Jun 25, 2016

Muddebihal fort ruins

November 2013
On the first day of my tour of Bijapur, Gulbarga and Yadgit districts Talikoti and Muddebihal forts were on my list however I skipped the latter because it was slightly out of the way.

January 29, 2016
We were driving back from Dharwad to Hyderabad. My plan was to visit Bijapur, probably spend the night there and then continue the journey. Just as we approached Bagalkot, plans changed and we headed towards Kudala Sangama where we spent couple hours and then continued towards Bijapur. At Nidagundi I saw a board pointing direction towards Muddebihal. So our plan changed again.. I decided to visit Muddebihal to check out the fort ruins.

Muddebihal is taluqa headquarters town. The town has grown out of the fort itself.. in fact the localities in and around the fort are tightly packed with a network of narrow streets. Driving a four-wheeler through the narrow gullies wasn't easy.

Here's a snap-shot of from Wikimapia screen, within the black circle is Muddebihal fort ruins. There are seven bastions and some rampart walls surviving. Probably there were seven or eight more bastions i.e. 15 bastions originally.

This is one of the surviving gateways into the fort area. We went through it, barely 100 meters in the street got too narrow for a car. We turned back.. Close to this gateway is an ancient shrine under a Neem tree.

I left my car near the largest bastion, Pushpa chose to remain in the car rather then roam the filthy streets under the blazing Sun. A local volunteered to take me to the bastion. There's hardly any space between houses, ruins, gutters and what not :( No chance of taking a picture of the whole bastion. In this photo, under the open space is a wide gutter.. on the left is the fort area and on the right are recently built structures.

The fort area is completely encroached, even some portions of rampart walls. My guide spoke to one of the house owners who let me go to the terrace to take pictures. On the bastion top is a Hindu shrine.

The bastion is well built..

Portion of surviving rampart walls.

There's no information online about Muddebihal's history. With its proximity to Talikoti fort, Muddebihal fort might have been used as a garrison during great battle between the five Muslim armies and VIjayanagara army. The battle which brought the downfall of Vijayanagara is said to be fought in the plains between Talikoti, Rakkasgi and Tangadgi. Also close by is the island hill fort Jaladurga. The island sits in river Krishna's path, creating two streams which flow around the hill and merge into each other.

From Muddebihal we head towards Bijapur..

Muddebihal for co-ordinates: 16°20'2"N   76°8'6"E

Jun 18, 2016

Ruins of Navalkal, Hirehanagi and Kotekal forts

Dec 25 2013 and
While travelling on the road between Raichur and Mudgal, we passed through several villages; of them handful of them had some historical structures visible from the road. This road connects two important historical places- Raichur and Mudgal; their histories go back to prehistoric times. So the road connecting them should have stop overs for travellers and especially for ruler's convenience there would be smaller forts in between.

The first one is Navalkal village; its icon being a big rock formation. I'm yet to find what it's name means.. whatever it is it ends with kal ~ stone.  From the rock's top right portion, one can imagine a bull's face.
I'd ventured into the village to get a closer look at the fortifications. Here's a small temple, probably dedicated to female deity,

Here are the fort walls. It looks small from here but I guess it would be quite spacious inside. I did not go any further lest I disrupted the agenda of the day.

As we proceed further towards Mudgal, we passed through a village named Hirehanagi. The name literally means 'big comb.' The village is situated next to a hillock on which is ruins of a bastion and walls. Seems like a small fort existed here which is in complete ruins now.

Further down the road is Watagal, the hill which looks like a tadpole from air seems like a heap of stones when seen from ground level. Its my guess that the name could be derived from the Kannada phrase "Wattidada Kallu" (heap of stones) which turned into one word Watagal. On this hill are ruins of several bastions which indicates this hill was a fort once.

Next is Kotekal fort which is located on a hillock. The name Kotekal literally means 'fort stones'. This fort is small compared to Watagal but definitely big in comparison with Navalkal and Hirehanagi. I did not venture into the hill instead took few pictures from the state highway. Here'e the general view from south. This face of the hill is naturally covered with heaps of stones making it a barrier. However you can see a line of wall built over the heap of boulders.

Closer look of the walls. These guys were expert builders indeed.

