Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sri Kalahasti Temple immortalised by Spider, COBRA & Elephant

The vernacular translation or etymology of  Srikalahasti means literally SRI refers to Spider, KALA signifies Serpant and HASTI means Elephant.  The temple is dedicated to all three forms of life, and revolves around the royalties patronage. 

Who built this magnificient temple is a matter of  speculation ?  The original structure seems to insignificant and built during the Pallava reign, over the period it seemed to have become outdated and crumbling.  Later the Chola kings Kulothunga Chola I  ( 1070 – 1120 ), Rajaraja Chola  II ( 1146 – 1173 ) Kulothunga Chola III (  1178 – 1218 ) & Krishnadevaraya ( 1509 -1529 AD ) have been associated with building of this magnificent edifice.

Mythical interpretation :

The temple is associated with one of the  Panchabootam, and signifies Vayu or Air.  Tiruvanamalai is associated with Fire or Tejo, Kanchipuram refers to Prithvi or Earth, Tiruvanakaval is associated with water or Appu and Chidambaram with Space or Akasha.

Curse on a Brahmin :  Urnanabha was son of a renowned sculptor Vishwakarma, with his sculpting ability was able to mould many an artifacts in stone.  Lord Brahma was annoyed when Urnanabha switched his focus to Lord Shiva’s endeavour.  This transgression invited the curse of  Brahma, that he would be born as spider in Bilwaka groves.  Urnanabha was utterly devasted and prayed for mercy with Lord Brahma, who granted him release from the curse if he served Lord Shiva. 

The story further is elaborated in the form of  Brahmin reborn as spider and serving the Shiv Linga.  The elaborate weaving skill of the spider was put into use to protect the linga from harsh sunlight.  The spider was happy to serve the lord, and to test the spider’s devotion Lord Shiva created a test.  This involved the flame from lamp engulfing the Linga, on witnessing the flame spreading, the spider rushed towards the flame in utter devotion.  Lord Shiva was immensely pleased and liberated the Spider from the curse. 
Henceforth the lord proclaimed that the temple erected at the spot would be known with a prefix Sri signifying the Spider.

Curse on Cobra :  The mythical story of  association of  Lord Shiva is continued in the form of a Cobra.  The cobra was entrusted with a duty to protect the ornaments of his wife Parvati.  Cobra took leave of the place to visit its partner in Pataloka and invited the curse of the Lord Shiva.  It was banished to earth for retribution.  Cobra prayed for mercy from the curse.  Lord Shiva granted the same under condition that Cobra should proceed to Bilwaka grove and will be liberated with an encounter with the Hasti ( elephant )

Cobra proceeded to destination as ordained by the lord and started worshipping Lord Shiva regularly.  It purified by bathing in the river Suvarnamukhi.  Cobra spread its hood on the Shiv linga to protect from the rainfall and thus served the Lord.

Elephants Intrusion invites Curse :  How the elephant got entwined  into the myth is explained further.  The Hasti entered into the private chamber of  Lord Shiva and Parvathi ignoring the warnings of  the guards.  This intrusion into privacy invited the curse of  Parvathi, upon which the elephant pleaded for mercy to be released from the same.  Parvathi point blank told the elephant to approach Lord Shiva to be redeemed from the curse.  Thus Elephant was instructed by Parvathi to proceed to the banks of the river to be liberated after serving the Lord.   Thus on specific duty to maintain the premise elephant was sent to the banks of the river Suvarnamukhi.  One day while trying to clean the premise, the elephant entered into a bitter battle with the Cobra, the serpent slid into the trunk, and to get rid of the serpent, the elephant banged its trunk on the Linga.  Both perished due to the battle and thus the Lord Shiva liberated them and immortalized them by associating their names with Srikalahasti. 

Weaving Community :  A significant portion of  populace was earlier involved weaving of clothes.  Currently a small community is involved in production of  eco friendly hand painted kalamkari fabrics earning their livelihood. Mostly the fabrics are exported.  They are actively promoted by NGO’s such as Fab India, Dwaraka etc. 

