Chitradurga : A Beautiful Fort Hidden Amongst Boulders

On our way back from Coonoor, we took the NH4 (Mumbai – Pune – Bangalore Highway), and decided to take a break at Chitradurga. It’s a small dusty town, which is surrounded by small hills and many windmills. We had heard of an ancient fort at Chitradurga, and decided to visit it before leaving for Mumbai.

The fort is very close to the main highway, hidden behind hills. The fort doors open at 6am, and that’s the best time to see it, because of the light and the cooler weather. It is probaly the most beautiful fort we have seen in India. Not much remains today save walls and ruins, but one can make out what a magnificent fort it must have been in its time.

If you have time, do walk through the city. There are plenty of ancient buildings still standing.

From Wikipedia: Chitradurga Fort or as the British called it Chitaldoorg, straddles several hills and a peak overlooking a flat valley in the Chitradurga District, Karnataka, India. The fort’s name Chitrakaldurga, which means ‘picturesque fort’ in Kannada, is the namesake of the town Chitradurga and its administrative district.

Built in stages between the 17th and 18th centuries by the dynastic rulers of the region, including the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoysalas as well as the Nayakas of Chitradurga, feudal lords in the Vijayanagar Empire, the fort is a marvel. The Nayakas of Chitradurga, or Palegar Nayakas, were most responsible for the expansion of the fort between the 15th and 18th centuries. They were defeated by Hyder Ali at Chitradurga in 1779. Later the fort was expanded and strengthened by Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan,who succeeded Madakari Nayaka V, the last ruler of the Nayaka clan.

The fort is built in a series of seven concentric fortification walls with various passages, a citadel, masjid, warehouses for grains and oil, water reservoirs and ancient temples. There are 18 temples in the upper fort and one huge temple in the lower fort. Among these temples the oldest and most interesting is the Hidimbeshwara temple. The masjid was an addition during Hyder Ali’s rule.The fort’s many interconnecting tanks were used to harvest rain water, and the fort was said to never suffer from a water shortage.

The entrance to the fort is made of many sharp right angled turns, to slow down any invading soldiers, who can then be tackled by fort security from behind these stone walls.
So many right angled turns before you enter.
So many right angled turns before you enter.
Love these doors and stone walls.
Love these doors and stone walls.
We loved the juxtaposition of fort and boulders. Never have we seen such a fascinating fort landscape in India.
We entered the fort early in the morning and were able to get beautiful light for our pictures. One can see the windmills on the distant hill.
This door arch seems to have a strong Muslim aesthetic, probably made during Hyder Ali’s time.
Fort and boulders.
Beautifully crafted stone arches and brackets.
Detail of carving near one of the doors. A musician plays a ‘dhol’ (drum) kind of instrument.
Carvings near the door. A dancer and what seems like a musician/dancer with instruments or weapons.
The fort is beautifully built embracing the hilly landscape.
There is a beautiful view everywhere in this fort.
These natural boulders are so beautiful in themselves. Add a magnificent fort and you have something absolutely stunning.
The feet of a god/goddess. Need to find this one out.
In between boulders are built temples, storage rooms, mints, rooms for fort residents etc.
We can only imagine how beautiful this must have been in its heyday. Maybe there was lot of colour and decoration. Who knows?
So many levels within the fort with various doors, passages etc.
A swing frame at the entrance of one of the temples.
A small step well, now littered with tourists’ garbage.
More fort, more beautiful landscape.
Fort 01
Can’t describe enough the beauty of the landscape inside the fort.
Fort 02
The fort walls overlooking the city of Chitradurga.
Fort 03
The Chitradurga Fort is spread over an estimated 1500 acre area.
Fort 04
You don’t know where the boulders end, the fort begins, the fort ends and the boulders begin again.
Morning light seeps in through a doorway.
Mud was often used to make parts of the fort, especially a few feet above the ground (the lower parts being made of stone). Much of these mud walls have eroded over the years with rain.
About 4.5 feet of wall is stone, and mud above it. This was the area which housed the King’s Mint.

