as ‘Rang De Basanti’ Fort. A historical inn built by Mughal Military General Lashkari Khan, in the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1667 AD, this is a huge rectangular sarai with rooms and verandahs on all sides. Back in those days, this was a much adored place for worn out travellers. Even after ages, people who need respite from the madness of city life come here for that much needed tranquility and connect with nature.
Though in a dilapidated condition, the structure’s ancient grandeur can still be viewed from the two massive double-storied gateways, which still stand intact. The Sarai is built on a square enclosed space of approximately 168 m of fortification walls with octagonal defender at all the four corners. On the southern and northern sides, there are grand gateways in the middle. The southern gateway has paintings of different flora and fauna while the northern gateway has the relics of floral designs.
One of the gates is beautifully decorated with blue and yellow glazed tiles. The second gate is different with its façade divided into panels and furnished with carved brickwork. There is also a mosque and a well in the courtyard. The dome mounted mosque in the western part of the Sarai is in ruins but still has traces of rich colours, with which it would have been painted at some time.
The Fort gained immense popularity after it featured in the Bollywood flick Rang De Basanti. Though just for the record, there is no Indian Air Force Air base adjoining the fort, as shown in the movie
During the weekend, several people drive in to enjoy a picnic away from crowded cities. While one may bring in one’s own food, there is always an option of a langar in the nearby Gurudwara, or perhaps a burger in the McDonald’s adjacent to the gurudwara!