Jan 31, 2011

ASI booklet on Mirjan Fort

Transcription of the booklet-

Archeological Survey of India
Dharwad Circle, Dharwad

Mirjana (Lat 140-33' N and Log 740-26' E0 is a village on the north bank of river Aghanasini adjacent to the National Highway no. 17 and is 10kms. from Kumta. Towrads the west of this village is the Arabian sea and other sidea are surronded by hill ranges. It is a picturesque place on the west coast of Karnataka.

Mirjana is known as "Midge" in Kannada writings. This village has no refernec in early inscriptions. It is possible that it was the town of Mussuris, a well known port frequented by Roman merchants between 1st and 3rd centuries AD and also mentioned by Plini (C. 77 AD), Ptinger (C. 100 AD) and Periplus (C. 247 A.D.). The ancient Mussuris is same as the present day Mirjana according to Forbes (1784), Rennel (1784) and Roberson (1791). Between 3rd and 16th Century AD Mirjana was never a popular place. In about 17th century AD a fort was constructed here in which remains of a Shiva temple, a Mahishamardini sculpture and a few Memorial Stones are found.

The Fort

No reference to the construction of the fort is found. Yet it is known from the contemporary sources that Shareeff-Ul-Mulk (1608-1640 AD), ruling Ponda as the fuedatory of the Adil Shahi Sultan of Bijapur, got this fort constructed. Contemporary writings reveal that this fort which passed on to many hands of the rulers was an important port for overseas trade and commerce during the medieval period. This port built on the bank of river Aghanasini, played a dominantt role during the Vijayanagara perioBlack pepper, cinnamon and other forest produces were exported from this port and Arabian horses which was the mainstay of the Vijayanagara cavalry were imported, according to Dominigo Paes (C. 1520 AD) and De Barros (1580 AD). After the fall of Vijayanagara empire this fort successively went into the hands of the Bahamani Sultans, Adil Shahis of Bijapur, a small ruling family of Uttara Kannada region, the Portuguese, Hyder and Tippu and after the death of Tippu the British held this fort town.

The fort spread in an area of 11.8 acres is built out of laterite blocks, octogonal over an elevated mound. The fort has four enterances of which the northern one is big and important too. the fort is surronded by a moat to which water is continously supplied by the nearby stream Kudurehalla. The walls built out of large dresses blocks is quite spacious and has eleven circular sloping bastions all-around. Above the walls are series of merlons and gun holes (100 holes) are provided in between. the top of the wall has a small path enough for a man to walk over. In front of the main enterance is a bridge (causeway0 over the moat that connects the gate and the land on the other side. This fort built using Islamic and Portuguese technology with best of the protective devices is one of the big and strong forts fo North Kannada district. All-round these portifications are found traces of underground passages but their clear network, at present, cannot be made out. There are three wells with stone lining dug inside of the fort.


Mirjana Fort with its long historical importance has been declared as a protected monument. To trace the history of this fort and also to ascent its role in the social and economic ethos of its history the Archeological Survey of India, Dharwad Circle, conducted archeological excavations in the year 1999.

Excavations conducted inside the fort, over an area of 3900 square meters brought to light a huge structure built north-south and many other laterite structures and other remains. Of the structures excavated, the most important was the building built facing north. This measures 35 x 29.5 mts and it is in 'U' shape. Its east, west and southern sidea are surronded by other structures. the southern structure is taller than those on other sides. Large quantity of earthen tiles were found here and the post holes noticed lead us to conclude that this 'U' shaped structure had a tiled gable roof.

This structure was built to house the administrative offices. The chief of this, it appears had his assembly sitting at a high place on the south side with people assembled on the sides. A similar structure has also been discovered in the excavations at Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara empire. Towards the south-west of this structure are rectangular buildings whereion during the course fo the excavation, charred black pepper, rice along with a saddle quern, iron pan, cocnut scraper are found. these allow us to conclude that this was the kitchen of those days.

Likewise towards the west of the 'U' shaped building at a adistance fo 16 meters is a nearly finished circular stone trough. The trough is plastered with lime mortar inside. Attached to the trough are disturbed masonry channels. Adjacent to these is a stone masonry soakpit. Water to these channels froma well found on the western side. At a short distance from these channels, towards the south, is a subterrenean chamber (5 x 5.3 mts in area) without the provision of steps. It is possible that this chamber was used to store explosives. From the evidence derived from these structures it becomes evident that this fort is a construction of 17th century and this fort played an important role in the maritime trade activities.

