This Sunday was unique, thanks to the #makeheritagefun initiative by GoUnesco. A Sunday spent in doing one of my favorite things – Discovering heritage. What made it even more special was that this time it was within my own city, Bangalore along with my daughter, fellow blogger Indrani Ghose and a bunch of history enthusiasts.
The #makeheritagefun event is organized by UNESCO across cities, on the same day, across the world to promote and encourage interest in our heritage through activities like the Heritage walks, runs and visits. In Bengaluru, this time, it was a walk through the Bangalore Fort to the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan.
The best part of it! We were treated to some parts of the Bangalore Fort that were not open to the public.
In today’s post, I will take you through the sights of the Bangalore Fort while I will keep the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan for another day. Let me start with a confession – I knew of Bangalore Fort but had never really been there. I am so ashamed about it, especially since I have been in this city for so long but I am so glad that I finally managed to visit it yesterday. Finding the Fort itself was a challenge as the entire area in which it is located has become a bustling city market and has one of the main city bus stands near it.
Located right next to a Government hospital, is what remains of the Bangalore Fort – a relic of the old Bangalore glory. When we reached here, there were just closed gates to greet us. All we could do is wait for the others , including the security guard, who finally came in at least half an hour later than the scheduled opening time.
While we waited, our guide Mansoor, took us through the history of the fort and origins of Bengaluru. Here is what we discovered –
History of Bangalore city
The Bangalore Fort was originally, built as a mud fort by Kempegowda. The fort was the hustling bustling center of the erstwhile Bangalore town, with numerous settlements of craftsmen, merchants and other vendors. Oval in shape, the fort was built after Kempegowda claimed Bangalore as his property,following a little incident. I am given to understand that while hunting, Kempegowda’s hunter dogs chased a few hares and to his surprise, at one point, the dogs turned back as they got chased by the same hares. A holy man indicated to him that if he were to find this place where the miracle happened and build a city there, the same would prosper. There came in the existence of the Bangalore we know today.
Kempegowda set out four bullocks in four different directions and marked his territory with 4 watchtowers at the place where the bullocks first stopped. We can see one of these towers in Lalbagh botanical garden today. The others are near Ulsoor lake, Mekri circle and Kempambudhi lake.
Kempegowda was actually, just an administrator of the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom. Following his breach, where he started minting his own coins, he was imprisoned in Hampi and later when released, returned back to Bangalore to restructure and develop the town. Later as the Vijaynagara rule fell to the Sultans of Bijapur, Bangalore was handed over to the Maratha chief Shahaji Bhosale – the father of the famed Chhatrapati Shivaji. From then, it changed hands to the Mughals as they defeated Sultan of Bijapur.
The Mughals in turn, sold off Bangalore to the Wadiyar family for just 3 lakh rupees! 🙁 not a price that the current real estate in Bangalore demands. When the Wadiyars were overthrown by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the Bangalore fort finally, evolved from a mere mud fort to the present stone one.
Exploring the Bastions of the Bangalore Fort
The original fort covered a huge area and what remains today is just mere 5% of the original fort. The fort had 4 entrances and had a huge moat surrounding it. However, today, it is just the Delhi gate. There are just two bastions surviving now and that is where we began our tour.
Typically, this is the restricted section of the Fort but since the walk was organized by UNESCO, we were the lucky few to manage a tour of the bastions. As you get up, you can peer down the walls to see various spots within the fort. The interesting thing here is that most of the points that you can see from the bastion are quite strategic in nature – they cover all the gates and entrances, ensuring that the soldiers had a clear view of the breach and could tackle the enemy well.
The picture below is a gun hole where you can see three different positions to point the guns.
The cannon area is sufficiently wide to fit the cannon in such a manner that one can turn it in any direction that they wished to. Right next to the Cannon area is a small hidey hole. No matter what your height, you have to bend and enter in. These holes were used by the soldiers to protect themselves from the noise made by the firing of cannons. The holes provided them with an acoustic relief.
Further on, at the center, you have steps leading down to the cells or the dungeons of the fort. For the first time, my curiosity of closed historic sections and closed doors was satisfied. 🙂 Thanks to #makeheritagefun tour, we were allowed to open closed doors, step into the cells and walk around.
I think it not just made my day, but my daughter’s too, for she was happy throwing me behind the bars 😉
It is here that we visited the dreary dark room where Captain David Baird of the British troops was imprisoned by Tipu Sultan for around 5 years. The barred door that I happily opened, led to a series of steps down to a dark tunnel – one that required some bit of torch light. Following the same, we entered a depressing room that had just 3 holes – one to slide the food in, one for some bit of ventilation and one to let out the stuffy air.
Now, you may wonder why this Captain was important. Well, he was the one who managed to get back at his captor Tipu Sultan in a battle, defeating him and later, finding his dead body. Hmmm! I wonder what you would say to that – What goes around, comes around?
After exploring the same, the entire group headed back down to the current entrance of the fort to explore the rest of it.
Through the current entrance of the Bangalore Fort
The current entrance had some interesting stone motifs and designs adorning it. Nothing spectacular but lovely nonetheless. The first thing that you see as you enter is an old Ganesh temple. It is said to have been built by Kempegowda during the Mud fort days of Bangalore but is no longer functional. You can view the same from most of the vantage points of the Bastion as well.
At the entrance itself, you will note huge spiked doors . Near it are some rest areas or quarters for the Watchmen. Unfortunately, the same have been blocked. You can only view them from the outside.
Here and there, you will find some alcoves and resting areas for the soldiers within the fort.
Turning left from the entrance, you enter an open courtyard – the Royal enclosures, that now has a green lawn. Here you can observe the walls and bastions for some interesting carvings. One of which is a Hoysala symbol – the same one that you find at the Hoysala temples like the Chennakesava temple in Belur. A smaller tunnel like entrance is next to the main gateway, right next to the Hoysala Symbol. The same is designed such that no matter who enters from there, he becomes a target for all the soldiers on the bastion.
A gate right opposite to this courtyard leads to the ancient garrison. There isn’t anything to see here but we were just given an opportunity to walk in through the barred entrance, and get a feel of the ancient history.
There is a third gate that led to this enclosure and that remains closed. You can see it in the courtyard.
The Bangalore fort was considered to be quite strong and strategic. It fell to the British owing to certain breaches within the local army. The fort collapsed physically when the British attacked it at its thinnest curve. Today, that part of the fort faces the road outside and you can see a small board marking the spot.
Though the place was quite small, the history and story behind kept us within the fort for around 2 hours. We were lucky to be able to access sections that are closed otherwise. More importantly, this heritage walk made me realise how much more I need to be a tourist in my own town. Bangalore Fort may not mean much to people right now, as there isn’t something significant left physically but the sheer heritage and history that accompanies it will keep it alive and interesting for history buffs like me.
A special thanks to our guide Mansoor for taking us through the wonderful history of the city where we stay.
- Bengaluru is well connected to most major cities -nationally and internationally by air. You can even reach Bengaluru by road or rail from any city in India.
- Bangalore fort is located in the heart of the city, next to Victoria hospital. You can reach here by public transport – cab, bus or an auto.
- Bangalore Fort is open on all days from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. It is a free entrance for all.
- Only the royal enclosures are open to the public and for the same you will need around 30 mins – 45 minutes of time.
- Photography is permitted in the fort without any charges
My other posts on Bangalore:
- Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan and his armoury
- Discovering the Bangalore Palace
- Blooms of Lalbagh
- 3 Places in Bengaluru for Kids