July 10, 2013

Chitradurga- A Bygone Era...!!


The cool morning breeze kissed our faces as we rode on NH-4 and a break for a cup of tea somewhere in the middle of nowhere refreshed us like nothing else. It was a cold morning and the ride was to the seven walled fort of Chitradurga. The ride was smooth with beautiful vistas all along the highway, but turned dusty as we entered the town of Chitradurga. The fort is quite famous and any layman on the road would direct you easily. Chitradurga fort is on a hillock which was once occupied by the demon siblings Hidimba and Hidimbi during the Mahabharata days. The fort built between the 10th and 18th century changed hands from various rulers till it was majorly expanded by the Nayaka family druing the ruling of Vijayanagara empire in the 16th century. It was later captured by Hyder Ali in the 18th century. The fort whose actual name was Chitrakaldurga is also locally known as Yelusuttina Kotte (seven walled fort) and Kallina Kotte(stone fort).

 As we entered its premises all I could see were tall fort ramparts and the walk inside lead us to the first ninety degree ('L' shaped) pathway. That was the first instance where I had seen such an entrance and that caught my attention. We crossed the first entry gate and walked up to meet a man who approached us saying he is a licensed guide and could help us show around the fort. After a glance at his details we trudged further as our guide explained the history of the fort, its importance during the times of various rulers and about the important marks and points inside the fort. Though the guide explained in a mix of Kannada and English, I was glad that we took him along. Walking around the fort without a guide might have been a rueful decision as staring at those wonderfully carved structures would have left us with brilliant visuals and absolutely nil knowledge.

The 'L' shaped entry
The main entry door

The sprawling citadel which is strewn over many hills is famous for its seven fortified walls and beautiful landscape speckled with boulders. The fort was so smartly built with seven fortifications to protect the inner areas and the pathways in 'L' shapes were to make sure the enemy was forced to reduce its speed and advances during attacks. The lower most fortification has four major entrances. The fort walls have been beautifully maintained in most areas and each of the entrances have well chiseled doorways and stone carvings. As we ascended past each fortification getting closer to the insides of the fort, the landscape turned from beautiful to mesmerising with magnificent vistas, scenic valleys, wonderfully carved stone structures, beautiful temples, tanks filled with green waters and distant houses which seemed miniature amidst the massive boulders.

An entry door at one of the fortifications


The fort which changed hands from Mauryas to Rashtrakutas to Chalukyas to Hoysalas to Nayakas to Hyder Ali has seen a lot of up-gradations, inscriptions, additions and architectures from various eras. As we walked we were shown the various important points inside the fort by the guide. These included Bombe mantapa, oil storage tanks, akka-thanki kola (ponds named after two sisters who were princesses), ancient gymnasium, a high swing frame which is more than 30 feet tall, a monolithic pillar, a jail, peculiar rock formations (rocks which resemble an elephant, a frog and a rhinoceros), drawings on rocks from pre-historic era, treasuries, a stepped tank used during holi, rain water harvesting structures, a mill to grind gun powder, exquisitely carved temples, a mosque built by Hyder Ali and the elaborate pavilions. The guide also mentioned that whole fort area was never short of water due to the exceptional water storage system.


The swing frame and pillar

One of the ponds
One of the many temples

An important and famous point inside the fort in Onake Obbava. Legend says that through a small crevice inside the fort, enemy soldiers were trying to make their way into this impregnable fort. Obbava, the wife of one of the soldiers of Nayaka's saw this and killed each of those intruders with an onake (pestle). The place was then named after her for her bravery and valour.

Onake Obbava
At the third fortification entrance we were enchanted by the acrobatics of Jyothi Raj (a.k.a Kothi Raj). There was a small crowd which was stunned by this wall climbing man. He is no normal wall climber as he crawls up the high fort walls with bare hands in a few seconds. You blink an eye and he is n top of the wall. Kothi in Kannada means monkey and he truly does acrobatics like one. He is quite famous and can be easily found inside the fort during weekends to entertain the visitors.

Kothi Raj 
We covered more steps, passed many brilliant architectures, went between boulders, crossed the many doorways and fortifications of the 1500 acre fort and found ourselves perspiring more than ever under the blazing sun. However the ever changing views of the fort kept us amazed and made us cover a large part of it. The landscape of the fort reminded me a lot of the ruins of Hampi. It is also a great place for rock climbing. There is a small shop inside the fort which serves refreshments. After gulping down a couple of glasses of cold butter milk we bade good bye to our guide, walked back through the fort walls, exited the citadel and rode towards Chandravalli caves.