Methodical excavation conducted at the site revealed several antiquities. Important among these antiquities are the 75 cannon shot (balls). They have a diameter of 8.5 cms. and weigh 10 to 15 kg each. Other antiquities found are dumb-bells (5 nos.0, copper and lead coins, terracotta sealings, Chinese porcelain, copper rings, adze, axe, hammer, nails, etc.

Other important datable antiquities found in the excavations are 113 copper coins of hyder Ali's period. They have elephant on the observe and on the reverse legends in Arabic script, which is effaced and not possible to decipher. Terracotta sealing with Arabian and Persian languages written in Nastaliq characters read 'Rehman Khan Valad Gazi Fahim' in ornate characters. these sealings bear the date Hijira 1183 AD, which corresponds to AD 1769-70. From this sealing it appears that hyder Ali (1763-82 AD) had appointed Rehman Khan to look after Mirjana Fort.

Another important discovery is a gold coin dated 1652 AD minted in Goa by the Portugese. it weigs 3.79 gms., and has a diameter of 1.9 cms. the observe has image of St. Thomas. The figure in it's left hand holds a plough liek object. This coin was released by the Portuguese governer Conde De Sarzedes (Ad 1650-60). He was ruling from Goa during the reign of Monarch De jovo IV (AD 1640-56) as evidenced from the legend on the reverse of the coin. This coin contains a hook soldered on to its edge. This suggests that it was used as a pendent for a necklace.

Pieces of Chinese white porcelian are also found. Thay have the depictions of peacock and snakes made in blue color. Pots and pottery pieces, implements of daily use like knife, axe, adze, spoon, coconut scraper, plier, nails, etc. are also found.

From these evidences it becomes clear that this fort played an importabnt role between 16th and 18th centuries in the overseas trade of Karnataka.



Jan 24, 2011

Fort Rajhansgad

I had seen this hill from a cousin's place in Belgaum long time back ...late 90s. I cannot remember if I asked my cousin about the hill but ever since I laid my eyes on it I wanted to visit it. Recently, that's after I started with this blog and my research on forts I happen to come across Yellur fort which happens to be the one I saw 11 years back.

About a fortnight ago I read about Belgaum International Kite Festival scheduled for January 16th and 17th. I'd never seen a kite festival and decided to visit this one. While exploring new places or events I normally plan for multiple places... Yellur got added to Sunday's itinerary. Suresh mama, maternal uncle, agreed to accompany.

We left Dharwad Sunday morning 9:30, terribly late by my standards. By 10:15 we were at Wadgoan, asking for directions to Yellur. Road to Yellur is full of twists & turns and flanked by farms... sugarcane and bengalgram were the crops of the season. We could Yellurgad in the background. Yellur is a large village with a medium sized tank. At Yellur we learnt that we need to reach Rajahansgad to take the road going uphill to the fort. Yellur - Rajahansgad road was littered with pot-holes, dry and dusty. We could mostly see hilly terrain covered with dry-grass. Half-way through we stopped to take a snap of the hill.

We are on the northern side of the hill.

Rajahansgad was about 2.5km. It's a small village located on the hill slope. Just outside the village is the road leading to Yellurgad. About 1km downhill the road dips into a stream bed. Here ends the metaled road. A Bolero and a WagonR were parked here. The uphill dirt track is littered with fist sized stones with narrow strips of clear tracks on either sides. I pushed my Maruti 800 gently up the track... 200m uphill the gradient increased... front wheels started spinning. I had no plans of ruining the tires, I stopped, reversed and parked to a side.

As we went up the hill, two boys on a Honda Unicorn were riding down. Further up the hill we saw another group of adults and kids coming down. Early morning is the right time to be here.

Anyway... we could see the fort looming above us.

The gateway to the fort is designed to confuse enemies.

The gateway is designed to surrounded visitors on 3 sides. Check them and then let them in.

The fort is more or less in good condition except for few damaged parts. Right opposite the gateway, inside is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Yellurgad offers a commanding view of the surrounding areas; it's supposed to be the highest peak in Belgaum district. This could be a major watch tower of which ever kingdom it belonged to. However the fort has a small shelter (for soldiers to rest and sleep) right next to the main door ...probably a handful of them were stationed and a bigger group lived in a camp down the hill.

There's not a single information board here. No idea who and when the fort was built.

