Bengaluru to Chitradurga is 204kms, a 3.5hours drive on NH4. We started at 4.30pm from Bengaluru and reached Chitradurga at 8pm. We halted at a hotel called Amogh International which is an average hotel and about 1km from the fort.
The next day morning we started around 7.am to visit the historic Chitradurga fort in the arid and dusty narrow lanes of the old town.
Spread over 2500 acres, the massive Chitradurga fort is a reminiscing trek back into the lives of the brave Palegaara Nayakaas who built this magnificent fort.
Until the 15th century the Vijayanagara kings ruled the entire southern India, they had delegated powers to smaller group leaders like the Palegaras or the Nayakas who acted as subordinate kings under the direct control of Vijayanagara kings.
After the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Nayakas established an independent provincial status. The Nayakas were fierce warriors who constantly fought with neighbouring kingdoms and successfully reigned over central Karnataka until they finally succumbed to Hyder Ali’s ploy of consecutive besieges in 1779.
Chitradurga gets its name from the many unusually shaped stones found here in the fort. Its original name was Chitra kal durga, chitra means artistic, kallu means stone and durga refers to fort. Chitradurga essentially means a fort of illusive forms, where the stones and rocks take the shape of one’s imagination. Allegorically many temples have been built and named in accordance to the stone shape.
It is also known as the yelusutthina kote meaning the fort with seven gates, 3 lines of concentric ramparts are located on the ground and other 4 ramparts are on the slopes of the hillfort.
Today, we can enter the fort from the 3rd gate itself. At the entrance you can find the emblem of a coiled snake which is actually depictive of the zigzag route leading into the fort, this kind of cryptic patterns were used to aid the soldiers swiftly in times of enemy attacks.
As soon as you enter the fort, on your left side you find the Asthtabhuja Baawi or Kaamana baawi where the new king would undergo the coronation baths and do his rituals. The moat around this well was crafted as water reserves to hold the excess rain waters flowing down from the fort. It is believed that many crocodiles and venomous snakes were reared in these water pits at the entrance of the forts to keep check on trespassing enemies.
You can also see the large flour grinding stones here adjacent to which lie stones that was used to pound concrete mixtures to strengthen the fort.
The fort has many granaries, oil pits, water tanks, secret entrances and has around 2000 watch towers it is home to many parrots and squirrels.
A few steps into the fort and you can find large boulders these gigantic rocks have storage like caved pits that were used to store oil. The fort also has a ghee tank. The folklore has it that when an enemy attack was expected oil was poured on the outer walls of the fort so that no enemy could climb the forts, even the soldiers smeared themselves in oil to avoid being caught by the enemy.
It is believed that swords and other sharp weaponry were kept immersed in ghee tanks to avoid corrosion.
We also found this Rekhachitra carved on the rocks that hint that the Aadhimanavas might have inhabited this place!
Every gate is nested in the zigzag paths with little space for any kind of forced breakage. In those days fort gates were fitted with robust metallic doors and hinges and only an elephant or a battery of soldiers with wooden logs could break it open that too by garnering enough speed to dash against it. Since the fort gates were cleverly nested beneath the concentric walls, with absolutely no space to break open, and with a scientifically plastered stone fortification, even canons fired by Hyder Ali’s army failed to break the fort walls, there was no way the fort could be captured. Hence Hyder Ali’s army had to crawl like creepy cockroaches from a drainage hole.
Bomebe Chawdi is another small mantapa with idols of elephants and horses, this structure erected in memory of the war steeds and elephants who fought bravely goes on to show the love and respect the Nayaka rulers had even for animals.
As you walk up the fort you can find Aane bande, a rock that resembles an elephant hence a Ganesha temple has been built there.
A few steps on its right you can witness the stone cutting techniques employed then which is still in use. Series of small spaced holes were drilled into the rocks, by gently tapping iron pegs into these holes the masons could slice the rock exactly where they wanted.
As you enter the last gate you can see the Deepa stamba and the Uyyale(swing) stamba where many religious rituals were performed.
There are several temples here, the Hidamba ratha and Bheema ratha temples are built in the shape of a chariot. You can get a good view of the fort from atop these temple hills.
Then there is the Mudralaay or minting place in the durbar square which is today a barren expanse with gushing winds that bring an air of the bygone era.
Akka Tangi Honda
Rain water harvesting methods were deployed carefully in the fort and the water stored would suffice the inhabitants for 12years even if there were no rains and all the excess waters were let out to the nearby villages.
Kallinarasappa nayakaa betrayed Rajaveera Madakari Nayaka and eventually Madakari Nayaka was taken prisoner by Hyder Ali to Srirangapattinam, his two wives who were sisters, committed suicide by jumping into the water reservoirs, which is today called as Akka Tangi Honda.
A series of steps to your right leads you to Tanneroo Doni meaning cold water storage, this is the place where the brave Obavva came to fetch water for her husband.
Obavva was the wife of a soldier who was a guard at one of the watch towers, when MaddaHanumappa, the guard broke for lunch there was no water at home, so Obavva, his wife came out to fetch water, on her way she heard murmuring sounds near the drainage hole, on a closer look she saw the enemy soldier trying to creep out from the hole. She immediately grabbed a rice pounding stone pestle that lay nearby and smashed the soldier’s head and dragged the body aside. She stood there courageously striking the enemy with all her might. Soldier after soldier she dragged aside stacking a mound of slayed soldiers who lay soaked in blood. After some time her husband came looking for her and upon sighting this hair rising scene he stood there in disbelief even as she signalled to him to blow the war trumpet. Thus an ordinary woman with extra ordinary courage had saved the fort that day.
The place is today called as Onake Obavvana kindi(Onake means pestle, kindi means window)in honour of the brave woman.
The place was crowded with enthusiastic school children and curious tourists as I struggled for some space to take position and pose to smash somebody’s head!
Chitradurga is famous for 3 things _ Onakke Obavvana kindi, Avarekaalu(hyacinth beans) and the upcoming uranium nuclear hub.
We had breakfast at Laxmi tiffins and were heading to Goa next!