The Impregnable Fort of Thattakaldurgam – Vanagiridurgam Part 2


After returning to the place from where there was deviation to two routes, we all rested for some time. Meanwhile, we decided to call off the trek. However, I wanted to continue and check on the other forest route, so we could complete the trek next time. While my other partners rested, I followed the forest route and was confused more as every now and then, other routes popped up!  I took an initiative to check every route in order to ascertain the right one and reached a point from where the fort was visible and route was clear! I was sure of completing this trek on our next visit. I decided to go back as I was pretty sure about this being the right route. Somehow, while coming descending I missed a turn and went ahead finally getting down on the opposite side of the place where my partners were resting. I immediately made a call to my wife and informed them to start their descent and reach the starting point of trek.  In the meantime, I walked towards our vehicle. As it was quite long since I made the call and there were no signs of them, I decided to wait for them at the start point of the trek. Time was ticking but they had not yet reached. I got a call from my wife saying there had missed the route and will take some time to reach as they were exploring around for the correct route. As I waited, they finally managed to reach the starting point. Oh yes! It was one hell of an experience and one after a long time of this sort! In a few Weeks times, we had organized a trek cum drive from RTC to Thattakaldurgam. This time we were 8 adults plus 2 kids and were bent upon completing the trek to this hill-fort successfully! We knew beforehand that the trek was definitely going to be of a difficult level and the forest route was surrounded with thorny vegetation. However, we ensured to keep track of the right route this time.We halted for breakfast at our regular hotel in Krishnagiri and also packed some for later as we knew the trek was going to be long. We started the trek around 8am in the morning.  The weather then was perfect to climb, although it turned hot as noon approached. 
Introduction and Discussion about the Previous Trek to this Fort
 After a brief introduction and discussion on the session, we started our trek and reached the point from where we had missed our route during our last visit. Here on, we proceeded in the forest route. As we moved forward, the hill of Periyamalai was visible and looked great. The route to the top is clearly marked from mid-way of the trek. I still wonder why someone would mark the route from mid-way onwards rather than from the start point of the trek. However, our heartfelt thanks go to the person who marked along the route. The trail is tricky as there are numerous routes in between that intersect with the main trail. Hence, keeping order of the track is very important. We took regular breaks for drinking water and keeping ourselves from dehydration. Finally after trekking for almost an hour and a half, we reached the first gateway of Thattakaldurgam!
First Look of The Fort
Notorious Two
Break Time Discussion
In the Jungle
The Young Trekker
This part of the climb was quite tricky and a bit slippery. Here it was! We were entering the impregnable Fort of Thattakaldurgam, which stands tall as a perfect example of Vanagiridurgam (forest hill fort). The feeling was just wow! It is a wonderful fort and worth the climb! It was really good to witness that much of the fortification up here was intact, which would surely give us an idea about the fort architecture that prevailed here. Although not much about the history of this fort is documented and it is very difficult to ascertain who built the fort, the architectural features of this fort can be easily assigned to 15th-16th century and in all probability, built by the Vijayanagara Kings or their feudatories. 
Probably the Main Gateway
The Fortress of Thattakal
The First Gateway
The Top most Gateway
 As we entered the gateway, we found another gateway on the left, pretty much built in Vijayanagara style. A little further is a big and beautiful carving of Lord Kote Anjaneya Swamy on the fort wall, carved on the lines of the Fort styles of the Baramahal. Here on, many remnants of various buildings and palaces are scattered across the terrain. There is also a small temple dedicated to Lord Rama. We found a good spot under shade to rest and munch on the food we had carried, after which we spent some time exploring the ruins of the palaces around.  Our descent was quite easy without any issue. Thus another day and another adventure accomplished! However, this trek was definitely a difficult one and one that will always remain closer to our hearts! 
Lord Shri Rama with Sita, Laskhmana and Hanuman
Brick Temple Dedicated to Lord Rama
Kote Veeranjaneya Swamy
Remains of the Mahal/ Palace
Water Storage Structure
The Climb
Thattakaldurgam
At the Peak
The Impregnable Fort of Thattakal
The Gang