Pooja :  Rahu-ketu pooja is performed at this temple.  The pooja is generally performed during the Rahukala which is elaborated in the chart below

7.30 am to 9 am
3 pm to 4.30 pm
12 O’clock to 1.30 pm
1.30 pm to 3 pm
10.30 am to 12 noon
9.00 am to 10.30 am
4.30 pm to 6 pm

Kala Sarpa Dosha  :  This dosha involves a serpent like formation in the planetary position.  Rahu is likened to the hood of the snake and ketu forms the tail, which generally hinders the progress of  career of an individual according to astrologers.  The interpretation of this dosha is left to a reliable astrologer and left to individual discretion whether to undertake the pooja.
The pooja rates vary from Rs 500 to 1500 plus other added cost of  pooja items which can peg one down financially.  The pandits and their representative perform the salvation ceremony which can prolong upto 2 hours or more.  Generally the ideal day for performing the pooja is on Saturday, Monday and Friday looking into the timing of  Rahu kalam.  Guys I am no soothsayer or astrologer but I believe if one spends some money to seek redemption from all the hurdles in life maybe it is worth it. 

Location :  Srikalahasti temple is located 38 kms from Tirupati.  There are frequent non stop buses from Tirupati bus stand and it is one hours drive by car.  The airport too is located enroute.  This temple is located on the banks of the river Suvarnamukhi and besides a hillock which houses the kannappan temple.

Caution : When you deposit your camera, pl remove your memory card and batteries, you maybe in for a rude shock.  My 2 GB memory card was missing, when i kept it at the custody of security in khalahasti, the complaint has been registered to TTD admin, yet to receive an answer.

ACK : Wiki, Raja Publications Book, and Website

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chandragiri Palace dedicated to full Moon.

Imagine the supermoon rising on the frontiers of Chandragiri fortress besides the queens chambers and Kings Palace well lit.    We were privileged to witness the sound and light show anchored  by the Big B in the chandragiri fort premises at 8 pm on the 21st March 2011.  The show unfolded the history in cinematic fashion.

Who built this historic edifice is matter of intense speculation ?  The ASI records point to the Fort built around 1000 AD with its moat and bastion extending into the hills.  This place is supposed to under the rule of  Yadavarayas, who were obviously feudatories to the Chalukyas and Hoysala Emperors. 

My premise is that Singhana II ( 1200 – 1247 ) who was the greatest of Yadava rulers must have laid a firm foundation for the Raja Mahal.  He founded the town Singnapur, built the Devgiri Fort through his henchmen, established college of  Astronomy and patronized Changadeva. 

Chandragiri palace is dedicated to the moon god.  All Yadavs followed this tradition which had 46 generations.  Chandragiri has been passed on from one dynasty to another in quick succession.  The Vijaynagar Emperors flaunted all their wealth to beautify this edifice befitting Royalty.  Krishnadevaraya on his coronation committed funds to this palace and the tirumala temple tower. 

The ASI records state the following facts :

Chandragiri came into the control of Vijayanagara rulers in 1367. It rose into prominence in 1568 AD and remained as seat of power for the later Vijayanagara kings under whose reign the fortified area was further extended and some of the magnificent buildings and temples were constructed. Some of the important kavyas of Vijayanagara period are said to be composed here. In 1646 the fort was annexed into the Golkonda territory, subsequently came under Mysore rule till 1792 and went into oblivion. Inside the fortification are seen eight ruined temples of saivite and vaishnavite pantheons, Raja mahal, Rani mahal and other ruined structures.

King's Palace: One of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture of Vijayanagara period, this imposing three storeyed palace adorned by the crowning towers representing certain Hindu architectural elements, was constructed with stone, brick, lime mortar and is devoid of timber. The central tower that covers durbar hall rises through two storeys. It is said to be the same venue where Sri Rangaraya granted the site of Fort St. George to the British in 1640. The floors are supported by massive pillars while the walls bear fine plaster and stucco decorations.

