Sep 30, 2015

Fort Nidgal - part 2

...continued from Fort Nidgal - part 1.

December 29, 2014
This is the view of Nidgal Betta peak as seen from three fourth way up. I\m standing in the the inner most fort. In the foreground is a temple and next to it the water tank. On the peak is Basavanna temple.. reaching that temple requires some serious effort. The peak is close to 200m (about 700 feet) from ground level. I had lost lot of fluids and felt dehydrated My three teenage guides, boys from Nidgal village- Nagesh, Thippesh and Naveen -seemed tired and thirsty. We sat down in shade, relaxed 10 minutes, had water, then five more minutes of rest.. felt better.

The east facing temple has a black granite slab with inscription in Kannada script. The inscription starts with Shiva Linga, Nandi, Sun, Moon and Vishnu's symbols- Shankha & Chakra. The inscription is neat, small letters formatted into neat straight lines. This inscription is probably from Vijayanagara period.

This is water tank has stone lined wall. When full water can be pretty deep here.

A stone's throw from the temple is this flat-top boulder with a series of holes.. quarry marks. This boulder was to be broken into smaller pieces for some construction work. From the crack has grown a clump of grass.. I told my friends this looks like a poojari's head with a juttu; they smiled back :)

View of the rampart wall from a spot next to the boulder.. a small gateway in the wall. To the left is a bastion (see inset) on the bastion is a damaged cannon. The bastion is basically a dirt mound, enclosed by a layer of dressed granite blocks however most of the blocks have fallen off.

The barrel is quite similar to the ones seen at forts of Bijapur, Raichur, Gulbarga and Bidar districts. It seems to be an assembly of several forged cylinders. Thippesh is inspecting the cannon's barrel

Few pieces of the cannon have separated out, while one is on the bastion (see inset), the second one has rolled down and covered in a layer of dirt. The muddy piece seems to be rolled down by human forces.. probably someone must have tried to take it out of the fort.

We take a walk towards the gateway.. the wall is not really high nevertheless even a low wall can delay enemies' entry into the protected area.

View of the wall from outside. Naveen was camera-shy, caught him escaping. Thippesh and Nagesh were fine.

Photo of the day: Nidgal peak through the fort's gateway.

There are two structures, very similar to the buildings seen at Ratnaghiri and Midigeshi. Especially the two perpendicular bands. Close to these buildings is a grinding pit.. rubbo-kallu in Kannada.

The other side of the structures. The one on left seems incomplete.

Time to leave, we slowly head back towards the  way we came. Soon we will be going down a steep gradient and reaching a spot just below this spot.

Earlier we had passed by the ruins of a palace, here'e a bird's eye view of the plains. Next to the ruins is a large pit.. probably a well or a water tank. This plain land is enclosed between two hills. On the opposite hill runs ramparts walls.

In this picture you can see part of the hill I'm shooting from, the plains and the opposite hill and the village beyond, You can see rampart walls all over the hill and plains.

Descending was not as strenuous as ascending but I had to concentrate on the path, very step had to be considered with care. We took exactly the same path as we had climbed. At the one of the gateways, I found another symbol.. overlapping rectangle and triangle.The rectangle's center line is the triangle's median. What's the significance of this figure?

By the time I reached the plains I was exhausted, I thanked my friends for their time and patience. The cabby Vinayak had brought his cab closer to the the last gateway.. it spared me another kilometer walk. I got into the car, pulled out a water bottle and took mouthfuls of water, trying to quench thirst..

Nidgal is one the forts I wish to come back to, I have to visit all the ancient temples here. Also, I would like to see Shirdi Sai Baba's temple.

Our next destination was Pavagada but when I saw the hill, I dropped the idea of climbing it. It was too hot and I was dangerously low on energy. I decide to head back towards Tumkur to my host's place..

