Oct 26, 2013

Bhasmangi fort

July 7, 2013
Sira-Bhasmangi fort is about 20 kms via Badavanahalli. However turned off the state highway much before Badvanahalli, the road was newly laid and the progress was good for 6 kms. I passed by few small villages, I stopped every time I saw people to confirm the route. I came to a point where tarred road gave away to dirt track. No soul to be seen, I kept driving in the direction of the hill. It was quarter past eight when stopped to take this picture.

as seen from West
After 30 minutes of driving 6 kms through two villages- Basavanahalli and Karpanahalli - I met these four farmers. After speaking to them I decided to park the car and walk to the hill. The uphill path begins on the other side, so I had to walk around the hill now.

as seen from North
Bhasmangi Betta is also known as Basavangi Betta. Sheer face as seen from the base of the hill. To my right is a temple mostly visited by people of surrounding villages. I went left following the dirt path.

The hill is a mostly rocky on the western side and on the eastern side it is a mix of rocks and dirt. On the left here are couple of tall standing rocks. I thought of taking the straight path ahead but scrapped the idea and went around the hill until I saw few houses and people.

The eastern face is not as steep at all. The climb was easy, I was following a well tread foot-path. A hut came into view and its occupant was an old man. There was a second hut like structure, that was a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman (see inset). Close by was a gateway to the fort.

The path outside the gateway is flanked by raised platforms. This fish is facing away from the fort.. wonder if its direction signifies something. Also there was a sculpture of an elephant close by.

Seven minutes later I went through the second gateway.

This must be the halfway point. Here I could choose between two paths - one is straight ahead, climbing along the wall..

.. and the second one behind me. This is more like a secret passage. This one of the gateways linking to the core of this fort.

I realized Bhasmangi fort is quite complex with so many walls, bastions and gateways. Going by the architecture this fort was definitely under Tipu's administration. Brick walls are quite common here (see inset).

The fort had quite a few structures, perhaps used as barracks and storing ammunition.

Water tanks are aplenty too. Notice the bastion with the ramp - a common feature in forts renovated by Tipu Sultan. Looks like French engineers were employed here to strengthen Bhasmangi fort.

That's would be the highest point in this fort. A good portion of the wall has collapsed exposing the earth inside.

A water tank with a brick lined stone-mortar wall. Modern constructions have been employed even for water tanks.

This wall is situated at the edge of the cliff on the southern face. This part has so much thorny bushes it hard to reach some parts. Wish I had some local help..

The core of the fort perched on the summit. Looks solid and formidable. The wall in the foreground is the outer wall. I guess the sloped top is to facilitate easy viewing and also to make it convenient to fire arrows. I wonder if these bricks were made locally or imported.

The surrounding plains consists of red soil, so there are chances these bricks were manufactured locally.

The western wall as seen from the only bastion situated close to the midpoint. The other two bastions at either ends of the wall. The bastion at the lower end is connected to the wall with a unique joint (see inset). Within the joint is a chamber, perhaps used as a arms store or a shelter for guards in wet weather.

Cross-section of the wall shows how closely bricks are packed. I guess these thinner bricks are much stronger than the modern day bricks.

The brick wall end just behind me but the stone and earth wall continues further down till the bastion. I happened to notice the round edge notches (see inset) are quite common here but I do not remember seeing this design in other forts.

One of the four water tanks on this slope. On the horizon are many hills, one of them will be Ratnagiri hill. There are chances that Bhasmangi fort was under Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka's control before it came under Tipu's control. Ratnagiri fort was Rangappa's center and the hill is about 20 kms from Bhasmangi.

I take a short break for breakfast. I had two butter sandwiches, made and packed by mom. Weather was warm with a hint of humidity and dark clouds hovered above. I did not wish to get wet.. still had a journey ahead. I decided to leave, took the stairway along the wall seen while climbing up.

The climb down was non-stop. By 11 AM I was back to my car, one of the four farmers had left. I offered to share the remainder of my breakfast with them, they accepted :) After breakfast, I said bye to them and headed back to Sira and resumed my journey towards Dharwad.

