Oct 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 Venkatasubbaih'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.

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Oct 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.
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Oct 15, 2014

Sunset and Sunrise over Kokapet, Hyderabad

September 13, 2014
September 14, 2014
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Oct 11, 2014

Paintings of two kinds

March 17, 2014
Paintings by Mother Nature and a human being.

Sunset near Rattihalli, Haveri Taluq
painting at Mary Immaculate Church, Bhadravathi
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Oct 4, 2014

Prehistoric Ash-mound of Hallur

Hallur, situated on Tungabhadra river bank in Haveri district is know for a prehistoric ash-mound. Hallur's ash-mound was discovered by Nagaraja Rao in 1962 and excavated in 1965. The excavations revealed two periods of human occupation- 1. Neolithic-Chalcolithic (between 2000 BC and 1200 BC) and 2. an overlapping period between Neolithic-Chalcolithic and early Iron Age. During the excavations several artifacts were found- iron arrowheads, daggers & knives and earthenware. Pottery found was black-and-red ware with lines and patterns in white drawn over them.

March 17, 2014
I arrived at Hallur by 3 PM. At the village entrance my inquiries for ash-mound's location caught few people's attention. Of them one person seem to have an interest for history. In fact he sprang a surprise- ruins of Hallur's mud fort. Wow! The search for an ash-mound came with a bonus :) I asked him if he could take me to the site. Yes! My guide's name is Suresh F Tilawalli. We hopped into the cab and took a dirt branching out of the village's main street. Just outside the village and close to the site, Suresh showed couple of neglected ancient sculptures- damaged images of Hanuman and a slab with Kannada inscription : (

Hanuman | Slab with Kannada inscription
A short distance away to our right was the fort. This mound is one the corners. A wide trench running along the fort perimeter indicates the presence of a moat.

We take the dirt path going into the fort, towards the river. We stopped by a large excavated pit to out left. The white earth seen here is actually ash. I could see pottery pieces on every square foot, literally. This ash-mound is spread over 32 acres and over the ash-mound itself sits the fort. Suresh spoke about excavations carried out during 1990s.. hundreds of artefacts were found in this pit. Well, digging did not stop there.. in still continues. But why? Local people hauled loads of this dirt-ash mixture to their fields because they believe it improves soil's fertility and crops yield. Off late with increasing fertilizer prices, farmers have resorted to a large scale operation.

We inspect a layer of ash at a spot. The ash grey and fine. Suresh lets go a handful in the air, the mild breeze blows it away.

Suresh leads the way to the 'ash mine'. This is where earthmovers load hundreds of tractor-trailers every week. It really resembles a mine.

The excavations have revealed the innards of the ash-mound. Layers of different colors formed over time can be seen here. We locate a damaged grinding stone, the type used to grind cereals into flour. The concave surface is well ground, proof it was well used before coming to this state. This stone reminds me of similar grinding stones seen at Hiregudda near Sangankallu.

Here every foot fall raised a mini cloud of ash. At places our feet would sink into the fine ash.

Next we inspect a much wall with several layers of dirt and ash. At this point the mound is about 15' high. This is a very ideal spot to study the content.

Suresh points at a mass of ash and bits of charcoal embedded in earth.

Close look at ash and charcoal bits.
Here Suresh shows a layer of stones embedded into ash-earth mixture. His opinion is that a wall was built here. It does seem like a wall.Close by we found two more grinding stones the type used to grind wet food matter like batter or masala.

Here's a small sample of artefacts collected in 30 minutes- bone fragments, grinding stones and pottery shreds. Notice the bottom right piece- the red-black ware as mentioned in Ashmounds and hilltop villages: The search for early agriculture in southern India.

Few more closer views:

layers of ash, red and brown earth
ash, pottery shred and a tuft of hair like strands
black and grey shreds of pottery
Here's a short video of the ash mine-

Sadly, this important prehistoric monument is being vandalized. Several hundreds of trailer loads have been looted, doing permanent damage and loss of invaluable artefacts. A short distance from here is a sand mining setup. Oh mankind, what ever you are upto!!

We move to the highest point of the mound/fort. That's Tungabhadra flowing in our direction. Hallur village is the background, concealed by a wall of trees.

Suresh wanted to show me a stone structure with a passage. The structure was probably built during 16th century. It looks like a sentry/docking point for boats navigating the river, bringing in supplies for the fort. Such docking points can be seen at Arani, Havanur and Nadivi forts too.

In this view, on the left is a stairway descending into the structure. Perhaps it has a passage below which worked as an underwater entrance.

The structure as seen from river bed.

Blazing Sun had literally roasted me. We went to the water and cooled off. Bare feet in water felt great, I felt rejuvenated. We walked back the cab and drove back to the village. Back at the village entrance, we exchanged phone numbers over tea. We spoke of the hillock within Hallur's sight. The hill has peculiar rock formations on its southern face. The rocks are spiky, sticking out of the hill, varying in height from 4' to 12'. Also on the hill is a shrine dedicated to Shri Lakshmi Ranganath Swamy believed to be a Udbhava Murthy a self created image. Time being a constraint, I had to leave. Thanks to Suresh for his patience and time.

Here are links to few more ash-mounds of Karnataka-

LocationTaluqDistrict
KappagalluBellaryBellary
KudathiniBellaryBellary
BudhihalShorapurYadgir

The ended with a beautiful sun burst..

Hallur Ash-mound & fort coordinates: 14°20'27"N   75°37'15"E
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