Jan 25, 2014

Fort Makalidurga

Makalidurga was on my mind for almost 3 years. The fort is situated north of Doddaballapur town, on the southern tip of Makali hills. Its a hill range 8 kilometers in length with multiple peaks.The hill is a mix of dirt and rocks, covered by woods. Bangalore - Hyderabad railway line runs parallel to the range.

October 16, 2013
Vivek and I left Bangalore early morning in a cab. Sky was heavy with dark clouds, between Yelahanka and Doddaballapur it rained, what started as a light shower became a heavy shower and it stopped abruptly. We went around Doddaballpur and took Hindupur road. Country side was green and fresh, it had rained the previous night. At Ghatisubramanya cross we stopped for breakfast, hot thatte idli and tea. As we drove further the sky was still cloudy and Makali hills came into view; it was covered in a thick veil of mist. We went past Makali Railway Station and located the dirt road leading to a Hanuman temple at the base of Makali hills, its situated very close to the railway tracks. For few seconds there was a gap in the misty screen and through it I could see the hill top.. towering high and seemed unreachable. With that glimpse of the hill top I knew the climb would not be an easy one.

We asked our cabby Siddaraju to wait for us, we should be back in 3 or 4 hours. It was barely 7-30 AM when we hit the trial, it was cold and damp. We found the temple and a small house, few dogs started barking. I was hoping to find someone so that we get proper directions but the only other creatures we saw were few chicken. Folks must still be sleeping.. who would want to leave their warm beds in such weather. We saw a path going up behind the temple, we followed it. A minute later we were at a fork.. right or left? We decided to go right, we followed the path which was getting steeper, wilder and wetter.. let's 'keep climbing' was our mantra for the time being.

Half an hour later, we were lost, no trial in view and mist would not go. Our trousers were wet with dew and to add to our misery it started raining! Luckily we had umbrellas, which prevented us from being completely drenched. The rain lasted some 10 minutes. The tall wet grass just got wetter and Vivek said he feels as though he's walking in water. We checked our position in Vivek's Samsung Galaxy; we were barely 100 meters north of the fort on the map but those 100 meters in reality would be some 300 meters steep climb. We took a real steep and narrow path hoping to reach the fort but we hit a hurdle. We could have climbed up the hurdle but climbing down that hurdle would be too risky. We trace back the way down and took another path, here we found a trial of different sort - fallen grass - it was like some creature has walked though the grass, moving uphill. Good we found something to follow :)

We tried to check our position but mobile signal was too weak. We kept following the trial of fallen grass.. another vertical hurdle in our path. This time we decided to go up, no matter what. The 15 feet was really tough we got over and voila there was a small wall. Ash, we are close. Through the mist we could see the outline of the walls.

Here grass was even more taller and denser. We had to feel every step before placing our foot. 10 minutes later the fort wall within reach. We did it! The climb was one helluva challenge. Vivek is looking for an entrance.. I was skeptical of finding a gateway here.

A short distance away, we found a crumbling wall, we clambered up the heap of stones and gained entry to the fort. This spot has been marked in line diagram of the fort's plan. This is the northern part of the fort.

Here's the rough plan of Makalidurga, no particular shape to it. There's an outer fort and an inner fort.

The base to fort route we took is not the regular one, it a round about route. On the way we definitely had cut across the regular path without even realizing it :( 3 hours climb, it was 10-30 AM.

We took left and followed the path on the wall. That's one of the bastions.

We reach a corner, northern most corner of Makalidurga. That domed structure (marked B in plan) must have been a sentry post, looks like it was built during Tipu Sultan's rule. We inspected the structure from outside, it was used as a camp few days ago, was littered with plastic bottles and paper. The wall turned right here.

Looks like raw material for this wall was sourced from this hill itself. Perhaps we walked through ancient quarries during the ascent.

Small gap in the misty screen gives a glimpse of foot hills. Looks like guards here had tough time carrying out their duty while mist and fog played around the hills.

I let Vivek lead the way to the fort's center. Those walls ahead are marked C in the plan. This fort is said to have history going back to the times of Vijayanagara. After the fall of Hampi, the fort would have come under other rulers before Tipu took control.

one of many ponds, water has turned green because of lack of maintenance
the eastern wall
Kote Devastana ~ fort temple dedicated to Shiva. Architecture seems like Vijayanagara. The deities are damaged. Looks like folks from surrounding villages perform rituals during important festivals. Close to the temple is a 6' tall rough cut granite pillar.

We go exploring the southern tip of the fort but tall grass and hunger forces us to cut short the plans.

looking towards the temple
That bastion at the farthest point would be the southern most tip.