Two of the bastions are fairly well preserved.

This one seems like the highest point of Kotekal fort.

Here's a rough map showing locations of these 3 forts along with other forts of this region. See the beauty of this place- 3 major rivers of Karnataka flow here. Tungabhadra, Krishna and Bhima. Bhima merges into Krishna and further east near Kurnool Tungabhadra merges into Krishna.

In this area held between rivers, there are 10 known forts and surely few unknown ones too.

Hirehanagi fort coordinates: 16°7'11.6209''N 76°50'58.497''E
Navalkal fort coordinates: 16°9'51.4292''N 76°58'12.3679''E
Kotekal fort  Coordinates: 16°6'24"N   76°41'35"E

Jun 11, 2016

Watagal Basavanna Temple

Watagal hill is tadpole shaped when seen from air. Watagal hill is located in the black soil plains of Raichur district. The hill resembles a heap of boulders, there's no similar hill in the vicinity, the next nearest such a hill is at Anegundi in Koppal district. Watagal hill is a natural fort; it has a clearing on the top which can be approached by a narrow path. Watagal is a known to be a prehistoric site. Neolithic grey ware, Brahmagiri fabric and Jorwe fabric has been found during archaeological excavations here. Watagal, in the surrounding area is known for its Basaveshwara Gudi, a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva's mount Basava ~ Nandi. The temple is situated close to the hill's western tip, on the northern side.

January 23, 2016
After finishing our tour of Watagal hill. Pushpa and I bid bye to our guide Mahantesh. He suggested us to stop at Basavanna temple, said its a nice peaceful place. We said we will. The dirt road towards the temple was lined with a row of trees.. each of the trees' trunks and branches are twisted and ribbed.. as though they are very aged.

The twisted trees avenue. In north Karnataka, usually in temples where annual fairs are held, trees can be seen. The purpose of planting trees is obvious.. to provide shelter for visitors. In olden days, kings built stone shelters and wells; in the recent past years trees are the cheaper and easier alternate.

I did not take many pictures of the temple; the camera was with Pushpa who decided to stay outside and explore the surroundings. A bunch of kids from the village had followed us from the village were her company. Here's a short video of the temple..

This an open temple with the main shrine being a Neem tree. The shrine is protected by a fabricated metal cage and at its entrance is a metal art work.. Shiva Linga flanked by a pair of Basavanna.

The deity is Lord Shiva's mount Basavnna. The main deity is embedded in Neem tree trunk. My guess is that this shrine is in memory of a pair of bulls. In most parts of India, in the farming community, bulls are considered as family members. Today things are different but years ago bulls were no different from humans in farmers homes. In North Karnataka, when a bull died it was given a proper burial, just like a human being. So my guess is this shrine is a tomb of pair of bulls.

Close view of the main deity..

While I was at temple, Pushpa was busy taking pictures of the kids, here are few of them. This boy was the first one we met, as we spoke two more joined in, three close friends. This boy testing his strength.. trying to lift a gundu. Every village has such stones which were used by kusti jatti.. the wrestlers.

The three thick friends posing in front of the temple's theru.

The three boys' noise attracted more of their friends. A motley bunch! Check out the legs.. don't know which limb belongs to who :)

 The kids were getting noisier with every passing minute,  was too much for Pushpa, Time to leave, we were hungry and tired. The nearest place for lunch was Lingsugur which was 30 minutes drive.


Jun 4, 2016

Watagal hill and fort

Watgal was spotted on Wikimapia some time in 2012. The hill viewed from air looked like a tadpole.. an elliptical head and a tail. Its another boulder hill heap hill just like Rishimukha Betta of Anegundi. Another interesting thing about it is the natural fort on the hill top.. just like Onake Kindi, again near Anegundi. With little research, I learnt that Watgal was a confirmed prehistoric site.

December 25, 2012
I was touring parts of Raichur, Maski being the most important destination of the day. While travelling from Raichur we turned off at Kavital towards to Maski. Though Watagal was barely 4 kms from Kavital we missed it. Probably it wasn't destined for the day.

