The Stupendous Chitradurga Fort

The British called the Chitradurga Fort stupendous and impregnable. For once you can agree with them. The Chitradurga fort is truly stupendous and magnificent. It is one of the biggest hidden gem surprises from India’s monument treasure trove. Archaeological Survey of India maintains the beautifully and all they need to do now is to promote it. Also, never seen before is the totally contemporary signage which blends with the surroundings. Usually the signs ASI puts up are eye sores that foul up the photo frames.

You are in Karnataka, biding your time to hit Hampi. You drive into this small town of Chitradurga when you see this sign for the fort. The laptop comes out, wiki whirrs and pulls out this fascinating information about the town and the fort. The fort seems to be in the middle of action from Mahabharat to Chalukyas to Mauryan Empire to Hyder Ali and ultimately to the blighty British. You finish your work on the double and enter the fort’s first of the several gateways.

A panoramic view of the fort


So far the forts you have seen have been found perched on hilltops where the hills have been used for the strategic height factor. Here, in Chitradurga, the hill is a collection of granite boulders of varying sizes. The fort is a perfect duet between nature and man. Actually, the fort is built around the boulders. The boulders serve as natural defense. The fort starts from the ground level and goes through a succession of gateways and fortified walls of increasing defense. In all there are seven concentric fortifications. As seen in most forts, the approach to all the gates is at 90 degrees with surrounding high walls designed to slow down the invading enemy.

Boulders dwarfing the tiny looking mantapa inside the fort

Gateways at ninety degree angles guarded by rocky sentinels

Looking down from Hidimbeswara Temple towards Chamundi Temple

Most of the forts you visited were predictable. But this fort has a surprise waiting at every gateway corner and beyond every wall. It is like being rewarded for your huffing and puffing at every level of this Wii game. You feel like a child bounding up every which way. There are water storage tanks with elaborate planning for rain harvesting, granaries, oil pits, natural sources of clean cold water and temples. There is a gun powder mill where the huge grinding stones were pulled by elephants. It is nothing like you have seen before.

Rock carved temple under the benevolent shadow of boulders

The day is perfect for seeing the fort. It had rained during the day. In the distance, you can see the windmills churning. Sun keeps flitting through the clouds. Despite the effort in climbing the undulating stairs, your energy does not fade. The cool breeze has picked up at this height.You have trouble keeping the camera still. The weather is perfect to discover the perfect fort.

As with every fort there are associated legends. Chitradurga has some really interesting ones.

Mahabharata says that two rakshasas (giants) named Hidamba – who found humans a crunchy snack – and sister Hidimbi lived here. When the Pandavas came here for exile, Bheem had a duel with Hidamba and killed him. He later married Hidimbi. And they had a son called Ghatotkacha. Ghatotkacha was an interesting character in the Mahabharat who had magical powers such as the ability to fly.

Another story is about the brave woman called Obavva. Obavva was the wife of a guard in the fort. Hyder Ali’s soldiers who had set up a siege outside the fort saw her squeeze through a small hole in one of the walls. They figured they could do the same. So one afternoon, when her husband was sleeping, Obavva saw the soldiers popping out through the hole. Obavva, without waking up her husband, brandished her pestle. Every time a soldier’s head appeared in the hole, she would batter with the pestle, drag the body away from the view and wait for the next prey. When the guard woke up, he saw hundreds of enemy soldiers killed by his wife. Obavva saved the fort that day. Her act of bravery is legendary now.

The Death Hole

The Chitradurga Fort was in immaculate condition, with almost no littering and the walls unscratched and free of love declarations. I am thinking of complementing ASI for their efforts. Some walls made of mud and stone are in danger of collapsing. I heard a security guard say that funds have been approved for renovation of these walls.

Hope these mud walls are saved from further ravage of the elements

Getting There: The fort is highly recommended and must see. Next time you are in Bangalore, keep a day free for Chitradurga. Zip up northwest on NH 4. You will never have so much fun on a 400km round trip.

37 Comments

  • A warm welcome.

    Excellent write-up. I have heard about the same from my friends, but this is the first time I have seen the pictures.