Past noon mist clears off. Our cab parked in shade partly visible. A small group of people alighted from the white WagonR.. looks like there are here to climb. Glimpse of the railway track at the bottom-right corner of the picture.

From the fort we looked down the slopes and planned a route, we decided to leave the well tread path at one point and turn right thinking that would be a short cut to the base... the railway crossing. However, I abandoned the plan and instead followed the well tread path.. looks like this is a cattle route. Vivek mentioned few times that we were heading opposite direction but I told him that we it might turn right somewhere..

The path descended to the plains but our attempt to search a short cut put is trouble, we ran into a area full of thorny bushes.. those curved needle like thorns tore into my skin through fabric too.. menacing little thorns they were. Sun was bright, we were warm, re ran out of water and our tummies were growling. Aagh our plight was pitiable. Luckily we found a man grazing cattle who told us we were on the other side of the hill. He pointed at a dirt path and asked us to follow it until we reached a village.. I think the village name was Basavanahalli. From there we'll have to go to Thondebhavi and hit Hindupur road. Now, the solution to our problem would be to call Siddaraju and ask him to drive down to Basavanahalli.

We hoped for some clean water as we walked and lo, we found this boy in his fields. He was a good host; let us rest in his hut's shade and offered water. Our friend Laxman, told us its not 'Makalidurga' as most people say, the correct spelling is 'Maaklidurga'. He then he took us to his fields where his three sisters were harvesting groundnuts. Laxman handed us a bunch each.. that would appease our tummies for time being. Laxman gave us directions, we thanked him and bid bye.

Fifteen minutes later we in the car driving back towards Doddaballpur via Thondebavi village. It was 2-30 PM. For lunch I asked Siddaraju to go find a mess where buses do not stop. On the state highway we stopped for a minute to capture this view of Maakli Gudda and Kote.

Maaklidurga perched atop Maakli Gudda
We found a mess on the bypass road next to a petrol/diesel bunk; it was 4 table eatery offering home made lunch. We relished the meal- chapati, palya, anna, saru, hapla and mosaru. Aah, felt great. Back in the cab, we sank into the seats while Siddaraju took us towards Devanahalli.

Maaklidurga coordinates: 13°25'58"N   77°30'5"E

Jan 18, 2014

Gokak fort

October 5, 2013
Gokak fort was the sixth and last item on my itinerary. From Samangad we drove down via Hunnur, Hidkal Dam, Konnur and Gokak Falls. Konnur is a archaeological site with 3 megalithic tombs; I was tempted to stop and inquire but time was tight; I decided to move on to Gokak. As Gokak town and its the hill-with-a-cap-stone came into view, the hill looked taller than expected - this is going to be a tiring climb. We took the road going towards the confluence of Markhandeya and Ghataprabha - some where close by is the flight of steps going up the hill. Parts of Gokak town is on the hill slopes, a maze of narrow streets and lanes cover ¾ perimeter of the hill and ¼ way up. The cab could go as far as this water tank, from here I had to go by foot.

This is one of the steep lanes going straight up the slope. Life of people having homes here is not so easy. No vehicles can be driven through these lanes, walking is the only mode of transportation.
A dirt track cutting across the path marks boundary of settlements. Hill slope up here is too steep to build homes. Looks like there's a shrine at the hill top.
This narrow passage  is the gateway to the fort.

A path has been hacked out of the rock. To my right was a small cave shrine, perhaps a Hindu shrine originally now a Muslim shrine.

Another steep flight of steps.. looks daunting. I was hoping the climbing ends soon.

View of Ghataprabha river and Gokak town from the summit.

The three men I met earlier had come here for a good view of the town and spend time in peace and silence.. away from the hustle bustle down there. The white building is Mallikarjuna temple, also known Malliksaab temple. Also this hill is called Maliksaab Gudda.

The summit is not exactly flat but gentle slope with plenty of rock beds. An ancient water tank close by remains almost intact (see inset).

Wall on the eastern perimeter of the cap-stone. This might have been one of the entrances to the fort.

Walls built over natural rock faces making it difficult to scale.

The cap-stone itself is a natural fort, building walls on rock faces have closed gaps. This fort commands a good view in all directions.

According to sources: In the 16th century Gokak was ruled by Kotwals who had a dispute with Rani Abbakka Chowta, the queen of the coastal kingdom at Ullal. Also, sources say that the tomb of Mallasarja Desai of Kittur (Rani Chennamma's husband) is at Arabhavi Math 10 kms north of Gokak.

On the northern perimeter of the capstone lies the majority of the fort ruins.
Fort walls built using the natural rock formations to advantage.

