Tuesday 19 February 2013

The Indian Robin Hood and his fort

Trekking and Weekend Getaways

Situated less tan a hundred kilometers from Bangalore, this fort is more known for its water harvesting techniques than its history. The fort was built by a local Palegar who is popularly known as the Robin Hood of India.
This Robin Hood robbed the rich to help the poor and his generosity was legendary. Though he ruled for a very short time, he is credited with having built the fort and also a tank. He also contributed to the water harvesting techniques and mind you this was way back in the 16th century.
The Robin Hood became so notorious over a period of time that he came to be known among the rich as “Havali” or menace. Today, the fort and the town stand a mute witness to the bygone era when the fort as a citadel of  impregnable symbol.
If the fort has such an interesting history, the town too has an equally interesting story. It gets its name from a cave temple hewn out a huge rock. The rock in Kannada is called Bande and the temple is known as Gudi. Combine both the word and you get the fort town of Gudibande.
The fort and the town of Gudibande is in Chikaballapur district and it is just 92 kms from Bangalore. This town has everything you could wish for. It is hikers paradise and a trekker’s challenge. It has a fort and temples apart from caves. What is more it would interest an engineer on how men four hundred years ago designed water harvesting structures.        
The fort was built by Byre Gowda, the Robin Hood of Gudibande. The fort lies on a conical hill which rises to more than 1100 feet  and there is huge lake below which looks like a map of India when seen from above. There are temples carved from rocks and boulders.
Byre Gowda ruled over Gudibande and surrounding areas for three years from 1645 AD to 1648 AD but he left his mark behind. He became such a terror to the rich that they called him “Havali”  Byre Gowda.  
Gudibande is famous not only for the fort but also several boulders and rocks. There is a cave temple within one such boulder and this has given the town its name of Gudibande. The cave is atop the Narasimhaswamy Temple. Move a little away from the cave and you come to the hill with the fort.
The big granite hill is steep and its slopes are slippery. The steps to the hill are wide and well cut in the beginning but they narrow down as you go up and become very shallow.
The imposing fort which is more than 400 years old blends with the hill and appears massive. When constructed the fort had seven gates but today most of them are missing or in ruins. The first gate that you see was originally the fourth. This gate leads to a small field with a ruined hall-like structure. The is entrance leads to a small field with a dilapidated mantap. The second gate is star-shaped and it has openings for guns on  its walls. There is a cave formed between two massive boulders.
There fort is full of natural ponds and water bodies. There is an escape route for the Palegar and soldiers to take in case of enemy attack. The route s through boulders and rough paths.
The next gate leads to rooms which at one time were occupied by guards. The penultimate gate leads to a large area with bastions at its corners. Beware, this is the favourite haut of monkeys Steer clear of them.
A trail between two colossal rocks leads to the top. There is a  large rectangular mantapa here which is where prisoners were kept. The temple dedicated to Shiva here is one of the 108 Jyotirlingas. This temple has been recently renovated. This is also called the Rameshwara temple, Nearby is the temple of Parvati Devi.
A majority of the visitors to the temple are from Gudibande as it is not known to outsiders.
Look around you and you can see the Byrasagara lake at the base of the hill. This was built by Byre Gowda and from the hill top it looks like the map of India. The water body is also called Amani Byrasagara. 
However, the water channel system devised by Byre Gowda and his successors was unique. It linking nineteen water bodies and tanks called dhones and they could in all hold nearly 3 lakhs litres of rain water.
Unfortunately, many of the channels and ponds have eroded over time. An NGO, Vivekananda Yuvaka Sangha, has taken up a project to restore the system.
The historic Surasadmagiri hill is situated nearby. Gudibande has two temples built by the Cholas. One is the temple of  Lakshmi Venkataramana Swamy and another is of Adinarayanaswamy.  The Gayatri Mandira here is said t be the first ever established. Gayatri is the second wife of Brahma.
The hills near Ellodu village in Gudibande taluk is famous for its “Queen Rose” granite rocks which is mined by the State Government.
Gudibande is so well-known I do not think it is necessary to give directions.

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