Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mirjan Fort Tribute to Pepper Queen

An aroma fills the air with expectation of a bygone era in search of the pepper queen, which symbolized the zenith of trading links with Europeans, Arabs, Persians, Chinese, etc.. The konkan coastal belt served as an export base, with Mirjan serving as one of the micro ports, for all the spices produced in the during the Vijayanagar Era. The vijayanagar empires principal exports were pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, tamarind, turmeric, musk, aloe and precious stones such as diamonds and pearls.

Mirjan Fort was in all probability built originally by Queen Chennabhairadevi ( 1552 - 1606 AD ), who belonged to the Tuluva-Salva clan under the tutlege of Vijaynagar kings. Rani Chennabhairavdevi was also known as the Pepper Queen or Raina da Pimenta. Her reign was in conformity with the doctrine of succession “ Aliyasantana “ or Matriarchal , a tradition followed in coastal belt of konkan and Kerala. Her reign was the longest in the history of female domination in the annals of Indian history, from 1552 – 1606. The strong hold of her territory was centered around North and South kanara districts and south Goa. The main harbours were Malpe, Baindoor, Mirjan, Honnavar, Ankola and Karwar.

After the battle of Talikota in 1565, the Pepper queen was constantly fighting battle for survival. During this period she shifted her base from Mirjan Fort to somewhat safe haven in Basadi an isle in the middle of river Sharavathi. Being a jain she was responsible for construction of many basadis in and around barkur and moodbidri area.

The pepper queen protected her territory fiercely which prompted the Portguese recorded in 1591 " We must deal with her with utmost caution and diplomacy, We must be polite,courteous and win her trust......( obviously to get favour in trading the spices from her territory ) Gerosappa was the capital of her territory. Spices grew abundantly in the rain fed virgin forest land of North Karnataka and Goa.   Spices from her territory was mainly traded from three harbour towns Bhatkal, Honnavar and Mirjan.  They were exported vide barter to Arabian countries, in exchange of horses, perfumes, silk, precious stones and dry fruits. 

Finally after a protracted battle she was defeated by the Keladi king Hiriya Venkatappa in 1606 ( 1586-1629) under alliance with Belgi chiefs through maritial arrangements.  She was believed to have been imprisoned in Gerosappa Kanoor fort, which was incomplete monument. I only hope she gets her due recognition in the annals of history for her long reign against odds.  

Mirjan fort is currently under renovation by the ASI to bring back the original glory to this exquisite fort. The fort was maintained by yearly grant till independence by the British empire. The Fort has been built in an area encompassing of 10 acres. A circular moat except near the enterance surrounds the Fort. In ancient times obviously this was filled with crocs to protect them from attack by the enemies. The water way seemed to have served as transportation of merchandise to the nearest harbour. The presence of the Jain pillar gives a clue to the architect of the Fort, even though all traces of the original builder seem to have been erased by raiding Bahamani sultans. This Fort was conquered by Sharief-ul-mulk the governor of Goa. He seems to have renovated the Fort to symbolize moghul architecture.
The fort is constructed with Laterite stones, which is available in plenty in the area.  There are watch towers all round the fort.  The circular moat seems to have been linked originally to the nearby river, which is a tributary of Sharavathi river.  There are two wells constructed inside the fort to preserve water, and escape routes were designed for a quick getway in case of enemy attack.  A temple seems to have crumbled.  The fort can be considered to be as one of the elegant strategic monument.
The Mirjan fort is located just 1 km off the NH 17 on the left turn by the side of the fish market @ Mirjan town, which is located 8 kms away from Kumta town enroute to Ankola orGoa. This destination can be reached from Mlore, on the NH 17 highway towards Goa or even Gokarna for that matter. Approximately 10 kms  just away from Kumta town towards Gorkarna. One can take a convinient train from Mlore and reach Kumta town and take a bus towards Gokarna and get down at Mirjan. From Goa one can get down at Ankola, Gokarna or even Kumta and travel by bus. Bus connectivity from Gokarna is not very frequent

acknowledgement :http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/itihas/gersoppa_queen.htm


Team G Square said...

One of my favorite fort , Amazingly beautiful .

Deguide said...

Dhiraj good to see you first off the block as usual, I am glad you too enjoyed visiting this historic fort...did you blog about it.

amogh said...

seems to be an interesting place,will visit it sometime :)

Deguide said...

You club Yana with Mirjan Fortress visit along with Murudeswar depending on your choice

Ten Year said...

Another excellent post. I love the amount of research you put into your blog posts. Always a pleasure to read them.


Shiju Sugunan said...

Loved reading the tribute. As usual, you have done an amazing job.

Deguide said...

@ Madhu thanks for your visit and compliment.

@ Shiju, it is pleasure to have you visiting my travel blog


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