Forts in Karnataka
By Meenakshi Gupta
Karnataka has been ruled by various dynasties like Maurya, Hoysala, Vijayanagara, and Chalukya, the list is endless and all these empires have left behind a rich heritage and history. The legacy in the form of temples, monuments, palaces, and forts with awestruck architecture tells thousands of stories. The majestic forts in Karnataka, ruins of some is something one must plan to visit whenever possible. The ruins of these forts represent grandeur and splendor in all forms. The forts and their stories are surely going to amaze you.
During the 15th Century CE, the year 1429 to 1432 Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali of the Bahmani dynasty shifted his capital from Gulbarga ( now Kalaburagi) to Bidar and reconstructed this humungous fort with more than 30 monuments inside the premises. Originally the fort was constructed in the 8th Century and later was restored by Aurangzeb in 1656 AD. Interestingly in the middle of the 17th century, Bidar was captured by Aurangzeb, and the fort was absorbed into the Mughal Empire. The fort was commanded by Salabath Jung till 1726 A.D and in the middle of the 20th century, when Hyderabad state was partitioned, Bidar fort became a part of the newly formed state called Mysore, now Karnataka. Bidar fort has seven entrances, a Turkish Bath called Hammam which is now converted into a museum, mosques, and mahals showcasing the exemplary Islamic and Persian architecture.
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Spread across sprawling 1500 acres on the banks of river Vedavati, Chitradurga Fort is an extraordinary example of the architecture of the time. The fort was built by Chalukyas or Hoysalas between the 11th to 13th centuries offering breathtaking views of the neighboring hills. The fort was later extended between the 15th 18 the century by the Nayaks from Chitradurga of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Just 200 km away from Bangalore, the fort is known for its seven rounds of fortification with an intense and elaborate defense system. The popular story of Onake Obavva Kindi makes the fort visit even more special. Onake Obavva, wife of a guard protected the fort during an attack. One day while her guard soldier was away for lunch, Onake Obavva spotted enemy soldiers sneaking into the fort through a small secret passage. She used a large wooden rod ( those days were used to pound grains) ‘ Onake’ to hit on their head and pulled them aside waiting for the next one displaying remarkable courage. Like this she eliminated many soldiers of Haider Ali, however, she was eventually overpowered and sacrificed her life fighting the battle all by herself.
The hole/spot is the highlight and is the attraction point at the Chitradurga fort and is a good photo-op point.
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Gajendra means Elephant God and Gad means fort, this is how the fort got its name. Just 55 km from the district headquarters of Gadag, lies this gigantic fort on the top of the hill. The aerial view of the city looks like an elephant hence the name.
Gajendragad Fort is a historic fort built by famous Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Gajendragad was lost by Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan to Marathas and Nizams in 1876. Also Badami and Gajendragad as a part of treaty of Gajendragad were conceded to the Marathas.
Visit Gajendragad fort for its majestic entrance of iconic craftsmanship showcasing a five-headed snake and 2 lions facing each other, the idol of Lord Hanuman, ruins of the fort, carvings of an elephant head, ancient inscriptions in Hindi and Marathi, and places of worship.
Gajendragad is also a pilgrimage destination for its Kalakaleshwara temple.
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Located in the historic city of Ballari, the fort is on the top of the hill Ballari Gudda. Various stories are attached to the fort. Believed to have been built by Palegar chief Hanumappa Nayaka but in 1769 Haider Ali captured the fort from Nayaks. Bellary Fort is a Vijayanagara era (14th century) fort located in the city of Ballari in central Karnataka just 300 km away from the state capital Bengaluru. After acquiring the fort, Hyder Ali commissioned French engineers to build a lower fort and renovate the Ballari Fort also known as the upper fort. The Ballari fort houses a temple, a citadel, and wells whereas the lower fort have deep pits and a Hanuman temple.
Visit the fort at night to see the gloriously illuminated fort, the past coming alive.
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Manyakheta now Malkheda, was the capital city of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty which ruled the Deccan region during the 9th and 10 centuries. It was King Amogha Varsha I who shifted the capital from Mayurkhani to Manyakheta. Malkheda Fort is located in Kalaburagi District ( earlier Gulbarga) and is around 555 km from the state capital Bengaluru.
According to the legends, it was from 814 AD to 968 AD, Manyakheta gained popularity when the capital of Rashtrakutas was moved from MAyurkhandi in Bidar to Manyakheta during the rule of Amoghavarsha. After the fall of Rashtrakutas, it remained the capital of Kalyani Chalukyas till 1050 CE. Later it was ruled by many like Cholas, Southern Kalachuris, Kakatiyas, Delhi Sultanate, Bahmani, Mughal Empire, and Nizam of Hyderabad until 1948.
Like many other forts, this too had a Jain temple, a mosque called Kala Dargah, an old Hanuman temple, ruins of the palace, and narrow and curved staircases to reach the watchtowers. All these are the main attractions of the fort and take about 2-3 hours to see and learn about it.
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One of the less-visited hidden gems of the Malenadu region ( Western Ghats) in Shivamogga district is Kavaledurga Fort. Built in the 9th Century and renovated in the 14th century by Cheluvarangappa, Nayakas had a stronghold on Kavaledurga Fort under Vijayanagara rulers. After the fall of the Vijayanagara Kingdom, they became independent feudatories.
The impressive fort structure of Kavaledurga Fort has 3 rounds of rock wall fortifications and is a sight one must admire the beautiful landscapes. Visit the fort to explore the ruins, temples, weapon storage houses, Nandi Mantapa, and a freshwater pond on the top of the hill. Trek up to the top of the Kavaledurga fort which offers amazing views of Sahayadri hills.
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Another very prominent fort in the Malenadu region is Nagara Fort. Nagara village in the Shivamogga district is of historic importance and is popular for its fort built by Shivappa Nayak of Keladi Kingdom. Nagara Fort was built by Veerabhadra Nayaka of the Keladi dynasty in 1640 after Ikkeri the original capital of Keladi was lost to the Sultans of Bijapur. Brave rulers of Keladi such as Shivappa Nayaka and Rani Keladi Chennama won over their land against many powerful enemies of the time. Later in the year 1763, the fort was under Haider Ali.
Visit Nagara Fort to appreciate and admire the rich history in the form of ruins of the fort, guardrooms, wells, watchtower, and canons. The main entrance and the exterior walls of the Nagara Fort are mostly intact and tell thousands of stories.