Monday, May 20, 2024

Unveiling Mallapadi: A Journey Through Time - Part 1

Mallapadi, nestled within the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, India, whispers tales of the past echoing with ancient lives and resonates with the pulse of the vibrant present. Unraveling its layers, we embarked on an enthralling journey through pre-history, history and the contemporariness of this intriguing place. While researching on the "Barramahal/Baramahal" (former name of Krishnagiri) or the twelve forts, we stumbled upon many forts in the district of Krishnagiri. However, amongst the many forts, the forts that constitute the Baramahal is yet to be clear.

Mallapadi Hill 

Recently, we found a source that clearly pronouncing the 12 forts though still there lies some ambiguity in it. The list of twelve forts are as follows, (please wait for a separate and detailed post on Baramahal once we have explored all the 12 forts) - 1. Krishnagiri 2. Jagadevi 3. Arungarh (?) 4. Sudarshanagarh (Thattakallu Fort) 5. Shimmagarh (?) 6. Kavalgarh (Nagamalai Fort) 7. Maharajagarh (MaharajaKadai fort) 8. Bujangarh (?) 9. Gaganagarh (Periyamalai Fort) 10. Kattoragarh (?) 11. Mallikarjunagarh (Mallapadi fort) 12. Varanagarh (Veerabhadradurga Fort)

With Mallapadi fort, we were able to complete exploring 8 out of the 12 forts constituting the Baramahal. The details of the remaining 4 are obscure, needing more groundwork to identify their locations. Though a few forts have been identified by us in Krishnagiri and its surroundings as probable contenders, the names can be confirmed only after exploration.

Mallapadi fort is classical example for the Baramahal forts, built on a hill top and surrounded by forests. This Vanagiridurgam is one among the lesser known forts of Tamil Nadu and a very significant prehistoric site, considering that this was the first documented rock art site of Tamil Nadu.

Crowning the hills of Mallapadi stands an enigmatic fort, lost in the mists of time. Its origins remain shrouded in mystery, with estimates ranging from the Pallava era (4th-9th centuries CE) to the Vijayanagara period (14th-16th centuries CE). Built using locally sourced granite, the fort has imposing walls that snake along the hill's contours, offering strategic defense against invaders. Remnants of the fort include bastions, gateways, and watchtowers. The existing fortification can be attributed to the Channapatna Palegar Sri Jagadevaraya who was a Vassal of Vijayanagar Empire.

The Climb
Our exploration begins deep in the mists of time, around 30,000 years ago. The land whispers of early inhabitants who etched their stories onto the canvas of time – intricate rock art adorning the Mallapadi hills. Animals, hunting scenes, and geometric patterns whisper of their beliefs, rituals, and daily lives, offering a glimpse into a bygone era. These rock arts stand as silent sentinels, testaments to the earliest known human settlements in the region. These rock arts were first discovered by Archaeologist from Chennai University in 1980 and the paintings here are the testimony to the fact that horse were domesticated in South India as early as Megalithic period ( at least 2500 - 3000 years before). We were unable to explore this part of the hill due to paucity of time. However, we were fortunate enough to find rock art in a shelter on the way towards the fort although we are unsure about the documentation of this rock art in the existing records.

The Rock Shelter 

The Fort Wall

The Cave Painting 
We are habituated to investigating possible rock shelters for the presence of any rock art or paintings, and since this place had already been documented as a rock art site, it made us more curious to investigate the rock shelters we encountered during our ascent. We found one which carried rock art. All the paintings found here were white in color and similar to the rock art the patterns documented in its surrounding areas. We continued our ascent and reached the second tier of the fort with not much difficulty as the path was well marked. We noticed a modern shed which housed a beautiful carving of Anjaneya Swamy on a boulder. That was no surprise! Can a fort exist without its protector Anjaneya Swamy!? After taking his blessings, we rested for a while and took a break for having our breakfast.

Kote Anjaneya Swamy 
Hereon the trek turned out to be a little tricky due to the absence of a clear route. It was evident that the trek up to the fort here onwards was rarely undertaken, and this made our exploration all the more exciting! Upon investigation of probable routes to the top, we found one that had markings although it seemed following it would not lead us towards the fort. We however decided to explore this route first as we were not aware of what was there. Following this route led us to a natural cave, probably a rock shelter used by prehistoric men and later used by the Siddhars during different time lines. This natural cave was spacious enough for accommodating people and opposite to this cave were two small water ponds which probably served as a water source back then for people who took shelter at the cave. The views from here were mesmerizing and gave us a clear picture of what could be instore for the remaining part of the trek.

The View 

Water Source 
To be continued...