The imposing fort of Chandragutti built on the edge of a cliff using the locally available Chandragutti kallu was once the stronghold of the Kadambas of Banavasi, the Vijayanagara Empire, a chieftain named Bachanna, the Nayakas of Keladi, the Marathas and finally generals serving Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. The fort is strategically located in the midst of a thickly wooded area that becomes more difficult to negotiate as you reach the upper level.
Situated atop the Chandragutti Hill at about 848 m above mean sea level, this fort was considered to be impregnable by even the shrewdest military commanders as the lay of the land and the dense forest cover was a major disadvantage to the enemy. The path to the fort starts behind the famed Renukamba Temple and leads to another cave of Mahishasuramardini. Smaller temples built in the early Vijayanagara Period are also seen. The traditional Kotekere or fort lake is clearly distinguished.
The pathway shielded by trees is an absolute delight to walk on to enjoy the lush greenery, birds chirping and sweet – smelling flowers. The entrance gateway on the first level is in a dilapidated condition with most of the walls in ruins. Cannons used to be deployed in this level to thwart the enemy threat.
The gateway on the second level has been designed cleverly with a large platform that works as an excellent viewing gallery for the soldiers. The idea has been executed brilliantly with ample space given for the soldiers to load their guns and shoot arrows from different points that will not be visible to the approaching enemy.
There are two passages that have been provided through the gateway with one meant for horses and the other for a singular march of the soldiers. There are additional rooms and wide terrace like structures that were perhaps used by the guards.
There are fragments of both palatial and housing quarters inside the fort that were used by the king and people in high positions in the court. Unfortunately, the trees have taken over these buildings over the years and it is difficult to give a proper layout of the residential part of the fort.
Royal symbols, carved stones, panels with auspicious Hindu iconography, ruined and disused wells, stables with stone water basins, a darbar mandapa with ornamental arches, temples on the verge of collapse, fort bastions, several rock – cut wells, an oil well known locally as Yennae Bavi, an ammunition store known as Maddina Patana and Bheemana Paada, the imprint of Bheema when the Pandavas resided in this place during their exile and some other stone structures are seen in the fort complex.
It is said that there are traces of five streams on this hill and hence, five ponds where water would get collected naturally came into existence inside the fort. Durgi Dibba is the highest point of the fort on the north side which offers a panoramic view of the village and green fields that stretch for miles.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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