Chitradurga Fort – Story of a lady’s grit and valor

The first thing that strikes you as you approach Chitradurga from Bangalore is the amazing sight of windmills on Jogimatti Hill station, also known as Ooty of Karnataka !

Amazing sight of windmills on Jogimatti Hill station

If you are lucky, you get a up, close and personal view of the blades of these windmills, being transported by trucks, impressing upon you the enormity of these structures. About 200 kms from Bangalore and a mere 3.5 hours’ drive, Chitradurga is a great weekend destination.

We visited this seven walled fort on our way back from Hampi, reaching Chitradurga around 2 pm. After a leisurely lunch at Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Room, we reached the Chitradurga Fort, hired a guide and started the climb at 3:30 pm.

I was always intrigued by the story of grit and valor of perhaps the most famous resident of this fort & was looking forward to meeting her. If this has piqued your interest too, keep on reading !

The seven walled fort of Chitradurga Fort

Isn’t the first view of the fortress impressive ? You can also see the deep moat that surrounds it. When in use it was filled with water, had aquatic plants and was infested with crocodiles and snakes.

Can you guess what this inscription at the entrance of the fort can mean ?

The inscription near the 3rd entrance to the seven walled fort

It is indicative of the twists and turns the passage to the fort takes – just like this snake.

The fort is built in a series of seven concentric fortification walls. Each wall has an uphill entrance through winding narrow corridors, almost at 90 degrees, making it impossible to use elephants or battering rams to break down the gates.

The fort passages at 90 degrees to each other

A climb that isn’t too tiring

Every wall has slots from where archers could rain arrows on invaders. You are also shown the spot where one of the cannon balls fired during a siege attempt collided with the fort wall.

The spot where the cannon hit the fort wall during a siege attempt

The original name for this city was Chitra kal durga, “chitra” means picture, “kallu” means stone and “durga” refers to the fort. Here the stones and rocks take the shape of your imagination ! Can you spot a rabbit here ?

Can you spot the rabbit among the rocks ?

This one looked like an elephant, so a Lord Ganesha temple was built here

A boulder resembling an elephant – spot the Ganesh temple behind it !

We spotted a boat, a toothy boy with a wild mop of hair :).

Today where you enter is the 3rd gate. The first 2 gates (Market gate and Elephant gates) are now within the city limits. You see the Elephant gate from near Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Room.

The second gate near Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Room

This fort, built in stages between 1500 AD and 1800 AD, is said to be the largest in India. It is nothing short of an engineering marvel with 8 kilometers of total length of the fort walls covering an area of about 1,500 hectares, 19 main gateways, 38 smaller entrances, 35 secret entrances, four invisible passages, water tanks and 2000 watch towers to guard and keep vigil on the enemy. There was enough storage for oil, water and military supplies to endure any siege !

Indo-Islamic architecture of one entrance, probably done during Tipu Sultan’s occupation of the fort

Each entrance has a big gate for royalty and smaller one for soldiers. In one of the entrance we noticed a small niche designed for soldiers to stay alert on duty. Take a look !

A small niche for soldiers to sit at the entrance while keeping them alert !

This soldier looks quite comfortable though

The strength of this fort can be personified as Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata, known for his strength. Isn’t it fitting then, that he had courted Hidimba at this historic location ? He killed her brother Hidamba, a demon that terrorized and feasted on local people. The rocks around the town are said to have been part of the arsenal in their fight ! There is a Hidimbeshawara temple on a hillock, the grandest of 14 temples within the fort, to validate this legend.

Gateway to Hidimbeshawara Temple

At Hidimbeshawara Temple

View of Chitradurga city and windmills @ Jogimatti from atop Hidimbeshawara Temple

A path before the fourth gate takes you to this massive stone grinders, driven by oxen or elephant, for making gun powder. This was built during Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s rule. It is supposed to have been engineered by a French architect.

Oxen or elephant driven massive stone grinders for making gun powder

There are oil pits near the fourth gates, which were used for storage and liberally applied on the fort walls to make for a real slippery climb should enemy try this route and on soldiers for a quick slip should enemy soldiers try catching them.

See this imposing stone mantle, as you step over the threshold of the 7th gate ?

Posing with the stone mantle swing and Ekanatheshwari temple

This served as the swing for the royal ladies ! This is a small Pushkarni for royals to bathe in before entering the Ekanatheshwari temple, dedicated to the royal deity or before any coronation ceremony.

The step well or pushkarni near the Ekanatheshwari temple

Ekanatheshwari temple, dedicated to the royal deity

As you climb further into the fort, you see the remains of the Mint. The rulers minted their own currency here. The mud look of this place would never let you believe that it stored pots of gold, literally !

The mud walls of “The Mint”

A misleading temple like structure that served as coin storage within “The Mint”

This Akka-Tangi honda (big-small sister tank) were storage tanks using rain-water harvest. It is said that water stored here would have sufficed for 12 years even if there were no rains ! Apparently, when Madakari Nayaka was taken prisoner by Hyder Ali, his two wives who were sisters, committed suicide by jumping into the water reservoirs lending it the name it bears today.

