Sep 28, 2013

Prehistoric Ash Mound of Kappagallu

Few years ago I read an article about a prehistoric ash mound at Hallur, Haveri district. I was curious to see it but somehow I never went in search of it. Last year during our trip to Raichur district we missed seeing the ashmound near Kavital.

March 7, 2013
We had arrived early at Sanganakallu village, met up with our contact Rama Dasa and his friend Veerabhadra. Rama Dasa took us straight to Hiregudda, we clambered up the Dolerite dyke to see prehistoric petroglyphs ~ rock art. During the climb Rama Dasa pointed out to a large light grey mound and said it was an ash mound. Wow! So, finally I saw one! Rama Dasa then pointed out at two more spots near by- spots where ash mounds existed once, now they have been leveled off by locals :-(

In this picture are 3 ovals indicating the location of ash mounds. The large spot to the left marks the surviving ash-mound.

click on image to enlarge
Let's zoom in a bit. The ash mound is very close to the northern base of Hiregudda. It is situated in the middle of a field owned by a farmer.

Zoomed in further. As you see, there a tree on the mound, it's a Neem tree. Part of the mound has been excavated while the rest of the mound is almost intact.

Having done the tour of Dolerite dyke we descend the hill and reach the field where the ash mound is situated.

Notice the color.. very similar to the remains of burnt wood and cow-dung cakes. The outer surface of the mound is as hard as a rock and the inside is hard but powdery. We felt the ash with our fingers.. it was a great feeling to be touching a neolithic artifact.

Why and how were these ash-mounds created? This ash is supposed to be the remains of excessively burnt cow-dung. It is believed that prehistoric cattle herders used to heap cow-dung and burn them as an annual ritual or cleansing process. Rama Dasa said that it is possible that fires were kept burning to keep away wild animals. Rama Dasa also explained that ash hardens when in contact with oxygen for long time. It's true. I had brought some Udi (ash) from Shirdi Sai Baba temple and it kept it in a glass bowl, several months later lumps were formed. Now I could imagine what would happen to an undisturbed massive heap of ash lying there several millenniums..

The book 'A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India' by Upinder Singh has a small article which provides some basic info about ash mounds. Here's the link to the article 'The mystery of the ash mounds'.
excavated part of the mound
intact side of the mound
A short video of the ash mound. Sorry about the poor quality, we were tired, with the Sun blazing down Malatesh had lost attention while shooting.

There are several ash mound sites in Karnataka. There are two types of ash mound sites; ash mounds near settlements and ash mounds not connected to any settlement. Below info has been sourced from the same book mentioned earlier.

Settlements with ash-mounds are-
  1. Budihal
  2. Piklihal
  3. Sivapur
  4. Gadiganup
  5. Sanganakallu
Ashmounds not identified with settlements are at these villages/towns-
  1. Kakkera
  2. Kodekal
  3. Yergunti
  4. Gaudur
  5. Wandalli
  6. Budinni
  7. Kurkundi
  8. Manvi
  9. Benakal
  10. Nimbapur
  11. Sanavaspur
  12. Kakballa
  13. Kudatini
  14. Kunkupa
  15. Bellagallu
  16. Kanchagara
  17. Suguru
  18. Hallur
  19. Kavital
The largest ash-mound is believed to be at Kudatini in Bellary district. Kudatini is also known for its megalithic burial chambers. Kudatini is close to Torangal village on Bellary-Hospet road. We passed through Kudatini but we did not think of visiting the ash mound. Time was a constraint. Well, the day will come..

PS: the largest ash-mound in Karnataka is at Hallur village on the left bank of river Tungabhadra. it covers an area of about 30 acres. I happened to visit the site March 17, 2014.

Sep 21, 2013

Fort Gudekote

Some time between Dec 2012 and Feb 2013
This fort was discovered while scanning the area between Kudligi and Brahmagiri Betta. I think I was trying to locate Kumatgi village known for its dolmen. My eyes caught a place marked Gudekote; the word kote means fort. I zoomed into the hill next to the village.. yes, there was a fort indeed. I marked it as Gudekote fort. It was a happy moment.. cheers to another fort discovery.