A Kalyani. By the looks of the step, this fort could be constructed by any of the Maratha kings - that's my guess.

Ruins of a small temple or a house next to the Kalyani.

This is the inside of the existing temple dedicated to Shivalinga.

The lady, in this undated picture, is a singer by name Kalavatidevi of Belgaum. This photo was on the wall right above entrance to the inner temple.

A mini temple next to main temple.

One of the twin shelters which are part of the fort's gateway. This could be used as an office or residence.

I wanted to walk the foot-path etched around the fort and take few snaps along the wall but we had to leave for the kite festival. Also we were hungry. One last snap shot from Rajahansgad. Hope to visit again sometime October 2012... part of the year when fields are green.

I thought a road-map could help visitors new to this area. Do click on the image to enlarge it.

If you ever plan to visit make sure you reach early... by 7 in the morning.

Yellurgad Coordinates: 15°45'25"N 74°31'36"E


Jan 17, 2011

Search for Lalguli Falls

Two days after my previous visit to Lalguli I got introduced to Raghavendra Bhat Lalguli over phone. I planned another visit the coming Sunday. This time the group members were Vidya, Neel and me.

Sunday morning we left Dharwad around 4:45. Like the previous trip we took Dharwad-Haliyal-Yellapur Road. By 6:45 we were at Lalguli. Raghu had told water tank as a landmark... we had stopped close to the rear entrance of their house. A dog started barking and Raghu was out to greet us. The house, a tiled roof structure, is built at the edge of their arecanut plantation. We got introduced to Raghu's grandfather Anant Bhat, father Narayan Bhat and his mother. Raghu said we could leave after breakfast. We went around the house. A raised L-shaped arecanut drying-platform is right next to the house. We could see nuts spread out for drying. Area below the platform is also used for drying and other activities like peeling and sorting the fruit. All work involving harvesting except plucking arecanut bunches from the trees is handled by the family. Climbing arecanut tree and plucking bunches is a tricky job.

The kitchen and the dining area was simple, clean and tidy. Mats and plates were placed on the floor. I had one of the best breakfasts in my life. Neerudose (translates to water dosa), coconut chutney, curds, raap (liquid jaggery) and tea were served with affection.

Around 8:15 we set off for the trek into the jungle in search of Lalguli Falls. Raghu's cousin Sriram joined us.

Raghu told that this jungle is actually teak plantation belonging to Karnataka Forest Department. Most of the jungle in and around Lalguli are teak plantations. Wild animals such as bear, wild dog, boar, deer, elephant and even tiger live in these jungles. Cattle go deep into jungle and return after days. Cowherds with their cattle camp in jungle for 2 or 3 days at times. About 15 days back one of the villagers was attacked by an elephant. His dog bit the elephant's ear, that's when the elephant backed off and the cowherd escaped being crushed.

A fallen tree resting on another tree. About 2km from Lalguli... this stream flows across our path.

We took some time crossing it even though it was knee-deep. The stream bed was covered with slippery rocks and pebbles. We had place our feet between rocks to get some hold. The water was clear and cool.

Few feet away from the stream sits a stone grinder in the middle of the path leading up the hill. It seems to be an ancient one. 10 minutes walk up the hill we came to ruins of a fort wall and a statue of Lord Hanuman.

Raghu's family members visit this open air temple every Saturday to perform pooja except during rainy season. It is said that one of the queens of Sonda dynasty had got this statue installed here after banning killing of monkeys. The fort wall- seems as though the construction was abandoned half-way through. The location is strategic; on a hill between a stream and River Kali. The stream joins river Kali short distance from here. Effectively the fort is surrounded by water on 3 sides.

A little Basavanna sits amidst other stone idols. About 200 feet from this temple is a small open well which is supposed to have been created same time as the fort. A short distance from the fort, we took a right turn. We were now going downhill towards river Kali.

Mosquitoes attacked me... some how those pests did not bother others. Raghu showed us so many types of plants. One of the plants had minute pests on the underside of it's leaves. if our skin happened to brush against it, we would itch after 2 or 3 days. We had friendly plants too. Raghu pulled out a small creeper by it's root, cut the root in the middle and held to my nose- it smelt just like Bournivita. We got to see few wild banana plants too.

Here it is- Kalinadi! Looks daunting even without water.

These rocks must have taken few million years to take this form.

Looking towards west. Kalinadi flows west to join Arabian sea at Karwar.

