Rayakottai Fort

Rayakottai’ or the ‘King’s Fort’ is one amongst the popular fort treks near Bengaluru at a distance of around 100 km. One Sunday we decided to check out this fort and our journey to this place was quite uneventful. We reached the base of the hill fort and after enquiring about the route, we proceeded further. Steps are laid until the top and it’s a pretty straight forward climb. In no time we reached the first gateway of the fort. This arched gateway seems to have been renovated during the reign of Tippu Sultan as we can find a similar pattern for the gateway at Nandi hills. The fort was initially built by Jagadeva Raya, a Palegara of Channapatna town in Ramanagara district, thus the name Raya Kottai. A common misconception however is that this fort was built by Tippu Sultan. 
Bird's eye View of Rayakottai Town
Monsoon Clouds
Way Up to the Rayakottai Fort
Enter The Dragon (Rayakottai Fort Entrance)
  Jagadeva Raya had control over the entire regions of Hosur, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. He served as a vassal king under the Vijayanagaras and also won the battle of Penukonda for them. Rayakottai was a strategic fortress connecting Mysore to the Baramahal. Post Jagadeva Raya, none of the Kings were strong enough to hold the entire territory and hence started to lose their territories to Hyder Ali. Later, Major Gowdie under Lord Cornwallis captured the Fort from Tippu Sultan in the year 1791-92. Hereon, they marched towards Srirangapatna and killed Tippu in 1799. Rayakottai then was held by the East India Company until independence. The East India Company made a few additions to the fort, which remained popular among Military Pensioners.  Ruins of buildings constructed by the British can still be seen here. There are many water tanks built here for providing water for the people. At one such big water pond, we found a carving of Lord Shiva in the form of a Linga along with Lords Nandi and Ganesha. The carvings are very much similar to the ones present at Krishnagiri fort; probably indicating that this fort existed even before the reign of Jagadeva Raya and may have been originally built during Lord Krishnadeva Raya’s rule. 
Rayakottai Fort Entrance
Fort Wall
Ruins Spread Across
Young Trekker
One of Many Water Sources Here
Hidden Treasure
House With A View
British Bungalow
Ruined Beauty
 Interestingly, on our way back to Bengaluru we also found a carving of King Krishnadeva Raya accompanied by his two queens offering prayers to Lord Shiva. There is no evidence for the presence of any temple in the fort premises.  However, there are chances that the same was destroyed during Hyder/ Tippu’s period. There exists a big cave Ashram used during 19th century saint, maintained in good condition. This gives us an indication of things that have occurred here. Overall, Rayakottai is a lovely fort to explore and preferably best when visited during early hours of the day to avoid sun’s heat. It is also better to carry along some snacks and lots of water to stay hydrated. Today, Rayakottai is a small sleepy village fairly well connected with Bengaluru by roads and rail.  
Lords Shiva, Ganesha And Nandi
Fresh Sweet Water Pond
Lord Anjaneya
Trichodes alvearius (bee hive Beetle)
Monkey Puzzle Butterfly (Rathinda amor)
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Maharajakadai - The Mighty Hill Fort Near Krishnagiri