    “The fort is a perfect duet between nature and man”, rightly said. Strategically, this place could have been one of the best place to build a fort. It’s also nice to know that the walls are unscratched and free of love declarations.

    Keep writing, have a nice day,

    • Nirdesh says:

      Thanks, Amitava!

      Yes, the fort is awesome and it needs promotion so that it attracts more visitors. ASI has done good job with the maintenance and upkeep.

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • Warm Welcome to ghumakkar,

    beautiful pictures and wonderful description, but post is little short .

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Vishal,

      Thanks.

      I was arguing with the Ghumakkar editors, that the 750 word limit is too high.

      And you say the post is short!

      :)

      Nirdesh

  • Sp Singh says:

    Nice photographs and excellent write up ,Hope we can get more of these from you .

    Keep posting

  • Shruti says:

    The place seems to be really amazing. India is well-known for its rich culture and heritage. These are some of the less known places and your post have unrevealed to the World these beautiful architectures. The pictures that you have added are splendid and will definitely grab the attention of travel lovers. You have written your experience beautifully. Thanks for sharing such an amazing post.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Thanks, Shruti!

      Getting to see the fort was a chance encounter!

      A cool morning or evening is the best time to enjoy the fort. Also, you need comfortable sneakers as it involves walking and climbing.

      I am sure the rains contributed in making the surroundings green and pleasant.

      Thanks,

      Nirdesh

  • Vipin says:

    Hi Nirdesh ji, first of all a warm welcome into ghumakkar family & congratulations on your first post. Thanks for sharing this beautiful little known story carved in massive boulders. The photos are just amazing, they transported me to this place. The story of Obavva is quite fascinating too. Shall surely visit this Fort whenever I get to visit that part.

    Keep travelling and keep sharing!!!

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Vipinji,

      Thanks for your appreciation!

      It is amazing what India has in its store. Every district centre and tehsil centre has history of its own, just waiting to be discovered.

      Next time you are in Bangalore, do go visit.

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • venkatt says:

    This Fort looks a really nice find for a one day outing from Bangalore. Nice pics and Description.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Venkat,

      Thanks.

      Yes, the fort is perfect for a Saturday outing in the country, away from the malls and mayhem of Bangalore.

      Nirdesh

  • ashok sharma says:

    extra ordinary but hidden from public eye.bravery of the lady is amazing and highly commendable.
    photographs are quite beautiful.
    congarts for such a nice post.

  • Stone says:

    Very informative post Nirdesh.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Bidisha says:

    Warm welcome Nirdesh! Nice read, beautiful captures. Loved every bit. Someday plan to visit it. Thanks for sharing and bringing it to the notice of unaware ghumakkars like me.

    Bidisha

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Bidisha,

      Thanks!

      Yes, I am sure you will get a chance to visit Bangalore soon and Chitradurga is a just a drive away on the smooth NH4. And I am sure too that someone in your family (or distant relations) will have some connection with Chitradurga (as in MP)!

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Stupendous debut, Nirdesh, befitting the monument you have described. Welcome to the ghumakkar family. It is great to see that relatively unknown places are being showcased here. There are such gems hidden in every nook and cranny of India and your use of Internet to discover this place is worthy of emulation. Your description of this fort is lyrical and was a real pleasure to read.

    Chitradurga is well known in the south and several regional films have been shot here. A hindi film, Zehreela Insaan (remember the Hansini song?) was shot here but since the film was a flop, Chitradurga is still relatively unknown in the rest of the country.

    Looking forward to reading more such interesting travelogues from you.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi DL,

      Thanks for your appreciation.

      Chitradurga is way up on my list of amazing forts.

      Also, thanks for the Hansini trivia. It is an awesome song with Kishore Kumar in full form. Will catch it on youtube!

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

      • D.L.Narayan says:

        Nirdesh, I am not sure if the song was picturised here but the film was shot mainly here. I suggest thtat you watch the film (it is available on youtube) if you want to see the visuals of Chitradurga as it was some 40 years back.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Nirdesh.

    I think this is a FOG (First on Ghumakkar) post so congratulations. This post would be featured in October’s Newsletter which goes to all the Author at the end of month.

