May 30, 2015

Choubara, tower of Bidar

Chaubara of Bidar; is a conical tower with a cylindrical base; the base's circumference is 180 feet and tower's height is 71 feet. The name Chaubara can be split; Chau and Bara which signify four directions and a fortified place. Choubara is situated at the intersection of two main streets of Bidar; one streets connects the fort to Fateh Darwaza, and the other connects Mangalpet to Shah Gunj Darwaza. The tower is built of locally available laterite. The tower is reported to be built before Islamic rule but architecture is Islamic. Chaubara is compared with tower the great mosque at Samarra. The only difference is the steps to the tower top; while the tower at Samarra steps are on the outside, tower at Bidar has steps within the tower. This reminds of Upli Burj, the tower at Bijapur which has steps on the outside.

Tourists if lucky get a chance to climb the tower right upto the top. Well, I wasn't so lucky.

Stone's throw from Chaubara is a present day creation; a 40' burj.


May 23, 2015

Bhalki fort

Bhalki fort occupies 5 acres land, is quadrangle in plan having 7m high walls and one bastion. Locally available black stone has been used with lime mortar to build the fort walls. This fort is believed to be built between 1820-1850 by Ramachandra Jadhav (Raja Ramachandra Rao) and Dhanaji Jadhav, satraps (must be vassals) of of King Jang Bahadur. This fort was an arms & ammunition depot for Maratha army. Bhalki fort came into possession  of Nizam of Hyderabad during Brithish rule. Bhalki has two important temples- Kumbheshwar Gudi and Bhalkeshwar Gudi while the former is within the fort the latter is in the town.

October, 2014
I'd driven down from Bidar early morning, first stop being Rameshwar hill about 4 kms from Bhalki. After spending an hour on the hill, I drove down to Bhalki town. The fort is a stone's throw from the town police station. Here we have the main entrance in early morning sunlight, facing east. Looks like there was a gallery over the gateway which has disappeared now.

A local man cautioned me not to enter this gateway because of filthiness.. people use this place like a public toilet. Instead he asked me to take the rear entrance. What a shame! People nor the administrators have cared to preserve the town's monument.

Here's a rough plan of the fort.
The wall has sentry nests at the top similar to the ones at Basva Kalyan and Bidat forts.

Close to the southeast corner is a Kalyani, it seems to be pretty ancient. The tower-like object is a temple chariot used during annual fairs. My guess is it belongs to Kumbheshwar temple.

Here's the well. A father and son duo were removing weeds and other waste matter floating in the water, trying to keep the well clean. Looks like this water is supplied to some government office close by.

Close to the fort's north-western corner is this gateway. The presence of this gateway means there might have been an outer wall for Bhalki fort.

Turning our attention back to the fort; the rear entrance. The passage is a curved path and at the entrance is a small Ganesha temple... walls painted in red.

This is the only bastion of Bhalki fort, a massive 8-sided structure.

Inside are ruins of a palace and offices presently being used for a school. The gates were locked and I had to manage this shot through the grills. A local boy said the headmaster has the keys and I could ask him to open it. It seems at the top is a Raja seat. I was short on time, let it pass.

That's the fort wall behind the bastion i.e. the western wall. Some part of the land within has been occupied by a temple, a tank and a mosque. This path ahead of me is the path children come to school, the sides are filthy. This is how our people respect schools :(

Palace ruins seen from northern side.

Having done with Bhalki fort, I drive back towards Bidar, road was good, twisty and wavy, flanked by jungle, I enjoyed the 40 minute drive.

Bhalki Coordinates: 18°2'37"N   77°12'33"E

To know more about Bidar district check out- What to see in Bidar district?

May 16, 2015

Rameshwara hill fort

This fort was discovered while scanning area around Bhalki on Google Maps/ The fort is tiny, its more of a sentry point for Bhalki fort situated on the plains, about 4.6 kilometers air distance.

October 5, 2014
I left Bidar around 5-30 AM, weather was cool, Bidar-Bhalki road was almost flawless, passing through forest area. Near Bhalki I overshot the left turn by 5 kms :( I was back on track and heading towards Bhalki town and on the right I could see a hillock with ruins at the summit. Yes, it had to be Rameshwar Tekadee. Tekadee is the Marathi word for hill. I knew there was a dirt track going up the hill starting at a small ashram near the base of the hillock. I parked Srinu's Swift near the ashram and trekked uphill enjoying the fresh morning air. At the top, on the left is the fort and on the right is Rameshwar temple. 

The bastion and fort walls come into view. I had a feeling this place is a good spot for local youngsters to party. A small pillar on the left caught my attention.

The rough-cut pillar was slick with oil. Looks like its some kind of a custom for locals to pour oil on the pillar on certain days.. probably on new moon. In the background is a quarry. There's another quarry on the opposite of the hill.

