Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chitradurga Kote's highest peak

The name Chitradurga is synonymous to the word Kote in Karnataka. It's also known simply as Durga. Its one of the most formidable forts of Karnataka if not India. The fort is built over rocky hills, it occupies around 5 peaks. While one has a watch tower ~ Kavalu Battery at its top, one more is occupied by Venkatasibbaih's rock. Like wise other three peaks have a speciality of their own but I don't the names.

March 16, 2014
Today, my primary destination was Venkatasibbaih's rock. The next in sight was the massive hillock overlooking everything around it, being the southernmost part of the fort. One look at it told its undoubtedly the highest point of Chitradurga. Looking up from the base of the hill, climbing it would be daunting task, especially with summer Sun blazing down fiercely and the rocks radiating heat.

Never mind the difficulties, I decided to reach the highest bastion of this fort. A security guard at Venugopalaswamy temple tried to dissuade me from climbing it. His reasons: 1. climb was too long and 2. its lonely and may not be safe. It seems few days back a small group of boys were robbed on that hill. I said to him "with you watching I'll be safe." As the climb progressed, as I went higher it got better because of the breeze. However, it was a tough climb, the steps were much higher than normal steps found in our houses.

Time for a quick break. Looking back I felt the progress was good. I could see the guard looking in my direction. Ahead was a gateway of sorts, a natural rock formation formed a barrier, I had to find my way through them.

Beyond the barrier of rocks, standing on a paved path.

The view kept expanding. In this view starting from left- Venkatasubbiah's rock, Venugopalaswamy temple, the temple pond and Kavalu Battery hill can be seen.

The highest watch tower is within reach now. Below the sentry point, little to the right a natural shelter can be seen. Reaching it did not seem easy and also time was a constraint.

The path went around the rock formation and a short climb to reach this spot. This is probably the highest structure of this hill. This looks like a sentry station where several men worked in shifts watching over the southern border of Chitradurga.

The spot gave a commanding view of the surrounding hills and the valley in between. The walls of this fort though built by the Nayakas, it seems like Hyder and Tipu had strengthened many of the walls and added new turrets to enhance security.

The bastion as seen from the south. From here the fort's center is out of sight.

A pyramidal rock close to one of the edges.

I was imagining how soldiers watched over the hills and plains below. Probably dressed in dhotis and armed with spears & shields, they would watching for every small movement. Madakari Nayaka's men would have spent the most tense times when Hyder's army had laid siege to this fort, completely surrounding it for more than a year.

Another strategically positioned turret. Notice how rock has been hacked out just below the turret, creating a hurdle. Close to this turret, to the right is another one.

The lower turret sits right of the edge. This was the furthest I could manage to reach.

Turning back, I tread the path I had taken earlier. Ruins of soldier's shelters.

These turrets are similar to turrets of other Hyder-Tipu occupied forts such as Koppal, Basamangi, Madhugiri, etc.

Chitradurga town and fort. Going back in times, probably the plains below was occupied by Hyder's army, scheming how to breach its security.

Descent was non-stop, I was driven by hunger. I still had a long way to walk.. climb down, climb up and again climb down.

The hill on the left is Chola Gudda, one of the important hills. Further to the left, out of sight is another important historical place called Chandravalli - that's would be my next destination.

Having spent half day at Chitradurga, I'd not seen even half of it.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Venkatasubbayana Kallu, Chitradurga

There are two Kannada movies which ignited my interest in forts, they are Bara and Hamsa Geethe, shot at Bidar Qila and Chitradurga Kote respectively. Anant Nag has played lead roles in both movies. Hamsa Geethe is the story of a 18th century Carnatic singer Venkatasubbaiah. The story's connection with Chitradurga is deep; the massive rocks and howling winds created perfect effects, captivating viewers' attention. Locations of these two movies remain etched deep in my mind. Years later I visited these formidable forts, the largest forts in Karnataka. It was during the third visit to Chitradurga, I was particular about seeing the spot where Venkatasubbaiah practices Bhairavi Raga countless times. The same spot has been also portrayed as Madakari Nayaka's hill top open air theatre where a dance competition takes place. I cant imagine the hardships Hamsa Geethe movie crew had to put up with in shooting at this location. Do watch this short video of the location back in 1975, then we'll move to the present day pictures.

March 16, 2014
I'll start from the fresh water pond Gopalaswami Honda one of the sources of water for this fort. This pond being in the vicinity of Gopalaswami temple hence its name. Part of the temple is visible at the center of the picture. At the top left is a massive rock formation, with one free standing rock - that's Venkatasubbaiah's Rock.

The rock formation as seen from the wall.

southern view
Moving quarter way uphill. With no one to give precise directions I took a hard way up. At one point I had lost hopes of reaching the spot but something inside refused to give up.

eastern view
Finally I reached the spot.. almost there.On the left is the free standing rock.

The spot gives a commanding view of the western perimeter, including Chla Gudda (not seen here).

This is the other standing rock, very close to the main group. At the base of this rock is a level platform which may not have existed before the movie was made. The stage might have been created as part of the Madakari Nayaka's open air theatre in the movie. In fact this rock was the backdrop for the dance scene.

To the right of the stage is the free standing block. Standing by itself, it seems to declare its freedom. Below this rock, the depressed Venkatasubbaiah spends years singing Bhairavi to himself. He lives here all alone days and nights never going home. I'm not sure if Venkatasubbaiah's story if fact or fictional. If he did exist and the story is real, this should be the right place for him to be.

 Notice the sloping rock to the right. Its has a face when seen from a different angle.

There we go.. you can recognise lower jaw, chin, lips and nose, eyes are shut. If you notice closely chin and lips are not part of the rock rather they have been created by some highly skilled artists. The material used to create lips and chin seems like mortar, it could even be cement.

This rock is a good geometric specimen- the face facing us has three right angles, a straight edge and a curved edge. I wonder if this is the original condition or was it's shaped modified during the fort's construction?

Here's a blurred video of the spot shot in my not-so-smart mobile phone. Swalpa adjust madkondu nodi.

Visiting this spot made my made. One of my wishes had come true relatively quickly :)

If you can get to watch Hamsa Geethe and Bara, don't miss it. Later, you too might want to visit the glorious locations.