Jun 14, 2014

Shahapur fort - part 1

December 24, 2012
We reached Shahapur half past noon, Sun was blazing down fiercely, the hill fort was visible from the town, the hill seemed to be a kilometer long. Climbing it would require several hours, we were hungry. After lunch none of us were in a mood to climb a rocky hill under the blazing Sun. We decided to move on to Vanadurga instead.

November 27, 2013
The day started with Wagangera followed by Deodurga, Tintini and Vibuthihalli. It was around 3PM when we entered Shahapur. 15 minutes went by in inquiring and negotiating the narrow streets of the old town. Suresh chose to stay back with his cab. Besides the camera I equipped myself with a bottle of water and two packs of chikki and starting the trek.

The uphill path is paved with dressed stone blocks, designed for heavy traffic in all weather conditions. The stones are well tread, smooth surfaces is evidence of constant use. When hot these stones are quite slippery, have to watch every step.

A small temple and a Dargah. By the time I reached here I was breathless, found a spot of shade and stood for a minute. Stand and get rest, never sit while climbing - that's my maxim.

Shahapur town came into view, surrounding plains stretched as far as the horizon. The climb was slow but steady. I reached a hairpin bend, higher levels of the fort came into view. On the left was a peak with some ruins and on the right was the main fort. I was wondering if I should explore the watch tower... a man with a sack on his shoulder was coming down. He seems to know this place well, I asked him what route to take. He asked me to follow this path into the fort.. I asked him if he could show me the fort. He smiled, said yes and placed his sack on a wall and ready to leave :) I was concerned about his bag, asked him if its safe to leave it in the open, his reply was full of confidence "nobody will touch it." Then came the introductions, he has a sweet name.. Kamanna.

The day Kamanna was born it was Holi, hence the name. He told me his twin brother's name is Bheemanna. Wow, Kamanna and Bheemanna. The sack he left behind was filled with berries names baarikai, a sour-sweet berry borne by a small leaved thorny bush. He had harvested them in the valley behind this hill to be sold in market. He had picked few handfuls and put them in my backpack side pouches. Generally I do not like baarikai's taste but I tried one.. this tasted different and I liked it. So we climbed steadily eating baarikai and chatting. This wall is the one of the inner ring of this fort.

To the right.. walls perched at cliff edges. This place is pretty wild too. Kammanna mentioned the presence of wild animals like porcupines, mongoose, snakes, bears and even wild pigs. In fact as we looked down the way we came, we saw a mongoose family of 3 exploring some ruins.. they would be looking for food.

Here we are- looking at the first standing gateway in our path. This construction looks recent, probably 600 to 500 years ago.

Shahapur area was originally known as Sagaranadu ~ Sagar. It is said that Sagar was part of Vijayanagara empire. This fort might have been built between 950 CE to 1100 CE. Later after the collapse of Vijayanagara, the area was ruled by Bahamanis of Gulbarga or Adil Shahis of Bijapur. Since a Adil Shahi sultan's tomb is at Gogi village, about 20 kms from Shahapur, it is possible that Shahapur was part of Adil Shahi kingdom. The fort originally might have been much smaller, with time the fort might have grown significantly. Armed with cannons the fort would be formidable. Perhaps its hey days were during Adil Shahi rule.

As you see walls and gateway arches are similar to walls in Bijapur, Gulbarga or Bidar. This is the third gateway in our path and we are in the main fort area. It feels this is where the fort's command center was.. offices, living quarters, a mosque, barracks, prisons, and plenty of sources of fresh water.

Inside of the gateway.. a chamber's floor has been dug up by treasure seekers.

We still have to climb. The hill was home of plenty of plants, many were custard apple trees. One cannot truly describe how fruits grown here taste.. I feel these are originals, not the hybrid varieties.

Kamanna was keen on showing me cannons. Here's one 15 footer, very similar to the cannons seen at Bijapur, Gulbarga and Raichur. I think we could see four or five more but none as big as this one.

As we climb higher, gateways were protected by curved paths and tall bastions.

A stairway to the next level. Sun was coming down, soon this side of the hill would be in shade.

Kamanna's energy was infectious, I managed to keep up with his pace. Soon we were at close to the summit, looking down the complex of walls and turrets below.

We climbed up this way, through that gateway.
One more level to climb, then we reach the summit. Seems like this fort was an administrative center.

The summit was pretty crowded with buildings- living quarters, mosque and a prison.

Inside of the prison, the interior is unfriendly, perfectly suited for army barracks or a prison.

A mosque. A simple yet beautiful looking structure. I wonder how it looked when it was new.. completely white with a cool interior.

This bastion is attached to the prison building with spiral stairway to reach the roof. Kamanna asked me to tread carefully on those steps, a very careful and alert friend :)

View from the prison roof- pair of hollow bastions and a gateway. Our shadows on the gateway roof.

..this article will continue as Shahpur fort - part 2.

Shahapur hill was known as Sagaradri Betta before Muslim rulers took over the place. Read this article to learn more about Shahapur history.

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