Sep 26, 2015

Fort Nidgal - part 1

December 29, 2014

Discovered while scanning area surrounding Pavagada in Google terrain; estimated height of Nidgal Betta was 200 meters. Its a stepped hill; roughly half way up is a small plateau with ruins of a fort and the upper half of the hill is a peak. Nidgal fort occupies plains and slopes of the hill. Within the fort walls are ruins of a palace, few temples with inscriptions and water tanks. Rampart walls are built on slopes.

I reached Nidgal village around 8 AM, stopped at Rama temple, spoke to few elderly folks who appointed three teenage boys as my guides - Nagesh, Naveen, and Thippesh. Rama temple is situated on the hill's base, very close to it a paved path leading to the fort gateway. It wasn't easy walking on the paved path because it was uneven.. probably a flooring was laid down over the paved surface which has decayed over time. The first gateway was an high arch, half kilometer later was the second gateway with a security office.

The architecture is definitely Vijayanagara.. four-sided pillars divided into 3 sections resulting in 12 faces; each of the face would have murals of plants, birds, fish, animals, women, men, geometric and floral designs, and religious symbols. The paved stones seen here are well tread and smooth.. so smooth they are actually slippery.

As we climber deeper into the fort, the gradient was increasing. One of the stretches had a flight of stairs. which lead to another gateway. The passage was narrow and flanked by high walls (see inset).

We have a long way to go.. on the right are rampart walls zigzagging up the hill. Wonder if trees present back then.. they could cause serious security problems. BTW, most trees seen her are pretty young, no ancient trees seen here.

One more gateway. My guides, Nagesh, Thippesh and Naveen. These boys spoke mostly Telegu among themselves. Nagesh and Thippesh spoke Kannada but Naveen could speak only Telegu. One of the stones in the steps had a geometric symbol - a triangle with criss-crossing lines (see inset). Remember seeing similar symbol at Chandragutti fort in Shimoga district.

The ground were treading on was sandy.. this indicated that rain water flowed downhill on these paths. Further into the fort was ruins of a Hindu temple. The terracotta Shikhara was damaged (see inset).

The terrain was interesting. One of the rocks had a sculpture of Nandi (Basavanna), A Shivalinga and a human figure with palms joined - doing Namaskara. Close a maze of mud walls - I it was a palace once upon a time. You can see similar ruined walls at Chitradurga fort too. Here's a section of the wall - see how tightly dirt is packed - it has a foundation of dressed stone blocks.

Now the going got tougher, the gradient was steeper.. luckily we had cover of trees, it was partly shaded. Happened to notice a creeper with bulb like things hangings. They seemed lit lit up lamps (see inset). Tamarind trees were pretty common on this hill.

Another flight of rough-cut steps with a gateway (see inset) at the end. My guides were an energetic bunch.. I was happy that I could keep up with them most times. However, I wasn't as nimble as these youngsters.

This part of climb was little tricky, thought not very steep the surface was little slippery. So I had to be careful, especially with the camera bad hanging down from my shoulder.

One more gateway. Notice the wall on the right, a large running up from the middle towards its base.

A rock-shelter.. definitely would have been inhabited by humans long time ago. This wall seen here is a recent creation. Nagesh told me that this is a shop during Basavanna Gudi annual fair on this hill. Probably it was also used by tamarind contractors to store their pick. An idea! This is a good spot to camp.. spend a night here.

We are very close to the first stage of the hill. by now Sun was blazing down fiercely. From this point it was a 10 minute climb to the walls seen here.

Ah! Finally made it to the first level. Lovely reddish yellow sun-dried grass. Down the slope are the ruins.

This article will continue in Fort Nidgal - part 2.

Sep 23, 2015

Rama temple and Ramteerta, Nidgal

December 29, 2015
Tumkur district is one of the districts with many forts. The middle part of the eastern border is lined with forts starting from Devarayanadurga to Pavagada. These forts are located on hills/hillocks surrounded by plains except Devarayanadurga and Nidgal - these two forts are located on hills which are part of hill ranges. Nidgal village is situated at the base of Nidgal Betta, a peak surrounded by a group of hillocks. This peaceful little village was an important place once upon a time. The presence of a big fort, ruins of palace, several temples, inscriptions and a stepped well proves its place in history.