Related Posts:
1. Rayakottai fort 
2. Ratnagiri fort
3. Periyamalai Fort

Thattakaldurgam – Vanagiridurgam Part -1


As per records with regards to the Baramahal or the 12 forts built in Krishnagiri district, one of them was the 'Thattakaldurgam' or the 'Thattakal' fort. As not much information was available (including its location), finding this fort was a real challenge.  We finally managed to get some reference to this fort and its location. On a Sunday, we, accompanied by one of our friends headed towards exploring the fort. After enquiring at a few places, we reached the village of Thattakal. The locals informed us that not many visit this fort; and the 2 routes leading to the fort are equally difficult to trek. Now, trekking here with kids was our next challenge and after looking at the massive hill, we felt it was next to impossible! We then tried to find a guide who knew this place well and would take us around the hill. But sadly none agreed. One person even confessed that reaching the hill top was a tedious task for them too and hardly anybody ventures. However, we took the details of the route and decided to explore it on our own.
Thattakaldurgam Fort
Little did we expect that this would turn out to be one hell of a trek! While there are many reasons for why this trek is a difficult one without being accompanied by a guide, the most important is the absence of a proper trail and much of the trek is through thorny shrub vegetation. With whatever information we gathered, we began our trek. Locating the starting point of the trek itself became a major challenge. We finally zeroed in on a point that seemed like the best one to begin. We kept following the track and reached a big boulder, which was one point that the locals had told us to keep in mind as the route from here takes a path from behind this boulder. We did find the trail as informed and following it, we reached the place from where the thorny shrub vegetation began. 
Vanagiridurgam
In Search of the  Hidden Path
The Never Ending Trails
Young Trekker Leading The Way
We took a short break here and after a while, I went in search of any traces of the route hereon. I went ahead and found the presence of two trails. While one was a straight path and led us to the portion of the final stretch of the hill (which was quite steep and this we only realized after climbing it half way), the other went through deep forests. Obviously, we preferred the hill route as visibility was high and the route seemed shorter.  I hurried back to my trek partners to take their suggestion about the route to proceed and finally in unison, we agreed to go by the hill route. Thus began our misadventure, and as we reached another big boulder walking through the thorny vegetation, we realised that a short climb from here would lead us to the fort, although unsure about this being the correct route. However, we started to climb the boulder which was almost a 70-degree inclined slope. It was only after we ascended cautiously half way of this extremely steep portion that we concluded it would be stupid of us to even think of climbing further as the terrain only turned steeper. With two young ones, venturing further was risky. We were five of us in total (three trekking independently plus one carrying the youngest partner) and each one was at different levels of ascent. It was our friend who was ahead and was almost nearing the hill-top. As she climbed, she realised that it was impossible to cross the  further portion in order to reach the fort and all of us would get stuck if we proceeded. We immediately decided to withdraw our trek and slowly started our descent on the steep hill.  We had to be extremely cautious and watch every step as any wrong step could lead to a  mishap. With nobody around except us, it was indeed a wise decision to retreat. Looking back at that portion of the steep hill, it was hard to believe that we had actually even tried climbing it!
The Impregnable Fort of Thattakaldurgam

This post is also our 350th one and we are excited to put forth this adventurous place!

CONTINUED HERE 

Sri Siddarameshwara Temple, Neeralgi, Haveri


‘Neeralgi’ or ’Niralagi’ is situated about 20 km from the town of Hubballi and is located off the Bengaluru – Pune National Highway. During my recent visit to Hubballi for a wedding, I managed to take a sneak peek of this temple along with a few of my friends. This beautiful temple is located outside the village of Neeralgi and from the outset seems to have been built during the later Kalyana Chalukya period apart from some elements added by the Hoysalas. An inscription found here states that this place was initially known as ‘Nerulage’ and also goes on to record the construction of the Mallinath Jinalaya along with the land grant made by Malla Gavunda (Nadaprabhu of Belahuge, present day’s Belavige). However, no basadi remains here now except for a few ruins spread across the village with the locals also confirming that there are no Jains living there as of today. The inscription was found in the premises of the old fort area and sadly nothing much of the fort survives today.  Thus one can easily assume that it was destroyed during the times of war or by the invaders. But the whereabouts of the Jain temple and its inhabitants still remains a mystery.
Sri Siddarameshwara Temple, Neeralgi
Sri Siddarameshwara Temple, Niralagi
 Also surprisingly, no inscription related to the construction of the Sri Siddarameshwara temple has been found till date. But on the basis of its style of construction, it can be assigned to the 12th century Kalyana Chalukya period. The inscription belonging to a much later period on a pillar of the Navaranga of the temple speaks about the restoration work of this temple carried out by Yakshadeva of Huligere. The temple comprises of a garbhagriha, an antarala and a navaranga with two mukhamantapas, of which the eastern mukhamantapa has collapsed. The garbhagriha houses a Shiva Linga along with the guardian Lord Nandi in the antarala. There are 2 devakosthas/niches on either side of the antarala, one housing a murti of the Saptamatrikas (the seven mother-goddesses) and the other a murti of Lord Vishnu (which doesn’t seem like the original). There is a beautiful makara torana in front of the antarala built in classical Chalukyan style; sadly which has been covered by a modern day photo. Although we were unable to witness the carvings on the Kapota portion, the locals informed us about the presence of images of Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Inscription on the Pillar regarding Restoration of the Temple
Lord Shiva and The Makara Torana
Rati, Manmatha and  Nandi along with Attendants(both sides) as Dwarapalas
 A heavily decked Dravidian Shikara crowns the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) which is attached to a beautiful vestibule. The keertimukha carved on the vestibule/sukanasi is vibrant and elaborately carved. What’s more interesting is the presence of Lord Vishnu’s Dashavatara on it.  This may have been a later addition when the temple was under the Hoysala rule. The Shikara has a unique pattern for karna kutas which are circular shape with grooves on its circumference, similar to a mechanical gear system unlike the commonly seen square/rectangular ones. Why it was carved so and what it really represents would be interesting to decipher or was it merely an architectural element added to enhance the beauty of the temple?
Shikara
Mechanical Gear System Arrangement
Karna Kutas on the Shikara
Keertimukha of Vestibule with Dasavatara Carved on it
The external walls have beautiful carvings of miniature shikaras and decorative pillars. There are three murtis inside the temple complex, of which one is quite interesting and rare to find. Though at the first look, the murti resembles that of Lord Dhanvantari and Vyasa Muni, a closer observation and further examination reveals more. However, the Dharwad Gazetteer mentions about the presence of a beautiful murti of Lord Bhairava in a seated posture in this temple, which helped us in identifying  the real identity of this murti. It can be confirmed that he murti is of Lord ‘Hariharapitamaha’ or Lord ‘Dattatreya’ who is a composite form of the Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Overall, it is a beautiful temple with many hidden mysteries waiting to be unravelled!
Lord Hariharapitamaha
Dravidian Shikara
Sekhari Shikara
Lord Varuna and his consort Carved on Makara Pranala
Hero stone

 References:
1.     Dharwad District Gazetteer – Karnataka State Government
2.    South Indian Inscriptions Vol. 18 – ASI

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