Tuesday 5 March 2013

The fort on a circular hill

Trekking and Weekend Getaways

This is one of the oldest forts around Bangalore. The fort was built during the period of the early Vijayanagar Empire and the earliest construction of the fort goes back to 1350 AD.
Though the outer walls of the fort is in ruins, several structures still remain, testifying to the engineering skills of the people who built such a massive structure atop a hill. Unfortunately, not many care to visit the fort and even trekkers and weekenders have little information about it.
The fort was the place from where a long succession of 26 Palegars or local chieftains ruled over they area. The fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1565 did not signify the end of  Vijayanagar influence over the principality.
The principality then was pretty large ( Gummanayakana Palya or  Gummanayakapalaiyam) and it comprised the whole of the Bagepalli taluk and portions of the neighboring Hindupur and Kandukur taluks.
The actual origin of the principality goes back much earlier to 1350. It was founded by Khadripathi Nayak (1260), a scion of a royal family in Cuddappah (Andhra Pradesh), who gradually established his ascendancy over the zamindars and the people of Patapalya.
Khadripathi built a new capital in Devarajapalli and extended his rule over a wide area by overcoming local rulers.
His son, Chinama Nayak (1272-1296), named his principality after Gumma Reddy, one of the zamindars who had voluntarily handed over his estates to his father( Khadripathi Nayak).
Chinama Nayak is credited with having established put in place an efficient administrative system. Gumma Nayak, the third ruler, ( 1296-1314) became a vassal of the Vijayanagars and had to pay tribute and also provide military services to the Vijayanagar Emperors.
The sixth ruler, Kadarappa Nayak (1363-1388) helped the Vijayanagar Empire establish its control over the local palegars of Bangalore Chikaballapur, Kolar and surrounding areas. This domination of Vijayanagar continued for two centuries. The Vijayanagar Emperors  recognised the selfless services of these Palegars and counted them among the most loyal and distinguished chiefs.
The battle of Talikota in 1565 saw the defeat of the Vijayanagar forces. Viradasappa Nayak (1548-1584), the 19th palegar, was the ruler of Gummanayakanahalli. While other Vijayanagar feudatories took advantage of the defeat to declare their independence, Viradasappa Nayak remained loyal to the Vijayanagar Emperor.
When the Vijayanagar Empire saw successions wars in 1630, the Gummanayakanahalli Palegar, Vasanta Nayaka, refused to acknowledge the overlordship of Emperor Venkata Deva Raya III. The Vijayanagar Emperor then asked Immadi Kempe Gowda of Bangalore, to wage war on Gummanayakanahalli.
Kempe Gowda came to Gummanayakanahalli with a large army and forced Vasanta Nayaka to submit. Subsequently, it came under  Mughul rule during the reign of Bangara Thimma Nayak (1680-1728).
His successor Kadarappa Nayak III (1728-1740) had to switch allegiance from the Mughals to the Marathas and pay heavy tribute to avoid bloodshed. His successor, Narasimha Nayak V (1740-1760), was compelled to cede part of his territories to Murarirao Ghorpade of Gooty.
Later, Hyder Ali of Mysore befriended the Nayakas but his son, Tipu Sultan, took up a policy of exterminating the palegars of small provinces. Narasimha Nayak VI (1765-1802) tried to stop Tipu but in vain. The Nayaka was forced to flee the fort of Gummanayakanahalli when Tipu arrived with a huge force. After the third Anglo-Mysore War, Narasimha briefly regained his province, but Tipu once again conquered the province.
During the Fourth Mysore War (1799), Narasimha Nayak VI, with a large army of his own, joined the British in their final assault on Srirangapatna. The British promised to restore Narasimha his province. But this was not to be and Narasimha was forced to go into exile and he died  heartbroken man.
Today, the fort stands in all its majesty, a monument of rock and stone over a circular hill known as Gummanayakanahalli in Chikabakllapur district.
Gummanayakanahali is just 16 kms away from the bustling town of Bagepalli. The fort here is named after its founder Gumma Nayaka. The Nayaka took personal care in designing the fort in 1350 AD and much of this is visible even today.
The fort is atop a hill and the circular fortified rock, rises 150 feet above the surrounding hilly tracts of Gummanayakanahalli.
Many structures dating to different periods of time are still extent here, including the ruined palace of the Palagar, the remains of a hospital, elephant stables and even temples.
There are several gates in the fort and some of the have fallen due to disuse and neglect. The Rama Temple adjacent to the third gate of the fort looks neglected.
Unfortunately, the Rama Temple and that of Lakshman and Hanuman do not have idols. What is unique about these temples is that they have been constructing by used natural engineering skills. Nowhere is mortar and cement used.
The boulders were joined together like in a jigsaw to construct these temples. The Rama Temple has inscriptions from the Ramayana and Mahabharata carved on both the inside and outside the temple walls. This temple also has an inscription in Telugu written in Kannada script.
The garba gudi or santum sanctorum of the Rama Temple is an impressive fifteen feet in height and 8 feet wide. The Garba Gudi is fashioned in the form of a Kurma or tortoise, the second avatar of Vishnu.
The fort and the hill present a beautiful sight and is ideal for a weekend picnic and trek. Besides, Bagepalli is nearby. Bagepalli is 100 kms from Bangalore. There are plenty of buses to Bagepalli from Bangalore, Kolar , Doddaballapur and Chikaballapur.  It is on the Hyderabad-Bangalore highway. 

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