Jan 31, 2012

Belur Fort

Armed with a map with six forts and one ancient temple marked on it: My destinations of the day were- Belur, Wakandurga, Chikanal, Gudur, Kelur, Mangalgud, Siddankolla and Aihole. I started the journey towards Belur.

Shivu arrived with his Indica at 4-15AM, we left almost immediately. Shivu was a slow driver, used to honk unnecessarily. We were at Belur by 7-15. After a bit of struggle we got directions to the path leading up the hill. We drove through the narrow lanes towards a water tank and found a place to park the Indica.

Shivu volunteered to join me. I tried to get few local kids to guide us, none showed interest but one did come and showed us where to start the climb. The path was filthy until we reached the water-tank. The hill was quite steep, scattered with thorny bushes, fort not visible and no stairway too. We found a man and asked directions. He asked us to follow the electric poles. Simple. Loose mud, pebbles and rocks... we climbed slowly for 15 minutes to reach the summit. Going down this path is going to be tricky.

First glimpse of Belur fort wall.

Fort temple and gateway.

Google maps grab of Belur hill. We are at point B.

A - Banashankari-Belur road
B - Fort entrance
C - Bastion and Open well

The summit is a plateau with lot of plant life; grass, thorny bushes and shrubs. The hill seems to have some wild life too, I happened to see a pair of land birds and a grey-white-brown hare. The hare was in sight for barely 2 seconds. This grass covers almost entire plateau's soil surface. I realize Shivu is not with me.

I could not make up mind to explore these ruins looks like a bastion.

As I keep walking hoping to see a large structure and I see this structure at a distance. I walk through a maze of shrubs and bushes to reach it. It looks like a bastion but its hollow inside. The only entrance to it was almost 10 feet from its base. I assume this was a specialized watch tower. Right next to it was deep pit which must have been a well, a source of water for fort staff.

I looked at the stones and gaps between them trying to calculate the risk involved in climbing up and down. Forget it, climbing down will be tricky business.

Just one small entrance, has gun holes all around it. It must have multiple uses- granary, ammunition & weapons store, emergency shelter...

I ventured a few hundred feet beyond this bastion and it became clear that I was outside the fort and was on the way to the next hill. I turn back, convinced that there's nothing more of importance here.

Once upon a time this heap of stones was a wall. Somehow I felt construction activities were abandoned in between. This is where I saw the hare, couple of leaps it was out of sight.

Neighboring hill and plains below.

This little flowering plant seem to grow out of gaps in rocks.

Other side of the ruins I passed by earlier. Built close to the southern edge of the hill this structure comprises of four bastions connected by rampart walls. It also had a elevated platform near by to provide a good view of plains below.

A cairn. This hill is a convenient place for shepherds to let their goats and sheep graze while they chat and nap in shaded spots. This cairn would be their creation. Down below are houses of Belur village.

The raised platform which served as a watch out.

I climb halfway up and lost confidence on the shaky stones I was stepping on. No sight of Shivu, no response to my calls. I guessed he must have gone back to his Indica. The climb down was not really tricky.

No sign of Shiv near the cab... there he is- walking down a narrow street. It seems he saw me climbing downhill and followed me at a distance. Sneaky!

I was hungry. Found a little eatery on the main street. The place was small, cow-dung smeared dirt floor, wooden tables and benches, run by father-son duo ...simple but clean. Menu was idli, vade and upit. We went for idli-vade, the best I had in 2011. People had no information about the fort's history. Done with breakfast, I cleared the bill and asked for directions to Gudur.

Earlier in the morning we had seen the western face of Belur hill. The eastern face as seen from Belur-Neelogal road.

My plan was to hit Gudur next but few kilometers after Hosur we happened to notice an interesting looking hill to our left. An elderly farmer told us it was Wakkandurga, "you could have gone there from Hosur itself." The farmer asked us to go to Neelogal and come back to Wakkandurga ...its not really far. If we had not run into this friend, we would have done lot of unnecessary running around. There we go to the hill fort of Wakkandurga.

Belur Fort Co-ordinates: 15°51'9"N 75°45'16"E


Jan 28, 2012

Shabari Kolla

This is one of the few temples dedicated to Rama's devotee Shabari. The temple is located in a cleft of a rock hill near Sureban town, Ramdurg Taluq, Belgaum district.

Shabari Kolla seems to attract crowds only on some days in a year like Amavasya and few festivals. Of course, the place would be packed with devotees and hawkers during Varsha Jaatri ~ annual fair.

We first go to the fresh water pond for a wash. Behind the main temple is this little temple. Manju identified the tree next to the temple- a Baarigida. I was surprised to see a Baarigida of this size. Usually they are seen as shrubs. The thorny plant bears a small red/brown colored edible fruit with a hard seed and funny smell.

Closer looks at the sculptures.

Hanuman's image and a Shiva Linga.

Spring water collects in twin tanks, other pond was not as clean as this. Manju is right next to a chamber from which water flows out.

I could see water flowing into this chamber from an invisible source. Water was clear and odorless. A group of people who were here just as we came took some water in few bottles.

Partially submerged idol of Ganesha.

Couple of images in the tank wall close by.

The main temple. Garbhagudi was locked, we had to peep through holes in the door to get a glimpse of the deity but with the darkness inside nothing much was visible.

