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Chitradurga Fort – a medieval wonder

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Chitradurga FortDiscovery route
A tenth century fort that was never conquered, empty highways, green expanses and a sleepy town, hiding this historical and archaeological wonder; just 196 kilometres from Bangalore on the golden quadrilateral that stretches on to Mumbai and beyond- that is the Chitradurga Fort. A chance visit to the town to attend a wedding revealed this less known wonder.

Chitradurga is a city located in Karnataka and gets its name from Chitrakaldurga, an umbrella-shaped rocky hill found here. According to legend the Chitradurga district dates to the period of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The whole district lies in the valley of the Vedavati River, while the Tungabhadra flows in the North-West. The Fort of Chitradurga with seven circumambulations surrounds the seven hills of Chinmuladri range. Though the construction of this fort commenced during 10th Century A.D it was completed only in 18th Century A.D during the rule of Palegars, with the latest additions being in the years leading to the 19th century, during the reign of Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan. According to one estimate the total length of the fort is about 8 kilometres. Of the seven lines of ramparts 3 are built at the base of the hill while 4 rows are on the rocky slopes. The inner fort is like a bowl with a cup shaped valley that is more like a plateau, in the middle. There are four main entrance gates with the walls built out of gigantic brown granite stones, and though irregular in size these are cut and placed in such a way that there is hardly any gap – somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle after it is completed. Constructed in a slightly pyramid-like shape ensures its stability. The lower three ramparts are protected by moats guarding the outer approaches. The Fort has never been overrun.

Abodes of Gods and Goddesses
The North Gate is called Ranganayyana Bagilu or SantheBagilu. The South Gate is called Lalkote Bagilu To the West is the Ucchangi Bagilu. One of the gates is referred to as Fateh Darwaza most probably due to the influence of Hyder Ali or Tipu Sultan. An archeological museum leads to the Ranganatha Temple, located near the Nintadi village outside the fort. There are 14 temples inside the fort and the most prominent of these are those dedicated to: Ucchangamma, Sampige Siddeswara, Gopalakrishna, Subrahmanya. Sanctums of Ekantaeswara, Phalguneswara, Hidimerareswara are also established here pointing to the broad minded and tolerant nature of the community. Shikkaras are of the Chalukyan style.

History tells us that this was the headquarters of the Nayakas - feudatory rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. It location is in close proximity to Chandravalli, and Chitradurga was the capital of Satavahana.

An amazing maze
According to Chitradurga District Gazetteer the fort has 19 gateways, 28 postern gates, 35 secret entrances, 4 invisible entrances, 50 warehouses, and even a jail apart from other monuments. The temple towers are shaped like the festive chariots or teru. It was in 1779 that Hyder Ali and later Tipu strengthened the lower ramparts of the Fort, which is now maintained by the Archaeological survey of India. Open from 6 a.m. it is a good two hours climb to see all the prominent structures withing including the legendary Onake Kinivu where Onake Obavva, a housewife and spouse of a soldier single-handedly warded off attackers by bludgeoning them to death. The exact spot is a narrow entrance from the rear of the fort, where the rocks form a natural barrier – something like a U-turn on a steep rocky slope, where only one person can pass at a time.

Archaeological Survey of India records indicate that the Fort existed during the period Hidambavana of Mahabharata fame. This region has even recorded trade with China and Rome.

One interesting and unexpected discovery inside the third rampart of the fort is the presence of the ‘Indian Spiderman’ no mask, now web to spin, he scrambles up the rocky stone edifice of the steep rampart like a monitor lizard. He reportedly practices everyday and from the foot of the wall to the top his timing is so fast that even at 1/500th of a second shutter speed, by the time one clicks the camera thrice, he is up and back on the ground.

There is ample scope for trekking, rock climbing and even a bit of mountaineering or just plain hiking. A whole day would be hardly enough too take in the beauty and splendour of Chitradurga Fort. One strange phenomenon is the total absence of birds inside the fort, or even within Chitradurga town. One possible reason is the hundreds of windmills that stand as sentinel all along the hills that ring the town, that scare away migratory birds. Squirrels were the only presence from the animal world that is seen here; there is a carving of a fish on the outer wall facing the moat. In the plateau is a large banyan tree and sitting under it with a cool breeze from somewhere, is a very relaxing climax to the long trek. One can rest here and then begin the return journey downhill. For the more adventurous, there is a steep rocky cliff with small holes to give a foothold. Several youngsters were found climbing up its face to the seventh and topmost rampart. Here a tribe of monkeys could be spotted, though they did not seem to venture down.

How to reach:
Volvo buses and private buses of SRE Transport ply the highway covering the 196 kilometres distance from Bangalore, in less than 4 hours. The fare is approximately Rs.175. We did not spot a single car and the highway was almost empty, save for the occasional trucks from Maharashtra heading south. Totally we counted only 3 cars on the entire stretch. State owned KSRTC buses charge Rs.103 but enter all the habitations enroute, Tumkur being one of the main towns. The journey time on this is 4 hours and 30 minutes, the outskirts of Bangalore being totally jammed sometimes – it can take as long as 45-60 minutes to traverse the last 10 kilometres.

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Responses to Chitradurga Fort – a medieval wonder

  1. 1 Indra Basavraj

    Good and useful information as I was intrested to visit Chitradurga.

  2. 2 prakash S Koti

    You can also call chitradurga as one of the heavn. I stayed in chitradurga for 6 years. and spend nearly one year in fort while studying in PUC.

  3. 3 Ateeq

    Its Very useful information, I was their in Chitradurga but unfortunately din’t make up to visit this wonder, please give further information regarding this Place. Thanks Ravi.

  4. 4 shoaib

    wonderful place for education and secular minds to live in harmony

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