Chitradurga – The Fort on Seven Hills
The name ‘Chitradurga’ stands for ‘picturesque fort’ as the fort indeed is a huge impressive structure built with magnificent views of the hills nearby and the Vedavati river valley below. It simply stands out like a beautiful picture out of a postcard. The constructions using natural rock formations juxtapose beautifully with the boulders seemingly strewn across the landscape, adding to its charm.
Chitradurga fort is massive and is spread over 1500 acres across seven hills. It can easily be touted to be one of the largest hill forts of India. It has numerous passageways, 19 gateways, some 35 secret tunnels, water tanks, reservoirs, store houses, and around 2000 watch towers which made it one of the impregnable forts of its times. This formidable had successfully withstood numerous invasions time and again before it fell into the hands of the British in the 18th century.
Local Etymology of Chitradurga
Chitradurga fort is built on seven hills and has seven layers of concentric granite walls fortifying it. The walls stand intact even today and credit the fort with its other name of Kallina Kote (Stone Fort) or Elusuttina Kote ( Fort of 7 concentric circles). The word ‘fort’ is already embedded in the original name ‘Chitradurga’. However, nowadays it is referred to as Chitradurga fort; may be to differentiate it from the town and district which share its glorious name.
Chitradurga town is around 200 kms from Bangalore and it takes about 3.5 hours by car to reach here. The drive is a smooth one on NH 48 (Bangalore Pune Highway). The fort is around 2 kms from the city centre.
The town is well connected with railway and buses as well.
Chitradurga is about 150 kms from the Hampi ruins. Many people try and see this fort on the way back from Hampi. Although, it is advisable to stay overnight
Entry fee & Parking
There is an entry fee of Rs 25 per person to enter the fort which you have to pay using a UPI scanner 🙂 There is ample of free parking available in the precincts of the fort.
Where to stay in Chitradurga
There are not many hotels in and around Chitradurga. So it is a good idea to prebook a room before you embark on your trip here. We had stayed in Hotel Sai Comforts which is just a km away from the fort. I would recommend this hotel for its courteous staff and impeccable cleanliness. The other hotel is Mayura Durg which is right across the fort and is a good alternative option.
Where to eat?
Upadhyay Veg is a good option to have some healthy local food. I wish I had tried the ragi mudde there but then I was a bit hesitant. It is situated right on the NH48 highway and is popular amongst the locals too. The other restaurant where we ate is Ruchi’s family restaurant. It serves some good North Indian and Chinese food in town.
Time taken to explore the fort
It takes a minimum of 5-6 hours to explore the fort in its entirety. No food and water is available on the fort. There is a small shack which sells only biscuits and chips on top of the fort. So carry good amount of water and snacks with you.
Best time to visit the fort
November to February are the best months to visit the fort. The fort opens at 6 am and closes at 5 pm. Considering the time it takes to explore the fort, it is recommended to start early in the morning. It helps beat the heat as well. Guides are typically not needed during the visit as information boards have been placed at all important sites on the fort.
History of Chitradurga Fort
Chitradurga district is as ancient as it can get. It finds mention in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Lord Rama is said to have consecrated a Shiva linga (Dashratha Rameshwara Vajra) in this district to atone for Dashrath’s killing of Shravana Kumar. Remember this ?
Well, the Mahabharata connection is seen in the boulders strewn all across the hills in this district as they were supposedly used as weapons in the battle between Bhima and the demon, Hidimb. Bhima later marries his sister, Hidimbi and begets a son named Ghatotkacha. There is a Hidimbeshwara temple on top of the fort which is not active anymore, but provides a good view of Chitradurga fort and the countryside below.
The fort as we see today, is said to is built in parts between the 11th and 18th century under the patronage of the Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara and Nayakas until it was captured by Hyder Ali and his forces in 1779, and then 20 years later by the Britishers.
Onake Obavva Kindi
You visit Chitradurga and you will come across the inspiring story of Obavva, a housewife whose husband was a guard on the fort during the reign of the Nayaks. The heroics of this brave woman has immortalised her in the legends of Chitradurga fort. A statue of Onakke Obavva stands tall in the town below as well to commemorate her bravery against all odds.
The story is from the year 1779 – Obavva’s husband was having his lunch when the forces of Hyder Ali decided to enter the fort through a tiny opening (Kindi), halfway up the fort. Obavva had gone to fetch some drinking water for her husband from the sihineeru pond near that hole and by chance, saw the enemy soldiers trying to enter the fort from there. She takes an onake (stone pestle) lying nearby which is used for pounding paddy and slays the soldiers one by one who were trying to enter that hole. She quietly removed their bodies without arousing suspicion and continued killing the enemy till the time her husband returned. Her husband is surprised to see his wife kill so many soldiers singlehandedly.
She is said to have been killed later by the enemy soldiers but her heroics have made her an epitome of Karnataka’s female pride. The fort later was lost to Hyder Ali in his third attempt to capture it from Madakari Nayaka.
Temples of the Fort
There are 18 temples on the upper level of Chitradurga fort. The most notable one is the Eknatheshwari temple or the Shakti temple, who is also the family deity of the Chitradurga Nayakas. The temple is right across the Hidimbeshwara temple and has a swing and deep stambha in its courtyard. The footprints of the goddess are carved on the steps leading to this temple.
Hidimbeshwara temple, as mentioned above, is a popular tourist spot although it no longer functions as a temple. It is said to display a relic of the tooth of Hidimb. Gopalswamy temple, is up ahead near the Gopalswamy Honda (reservoir). The temple was closed to the public but the idol is said to be installed there in the 14th century. Another popular temple, the Sampige Siddeshwara temple is at the base of the fort.
The mud-stone walled structure was once the administrative and treasury unit of the fort. A temple like construction or a mandapa housed the treasury storage as shown in the picture below.
Water Harvesting System of the Fort
The builders of Chitradurga ensured that the fort never ran dry. It enclosed a small city (around 50,000 population) within itself nearly three to four centuries ago and made ingenious use of rainwater harvesting to provide potable water to its residents all throughout the year. The numerous reservoirs built in the fort over centuries are scientifically constructed to start off the cascading water harvesting effect. The amazing water harvesting system in the fort warrants a research of its own, especially when folklore boasts that the fort had enough water for all its inhabitants for 12 long years even without any rains.
Gopalswamy Honda is the main catchment reservoir built on the upper fort which is interconnected to the reservoirs built at the lower level (some 200-250 metres below) like the Akka-Thangi Honda and others. The excess water flows from the Gopalswamy honda to these interconnected reservoirs all throughout the fort and ensures good water supply all year around.
We could not entirely cover the fort in the 4 hours that we spent there. Another couple of hours were required to see the fort completely. It is recommended to start early in the morning by around 7 am so that you get enough time to explore the fort leisurely and drive back to Bangalore.
- Chandravalli Caves is a prehistoric site some 3 kms away from the famous Chitradurga fort. It takes around an hour to visit this archaeological site and should be added to the itinerary while in Chitradurga.
- Jogimatti Forest and Mini Zoo
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