I was tired and it was late, decided not to explore the northern perimeter of the fort. I walked back towards Mallikarjuna temple. A wonderful sight below: Ghataprabha gracefully curves out of the valley forming an island. At the bottom right corner is the Sangama - river Markhandeya merging into Ghataprabha.
Time to descend.. this hill doesn't seem safe after sunset. By the time I reached the car it was dusk, I was exhausted after a tour of six forts - a cup of hot tea is what is needed now. I have to come back here again to locate the dolmens of Konnur and also see the much talked about Godchinmalki waterfalls.

Gokak fort coordinates: 16°10'6"N   74°48'53"E

Jan 15, 2014

Fort Samangad ~ Prasiddhagad

October 5, 2013
Having begun the day at Belgaum fort, followed by Kakati fort, Hunnurgad and Vallabhgad. Next was Samangad, we will be entering Maharastra. From Sankeshwar we head towards Gadhinglaj, rain was pouring. By the time we reached the busy town Gadhinglaj, rains had stopped and it was lunch time. We got directions for Samangad and also for a veg restaurant with ample parking space. Sai Prasad restaurant was on the town outskirts, on the road towards Samangad. It was a satisfying meal, we resumed out journey.. terrain was hilly. We passed through sloping fields dotted with ponds, cattle grazing and people going about their chores. As we neared Samangad the terrain changed again, fields made way for woods and the road got steeper. These woods were planted by forest department. A 15 minute drive to the summit, it's not really flat at the top. The hill itself is Y-shaped when seen from air, the fort is situated on the northern fork. A narrow road leads to the fort. That's Mahadwara of Samangad Kille formerly known as Prasiddhagad.

Few known historical events of this fort-
Built in XII century by King Bhoj II of Shilahar dynasty
1667 - Adil Shahis loose the fort to Chatrapati Shivaji
1676 - Chatrapati Shivaji improves fortifications
1688 - captured by Aurangzeb
1704 - captured by Marathas
1884 - captured by British army

Samangad fort in plan has no particular shape. On this screen shot are marked few points of interest.

The fort was developed for tourism since it has an ambiance of a hill station. It's an ideal place for trekking. Within the fort places are marked and a large board shows what's to be see with directions.

The place was peaceful. Weather was cloudy and warm. We parked our cab and Prakash the driver took this opportunity to doze off. I went walking along the western edge, walls were concealed behind vegetation. I could hear peacocks in the vicinity.

Finally a glimpse of the rampart wall :)

The path lead to the northern tip - Vetal Burj. Again much of the rampart walls are hidden. I walked to the center - a point from where the 3 tips of this fort diverge. At the center are several points of interest- Ambabai temple, Hanuman Vihir and Andhar Vihir. The temple is a modern structure, rituals are performed regularly. Hanuman Vihir is an open well. Andhar Vihir is another well- deep, dark and scary. The well is also known as Kaman Baav.

A bridge across the well offers a good view of the well. However, October isn't the right time to be visiting this fort because of plants conceal most walls and view of structures as this is limited.

This well is no ordinary well, it has steps descending into it. Steps were wide and slippery..

This passage is hacked out from the laterite bed, it's a monolith. This isn't a place for people who are claustrophobic.

That's the first landing and also the first turn. Builders have created a platform too, which can be used in more than one way.

The tunnel is much narrower and steeper at the second stage. I decided not to descend since the ground was slippery with water. At the bottom of this tunnel is the second landing and there's water. This well is really deep, I was told there are seven such landings! Perhaps the well is 100' deep. Just try to imagine how the engineers designed and executed it - truly amazing.

After the tour of the well, I walked to the western tip - Konda Burj. I met two men from a nearby village. They told descendants of people who served Chatrapati Shivaji live in a village at the base of this hill. Their family name is Kadam. If interested, tourists can meet the Kadam family.

I followed them to the eastern tip. The surrounding plains were green fields.. a good part of it was sugarcane. It was time to leave, I had another fort on my itinerary. When I mentioned my plan to reach the highway, I was asked to take the short cut via Halkarni and Ullagaddi villages instead of going via Gadhinglaj. This route will save us considerable distance and time. I thank them and leave.

With one last look at the Konda Burj I bid bye to Samangad fort.

The road flanked by grassy plains.
That's the other end of this hill's fork. Fabulous place for trekking in this season.

We drive down the hilly road, pass by an ancient temple.. I wish I had more time :( The route suggested by my friends was good, we reached NH4 pretty fast.

With some research on Samangad fort, I came to know some places I missed seeing- Chor Darwaza, Rama's cave and Shiva's cave temple. Tourists visiting this fort must make their own arrangements for food and water, on the hill there are no such facilities.

Samangad coordinates: 16°10'32"N   74°24'19"E