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