Chitradurga Fort: Among the Rocks a hidden Fort

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I like historical fiction, so when I arrived at the Chitradurga Fort, I knew I was stepping into a remarkable historic place. Here the architecture speaks of its time and grandeur but still yearns for timelessness. Unlike the name Chitradurga, the location is also picturesque with bold rock hills, deep green valleys and huge towering boulders in numerous patterns. Seeing the ruins of the Chitradurga Fort, I recalled the lines said by Martin Luther Jr. “We are not makers of history; we are made by history.”Chitradurga fort was my second solo travel, which had just taken place. I never planned it as I never got word of this fort before. I was lucky because of the goof-up made on my official travel dates, where I was sanctified with a free day to explore this majestic fort by chance.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
Seven walls fortification

It was monsoon in Bangalore; hence, the weather was perfect for travelling, but Bangalore’s landscape caught my attention during this trip. Once on the outskirt of Bangalore, when you are on Tumkur road, you come to see rocky mountains all around; we know the nature of mountains varies; some are rocky or dry, some seasonally green, even evergreen or white in that instant. Only on the drive to Chitradurga fort could we See hills with boulders on one side and green mountains with windmills on the other.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks

And at times, vast, deep, lush green valley with red soil behind the hillocks, all in one glimpse. The striking colour variation thoroughly amused me. Along with this panorama, I was blessed with a cloudy sky, with on & off drizzles, a cool breeze & lovely windmills revolving high up.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
lush greenery with red soil

It’s a 4 hrs drive from Banglore (201.2Km), and the cab I booked had a chatter driver who explained the meaning of Chitradurga. Chitradurga is formed of two Kannada words “Chitra” means picture, and “Durga” means fortress. Its locally also known as “Kallina Kote”-Stone Fortress and “Yelusuttina Kote”-Seven circle fort. Another name is metaphorically used as “Ukkina Kote”- Steel fort means an impregnable stronghold. Quite Interesting! One defence with multiple names. Upon arriving at our destination, I purchased a Rs 5 ticket as the defence comes under the archaeological department.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
The entrance of the fort

I could sense the beauty in ruins as I crossed the iron gates. Excited to unfold a new history chapter, I hired a guide to get me around the fort. The guide not only educated me on the exotic history but showcased the strategic and scientific architecture too. An abundance of sculpture and scripted art on the fortress walls and ramparts clears the root from where the fort derives its name – Chitradurga.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
Map of the fort

The fort lies amid a valley formed by the Vedavati River, hidden behind a Hillock. The fort’s striking feature is the seven walls of the defence, all a circle from ground level to the hilltop. These seven wall constitutes the Chinmuladri range. The first level of the fortress can be missed as it’s amidst the Chitradurga town now. The fort became more prominent from the second level as I trekked upward.

Steep stairs in front of the entrance

I found none of the entries is in a straight line. This means the enemy cannot invade directly in the fortress, and to make it more impregnable, steep stairs were made at each entrance. What caught my attention was a snake inscription at the fort’s opening, right above the moat that surrounds it. That’s been quite contrasting to other sculptures.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
The snake inscription on the entrance wall

Built between 1500 AD and 1800 AD, Chitradurga fort has witnessed a turbulent history from the Vijayanagar empire until the Mysore dynasty. This can be experienced through the fort’s walls made of burnt bricks, set in mortar, then plastered with a thin layer of cement or lime and painted. You can spot tiny spy holes & gun slits to protect the fort amidst these strong walls. As you walk along with the defence, you come across multiple watch towers; as per my guide, there were 2000 watchtowers in the fort to guard & keep an eye on the enemy incursions. Damn! That’s a considerable number.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks

The guide showed me that the seven concentric fortification walls were established with the passage most with a right-angle turn, citadel, masjid, warehouses for grains and oil, water reservoirs and ancient temples. The fort had 19 gateways & 18 temples, where the Hidimbeshwara temple was the oldest. The ascent to this temple was difficult as the steps were steep & slippery due to rain. Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks

Hidimbeshwara temple

But I managed to the Hidimbeswara temple that displays the tooth of Hidimba. Thither is folklore linked to the hills surrounding the fort, which dates back to the Mahabharata. A man-eating giant named Hidimbasura used to dwell on the Chitradurga hill. During the exile, when Pandavas came with their mother Kunti, Bhima had a duel with Hidimba, where Hidimba was defeated. It further expresses that the boulders were part of the arsenal used during that duel. I am not sure about the legend, but the panorama view from the Hidimbeswara temple is breathtaking.

