Feb 1, 2014

Fort Devanahalli

Bengaluru is surrounded by several forts, to its north are 8 forts and Devanahalli fort is the closest and the only fort on plain land. Somehow, I visited Devanahalli fort after having done with the other seven forts.

October 16, 2013
Our day started with a challenging trek to Maakalidurga. Weather wasn't in our favor, the climb was tough and we lost our way while descending.. finally we made it back to where we started. After a hearty lunch at a mess, we headed towards Devanahalli - this fort was pending for a very long time. So, here we are looking at the west facing main entrance, well built masonry walls and a narrow gateway of Fort Devanahalli.

Close to the entrance is a signage with some useful info.
Devanahalli, located at a distance of 35 kms towards north of Bangalore is a fast growing suburb having an antiquity right from pre-historic times down to the period of Tipu Sultan. It was part of Gangawadi and later came under the rule of Rashtrakutas, Nolamba, Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara rulers. During the rule of Vijayanagara rule, one Malla Baire Gowda of Avati, a feudatory constructed the fort in 1501 AD with the consent of Devaraya at Devanadoddi - the earlier name of Devanahalli. Subsequently, in 1747 AD the fort passed into the hands of Wodeyars of Mysore, which was conquered many times from the Marathas and later came under the control of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan. The presentfort is ascribed to Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, and it was the favorite hunting place for Tipu Sultan which incidentally was his birth place as well. The roughly oval east-oriented veneered with dressed masonary has as many as 12 semi-circular bastions at regular intervals. A spacious battlement is provided towrads the inner side of the fortification. The fort is provided with entrances at east and west decorated with cut plaster work. The bastions are provided with gun points built in brick and lime.

It's not a simple entrance but a gateway complex with raised platforms flanking the passage. Its pretty dim inside with limited visibility.

Unlike the curved or zigzag entrances of north Karnataka, Devanahalli fort entrance is straight - easy for enemies forces to barge in. To my right is a small canal emerging from the rampart wall's base.

That's the canal; the passage below the wall is a secret entrance called as water gate. During emergencies when the fort is secured within, water gate would be known only to trusted subjects. The passage opens out to the moat around the fort.

Here's a rough plan of Devanahalli fort showing the gateway, rampart walls, bastions and the moat. As you see the fort is west-facing.

Tour of the rampart wall starts at the north-western side. In the picture here, portion of the fort has a huge gap.. another gateway had to be here which has disappeared completely. Anyway, coming to the surviving wall; its pretty wide..

..and has two levels. The overall thickness of the wall is anywhere between 25' to 28' and overall height could be 30'. Notice how the inner side of the wall is lined with layers of bricks to prevent the wall from collapsing.

Bastions are circular, about 40' diameter, having two sentry chambers at the ends.

Notice the sentry chamber design- an arched doorway and a domes roof.

View through a notch. Bricks are placed on sides rather than on their backs. I guess this is done for better waterproofing. The moat pit is dry.. imagine how it would be some 250 years ago.. filled with water infested with hungry crocodiles looking for a prey.

Another informative signage:
This fort is a good example of 18th century military architecture in the Mysore region.
Have you noticed how this fort has been built for defense? Its thick rubble and stone masonry walls were made to withstand cannon fire. A moat surrounded the fort, with a drawbridge across it. You can still see the pulleys that operated the drawbridge in the wall above the fort's gateway. In case of an attack, the drawbridge would be drawn up to keep enemies out. Infantrymen would stand on the banquette, or firing step, that runs along the parapet. From here, they could shoot over the fort walls at the enemy and then step down to safely reload their guns. Others would fire the small holes in the parapet, called loopholes. In the bastions, soldiers would keep watch on the grounds while others worked the cannons. But a fort is as good as its men. In 1791, when the British captured Bangalore fort from Tipu Sultan, courage failed Devanahalli's soldiers: they abandoned the fort. When the British came a week later, they took Devanahalli without a fight.

This must be the third bastion from the left; a sentry chamber with a touch of art.

This part of the rampart is slanting inward.. perhaps the idea was to have a wider base. The bastion seen ahead is the north-eastern corner.

At the north-eastern corner, on the inside is a square based bastion 10' taller than the circular bastions. That would be ideal for a command post.

Looking back towards the northern wall.

The third signage describes the construction technology:
A fort must hold out against enemy soldiers, but must also survive constant attack from Nature!
What does this fort have in common with Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam at Mysore? Both use surkhi, a mixture of lime and soarsely powdered bricks. The KRS dam is built entirely with surkhi. In Devanahalli, this traditional material was used for water-proofing. You can still see traces of it on the floors of the bastions and ramparts. The small channels that you can see along the inner fort walls allowed water to drain out of the ramparts, thus reducing seepage into the structure.
Do you see how the bricks in the small structures in this bastion have been laid diagonally? Each successive layer underneath will have bricks placed crosswise to the layer above it - another simple, traditional method of improving strength and waterproofing capacity.

view from the command post
Just like the front portion, wall at the rear has also disappeared. Folks say there was a gateway here when the wall existed here - that's possible because its normal for a fort to have at least two entry points.
The command post walls and entrance. Perhaps the structure has a shelter which might have been used as an office.

Within the fort are two temples with tall Gopuras and many houses. While most houses are modern few ancient crumbling structures can also be seen here. I heard, inside the temple seen here are many ancient sculptures worth seeing.

Having done with Devanahilli fort we move towards the monument marking the birthplace of Tippu Sultan the tiger of Mysore.

birth place of Tipu Sultan
Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan believed in strength of forts, hence every fort occupied by them were renovated and strengthened with the help of French engineers. Similarly, Chatrapati Shivaji too believed in the power of forts, small or big. At one point of time Shivaji had 365 forts under his control. I wonder what system was in place to manage men and material.

Devanahalli fort coordinates: 13°14'57"N   77°42'35"E


Aravind GJ said...

Thanks for sharing. Very informative.

siddeshwar said...

Thank you.

R Niranjan Das said...

Must visit this fort. Thanks for sharing this.