The sister tanks where water used to be stored using rain-water harvesting methods

The next destination takes us towards the most famous resident of this fort, Obavva. Wife of one of the guards at the fort, she is a legend – known for her bravery and presence of mind. She was guarding the fort tower, substituting for her husband during his lunch break. While fetching water from a stream, she heard muted sounds of enemy soldiers attempting to enter the fort through a small crevice. This opening was used for milk and curd exchange from outside and was not known to many. Not wanting to rouse her husband from lunch and thinking on her feet, she found a wooden rod used for pounding paddy and hid behind the crevice. Each soldier coming over was hit on the head with the wooden rod. She killed close to 40 enemy soldiers by the time her husband saw her and blew the bugle. Soon reinforcement had arrived, the fort was saved but the brave woman lost her life at the hands of the enemy. She became a hero ! Today, many students visit this fort to see this place “Onake Kindi”, where a simple woman showed the world what one can do if there is will and courage.

“Onake Kindi” – the crevice in the fort through which enemy soldiers tried entering the fort

Overall, you can spend 4-5 hours exploring the fort at leisure. We were in a hurry to get back and did the exploring in close to 3 hours. It is a beautiful fort with lots to see and is very well maintained. Beware of monkeys though. They rule the roost here and are there in hoards. Due to the heat during the day, they try their luck with snatching water bottles from tourists. My son had to utilize his ball passing skills to save ours. We had the pleasure of watching them open a bottled water and savoring it !

Monkeys rule the roost at the fort. Check them open a bottle water and drink it effortlessly

Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)

  • Getting there – Chirtadurga city is at the intersection of National Highway 4 and National Highway 13. It is about 3.5 hours drive from Bangalore and is ideal for a day trip
  • You can visit it round the year. Early morning or late afternoon is best for the climb as the boulders can get unbearably hot in the sun
  • Wear comfortable cotton clothes and good walking shoes
  • Carry sunblock, sunglasses and a cap for coping with the sun
  • Carry snacks and / or drinking water in a backpack for safeguarding from resident monkeys.
  • Picnics are allowed inside the fort. There is a canteen for basic snacks and water requirement. Pay toilets are also available
  • Entry to the fort is open from 6AM to 5 PM. Entry fee is Rs 5/- for Indians and Rs 100/- for foreign nationals
  • We recommend hiring a guide. Typical charges are between Rs 300-400
  • When in the city, do visit Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Room. The food is great, service decent and you can relax with a steaming cup of filter coffee
A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

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A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

17 Responses

  1. magiceye says:

    Thank you for a wonderful virtual tour!

  2. This is a post I really enjoyed. It’s hard to believe how big this fort is and the work that went into its construction. So fascinating and the temples are also so beautiful and detailed. I really hope I will be able to visit here one day and drive there from Bangalore.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Nicole. The fort is really impressive and I was also amazed at how it must have built in the olden times. The added history and legends to it add to the charm

  3. Emily says:

    These ruins are so pretty. I love how you have incorporated the history into the images you collected. Makes a great read

  4. neha says:

    Your pictures covering the fort are absolutely stunning. I was always thinking whether going to the fort is worth it. And after reading your article, no doubt, I know it totally is. Going to take this trip soon

    • admin says:

      You should Neha. It is a 3 – 4 hr drive from Bangalore and if you leave early, you can beat the sun and be back in Bangalore to watch the sun set 🙂

  5. Marge says:

    The fort looks beautiful, the architecture a bit similar with Intramuros, the walled city in my country. I saw the elephant boulder picture and I was like, oh yeah it looks like an elephant. But my favorite here is the story of Obavva. No wonder she became a legend, what a brave woman!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Marge. Glad you liked the post. All these forts / walled cities have so many stories to tell. You must tell us all about Intramuros. Obavva was surely a brave woman. I couldn’t help thinking how I would have reacted in her place. She is a legend that students still read about in books today

  6. Jerny says:

    One word: AWESOME! Every day, little by little, I am intrigued about India’s very rich history and stories. No wonder I would be able to visit this one heck of a country one day! And that woman, she’s so brave! Unfortunately, she lost her life.

    • admin says:

      Stories from India can keep you here for years ! Obavva was sure a very brave woman and her story is taught in school books in the state. If you visited the fort, you can see many school trips here. Isn’t it fun to visit a place you have read in your books ?

  7. Mihaela says:

    Oh wow! this stories are so amazing. Now I really want to visit, especially the one with Obavva. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. Mihaela says:

    Oh wow! these stories are so amazing. Now I really want to visit, especially the one with Obavva. Thank you for the inspiration!

  9. This is called serendipity. I was a guest of mine last week ( Saturday) and during our walk ( I am travel story-teller), she told me about Chitradurga. Now it is you who is telling me about this wonderful fort. This is called coincidence.
    You know which one is the best picture of the lot? The one having monkeys trying to open their stolen water bottles.
    Hat tip for this post.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Swayam (and I have you on my list to contact when I am in Delhi next for some of the story telling experience). You should have seen my son’s ball control skills when a monkey was at him to grab the bottle he was carrying ! I couldn’t capture that on camera as I was more worried about my son not getting hurt then, but it is fresh in my mind (and hilarious in hindsight)

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