While researching I happened to stumble upon an article on Nidgal in Deccan Herald. Quoting a line from the article: Nidgal, once called Kalanjana Giri, Kalanjana Durga and Neelavathi was a prosperous town and a capital under the Gangas, Nolambas, Hoysalas, Cholas, Mysore Wodeyars and Sultans, writes M B Sadashivaiah.

Ancient temples located in and around Nidgal are: Sri Nagareshwara temple, Sri Someshwara temple, Sri Ishwara temple, Yoga Laxminarasimha Swami temple and Parshwanatha Jaina Basadi. Besides ancient temple there's a temple dedicated to Shirdi Sai Baba and a mosque. I visited two temples- one at the peak's summit and one in the village. The latter is ancient, going by its architecture it was built during Vijayanagara rule. If I'm not mistaken its should be a Rama temple. This temple is also a cattle house; divine beings at a holy place. A handful of Nidgal folks I met were nice people. They asked me to step inside the temple and take a look.

That's the temple, a simple one. Those pillars are definitely Vijayanagara style.

A closer look at the elephants flanking the steps. The temple doorway has Dwarapalas and mesh windows. Simple yet beautiful. Thanks to the folks for maintaining the place neat and tidy.

A cattle-shelter occupies one of the corners. This pair of feet on a pedestal is an indication this temple is dedicated to Sri Rama..

There ends my tour of the temple. I promise to visit Nidgal again just to see its temples.. most probably during my visit to Pavagada fort. The objective of this visit was to see the fort situated on this hill which I did. This is one of the gateways of the fort at the base.

Where there's a temple, there has to be a source of water. Temples of Nidgal have wells. Here's one ancient stepped well.. Ramteerta is considered as a holy spot by locals.

The name Nidgal must be very old, probably from Neolithic times. Reason for saying that: name ends with 'gal' which means stone.


Sep 19, 2015

Fort Midigeshi

December 30, 2011
The day Thane blasted India's east coast I'd visited Madhugiri fort. If not for my brother Deepak and I might not have reached the summit in that wet weather. The top half of Madhugiri hill was shrouded in mist and all we could see was blank white screen with plenty of wind sounds. After the climb and descent, we were exhausted and hungry; had a hearty meal of ragi mudde, anna and hurli saru at a small eatery close to the hill. Post lunch we decided to head towards Midigeshi though we were in no  mood to climb again. Madhugiri-Midigeshi road wasn't so good, journey was slow. Midigeshi was also covered in mist and yes the hill looked big.. no way we'll climb it today. Well, some other day..

December 28, 2014 the day finally arrived. The day started with Chandrayanadurga followed by Ratnagiri fort and last on the list was Midigeshi. Unlike, two years back, today was a clear day, in fact a warm day.

I knew the climb started at the Venkatramana Swami temple at the base of the hill. As I passed through the village's main street, I inquired with a group of people if anyone could show me the fort. People were friendly and appointed a guide.. Hanumantaraya, a shepherd by profession. We parked the cab near the temple. Our climb starts here.. just around the temple.. rampart walls are visible on the slope.

A steep climb ahead. The path was a steep dirt track, there were rocks too,had to careful because of the lose top layer. Hanumantraya was a regular on this track.. I just had to follow him.. the luxury of being led :) About 10 minutes climb, we'd reached the first gateway (see inset), a simple structure of pillars and columns.. also there was a platform. Probably in the village below was another ring of wall long time back..

We are looking towards east.. bird's eye view of Midigeshi village. Venkatramana Swamy temple, the houses and an ancient water tank. on the opposite hill would have been a sentry point for Midigeshi fort.