This is one of the corners of the fort.. rough-cut stones stacked with great skill. There's no binding material holding these stones. I feel this was the original structure, built probably a 1000 years ago.

The tree gives a eerie look to the ruins.
Ancient gateway of the original structure. These walls and gateway remind me of forts near Badami such as Kelur, Chikanal and Gudur, Siddanakolla, etc.

The gateway was seen from inside. Early morning rays on the rocks create a warm glow.

This is the other entrance.. a ramp created by a heap of fallen stones from a collapsed wall.

Over the ramp, the new structure comes into view. These walls are made of dressed black stones and mortar bind them. I stepped into that doorway carefully.. lest it was occupied by humans or animal.

No, nobody in sight. It was a small enclosure with a room on one side. I feel this place is privately owned by some individual connected to kings who ruled Bhalki. To the right of the doorway is water tank. Note the lamp nests in the wall either sides of the doorway.

One of the inner walls had a torch holder. At the base of the wall is a rain water drain.

The fort has only one known entrance. I ventured to the rear, could see a large bed of rock under the walls and the slope was much steeper than in the front. This is the side view.. the bastion, inner wall and enclosure, and the outer wall. Looks like there were plans to expand the fort, for some reason construction was abandoned.
Buruj ~ bastion as seen from east. On the other side is a very low entrance to a narrow stairway going to the top of the tower. I did not take the risk of exploring that dark passage.

That's Rameshwar temple and its Deepastambha ~ lamp tower. This shrine seems to be important for local people, looks like a fair is held every year. The lamp tower has a small cellar.. unsure if it was a shrine or a just a shelter. The two Frangipani trees give a lively to the shrine.

Rameshwar fort Coordinates: 18°4'41"N   77°14'2"E

May 9, 2015

Bhatambra fort

October 4, 2014
We had arrived at the last spot for the day. The fort was easily visible as we approached the village from west. We could get a glimpse of the fort on our left but to reach it we had to drive into the village. While inquiring directions we had a volunteer guide :) Shri. Mallikarjun. We navigated the narrow streets towards the village outskirts.. Srinu chose to stay with his Swift because of his bike, to keep curious hands away. View fort from where the Swift was parked. Mallikarjun leads the way towards their neglected magnificent fort.

Bhatambra fort walls are built of the black stone, similar to Hankuni fort but the designs are different. Bhatambra fort has the look of an English castle, I think. The fort is completely surrounded by peek jaali bushes.
That's Mr.Mallikarjun. He's a typical Bidarian person, an agriculturist by profession. The arch way seen up there is supposed to be the fort's main entrance, it's base is a good 10' above ground level. There had to be a stairway once upon a time and now its missing. Probably the stairway was demolished and stones carted away to some building site... quite possible.

The fort's entrance tower is the highest part too, gives a clear view of the surrounding plains. The closed arches seen here must have been open arches originally later closed to increase security.

We walk along the northern wall towards the western wall.

The western wall. The structure's condition is pretty good considering the fact it is built on black soil.

That's our passge to Bhatambra fort..

..spacious enough for a horse also. A sentry chamber on the left wall.

The inside view of the entrance tower. The room up there must have built for the commander.
The inside is plain except for one palace building and a well next to it.

We enter the main tower. Its a well built structure, solid!

It's spacious inside. On the left is a raised platform probably used by security officers. If you notice the right and left edges of the arch, there are two small blocks fixed into the corners. Those blocks were to hold swinging doors' stubs.

Closer look at one of the blocks. The shaft at the doors head would fit into the round hole. A similar shaft at the foot would go into a hole in the floor. The door would swing easily... probably 3 strong men were required to swing the heavy wooden doors.

View from the tower; northern wall and north-western bastion. These walls has cracks which were filled up.

One of the side walls had a narrow stairway going up but we did not risk it.. too many thorny bushes. God knows what creatures were lurking in them waiting to sting us. Wish I has shot a video :(
Light was fading, we decided to leave. Hopefully, some day I'll come back to explore in detail. We drove to the village square, had hot tea, bid bye to our host and drove towards Bidar.. camp for the night there.

To know more about Bidar district check out- What to see in Bidar district?

May 2, 2015

Major and Minor Rock Edicts of Ashoka, Yerragudi

December 23, 2014. This was the second day of my year end vacation. My friend Gurudutt and I had driven down from Hyderabad the previous day, visiting Chalukyan temples at Alampur and Belum Cave. It was too late to visit Yerragudi. So we camped at a lodge in Gooty the historic town.

December 24, 2014. We left the hotel early morning, took Gooty-Adoni road (a state highway), our destination was about 13 kms away. Gooty-Yerragudi was about 12 kms and Yerragudi-Ashokan edict site is about 1 km. We found the site easily. There it is.. the rock formation bearing Ashoka's message for peaceful existence.