Bhasmangi fort coordinates: 13°44'55"N   77°2'9"E

Oct 23, 2013

Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka fort, Sira

Since 1980s many of our journeys on NH4 were during day and while passing through Sira I rarely missed looking at the ancient structure with captivating looks. Somehow I never got an opportunity to stop and see it from close. Several years later I learnt about the fort at Sira, that's when I made up my mind to visit the town. Sira is a town with a eventful history, it has been part of many kingdoms and empires.

Few events from the history of Sira
town founded by Ranagappa Nayaka, chief of Ratnagiri
1638 - 1687under Bijpaur Sultans
1687 - 1757capital of Sira or Suba province under Mughal rule
1757 - 1759under Marathas
1761Hyder Ali's father Sheikh Fateh Mohammed a high ranking officer in Mughal army broke off from the Mughal empire and declared himself Nawab of Sira
1766lost to Marathas
1766captured by Tipu Sultan

July 7, 2013
The journey started at 4-45 AM from Bangalore, I was driving alone to Dharwad. By 6-45 I was looking at Sira fort entrance. Sadly the space around the fort entrance and parts of the fort itself is an open public toilet.

Here's a plan of Sira fort. It measures 290 meters in length (North-South) and 320 m wide (East-West) including the moat. Eighteen bastions are positioned along the perimeter separated by equal distances.

It is believed that Sira town was founded by Rangappa Nayaka of Ratnagiri (in present day Andhra Pradesh). The town was known as Siriya back then. It is also believed that the fort was originally built by Rangappa. It seems when Tipu took over the fort was strengthened with the help of French engineers. The design of the bastions is quite similar to other forts under Tipu such as Bellary, Koppal, Baahadhur Banda, Gudibande, etc.

Walls and bastions have survived several centuries with some damages. The wall in the foreground is the curtain wall for the main entrance. The wall in the background is part of the security complex.

View of the moat and outer-wall which also acts as a retaining wall for the moat. As you see, the moat is not a simple pit, the walls are lined with dressed blocks. A purpose built pit designed to survive forces of nature.

This is the inside view of the entrance from inside the security complex. A large image of a fish was found at on the platform (see inset). Walls are about 20 feet high.

The U-path inside the security complex.

Pass through that gateway and you are inside the fort. There are two entrances, one regular and the smaller passage next to it.

A large hall to receive visitors, perhaps it was an office back then. Perhaps artistically sculpted columns create a friendly welcome.

I did not stop by to check each of the pillars but one of the pillars had an image of a well-built man, seemingly a price or a king showing off his muscular body (see inset, right). One of the outer columns is quite special compared to others (see inset, left). Flanking this structure are two ramps connecting the ground level to the raised platform along the rampart walls.

The inside of the fort is plain and barren except for few ruins.

Bastions flanking the entrance give a commanding view on either sides- inside and outside.

A dilapidated structure.. doesn't seem to be a place of worship.

Close to the southern wall is an open well with a tower to distribute water. I could see evidence of pipelines. A similar structure can be seen on the outskirts of Savanur, another town ruled by a Nawab.

In the southern wall is a small chamber, it was quite dim inside.

Close to the center is a ruined structure which might have been a palace back then.

This is the north-western bastion. The block with a circular hole might have held the cannon. Vandals have dug up the floor.. perhaps in search of treasure.

A neat line of bastions with firing notches.
By 7-30 AM I was done with the tour of Sira fort and I was looking at the hillock on the horizon- Bhasmangi fort was my next destination.

Besides the fort Sira has few more spots with history:
1. Sri Thayi Maramma Devi Temple - an ancient temple situated near the fort, simple in construction, has interesting sculptures depicting various characters from of Hindu legends.
2. Ibrahim Rauza - contains many tombs, it is believed that Aurangzeb's daughter is buried in this necropolis
3. Mallik Rehan Dargah - is the tomb of Mallik Rehan governor of Sira province from 1638 to 1650 under Bijapur kingdom. He was popularly known as Hazrath Mallik Rehan Rahmatullah Alai
4. Juma Masjid - was constructed during the period of Mallik Rehan
5. Khan Bagh - a garden founded by Dilavar Khan, an officer under the Mughals. This garden is believed to have inspired Hyder Ali to create Lal Bagh at Bangalore. Nothing much remains of the garden now.