Little further up.. ruins of a partially constructed temple. I remember seeing such ruins at Gandugali Rama Kote near Gangavati, Wagangera fort near Shorapur, probably there are few more.. architecture was same in all places. Looks like Vijayanagara had planned to build temples simultaneously across the empire.. the Muslim invasion put an end to the grand plan. Stone was sourced locally for building fort walls or temples.. quarrying and sizing stone blocks was done on this hill. An example of a stone set to be sized (see inset).

That's my friend, Hanumantraya, a silent fellow. Wonder what thoughts were in his mind at this moment. Turning our attention to the wall.. was the top block has a small stone beneath it.. was being positioned when the work halted?

We resume the climb.. the dirt path ended at the temple, now its only rocky path. This slope is pretty steep but the rough surface provided good grip. At the end of the slop is the temple ruins.

Looks like we are at the final leg of the climb, looking up the steepest part in our path. A flight of rock-cut steps similar to the one at Ratnagiri fort. The stairway snaked up the slope.. no shooting while moving on this stairway.. the steps were sloped down slightly so that rain water ran off and dried quickly. At the beginning of the stairway, on the right-hand-side was a damaged ancient engraving of Midigeshamma, the deity of Midigeshi Betta (see inset). The history of Midigeshi's name traces back to a woman who had hair till her feet. The woman was called Himmadi Keshi. In Kannada Himmadi means heel and Keshi means hair. With time the name changed to Medikeshi and finally became Midigeshi.

At the upper end of the stairway is a passage and a gateway.

Now, these walls built of red bricks seem to be built during Hyder and Tipu's rule. Probably a wooden door existed here.

The arched gateway, tapering stairway and the iconic palm tree of Midigeshi.

Arched gateway as seen from inside. This is one of the narrowest parts of the path to the summit.

The narrow passage has another gateway - this is the last one.

Once out of the gateway, its a short walk to the summit and the mosque. The looks of the platform creates a feeling it was meant for a temple.. probably a partly constructed temple did exist here.. anyway, the mosque has a unique look. The conical minar and its ridges crown are tasteful creations. BTW, my host Hanumantaraya is a smart looking chap.

The inside of the mosque was a mess. Hanumantaraya told that few local boys had started repair on work this structure.. looks like it was abandoned for some reason. Both minars have stairways in them.. very tight passage leading to the roof. My host asked me if I wanted to climb up. Having climbed three hills in a day I was running out of energy.. no mood for any circus.
A short video of the summit.

Flat surface behind the mosque. Midigeshi hill is basically a large granite boulder. This granite boulder has several red patches, some small and some large.. the color indicates presence of iron in this stone. The thought evoked by these patches was blood.. it looks like dried blood.

Close to the mosque is this structure, looks like stone was sourced from this hill itself. This structure is similar to the one at Madhugiri summit. Probably they served as soldiers' quarters or a military office. Its location is carefully chosen.. built next to the natural boulders.. when seen from the plains, this structure is not clearly visible.

Having seen shelters there has to be a source of water on the hill. Hanumataraya was keen on showing two water tanks located on the northern slope, we had to negotiate a steep gradient but a friendly one.. the surface was kind of wavy and rough.. we had solid grip. Little further down claer surface made way for grassy patches. We passed by one water tank on our left and went down further.. another structure.. this one had a chimney and two windows on the front wall. Look where its built.. on a 30 degree slope.

Here's the water tank.. obviously several hundred years ago, this tank would be clean, filled with clear water. Its pretty big and probably deep too. Years of neglect must have brought in lot of mud in to the tank.. imagining if it could be dredged and water level to its max, water would be about 10' to 15' deep.

That was the end of the path. We turned back.. on the way up we paused on the slope for a moment to look back at the gradient.

What a day it was! Three hill forts- Channarayanadurga, Ratnagri and Midigeshi -from sunrise to sunset.