March 7, 2013
Gudekote fort was the last spot for the day. It was 4-45 PM when we reached the village; we stopped at a small shop to pick up bananas, we needed energy to climb and explore; the shop-keeper gave us directions to the fort entrance. It's a small village, found the way to the fort easily. Here we are looking up at the dirt path.. the fort's entrance is out of sight, some where behind the rocks.

Half way up we stopped to check out a rock shelter at a distance. We could see some coloring on one of the rock faces, however the path to the shelter was blocked by thorny bushes. So, we could not confirm if that was an ancient rock art.

a glimpse of Gudekote village and neighboring hills
A 10 minutes climb, the fort gateway was in sight.. another 20+ steps to climb. To our right was another rock shelter, a natural dolmen. One of the boulders had a group of paintings depicting a battle scene; sword wielding men on foot and on horse-backs. I feel the paintings could be around 3000 years old. The shelter wasn't a large one but it was spacious enough for a small family. The fort we are about to see is relatively recent and this rock-shelter might have been used as a sentry post. That's Ravi studying figures in the painting.

That's the entrance, Malatesh is stepping into the passage. The rock besides the green bush is the rock-shelter.

The fort entrance as seen from inside; flanked by higher ground the entrance can keep watched easily. Behind me us a big dry pit which was surely used to harvest rain water.

Thanks to Google Maps, we have bird's eye view of the fort here. As you see the clearing on the rock-pile-of-a-hill is a natural fort. This clearing atop a hill was a safe location for a group of people to settle. And the presence of paintings is proof that this hill was a prehistoric settlement. Hope I'm right.

Google Maps screen-shot of Gudekote fort
Some important spots of the fort have been marked for easy understanding-
A - fort entrance
B - bastion, shoe rock and skull rock
C - Hanuman and rock painting
D - steps leading to upper level
E - water tanks
F - water tank and building
G - northern end
H - western bastion

There were several interesting rock formations, showing a couple of them.


skull rock with eye socket
The site and construction is quite similar to that of Anegundi. I guess these fortifications might be of Vijayanagara time or few centuries earlier.

Where there's a there has to be Lord Hanuman. Jai Bajrangbali! This engraved figure of Hanuman is undoubtedly ancient but the painting is recent. I bow to the person who did the coloring, color isn't flat, good work. The bell tied to the tail indicates this was created during Vysaraya's time?

Close by was a rock with another painting on ocher, a prehistoric art. However that drawing looked incomplete.

The clearing has to levels- lower and higher levels. We are on the flight of rough-cut stone steps connecting the two levels.
A wall and a gateway secure the higher level. Beyond the gateway is the inner fort.

View of the inner fort from the gateway. On the left is a water tank and at the end of the path is an ancient stone, brick and mortar structure.

A surprise! Ravi inspects the gap between the rocks.. and its a water tank.

What an place to have a water tank! Sadly its dry.

An amazing bit of engineering this is. Our ancestors knew how to blend with nature.

A skull rock forms a part of the wall. Signs of quarrying (see inset) indicates that stones of walls were sourced locally. Notice the small sculpture on the rock, I've not seen anything quire like it.

A closer look at the image; slim, body, well built limbs, spear in right hand, large head with large pooping eyes and even the ears are large. The figure is enclosed in a rectangle and accompanied by a Sun and Moon. Wonder what it depicts... whatever it is, it a powerful look, an authority figure, a type who is ever alert.

This is a recent structure, probably constructed post Vijayanagara times. It has no entrance at ground level. It might have been used to store food and ammunition.

Right next to it another dry pit.. lack of rains have left all water tanks empty. Wish it rains normally in future, rains are the best blessings nature can shower of earth. What do you say?

We reached the northern most tip of the fort. That small structure might have served as a sentry post for this corner. 'Twnapani Gida' is a plant which grows into a small tree in these parts. The plant is not really strong but has silvery stems. The plant produces a seed with a pair of wings (see inset); when thrown in the air, it drops down spinning fast.

A bastion perched on rocks gives a view of the eastern slope of the hill.