Vidya shooting rocks with her Canon Rebel T1i. Mine is Nikon Coolpix 5100.

Fresh water gushing through rocks. We could never tell how deep the water ran. We had to be extremely careful here. Smooth rocks and water is a deadly combination. beauty fraught with dangers.

We found an interesting rock. Rock with a window and small chamber inside. Raghu sitting on the window sill.

Sriram and I joined Raghu. All three of us could fit into it. It was warm inside and we were sweating like crazy.

Now we are looking east. We went up this way for about 60 meters to check out this cascade.

This part of the river is friendly. Sriram finds a nice spot at the top.

More art work. How on Earth was this formed? Amazing!

Some kind of marks on rocks. The rock is originally whitish. The grey matter is probably dried moss.

Signs on man's hand on these rocks...

Here are geometrically shaped rock slabs. I feel these were being shaped and sized to b used for building the fort and temple. These rocks are perfectly flat and edges are straight lines. They were probably cut out from...

...this massive rock. Sriram strikes a nice pose with a stunning back-ground.

We turn back, we had plans to go down the river to find spot which is called Lalguli waterfalls. Neel was sitting in meditation pose for quite some time.

Neel was tired of the heat. In fact all of us were feeling the heat from all directions. The Sun blazing above and the rocks rocks radiating heat. These rocks' slipperiness increased as they heated... the grey powdery stuff would come off easily.

Now this Google Map screenshot would be to explain our movements.

Now we are point C. This is where we rested, had guava and water.
A - we entered the river bed here
B - cascade and farthest we went east
D - farthest we went west
E - destination only Raghu went

Water flows rapidly into a hole behind me with a loud roar. The mist kicked up by the fall cooled the surrounding air.

From here Raghu, Sriram and I went towards point E.

The going got tough... rocks were steeper and more slippery. Moving every meter would need effort here. At times we would have to balance on a narrow strip flanked by steep faces. Our energy sapped out by the heat. We paused at point D. Raghu went ahead with the Canon. At least we would have few pictures to see. While Sriram and I waited, I was little worried... Finally after about 20 minutes I was relived to see Raghu back with us. He had taken some pictures but that's not Lalguli Falls. We failed again.

We regrouped again at point C. Time we headed back home... I mean Lalguli. We still had a uphill climb ahead through the jungle of us. Even as we went up Raghu would keep telling us something or the other. I envied his stamina. Soon we were back at the fort, we stopped by to pay respects to Lord Hanuman for a safe trip, crossed the stream, this time it was easier and my feet felt great to be cool cool water. Back on flat terrain, we trekked slowly chatting away.

Wild boar jaw?

It was a relief to back home... it was almost 2pm.

Raghu's folks had had lunch and waiting for our return. I took a quick bath and changed into fresh clothes. It felt great! We all sat down for a delicious meal of rice, green pepper chutney, curds, buttermilk and another dish. Most of the items were home grown. I relished every morsel of rice. Raghu spread couple of beds for us to lie down. I did while Neelkant preferred to sit. I did not fall asleep but felt good to lie down after all the exertion. Vidya spent time inside with the ladies.

After while we had tea. Raghu and his grandfather showed us their arecanut plantation and paddy fields. We learnt that Lalguli farming community has adopted organic farming. Lalguli is known as Saavayaava Graama ~ ಸಾವಯಾವ ಗ್ರಾಮ. It was interesting to learn how they recycled waste such as arecanut peels to produce manure. Every family member would contribute. In fact while we went around the farm, Raghu's father was busy hauling areca bunches from the plantation to the house. His mother was peeling them. Life is so simple and beautiful. We people living city lead such complicated lives.

Grandfather and grandsons.

We visited Sriram's home. His parents were away. That's his grandparents and sister. Here we had spoke more about Lalguli Falls. It seems there's a falls near Tatval locally known as Saat Patte ~ ಸಾತ್ ಪಟ್ಟೆ ...seven falls. This is the same place which Khaitan Degasiddi has told us during previous visit. It's become quite a mystery. Where exactly is it? Raghu and I decided to do more digging... he would speak to Siddi people who know every square inch of the jungle here. We would plan another trip and go exploring.

I wanted to stay back... I promised Raghu to come back. We left Lalguli by 5:45. By the time we hit Haliyal-Yellapur road it was almost dark. We met three foxes at three different places within a span of two kilometers. What a place! Such nice people! And a wonderful day!

Do check out Lalguli videos.