Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chitradurga Fort

This long weekend was our first long road trip in India. The 3-day trip was planned to cover the Chitradurga fort in Chitradurga district, Tungabhadhra dam in Hospet, Hampi town of medieval ruins and Halebidu temple in Bidur city of Karnataka. We started off from electronic city at 6.30am and reached Chitradurga around 10.30am. Karnataka, if ever viewed before is unique for its mountains made of countless round boulders in different sizes, mostly huge! And the most mysterious thing is the way they are placed; makes all my science and laws of gravity go for a toss!
Snake carving at entrance
We hired a guide to get a good experience. So I am going to try and remember things the guide shared with us & put it out here. Chitradurga fort is the second largest fort in India, first being Genji fort in Tamilnadu.
Nandi, Shiva, Ganesha
The fort has 7 entrances; first one is “Rangana Bagalu.” through which we actually enter the fort premises. There are small houses and stores now; I believe they must have been the houses of the common people in the old times, like in the movie TROY the entrance to the kingdom start with a large door opening into the houses of the subjects then finally leading to the king’s castle! The second entrance was destroyed in the expansion of the city, govt. stuff. The third entrance Kamana Bagalu is the current entrance to the fort. The entrance wall has a 7-hooded snake carved on the rock. The walls are as high as 15 meters. The opposite side of the wall bears carvings of Ganesh, Shiva and Nandi indicating that they have to be worshiped first before entering the fort. The entrance is so designed that the enemy cannot just barge into the fort, it is serpentine in shape so the enemy horses have to pause and turn every few meters; the corridors are narrow so elephants cannot be used to attack either. The height of the walls gives an advantage to attack the enemy from the top. 
The fourth entrance is called Vishadakatti Bagalu (Poisoned knife door). The fort was designed to kill maximum enemy soldiers from the start. At one of the entrances there used to be water flowing under the stairs to form a pond outside where poisonous snakes and crocodiles would be left to kill the enemy.
Vishdakatti Bagilu
The doors are small in width and thick hence difficult to break down with large columns. The walls were built such that huge squared rock slabs would be supported with mud on the inner side thus when they were hit with canons the mud behind the slabs would provide a shock absorbing effect and still keep the walls in tact! The unique thing about the fort is that there is no cementing material used to stick the huge slabs of rock. They are all just cut, trimmed and placed exactly over each other like a stack.
Gante Bagilu
There are numerous temples inside the fort compound. The fort encompasses large boulders all around. The guide said that the place is older than the times of the kings who made the fort. He showed us a rock with the Stone Age time carving of a deer. As we walked through we saw numerous caves, big carved out holes in the rocks to store oil. The temples have carvings of different gods like Ganesh, Hanuman, Ram-Laxman, dancing ladies etc.

Stone age carving of a deer
Then we headed through the rocky yet paved landscape. In the surrounding rocks there are rocks that look like animals in the jungle. The reason behind the name of the place is the scenery around - “Chitradurga” means picturesque; chitra = picture and durga = fort. There are rocks that look like a rabbit, elephants, frog and a boat. They all look like a picture hence the name. I managed to find a rock that looks like the lion king J 
Rabbit shapped Rock on the center left side
Frog shapped rock in the center
Sitting Elephant rock
(Left) Lion King face rock that I found :)
As we moved ahead we saw the commercial area of the king, a place where all the business took place like minting money as in gold silver coins, his ministry setting up business meetings etc. All of it is broken and look like ruins now. In the old times temples were made by loading up expensive gold gems under the ground and then the statue of the gods would be placed on the money. When the Mughals and Britishers attacked the fort, they uprooted all the idols to look for hidden treasures! Hence most temples now don’t have any idols. On the way we see two reservoirs. The fort has amazing rain harvesting and filtering setup. The two reservoirs are called Akka Tangi  (Elder sister-younger sister). Story goes as the king had two wives he had a reservoirs for each. When the king died, in those times Sati tradition being followed (where the widowed wife has to sacrifice her life after the husband’s death by jumping into fire pyre); each of the queens jumped in their reservoirs sacrificing their lives.
Pool for the king to play Holi festival
From the mythology there are two temples at the center of the area. It is believed that the mythical demon characters Hidimba and sister Hidimbi lived here. Bheema from Mahabharata epic married the demon Hidimbi. There is a Hidimbeshwar temple, very picturesque as it is elevated; it gives a great view of the whole place. There is a stepped pool built for the king and people to play Holi, the festival of colors and water!
Hidimbeshwara Temple
Obawa's cave on the left besides the steps
At the extreme top of the rocks we see huge cylinders. These would contain ghee (clarified butter) to store weapons and prevent them from rusting. Also men who could climb the smooth, greasy boulders to the top would be selected as the best soldiers!
Secret passage where Obawa killed invaders
Finally there is a famous story of a brave woman called Obawa. She was a wife to a simple watch guard in the kingdom. The fort has one secret entry from the back from where exactly one person can crawl in each time. When her husband was having lunch one day, Obawa was away to bring water for him, when she heard the whispers of the enemy creeping in. She with her presence of mind single –handedly killed many of the soldiers with a thick wooden rod called Onake in Kannada, used for beating paddy to break the rice corns. When her husband saw the bloody scene he came to help her and she asked him to go and alarm the army with his bugle while she manages the secret hole. She was rewarded for her bravery with the title of “Onake Obawa”.
Mighty walls of Chitradurga Fort
 The fort is built with so much intelligence and highest degree of architecture in those times, it is said that the Mughal ruler Hyder Ali attacked it 7 times to fail. He was successful only when one of the ministers betrayed the king and shared the secret entrances to the fort. Amazing day spent at the fort.

1 comment:

  1. your articulation had been superb...liked those photographs as well....legends mentioned at the perfect place..