Another unique rock formation. The overhanging rock looks as though it's been stuck to the lower rock with glue.

I love this fort, another fort with a prehistoric connection. There are two other rock-pile hills with similar clearings at the top; Onake Kindi near Anegundi and Watagal near Raichur - both places are confirmed prehistoric sites.

We say bye to the fort and descend the hill. In the village, on the main street is an ancient building probably built around the same time as the brick & mortar structure in the fort. By 6-45 we are on the way to Bellary, about 4 kilometers from Gudekote we stopped to freshen up and Ravi performed his ritual of washing the windshield and lighting incense sticks. As we drove on, I felt my tummy growling.. hungry! We took stock of eatables.. papdi and madaki sprouts. I felt it would be a good combination. They went well together. An idea! We filled the papdi with sprouts and had them like rolls  ..we invented a recipe on the move :)

Gudekote fort coordinates: 14°49'58"N   76°37'16"E

Sep 18, 2013

Rock art at Gudekote fort

March 7, 2013
About a kilometer before Gudekote we sighted two boulders with rock painting, however we confirmed only one site by actually checking out and taking pictures.

We were climbing Gudekote hill with an objective to see the fort; just before the fort entrance we saw a rock shelter.

The rock shelter seems like a natural dolmen. It was a surprise to see paintings on one of the legs, a large boulder. We had to make way into the shelter by pushing aside plants. The shelter was quite spacious; about 15' long, 8' wide and 10' high.

Ravi is studying the figures in the painting. Malatesh is somewhere behind me shooting a video.

The painting depicts a battle scene; human figures wielding swords and spears engaged in fights. Two colors are seen; ocher and white. I'm sure ocher paint is ancient. White seems recent but I'm not sure where to place it.

There are few figures of men on horseback too.

This picture is on the top left corner. Here we can see four horses and three men. Two of the horses are line drawings while the other two are in actual shape.

These white drawings are similar to red ones but lines are thicker.

Ignore the white paint, its vandalism. The animal in red paint must be a buffalo.

Coming to the last picture, this was found within the fort, close to the western tip. No idea what this bent and curved line depicts. Also noticed the more or less uniform red tint on the entire rock surface. This must be an incomplete work.

It seem the stretch between Kudligi and Molakalmuru (and beyond, stretching into Andhra Pradesh) was a prehistoric settlement. The terrain is basically plain, marked with lone hillocks and clusters of hillocks. Most hillocks are rocky i.e. resembling piles of boulders. Such hills surely have plenty of natural shelters which would have been home to men for several generations. Also the area has several lakes, streams and minor rivers like Hagari - plenty of sources for water. Today we see barren land or agricultural plots. I imagine these plains might have been covered by woods with small clearings for agriculture. Wish I could paint the scene. Besides Gudekote, other known historic sites in this area are Kumatgi, Siddapura, Brahmagiri hill and Jatinga Rameshwara. There could be many more.

Sep 14, 2013

Rock paintings near Gudekote

March 7, 2013
Second half of second day of our four-day trip. We were travelling from Brahmagiri to Gudekote; the terrain is rocky with several hillocks. Seeing the terrain I felt this might have been a prehistoric settlement. About 4 km before Gudekote to my left about 100 meters away I saw a rock formation with paintings on it. However, I had seen it for few seconds and I wasn't sure if it was a painting or a stain. We could have stopped to check out the rock but I did not want upset the itinerary to miss seeing Gudekote fort

About 1½ to kilometer to Gudekote at a 90° left turn we saw a rock formation barely 20 meters to our left was a rock shelter with two small paintings. This rock was too close to drive past it without stopping.

The overhang has created a nice little shelter and who knows how many people had rested under it.

We ran a quick inspection of both rocks, only the rock with the overhang had two painting groups on it.

The first group. The figures are shaped like a cactus leaf with zigzag pattern covering the inside. No clue what this depicts. Is it a religious symbol or some kind of map?

The second group consist of few lines, again no idea what they depict. Painting in the first group seem to be complete but the paintings in second group seem incomplete.

If we explored this area we might see dozens of rock art. Sadly quarrying is pretty active here, who knows how many sites are lost to few men's destructive deeds.