Our hunt for the 12 forts of Baramahal led us to 'Maharajakadai', situated about 10 km from Krishnagiri towards the border of Andhra Pradesh. This place was ruled by the Vijayanagara Kings until their downfall and later fell into the hands of Jagadevaraya, one of the strongest Palegars who had his capital in Channapatna of Ramanagara district. Later this place came under the rule of the Nawabs of Cuddapah, then was ruled by Shivaji, after which it was captured by Hyder Ali and brought under the state of Mysore. Finally after the death of Tippu, the British occupied the entire region. As per the Chola inscriptions found here, Maharajakadai was called as "Arsar Nilai" meaning the "King's Market". It was only during the rule of Shivaji Maharaja that this place was named as Maharajakadai.
Pre-historic Painting
Though some information about this hill-fort was available, we were unsure of it's size. The Sri Anjaneyar Temple on the hill is quite popular among the locals, attracting many  visitors on  the day of Amavase (no moon day). The visitors on the other days are mostly local grazers who come here with their cattle for grazing purposes. Our regular visits to Krishnagiri and its environs this year only made it easier for us to reach the village. It was only after reaching here that we realised this hill is massive and weren't prepared for this long a trek! Our friend Sunil had accompanied us for this trek and as suggested by him that we carry breakfast, so we did. We actually had to wait for the breakfast to be ready as it was an early hour of the day, but in no case would we go ahead without it! We waited patiently for the food to be ready and finally got the parcel. Thanks to Sunil, we surely would have starved otherwise owing to the length of trek!
The Beginning of the Trek
Lord Anjaneya
The hill on which this fort is situated is called "Angana Malai". At the base of this hill is a temple dedicated to Lord Muneshwara Swamy and upon inquiring with the priest about the directions to the fort, he straightly replied in the negative saying the trek is not possible by us as it was a forested area and to top it, we were seen with two young kids! Little did they know that we weren't new to such an adventure and would take the risk to reach the peak! Their behavior was justified as they wanted us to be safe. As we got ready to start the trek with not much information regarding its route, one elderly man who takes charge of the parking here helped us with the start point of the trek and also volunteered to guide us to the start point on request. He told us to follow the directions marked thereon. One hard rule we follow religiously while trekking is to find and follow the existing trail and not create any new routes until its really necessary! Thus began our trek to the mighty fort of Maharajakadai.
Maharajakadai Fort Wall
The Climb
The site of Maharajakadai is declared under the Tamil Nadu State Archaeology Department as a prehistoric site. Many prehistoric artefacts have been found here. During our trek, we were also able to spot a prehistoric rock-painting, thus confirming this to be a prehistoric site. We surely wish to revisit this place to explore further on these lines and find out other prehistoric evidences. Further into our trek, we found a cave that seemed perfect for finding more paintings but after exploring the cave, we found nothing. We moved ahead only to be welcomed by the first tier of the fort. From here, we spotted railings high atop the hill which made our trek more interesting. A little further we were greeted by a small murti of  Lord Anjaneya and after taking his blessings we continued our trek.
Colorful Climb
The trek turns difficult hereon and one needs to ensure the directions are carefully followed. We reached the second tier of the fort and much of the fortification here was pretty much intact. We were able to see the peak of this hill from here. It was a 'so near, yet so far' kind of a situation! In no time we reached the next tier and then we were on the top of this hill, close to reaching the Lord Rama temple situated at its summit. As we observed the surroundings from here, we realised there is more to explore and moved towards the area carrying the fort ruins. One of it was the Mahal as the locals call or the palace, where we also decided to take some rest and have the breakfast we carried. Two significant features of hill forts are the presence of water harvesting structures and granaries, required to help them overcome adversities and wartime.
Lord Rama and His Abode
Lords Rama, Lakshmana, Goddess Sita and Lord Anjaneya
Ruined Building
Mahal and Granaries
Our next task was to find the huge carving of Lord Anjaneya as per the details shared by the person who guided us with the route. It was supposedly situated close to the Lord Rama temple. We thus back tracked to finally find the ruined gateway of the fort and as per the usual practice, Lord Anjaneya swamy was carved in the premises of the gateway as the mighty guardian and protector of the fort. We offered our prayers to him and looked around for the presence of other ruins. It was now time for our descent as we had a long way to reach the base. It took us a good one and a half hours to descend, thus ending another day of fort quest!
Fort Gateway
Nature Finds its Own Way When Left Alone
Lord Anjaneya Swamy

1."Hill Forts of Tamil Nadu"- A book written by Vittal Rao
2. East Indian Gazetteer

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Ankushagiri – A Forgotten Fort