From the Archaeology Survey of India information boards: Building with earth: This building uses one of the world most popular construction materials : Mud.

Mud is popular because it is easy to work with, cheap and easily available. And most importantly, buildings made of it are strong and stay cool during summers. Many houses in this region are still built of mud, using age old techniques.

Preparing mud for construction is like making dough for ‘rotis’. Take soil, add water, knead by stamping on it! You can add broken pottery (like in the wells here), straw or even jaggery to reduce shrinkage and increase the strength of the mud. When the mud is of right consistency, place it directly on the wall base layers, like here. Or shape into bricks, dry and then use to build walls.

Mud’s biggest enemy: Water.
This building, once a mint, still stands because it was built to resist water damage. Because the base is most vulnerable to splashing water, these walls have stone plinths. Plastered water channels safely carry rain water from the roof to the ground without splashing. The roof probably had large overhangs to prevent splashing. And you can still see traces of the lime plaster that further protected the walls from water.

Pathways through the fort.
A beautiful tree rises from the debris.
One of the water bodies inside the fort.
A small room on a rock. Perhaps it was a changing room?
Passages have been built through rocks and boulders.
Another view of the water body.
Boulder meets stone walls meet boulders. Again.
Doorways like this one connect many different levels of the fort.
There is a frame everywhere.
Another waterbody in the fort. Rain water-harvesting structures were built in a cascade development, which ensured large storage of water in interconnected reservoirs. It is said that the fort precincts never faced any water shortage.

The residence of the Chitradurga Nayakas, is strategically located in the most secure part of the fort. To reach this palace complex, an army would have had to cross seven fort walls. It’s also naturally protected on three sides by hills that would make enemy attacks very difficult indeed. Watch towers on the summits of the hills around the area provided additional protection.

Within the complex are ruins of large palace buildings, quarter for servants and service staff, several rectangular and round granaries, and other buildings. Most of these buildings are built of mud. Among the few stone buildings here are two with vaulted roofs that are on slightly elevated areas. These were probably used as magazines for storing ammunition.

The open ground in front of the palace complex was a fruit garden called the Sringarada Tota. It was provided with channels for irrigation using water from the Gopalaswami Handa.

The layout of the inner fort.
The layout of the inner fort.
Love these tall grasses amongst the fort remains.
A temple amongst the boulders.
Details at the temple door. That looks like Shiva.
An outhouse next to the water body.
The same outhouse, from a slightly higher elevation.
The masons who built the fort would make perforations like these on rock. When filled with hot water, it is said, a nudge with an iron rod would split the rock at the perforation. That’s how they would cut so much rock.
The Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation’s resort Mayura Yatriniwas, Chitradurga, is a very good stay option.

[box type=”success” width=”100%” ]Getting there: Chitradurga is 205 km from Bangalore towards Pune on the NH4 (Bangalore – Pune – Mumbai) highway. Staying: We stayed at a hotel on the highway we did not like. However, the KTDC has a fantastic hotel right opposite the fort called Hotel Mayura Yatri Niwas, Chitradurga. It’s very clean and has a very good restaurant. Hotel Mayura YatriNiwas Next to Maharani College,opposite to Fort Chitradurga- 577 501 Tel:0819 4234342 Manager:Mr.Ramesh Malya 9481530355/8970656600 Email:[/box]

14 thoughts on “Chitradurga : A Beautiful Fort Hidden Amongst Boulders”

  1. A great fort… among hills and rocks…temples, rock passages, water body, reservoir, the fort is well constructed for sure(: nice… you have showed the fort very well on your blog.

  2. Hello, Thanks for sharing such a fantastic blog.I really appreciate your blog to share most information about hidden fort Chitradurga…nice blog…useful information. I will there with my friends…..


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