Sep 7, 2013

Kanakuppe fort

March 6, 2013
The day went by swiftly, it was hectic, four forts already conquered- Arani, Uchangidurga, Kardidurga and Hosadurga -and we were looking forward to the fifth.. Kanakuppe hill fort. The hill fort is situated next to Kanakuppe village in Jagalur taluq of Davangere district.The hill is a unusual, three elongated crests emerging out from one point.

Kanakuppe hill as seen from south-west
As we approached the hill we saw a man walking in the opposite direction. We asked him the way to fort, he asked us to follow the dirt path until we found a gateway, that's would be the fort entrance. We asked if he could show us the fort, he said he was in a hurry. We thanked him and turned into the dirt path. Ravi drove his cab as far as the surface was good, parked it close to a tree. We had no idea how long we had to walk.. anyway we had to be fast because dusk was approaching fast. We are walking between two crests. Notice the tree top? It's shaped like a bird.

We tripped over few wire-traps laid out for birds/animals like partridges and rabbits. The wires were fine and thin, the traps looked like an experts work.

The crest to the left, I'll call it #1. I went up the narrow bridge but half way up I did not feel safe and turned back. Meanwhile Ravi and Malatesh had gone way ahead, almost near the fort gateway.

This is the crest to the right, call it #2. #2 is much longer and higher than #1 but it is pretty narrow.

Crest #2 is nearly 500 meters long with steep faces.

That's the gateway we were told about. The walls are made of small sized stones.. could be 600 to 700 year old construction.

The gateway as seen from inside.

The short distance from the gateway we came to a fork, left lead to #1 and right to #2. We choose to start with #1 because it looked easier.

Though the climb was steep, the rough surface made our climb easy. Soon we reach a gateway with a sculpture of Lord Hanuman in it (see inset). Notice the large boulder forming the wall to the right of the gateway.

That's crest #3. Fort builders have reinforced the hill with walls at all weak points. Notice the wall connecting crests #1 and #3.

We pass through the gateway, turn left and go around the huge structure looking for an entrance. The inside is collapsed walls and thorny bushes; we did not enter. Just behind this structure is a small water tank.

I climb to the highest part of crest #1. This is indeed a great fort neglected badly. This fort offers commanding view of the surrounding plains.

Now we are looking at crest #2. Notice the wall with the gateway we entered.

With light fading, we decide to descend. We had to see as much as possible before sunset. We came back to the fork. That's Malatesh, crest #1 looming over.

The lower part the path leading up to crest #2 was riddles with thorny bushes. We made our way up to see another challenge ahead of us. We had two paths to reach the gateway up there; I took the longer but safer path.
Looking back the way I came. Malatesh and Ravi are still down there. This hill fort is really a complex one. To the right is crest #3.

..and to the left is crest 1. Ravi and Malatesh are debating which of the paths to take. Malatesh takes the safer path while the agile Ravi negotiates the narrow steep shorter path.

Looking towards south, that's the tip of crest #2, we did not go that far, the path wasn't really friendly.

We could see rainfall on the west, the direction we were earlier today. On the horizon, to the right is a small bump- that's Uchangidurga hill. Ravi was probably pointing out Uchangipura to Malatesh. We expected the rain to come in our direction. However, we sat for some time enjoying the sun play hide & seek in clouds. Ravi suggested we take a short cut by climbing down straight but we voted against the idea.

On the way down I noticed some thing we has missed on the way up. Hanuman's caricature embossed in sandstone. This is an amazing piece of art indeed. It's easy to engrave but to emboss is something else. Wonder how this was created.

As we reached the fort it was quite dim, we had no time left to scale crest #3. I don't if that will ever happen.. let's see. At the base of crest #2, a path went to our right, that was the way to the eastern side of the hill, there's a village there.

Do check out the video by Malatesh-

Close to the hill on the western side there's a small Lingayath Matha named Kanakuppe Gavimatha. We decided to go there, freshen up relax for some time and start our journey to Bellary.

Kanakuppe fort coordinates: 14°33'4"N   76°17'16"E