While researching on the ‘Baramahal’ (erstwhile name of Krishnagiri), I stumbled upon the Fort at 'Ankushagiri' situated close to Shoolagiri of Tamil Nadu. Last Saturday, we went ahead to check out this place. Surprisingly no information about this place seemed to be available either on the net or in the books. Though a book titled ‘Forts of Tamil Nadu’ mentions about this fort, not much information is revealed apart from its location. Initially, I thought of this fort as one amongst the 12 forts constituting the ‘Baramahal’, but while searching for more details about this place, I came across a book titled ‘The East India Gazetteer’ which gave detailed information about the ‘Barramahal/Baramahal’ (more about them in other posts) and Ankushagiri was clearly not a part of it.
Ankushagiri Hill Fort
Since we were familiar with the location of this fort, reaching here was quite easy and being located close to Bengaluru, we planned to reach here in the early hours of the day to avoid the harsh sun. This part in general is prone to harsher summer than Bengaluru. But thanks to the overnight showers, the weather in the morning was cool and the drive through the last stretch of the road to Ankushagiri from the National Highway was simply awesome. We enjoyed the drive stopping by at a few places for photo ops. We finally reached the base of the temple where we also found a good place to park our vehicle. We at first visited the ‘Sri Thimmaraya Swamy’ temple located at the base of this hill. This temple is very popular among the locals and many from Bengaluru and its surrounding areas also visit here regularly. There was a decent crowd for a Saturday morning at the temple and after offering prayers to the Lord and relishing the prasadam served, we decided to head further to explore the hill fort.
Sri Thimmaraya Swamy Temple - Ankushagiri
Almost There
Learning to Blend With Nature
Finding the path to the fort was easy and in a short span of time we reached a place where two big temples were seen in a ruined state. Though unsure about the names of these temples, a vague guess would be that it may have been dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort owing to the presence of Shaiva dwarapalas. What a pity it is to witness such grand temples in a ruined state. After spending some time investigating the temples for the presence of any inscriptions and murtis, we moved ahead. The climb was easy and the route was clear. We crossed two layers of fortification (mostly destroyed), giving us an indication of what a mighty fort it was at once. Then we reached a plateau region from where the walk was simple up to the peak of the hill.
Ruined Temples
Remains of Fortifications
Shaiva Dwarapalas
There was a structure, probably a temple in complete shambles. We investigated the ruins but failed to figure out who the temple was dedicated to.  We found a spot under shade to rest for a while and finished all the eatables we had carried along. Here on we sighted a place which seemed like the remnants of a Palace or Mahal.  It must have been a really grand structure and was built close to a water pond. There are many water ponds here on the plateau which served as life lines for the army stationed here. While descending, we found ruins of another temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his forms. Only the pillars of the Garbhagriha (sanctum) remain with a Garuda Khamba (Garuda pillar) fallen in front of it carrying carvings of Lords Garuda and Anjaneya and Sanka- Chakra. Thus we could recognize that this temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu. 
Million Legs
Not Your Cup of Tea
Please Don't Bother Me!
Ruins of the Temple
Fallen But Not Lost

As we did not find any inscriptions here, it is very difficult to state the period in which this fort was built. It was probably built in the 16th century under the patronage of Vijayanagara kings as the brick work here resembled that adopted by the Vijayanagara kingdom. The descent was uneventful and we headed to explore the other temples scattered at the hill base of which one was dedicated to Lord Anjaneya and the other to Lord Venkateshwara. After this, we decided to stop by and check out the famous ‘Podi Idli’ at Murugan Idli shop which is a restaurant not to be missed. The Idlies were really tasty and a good value for money though a bit pricey. Only the filter coffee was not up to the mark! Overall another fort in the region of Krishnagiri was explored by us!!
One of The Many Water Ponds Here
Entrance to the Palace
Exploring the Ruins
Ruins of Palace or Mahal
Once a Grand Temple
Lord Garuda
Sri Venkataramana Swamy Temple
Tasty Podi Idlis at Murugan Idli Shop
Lord Anjaneya Carved on the Pillar
History of Ankushagiri Fort: This fort was built by King Ankusha Raya after whom the place is named. King Ankusha Raya was the successor of King Jagadeva Raya of Channapatna. Being a weak king, Ankusha Raya started to lose control over the area expanded by king Jagadeva Raya. He was defeated by Masti Palegar (chieftain of Masti)  Chokka Gauda. Later when the town of Masti was captured by Maratha king Venkoji (half-brother of Shivaji Maharaja), Chokka Gauda shifted to Ankushagiri, making it their capital. The Marathas then became successful in capturing Ankushagiri, although a few years later it was recaptured by Chokka Gauda with the help of the Magadi Nadaprabhus. After four months of siege in 1766-1767, Ankushagiri fell into the hands of Hyder Ali and the Palegar ruling Ankushagiri escaped to Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) which was under the Marathas. However, Ankushagiri was returned to the Masti Palegars (then called Ankushagiri Palegars) after a peace treaty between Hyder Ali and the Peshwa. Later the Palegars joined hands with the British under Colonel Smith. On Colonel Smith's withdrawal, Hyder re-attacked this place and captured it. In 1799 after Tippu's death, this place came under the British rule and was added to the state of Madras. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Ankushagiri migrated to the village of Bastala-palli, otherwise known as Ankushagiri Kottur (new town). 

1. Madras District Gazetteer - Salem Vol I - Part -2 
2. The Imperial Gazetteer of India
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