Since I had Bhasmangi Kote in my sights I did not bother to visit any of the places mentioned above. I wish to come back some day and see them.

Sira fort coordinates: 13°44'35"N   76°54'50"E

Oct 19, 2013

Sandur fort

March 9, 2012
Guess what comes to my mind when I think of Sandur? The answer is Puttanna Kanagal's movie Manasa Sarovara. To my knowledge the entire movie was shot around Sandur. The movie is excellent and I've watched it several times though it has a sad ending. Some of the fascinating scenes were shot at the Naari Halla, the reservoir with two massive rocks formations.

The movie scenes have water but during our visit..

In the movie, the lead character (by Srinath) says Nari Halla is not a fitting name for such a beautiful place, instead it must be called Manasa Sarovara. Indeed the place was amazing back in 80s. Well now, the drive through these hills was an hellish experience! Thanks to the noise and air pollution created by mining tippers. Anyway, I hope to see this reservoir full during my next visit.

We were coming from Bellary, as we drove down the hill road I had noticed ruins atop a hill to our right. During the stop, I checked the hill top through my telephoto lens. yes, it was ruins. Ah, another fort to the list - that would be Ramana Kote or Hosamaledurga. However, we may not be able to go up there because of time constraint. 

Finding Sandur fort wasn't difficult because it's located right next to the state highway. Here we are looking at the fort's main entrance. 

Here's a rough plan of the fort, marked are few spots we visited.

In plan its a square, simple in design but seems secure because of number of bastions on the perimeter. The entrance is secure by a complex gateway; to enter the fort one has to go through a zigzag path passing through three gateways; gateways are flanked by raised platforms. Tight security indeed. So, this must have been a garrison and treasury for this region.

The curved path between the first and second gateways.

The second gateway. The door-frame has a pair of drooping flowers - typical of Vijayanagara and Hoysala architecture - hope I'm not mistaken here. Note the small side entrance, it connects directly to the raised platform inside.

Traffic flowed in and out quite frequently, sign of residences inside.

Now we are inside the fort and looking back at the third gateway. This gateway is actually on the square's perimeter while the first two gateways are on the extension wall.

Well, inside its a whole town, houses packed closely with narrow lanes in between. I did not other shooting pictures of houses.

As expected people were curious to see strangers armed with cameras. two people approached us and we had to face the usual questions about who we are, purpose of the visit, etc. etc. One of our hosts offered us to show us something important. I hesitated, then relented. He lead us to bastion in the western wall (marked C in the plan). This bastion is octagonal in plan and has a simple structure.. probably a row of rooms inside it. Few more people had gathered and one youngster said that's a mosque. His tone of message was not really friendly, he was trying to establish that structure was a mosque. Well, what ever it is, it's ruins now and definitely not a place of worship.

In the background, to the right is the very hill on which Ramana Kote is.

Our hosts suggested we see the side entrance of this fort. We walked along the  southern wall and came to this low and narrow passage close to the south-western corner.

The tunnel is a very busy place, constant traffic of pedestrians, cyclists and bikes flows in both directions. We walk through to the outside. Not the floral motif, Sun and Moon on the door frame. I think this fort was originally built by Hindu king.

The open spaces flanking the road we stood on is filthy - this is a common phenomena in many of our historical monuments. We walk back to our cab, thank our hosts and leave. We go into Sandur town in search of a Lingayath Khanawali; no, we couldn't find one, instead we found a Andhra mess. After lunch, we debated whether to go to Kumaraswamy Temple Complex about 12 kms drive. We decided to drop the idea and move on mainly because of the conditions of the road here.

Here's the video by Malatesh.

Sandur fort coordinates: 15°5'43"N   76°33'16"E