The majestic forts of central and north Tumakuru

I was blessed to be born in Old Mysore region of Karnataka. This part of India is lucky to have been ruled by some of the most progressive regimes. The geographical landscape ranges from the dry eastern plains to the moist forests in Western Ghats. In between these two is the Closepet granite hill range, a chain of broken hills that run roughly north from Ramnagara near Bengaluru up to Hospet. Until the British subdued the biggest of threats to its existence in Indian sub-continent in 1799- the defeat and destruction of Tipu Sultan's 'Sultanat e Khudadad', most of these hills had garrisons of troops that depended on the fresh water streams that originated from the trapped granite and the steep cliffs that formed a natural defense against enemy attacks. Over the centuries many local chieftains built forts atop these hills, improvised by later rulers. The last layer of work on each of these fort was the handiwork of the father-son rulers of Mysore Kingdom Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan. Aided by French engineering they were crafted to accommodate latest weapons of their age from multi-ton cannons to muskets as well as rockets, which the Kingdom of Mysore was famous for as well as withstand attacks by enemies using similar weapons. The district of Tumakuru which lies in the heart of Old Mysore Kingdom was formed in early 19th century. It incorporated places like Madhugiri, Devarayanadurga, Sira, Huliyurdurga, Makalidurga etc which were until then were themselves districts in the domain of the Wodeyars and Haidar-Tipu. The forts at almost all these places stand witness to the vagaries of man as well as nature. Like other power centres they may have been host to stories of bravery, treachery, nationalism, dreams and heart-breaks. Thankfully most of these forts in Tumakuru are remarkably well-preserved. They allow an insider peek into the daily routine of the men who manned them but also the lives of the kings who administered them. Particularly interesting is the top layer of brick and mortar, in some cases like Chennarayanadurga, just the red brick layer which makes it contrast against the dark blue winter sky which is a very pretty sight.

Towards the end of January 2020, I spent a couple of days driving around many forts in central and north Tumakuru District and the adjoining Anantapoor District in Andhra Pradesh, climbing a couple of them. Accompanying me was Mysore history nerd Nidhin George Olikara who came down from Shimoga to see these marvelous pieces of architecture. We started off from my ancestral home in downtown Tumakuru driving through the lush jungles of Devarayanadurga to the hill fort of the same name stopping along way to relish rotis with 'harya masale ki phal' (beef chops) cooked by my mom. Devarayanadurga peak is just a 20-minute drive from Tumakuru. 





From Devarayanadurga we drove north to Koratagere along the newly constructed Dobbspet-Madhugiri stretch of the Kollegal - Pavagada State Highway. Stopping by for a quick coffee at an old friend's home in Koratagere, we drove to Chennarayanadurga and gazed many times at the beautiful fort.


From there we drove to Madhugiri and visited the Jamia Masjid, originally built during the reign of Tipu Sultan. Post lunch we hiked for a few minutes to the base of Madhugiri fort.












The next morning we packed out breakfast and drove Badavanahalli to the base of Bhasmangi Fort. We parked our car and scaled this beautiful hill fort in just about an hour. 









The walk down was much quicker and we proceeded to the nearby Ratnagiri fort near Rolla.


From here we drove along the village and district roads to Midigeshi stopping by to see the beautiful fort having some tasty coconut water enroute. 



From here we drove next to Madaksira along the Pavagada road.




We drove next to the beautiful Pavagada fort.






From Pavagada we drove to Nidugal or Nidugallu fort. This place is not to be confused with Nijagal betta near Dobbspete along the Tumakuru - Bengaluru stretch of NH4.




Sira was our final destination where we stopped by to pay a quick visit to the Sira Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka Fort as well as the Jamia Masjid and Mallik Rehan Dargah.

Overall this was an amazing trip. 

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