January 23, 2016
We were driving from Hyderabad to Dharwad; instead of Koppal-Gadag-Hubli route we decided to take Lingsugur-Mudgal-Ron-Navalgund route. It was around 11 when we reached Watagal. As usual, I stopped and spoke to people and found a guide :) So Mahantesh would be our guide to show Watagal hill. I suggested Pushpa to stay back because of the sunny condition but she protested and joined. Good spirit! We drove through the village and parked it near a temple, under a small Neem tree. From there the hill's base was about 250 meters. These white colored boulders are natural.. our guide confirmed when I asked about them. Another person from the village joined us out of curiosity..

Initially it was a dirt and rock path which gave away to a only boulder path, As you see rocks have been positioned carefully to create a level path. The path we are treading on is clearly seen in the aerial view. That's Mahantesh leading us..

As we walked I asked how the name Watgal got formed. gal ~ kal ~ stone. What about Wat? While our guides weren't sure what to say Pushpa pitched in Watgal could have been Wattidakal originally. Wattidakal means 'heap of boulders.' Makes sense.. isn't it?

Among this heap of boulders, a plant managed to  grow into a tree. That's the strength of plant life.

The gradient wasn't steep, so our climb wasn't strenous but we had to be alert with every step and careful not to trip over. Here's a boulder with a pit.. unsure if its natural or man-made. Probably a combination of both. The pit would fill when it rained and probably the water remained for months together.. The pit's mouth was about 2 feet across. Boulder looks like a shark's snout with a toohless mouth.

Now we are close to the hill top. In the top-middle you can see a bastion.. this indicates the hill was a fort too. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a natural fort. Close by we saw a stone with a polished face. Must be an ancient tool, may be from Neolithic times.

So we reached the hill top, now are standing on ground made of dirt. Here's a looking rock-formation with shelter fit for animals like leopards, bears and even hyenas.

Looking back towards the white-boulder strewn gentle slope of the hill top plateau. My guess is these rocks are kind of granite, probably related to Mudgal granite.

This is the clearing that can be seen in the aerial view which was inhabited long time back. Ruins of stone structures can be seen here. Also here's a shrine. It seems local people offer silver eyes to this standing stone deity for their wishes to become true.

Remains of a water tank made of stones and mortar. This could be built around 500 years ago.

We move further up to a bastion in ruins. We manage to clamber on to the top.. looking around 360 degrees.

Our guides were telling there's another ancient shrine on this hill deep inside a rock-shelter; only one person from Watgal is said to have seen it. God know what lies beneath these heap of stones. Yes, talking about stones.. hundreds of thousands of years ago this would have been a single rock which fragmented over the years. You can see several stones with matching edges which proves that stones disintegrate over time. What was once a monolith today is a heap of boulders and with passing time these stones will disintegrate further and become dirt.

Looking towards west..

On exploring the clearing we decided to turn back towards the way we came. Our plan was to climb towards another shrine. This shrine can be seen from the village, its painted in white lime. This climb was difficult.. reminded me of my adventure at Kappagallu.. the dolerite dyke of Hiregudda.

Some of the spots were quite dangerous. One missed step or slip would end with broken bones for sure. Pushpa was quite brave.. she never once spoke of giving up or turning back. We reached the shrine and next to it is another sentry point of the fort. That's where I'm standing now and looking down..

The clearing as seen from the bastion.
The descent was slower, we has to be very careful while negotiating tricky parts.

We made it back safely to the boulder path. Our guides were really nice to us, patient and caring. We pause our trek for a picture. Mahantesh's lungi is actually very stylish.. a rare shade of blue suits the garment.

A close look at the southern bastion. Its not easily reachable to humans, hence its preserved well. The boulder in the foreground with two niches is different from other stones.. it seems Mudgal granite. How did it get mixed up in this pile?

Back at the village, we thank our friends and prepare to leave. Mahantesh suggests us to visit Basaveshwara temple another ancient shrine dedicated to Shiva's mount Basava. I made note of postal address to send some pictures and said bye to our friends.

Here's one bastion at ground level. Looks like a fort wall was present here long time back, probably the walls' stones are part of houses' foundations now.

We head towards Watagal Basaveshwara Gudi.

Watgal hill coordinates: 16°6'6.4937''N 76°45'1.0238''E