    You have described the place really well and I liked the pacy narration with a good mix of new and old. The legend about Obavva is interesting and it is good read accolades for ASI. I also think that over last 10 years or so, ASI has done pretty well.

    Warm regards and wishing a pleasant stay here. :-)

    @DL – The song was a super hit though :-)

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Nandan,

      Thank you for welcoming aboard a FOG. Also, thanks for featuring the article in the newsletter.

      Yes, ASI has done some good work. But what they should do now is to ban all food articles and plastic bags in the monuments. I have written to the ASI on their website but did not get any response.

      I dont think the Clean India Campaign cuts much ice with us Indians. We talk about our culture and traditions and then go to the monuments, litter the place, scratch the walls and comment how foreign locations are so beautiful and clean.

      And yes, the song is awesome!

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    Welcome to Ghumakkar. Compliments for this stupendous post with awesome pics.

    Info on Chitradurga fort is totally new to me – thanks for such interesting description of the place. ASI getting proactive (or somewhat so, as your response above indicates) is another good news.

    Do continue telling us about about your travels.
    Thanks,
    Auro

  • Hi Nirdesh,

    Welcome on Ghumakkar. So nice to see you here, today I came to know this via KB. Unfortunately I could not come on Ghumakkar since last 2 weeks so could not notice you.

    I have not read your post yet. Just thought to welcome you first. Will come back again :).

  • Sree reddy says:

    Nice post.
    A Kannada film “Nagara Haavu” was shot in this fort and parts of Chitradurga town. Main actors were Vishnuvardhan and Arathi. Villain was Ambarish ( he is ex MP ).
    Good to know that the fort is maintained well and without love graffiti!
    I saw Auranagabad fort 2 years ago and felt extremely sad to see the garabage in and around the fort. It was built more than 1000 yrs ago it seems. But it was maintained badly. The moat was filled with plastic bottles.
    Both Ellora and Ajanta caves are negelected. I wonder where the money goes.
    Anyway, thanks for the info.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Thanks, Sree.

    Art imitates life in the case of the exMP!

    Please read my post on Daulatabad. Yes the fort is in shamble awith litter all around. I had visited it in Jan and again last month. You feel sorry looking at the apathy of the authorities.

    Thankfully, Ellora caves seemed to be in good shape – almost the same when I saw them 25 years ago.

    We all know where the money goes!

  • Sahil Ahuja says:

    Loved this post, especially the photographs. They certainly are a visual delight.

    I have always loved the Hidimb-Hidimba story, its interesting how the Pandavas travelled from their capital Indraprastha in Delhi to so far down south!! As they say, a fertile imagination is all that is needed to make a seemingly simple place interesting. Thanks for the wonderful write up!!

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Sahil,

    Thanks for reading!

    Yes, it seems Karnataka is full of rakshash /demons stories.

    Chitradurga is an amazing place. I will rate it ***** (five stars)!

    • Sahil Ahuja says:

      Haha..was reading somewhere this myth about the naming of Delhi (Dilli) & it goes on about a distrustful King Anangpal meeting sage Vyasa (he lived in Mahabharata era!! About the same time as Hidimb-Hidimba, some 3,000 years before Anangpal’s rule) & asking him if his reign would be long. Vyasa took a nail & pushed into the earth to pierce the head of the serpent Sheshnaag & said Anangpal would have ruled as long as the nail was there had he believed Vyasa’s powers, but his trust was “Dhila” (Dhila -> Dhili -> Dilli). It is said that the nail was the Iron Pillar within the Qutb Complex. We have stories for everything under the sun, from a fortress to a pillar!!

  • abheeruchi says:

    Hi Nirdesh,
    Very nice post with beautiful pictures.never heard about this place,so it is good to know.
    Liked the description ” unscratched wall free of love declaration.”
    So this was your debut post,sorry reading it today.keep writing,keep travelling.i should have taken history tutions from you during my school days when history used to be in most hated subject list.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Abhee,

    Thanks for the appreciation.

    Chitradurga Fort is on top of my favourite list based on the upkeep, layout, construction and the surprise factor inside.

    History is amazing once we start getting the perspective.

  • Ranjani says:

    Very well written..

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