Situated 4 kms away from the fort, Chandravalli caves is near a beautiful lake and is situated between two monolithic rocks. There is a small temple next to these underground caves. Here too we had to hire a guide or else we would not have come out of the cave which goes down upto 80 feet below the ground. Darkness, dampness and bats welcomed us as we stepped down into the cave with our guide who led the way with a torch. The cave was supposedly occupied by saints and monks for a long period and does have paintings and carvings on its wall. It also has seatings, cots, bath tubs etc which shows presence of human living. Excavations have proved that Chandravalli caves have been inhibited from the days of iron age and archaeologists have found coins, pottery and vessels from those ages. We crawled, sneaked and pushed ourselves through that darkness, smelling the pungent rocks and staring at the dangling bats from the roofs to experience life inside a cave. As I came out of the cave in search of fresh air, what made me curious was the reason behind people confining themselves to such harsh living.

Inside the cave

Bats on the roof
Going down the cave

From the historic and pre- historic era we decided to visit Vani Vilas dam, a modern era creation. It is a detour from Hiriyur (On Bangalore- Chitradurga road, 32 Kms from Hiriyur) that took us past the country roads and then on to the top of a hill. We were stunned as we rode up the hill when the magnificent Vani Vilas dam spread out before us. Surrounded by massive hills, the placid waters of the dam shimmered as the evening sun was about to set. There is a wonderful walkway which provides stunning views of the waters. After capturing the setting sun, the calm waters, the green hills and a lonely coracle rider we had a long tiring ride back to Bangalore.

Vani vilas dam


Signing Note- Transport yourself to historic and pre- historic times and get lost amidst those boulders, architectures and caves of Chitradurga...!!

Route- Bangalore- Tumkur- Hiriyur- Chitradurga
Distance- 200 Kms


50 comments:

  1. Thank you for the virtual tour!

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  2. well, looks like a very interesting place!

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  3. Awesome .. interesting place and the write up

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  4. Awesome read...had heard of this place but didn't know the facts related to hidimba and haider Ali. Nice shots...feel like visiting the place now.

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  5. this fort is a marvel of military architecture. I have heard that every wall has pigeonholes from where soldiers could rain down arrows on invaders.acrobatics of kothi raj sounds intresting and so is your entire narration.

    It was a pleasure read Niranjan. :)

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  6. I had been to Chitraduga couple of times but never got the chance of visiting fort.
    Majestic fort and beautiful fort.

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  7. Beautiful narration and photography!
    I was wondering how did you manage to click those hanging bats as they tend to hate flash inside cave....
    recently I went to B'lore but didn't have any prior info about Chitradurga...

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    1. Thanks Anunoy. The bats were not responsive to the flash. My luck. :)

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  8. this is some crazy place .. the caves gave me goosebumps sitting here .. awesome post and thanks for introducing me to Kothi Raj :) He looks like one gem of a person ... Bollywood film makers may be looking for :)

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  9. I love visiting historical place, looks much like Hampi, will surely visit this in my next travel...

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    1. It may not be as grand as Hampi, but yes, glimpses of it are there.

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  10. So exciting.. lovely! The place is very well maintained, I see. Not keen on seeing Monkey Man - he scares me!

    www.volatilespirits.com

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  11. Thanks Niranjan for capturing Chitradurga so well. The fort still does get its due on the tourist circuit. With ASI taking charge, there has been lot of improvement.

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  12. Hi Niranjan, thank you for taking me into the fort. I have driven past several times and always wished to go. Usually I am told by the driver that there is nothing to see and I move on. Now I will confidently argue back. Great pictures as well. How did you get the bat pics?
    Gouthami

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    1. Thanks you Gouthami. Glad that you liked it and hope you would head there next time. The bats were clinging on to the cave roof. Hardly one or two were seen flying as we entered. Thankfully they did not create a flutter when my camera flashed.

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  13. chitradurga was on my list for a long time....this travelogue has given me a complete picture of this place...wonderful narration :-) simply superbbbb..

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  14. Wow! Yelusuttina kallina kote- One of my favorites! Thanks for bringing back some memories of my (mis)adventures :)

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  15. Nice pics and report!
    travellingslacker.com/2013/07/kumaon-road-condition-almora-trip/

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  16. nice post. Reportedly Kothi raj slipped recently and is injured. But let us hope he recovers quickly

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    1. Thank you. Oh, That is sad news. Hope he recovers soon and is back his own self.

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  17. Thank buddy this post. I living in jaipur but i had went this fort.it really to good and interesting.

    jaipur hotels

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  18. Great journey into history.How much billions of hands of people must have created such an art ? Thank you for the gift of revisiting Indian history .

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