The temple is ancient, architecture seems like Chalukyan, the temple could be 800 to 1000 years old. Incomplete brick & cement structures near the temple reminds me of Shisunala Shariefsaheb's grave.

Being here reminded me of Hooli hills and Varavi Siddeshwara. If rainfall was good, this place would have a different look ...streams, cascades and waterfalls would liven up the entire hill and its surroundings. I'll wait for that day.

On the same hill, about a couple of kilometers from Shabri Kolla is another temple- place where Swami Shivananda (contemporary of Siddarooda Swami) performed meditation for many years and attained enlightenment. Swami Shivananda's son Swami Atmananda was also an enlightened soul. Swami Atmananda set up an ashram at Hangarki village, about 20km from Dharwad. The ashram is managed by Swami Atmananda's daughter and grandchildren.

Shabari Kolla Coordinates: 15°53'55"N 75°22'11"E


Jan 21, 2012

Mudkavi Fort

I could have visited Mudkavi Fort during the visit to Ramdurg Fort if I was attentive during research. Distance between the Mudkavi and Ramdurg is barely 20km. Anyway, the day has come. Manju and I drove here after we were done with work at Tirlapur. Mudkavi Fort is situated on a slope of a hillock. Half the village is within the fort. Even a government school building is within this fort walls.

A - Flag bastion, close to Mudkavi bus-stand
B - main entrance and lake
C - inner fort's gateway
D - Maddinakoli ~ ammunition store in a bastion
E - temple and open well
F - Hanuman Mandir and Erannagudi

Main entrance of the fort.

Right next to the gateway are two temples. This is Hanuman temple.

Eranna temple. One of the villagers mentioned that the temple was in ruins few years back. A family from Shimoga for whom this is a home deity came here and got the temple done up and pooja is being performed here ever since. Ex-chief minister of Karnataka B.S.Yediyurappa has visited this temple two times and donated money for the temple's maintenance.

We hooked a bunch of curious kids into showing us around their fort. We start from the lake. Rains having skipped this area, the water level is lower than previous years ... marks were visible on the walls.

We were on one of the two 7' wide walls forming a protrusion into the lake. Nice spot to jump off ...splash!!

Part of the wall along the lake, local kids pointed the small shelter and called it as mangyana-mani ~ monkey house. Our escort consisted of 6 kids aged 4 to 10 years, all bare foot.

The kids lead us to the western wall. This wall has has six bastions located at regular intervals. Most of the bastions and rampart walls are in bad shape, in the verge of collapsing. Many of the bastions are inaccessible because of peek-jaali kanti. To our left were the massive rampart walls of the inner fort. The five of the six bastions of the inner fort square and one is circular.

Gun holes at regular intervals can be seen at the top. From here we head to the south-western corner bastion with a hope to climb to the top.

Jaaligida blocked the way. One of the kids offered to find a way but I did not want anything to do with peek-jaali in hot weather. We walk back towards the inner fort.

To the extreme is the circular bastion, the largest in this fort. Our guides told us we could climb to the top.

Royal emblem embossed on the bastion. A close looks at the gun-holes- see how precisely the grooves are etched out. I realized these grooves were made after the wall was built. The stone workers must have had special tools for this particular work.

Gateway to the inner fort.

Architecture is simple and functional. A flight of steps to reach the top is camouflaged.

The inner fort occupies about five acres. To the left, you can see two flights of steps. Except for a dry open well and ruins of a temple, the inside is mostly plain ground. Perhaps a palace or granary did exist here.

If not for the Deepastambha, the ruins would not have been identified as that of a temple's. In the background is the bastion with ammunition store.

Our little guides.

We asked the smallest two not to climb up, both were disappointed. I felt bad seeing the sad looks on their faces. The stairway was narrow and the steps were high ...not a comfortable climb. As we enter the opening on the left, we could see another stairway to the left leading up and a chamber which was used to store ammunition for the cannon atop the bastion. Sadly the cannon is missing.

Looking towards the main gateway. A smaller gateway can be seen in the northern wall.

These walls are high but do not seem to be proportionally thick.

We climb down and head back to the lake to explore the complex gateway. The gateway has three entrances- one is wide enough for humans & horses, second is wide enough for elephants but not tall enough and third one is a regular passage wide enough for elephants, chariots and cannons. The bastions flanking the gateway are in bad shape.
The smaller passages connect to the lake while the other one has a curved ramp.

Remnants of wood work in the gateway.

As seen from the lake edge; the passage is curved and designed not to be easily noticed.

The wall on which we stood earlier. Water marks show gradual lowering of water level. This lake seems to be the main source of water for Mudkavi residents. I suddenly realize half of our little friends have gone home. We say bye to the remaining gang and go towards Mudkavi bus-stand where we learn that we have not seen one bastion yet.

The flag bastion. One of the guides had returned along with few other kids new to us.

These two girls were curious about our interest in their fort. They shied away as soon as I aimed my camera at them. Avva, photo thegithaar ...were out of the scene in a flash only to be back again after a minute. When I aimed the camera for the second time, they vanished from our sight not to return as long as we were here.

We treated the kids to girmit and tea while Manju and I sipped tea. At the tea-shop a young man in early twenties said that lot of poets (Kavi) used to to live in this place hence the name Mudkavi. I nodded but did not believe that to be true. We said bye to our friends. One last look at Mudkavi fort walls before we head to Shabari Kolla.

Mudkavi Fort Co-ordinates: 15°58'15"N 75°22'54"E