Panorama view from the temple

The Chitradurga fort is widespread in an expanse of 1500 acres, so I had to walk a lot to explore. Thank the lovely weather, it was not tedious at all. My guide further explained the fort was constructed in stages between the 11th and 13th centuries. And several inscriptions of the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas and the Vijaynagar kings have been found in and around the fortress. This inscription traces the fort’s history to the Ashokan period rock edicts that affirms the rule of the Mauryan empire during the reign of the royal dynasties of Rashtrakutas- Chalukyas and Hoysalas. Later the Vijaynagar empire gained control of this region when Nayakas were introduced- who reigned for over 200 years until Hyder Ali defeated the last ruler in 1779.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
The expanse of the fort in 1500 Acre

Further Historical linkage has been demonstrated by an archaeological finding in the Panchalinga (Five Lingas) cave in the Ankhi Matha area with an inscription dated 1284 AD. This attributes the establishment of the Five Lingas (Aniconic symbols of Lord Shiva) to the Pandavas.  Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks


Chitradurga fort indeed has a vast historical lineage. While preceding the entrances, you can find a few intact structures, like the Gunpowder factory. Constructed during Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan’s rule, this gunpowder factory is entire with its grind wheel. The quadruple mill has four large grinders with teeth or slots, rotated either by elephants or bullocks. It is called ‘Maddu Bisuva Kallu’ in Kannada, which means “gunpowder grinding stone.”

gun powder factory

Even the rainwater-harvesting structures were established in a cascade development, which ensured ample water storage in interconnected reservoirs. Thus, the fort was said to never suffer from a water shortage, and they were named after the wives of ruler Madakri Nayaka- called Akka Tangiyara Honda. However, she committed suicide by jumping in these tanks when Hyder Ali conquered the fort.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
The water harvesting reservoir

I was exhausted when I reached the seventh floor, so I took a seat at the main square. I saw a temple called the Ekanatheswari temple; close to it was a tall pillar used for hanging swings, as confirmed by my guide. Just in front of the temple was this beautiful, tall singular pillar, Deepstambh.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
The pillar for the hanging swing & Deepstammbha

And further, ahead of a small yet intricate designed step well- both used for worship. These architects are still in sound condition because I saw the mint & treasure houses as we moved further in ruins. While observing the area, I saw a few small temples & hiding places for the military.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks

By the time I reached the Hidimbeswara temple, the rain had begun to pour in. Hence I had to hide in the temple where my guide shared another famous legend of Onake Obama. It is alleged that this lady above kept a watch on behalf of his husband, Kahale Mudda Hanuma, while he was away at lunch. Obama went to take in water in a pot from a pond, as her husband asked for it. The lake was near the Kindi – secret passage in Kannada. Amidst the rocks, halfway up the hill, she discovered the army trying to enter the fort through the course. Obama was not perturbed. Instead, she killed Hyder Ali’s soldiers with her Onake (a long wooden club meant for pounding paddy grains), which she took with her. 

Ruins of Mint & treasury killed soldiers who attempted to get into the fort. And silently removed the dead bodies without creating suspicions. Upon return, Hanuma Obavva’s husband was shocked to see her standing with a bloodstained Onake and several of the enemies’ dead bodies around her. Together they killed most of the soldiers. But Obama died either due to shock or was killed by the enemy soldiers. Hence the opening in the rocks- was named after her Onake Obavva Kind. And the well Tanniru Doni remains a historical witness to the story. Despite her brave attempt to pull through the fort, it did not work as the battle was lost. Considerably, I wanted to hop down in that secret passage to explore caves & narrow openings, but the queue was long, so I dropped the idea.

Chitradurga:A fort amongst rocks
Onake Obavva Kinndi

Chitradurga fort offer scope for adventure, too; you can try climbing the smooth hillocks, which are steep, though few cut grooved in, without any handrail. I observed a few people challenge themselves as they rose down the hillock.

Chitradurga: A Hidden Fort Among The Rocks
Monkey Man

Or you can watch out for live acrobats or the monkey man- he generally sits between the 6th or 7th entrance. This gentleman performs for the crowd as he moves up the fort without support. Known as Kothi Raj, you can watch him act & leave a tip too for the performance.

Adventure rock climbing

The architecture and planning of Chitradurga are meticulous and refined. Everything was taken into account by the architects of that era during construction. Chitradurga fort fits the line read by Eleanor Roosevelt-“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams “. It was a thrilling experience, one must visit a beautiful wonder, and you will come back enriched with captivating tales from our rich Indian history.

How to reach :

By Air:

The nearest airport to Chitradurga is Bangalore or Hubli Airport, about 197 km and 210Km respectively. From the airport, one can take KSRTC buses or book a cab.

By Rail:

The Railway station of Chitradurga is situated on a branch line that originates from Chikjajur and has limited train services. However, there is a daily rail service to Bangalore and a weekly service to Mumbai. Travelling southwest, Chikjajur Junction Railway Station is the nearest major railhead.

By Road:

NH-4 and 13 highways pass through Chitradurga from Bangaluru. KSRTC buses are plies from all districts of Karnataka. Buses are also connected from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andra.






















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