This rock formation is about a kilometer from the state highway, connected by a concrete road. The site is well maintained,. Whoever is in-charge of the site has to be sincere and dedicated. Pleant of trees and flower bearing plants have been well cared for. The place's ambiance was superb; cool air, hazy sky, soft sunlight birds and squirrels chirping by,. ah what a peaceful ambience. I just realized that a year and a day after completing the tour of nine edicts of Karnataka, the tour of Ashokan edicts of Andhra has commenced.

I parked my car at the end of the road where a foor path leading to the hillock began. At the entrance is a pair of granite slabs installed by ASI Kurnool Sub Circle. The English board reads as follows: The great Mauryan emperor Ashoka issued the rock edict at this place during 3rd century BC. The rock edict was inscribed in Brahmi script and Prakit launguage. The inscription refers to Dharma as follows: Thus saith the beloved of Gods you should act as instructed by the beloved of the gods. You should order the Rajukas in their turn should order the people of the countryside as well as the local officers called Rastrikas in the following words. "Mother, Father and elders are to be loved, living being should be treated with kindness. Truth must be spoken."

The Hindu newspaper, Kurnool edition dated May 31, 2013 has an article authored by D Sreenivasulu- ASI to develop Ashoka rock site as tourist spot. Quoting few lines from the interesting and informative article:
The inscriptions in Brahmi Script and Prakrit language are believed to have been etched during the tours of King Ashoka after his Kalinga campaign. He was said to have camped at several places in his 256-day sojourn. According to local historians, Jonnagiri, which was known as Swarnagiri during Mauyan time, was treated as South Indian capital of the kingdom.
The content in the inscription was inconsonance with other Ashokan group of inscriptions where the king was referred to Piyadasi and the Beloved of Gods. The Yerraguidi inscriptions contained in 28 parts on nine rocks which advocated that one should be obedient to one’s parents, one should likewise be obedient to one’s elders, one should be kind to living beings, one should speak truth, one should propagate the attributes of dharma, no-living being be slaughtered for sacrifices. The rock edict says “on the roads, trees have been caused to be planted and wells dug for the enjoyment of animals and men.” The edict declares that “these records related to dharma have been caused to be written by me (Ashoka) for the purpose that it may last and that my sons and grandsons may exert themselves for the welfare of all men.” Dr. Abdul Khader, historian and principal of S.J. College, has said the rock edict could be considered the first law enacted for the welfare of wildlife in the entire world. In fact they were directive principles of state policy of Mouryan Kingdom. He underscored the need for preserving it for posterity and exposing the site to school and college students in Kurnool district.

This site has about 7 or 8 inscription bearing rocks at various levels of the formation. Letter sizes vary so does the depth of etching. Some letters seem like they have been written with a piece of chalk. In this picture below are three inscriptions- one in the lower section, the triangle-shaped rock and the the large rock at the rear. All these rocks seen here are east-facing while the other inscriptions are north-facing.

Closer look at the inscriptions. The surface is pretty coarse..
while this surface is smooth.

Here the inscriptions are just on the surface, hardly any depth in the etchings yet they are visible clearly.

Letter sizes are quite small compared to inscriptions in Karnataka. Here I could see maximum 3" letters while sites in Karnataka have 3" to 5" letters. I guess it depends of the length of the message and area available.

Surface is pockmarked yet the inscriber has done a great job.

The pair of rocks at the top-left of this stairway bear inscriptions. These are north-facing.

This particular rock is close to a edge however a metal railing fixed firmly helped me move around easily. This is another north-facing inscription. The path leads to the western tip of the rock formation.

A straight view of the edict; I think these letters are the smallest of this site.

I did not find any inscriptions on this side.. probably I missed if there were any.

View through the rocks. I squeezed through this passage across the gap between the rocks.

This comfortable  spot seems to be occupied by the message readers. The spot is cool and gives a good view of the plains below. However its not very spacious, just enough for one person.

Do watch this short video, please ignore the audio alerts;

An hour had gone by quickly; time to leave and resume our journey towards Bangalore. As we descended the steps and reached the base we found a young man laying out water pipes - he had to be the care-taker. His name is Venkatappa, resident of Yerragudi village and he's in-charge of the places well being.

A small rounded stone kept at the entrance. The text seems to be Telegu. This inscription was found at Yerragudi village and moved here for safe-keeping.

Before ending this post, I would like to go back to the Hindu article, the part where Jonnagiri is mentioned. Historians say that Jonnagiri was known as Swarnagiri during Mauyan time -if this is a fact then it clears the a doubt. Kanakagiri (in Karnataka) is not Suvarniagiri as some believe.

The next Buddhist/Ashokan site on my list is Amaravati near Guntur.