As I planned the route from Bangalore to Hampi, I noted that one of the best roads to Hampi was through the town of Chitradurga. A small part of my memory ignited and I remembered that the town had a famous fort – one that I had actually not seen. And well, as I detoured and researched on the fort, I realised that there was no way that we detour around the town without having seen it. And yes, that is how Chitradurga fort happened. The fort is quite huge and not so well popularized and that is what makes it even more fascinating. So, here goes my trip to Chitradurga
As you approach the town from the highway, one of the striking things that you will notice are the lovely windmills around the outskirts of the town – sights that are even more enjoyable as you climb to the Chitradurga fort.
The most striking feature of this fort is the seven walls of the fort, all in circles – starting from the ground level right up to the hill. The first two levels are amidst the current Chitradurga town – the first one you will definitely miss, the second and third one a little more obvious as you head to the fort. The second wall is a narrow one that allows your car to pass through towards the now-official entrance of the fort. Watch out for the snake inscription at the entrance of the fort, right above the moat that surrounds it.
As you start trekking upwards from the official entrance, you will marvel at the simple ingenious of the way in which these walls are constructed. None of the entrances are in straight line and one needs to little snake around the various walls to reach the next gate- which means that the enemy cannot penetrate the fort directly. Also, the steep stairs makes it even more impregnable.
The walls of the fort are fortified by strong stones and one can spot the little spy holes and gun slits on the walls, used to protect and watch over the fort. Along the way, you can spot specific watch towers as well. There are some oil wells along the way that used to store the oil used for lighting the fort. Watch out for a live acrobat or the monkey man – who normally sits between the 6th and 7th entrance. This gentleman from Tamil Nadu, generally performs to a crowd by climbing the walls of the fort without any support. Known as Kothi Raj, you can just take a small break to watch him there and well, just leave a little tip for him.
As you proceed along the entrances, don’t miss the old Gun-powder factory – intact with its grind wheels at one of these turns. Right next to it, is a cave that you can enter. This was probably, where the watchmen in the olden days used to stay. You can crouch into it, remember to close your nose though. And see if you can spot any of the bats 🙂
As you reach the seventh level, you come to the main square – a place that seems to have been a hub of a lot of activities. There is a main temple here called the Ekanatheshwari temple and close to it, an unmistakable pillar that was used for hanging swings. You will also, see a huge singular pillar which is the Deepastambha or the lamp post. Another important and beautiful site in this square is the step well, that used to be filled with colored water during the festivals like Holi.
Walking along further, you will now spot some ruined structures. These were the mint and the treasure house. This seems to be a military center. You can walk into the same just to look around. There is a small temple here as well, which is said to have served as a hiding place for treasures. It is said that the pit below the idol was used as a hidey hole 🙂
Now, don’t stop here as the most interesting part of this fort is coming up. There is a famous legend associated with this fort, involving the wife of one of the sentries. If I have piqued your curiosity, let’s travel along to the place famously referred to as Onaka Obavva Kindi. Along the path, you will see twin tanks as in the picture below. These tanks are over 50 feet deep and have fresh-water in it. They are named after the wives of the erstwhile ruler Madakari Nayaka. The tanks are called Akka Tangiyara Honda, after the wives committed suicide by jumping into the tanks after the fort fell to Hyder Ali.
I will let you in on the famed legend of Onaka Obavva Kindi – it is said that this lady- Obavva was keeping a watch while her husband was resting and having a meal in their cave home. She spotted Hyder Ali’s soldiers trying to worm their way into the fort through a hole and she single-handedly started killing them one-by-one and hiding their bodies. When her husband returned, he saw her standing with a blood stained pestle and raised an alarm in the fort. Kindi in Kannada means a secret passage and this term Onaka Obavva Kindi refers to the same passage that Obavva protected from the soldiers.
There is a small passage below the opening and you can hop down to it. You can wander into the little cave system and try to go through this narrow opening. We wanted to try the same but unfortunately, there was a long waiting with a small queue inside the cavern. The queue would not move for a long time and I wonder if it was because someone was stuck there 😉 And that would not be a surprise as the opening is quite narrow. 🙂 Nearby this passage, is a small cave which was supposedly Obavva’s home.
Time for another legend and this time from the epic of Mahabharata. For this you need to head back to the entrance, where the Eknatheshwari temple is located. On the opposite side of the temple, on a boulder, you will note another temple. This one is dedicated to Hidimbi the demon wife of Bhima– one of the Pandavas.
As the story goes, the hillock was occupied by a fierce demon Hidimba, along with his sister Hidimbi. The demon was a nuisance for the people around and Bhima got rid of him and married Hidimbi. His son Ghatochkach later, played a key part in the battle of Mahabharata. This is the only temple that has been dedicated to Hidimbi. The view from the temple of the rest of the city and the fort is beautiful. But beware of the monkeys! And there are hoards of them, who love snatching every possible thing that you may be carrying. My daughter almost, got her cap snatched while we were here. And while you keep a watch on these monkeys, don’t miss out the sight of the granaries from atop.
There are a few more temples, including the one where the Nayakas or the rulers of this region had their coronation ceremony.For these temple, you need to take a long trek in a direction completely opposite to the one that you have so far being going. If you are the adventurous lot, you will find the same very interesting. But beware, there are a lot of steps to climb.
And if you are looking for some extreme adventure, try climbing a steep hillock shown below. There are a few cuts grooved into the same but no hand rails and the hillock being smooth, is easy to climb up but is extremely steep. So, getting down is a challenge. You can note the same in the picture below – getting down while sitting seems to be the most popular way of returning to ground reality 😉 This hillock is quite a popular adventure trail.
Chitradurga fort has a lot for the adventurous and is a great off-beat destination, especially if you are on your way to Pune, Goa or Hampi from Bangalore. Take a break here and spend a few hours at the fort. Am sure, it will be a thrilling experience. A good day outing for people from Bangalore.
Getting to Chitradurga Fort:
Chitradurga is around 200 kms from Bangalore, on the NH4, Bangalore-Pune Highway.
This is en-route to Hampi. It is as Chitradurga that one must take a diversion for Hampi.
There are a few trains to Chitradurga from Bangalore, however, it is better accessible by road through cars and buses. There are regular buses as well from Bangalore.
Chitradurga fort is quite a steep climb and there is a lot of walking to be done when you reach here. Hence, make sure you do not carry too many things, wear comfortable cotton clothes and flat shoes.
Carry lots of water as you are bound to get thirsty.
There are a few shops and restaurants near the Eknatheshwari temple. You can buy refreshments are regular prices from here.
Through the year, the climate is quite pleasant. Avoid monsoons owing to the steep climbs involved and open nature of the fort.
There is a light and sound show on certain days here. You can note the timings for the same by calling up any of the numbers on their official website.
There are plenty of guides around the place and you could use their services. Be sure to check if they have a license and also, note that they may not always take you to all the points. Hence, make sure you sort the same out before you engage them.