Queen's Palace: Similar to the Kings palace in style and method of execution, this edifice with ground floor looking like a stable and first floor containing quarters adorned with ornamental sikhara has a flat roof. Contrary to the popular belief that this place was meant for the queen or harem, the epigraphical record available from the basement speaks this building being a commander’s quarters.

The piligrims who flock Balaji Temple invariably miss out Chandragiri fort and place either for paucity of time or lack of proper transporation facility to Chandragiri fort.  It is km away from the main town, which is well connected to Tirupati, and falls just besides the Bangalore Byepass road leading to Chittoor from Tirupati.  One needs to catch an auto from Chandragiri bus stop or walk it up from the highway.  It is just 1 km from the bye pass.

The sound and light show gives one a complete idea of the history of the fort, in tandem with the religious perspective of the Balaji temple.  Eloquent usage of  bhajans and kirtans along with sound effects with surreal circumstances are re-created.  The landscape during the day time looks slightly unimpressive since the main palace is converted into a museum, but at night it transforms into an elegant edifice, with appropriate lighting effects.  Do not miss Chandragiri fortress during day and night, it is worth its effort.

Location :  One can just drive down or enroute to Tirupati from Bangalore, visit Chandragiri Palace.  It is located on the bye pass route to Tirupati from Chandragiri junction.  Approximate distance is 14 Kms from Railway station.  There is a railway station too at Chandragiri.  One can board a bus going to chandragiri town, and use auto to reach Chandragiri fort.  Otherwise one has to board a bus going towards Chittoor and get down at the fort junction and walk it up to the fort.  This is faster mode of  transport.  The sound and light show timings currently are 7 pm Telegu and 8 pm English.  The ticket for adults is Rs 35 and children Rs 25 per head.  Normally the show lasts for 45 minutes duration.

Ack ASI records, Yadav

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shivgange Photoblog

Shivgange Photoblog

Shivgange looks surmountable from a distance of  a kilometre but for us it was like conquering an everest.
Basically being other side of 50......trekking 4500 feet above sea level is humongous task.

Shalini accompanied us with scale the peak.

Oh my goodness the holy water is almost reachable but only a few get to fetch it, it is believed all the sins gets washed away, if one is able to touch the water and sprinkle it on their head. Last timeI was unable to fetch the water, I dipped my handkerchief and got some pints and was happy. But this time around Lord was happy and blessed me with handful of water drops time and again along with Shalini.

The climb to the peak can take anywhere between 2 to 3 hours depending on the fitness level of an individual. Dont make the mistake of walking barefoot,a good cushioned sports shoe or buckled chappals with a good grip is a must.

Steps are slippery during rainy season but railings are provided fortunately hold it firmly.

She is grinning looking at Mam struggling to climb i suppose, Punjabi kudi me dumm hai.

The name Shiva and Parvathi is associated with this historical centre.

Many people advice you not to carry anything edible and with plastics because of the monkey menace.  Like dogs, monkey too has to be handled. Feed it with bananas, biscuits or whatever edible, make sure you carry bamboo cane or stick, they will not snatch or trouble you.  We fed the monkey on the way up with buns and orange juice while coming down with some bananas.  

Carry sufficient water, salt, juice and glucose to quench thirst and avoid cramps.

Enjoy the scenary while trudging up, take sufficient breaks and start shooting pictures 

There are plenty of petty shops selling mineral water and mango juice enroute, KAMAT upachar is the best place to have breakfast or parcel lunch.  

When you reach the top of  Shivgange, a whiff of cold breeze greets you in the evening or early morning, one feels elated that one has conquered a big mountain.  The picturesque atmosphere which is filled with history unfolds before you @ Shantala drop.

Tribute to Krishnadevaraya

An iconic king and so little is known about Krishnadevaraya. It is my endeavour to demystify the reign of Krishnadevaraya apart from his various victories in the battlefield, which is well covered in the annals of Indian History. The era wherein Hindu royalty was filled with multiple wives created intrigue, conspiracy and drama was the order of the day. Domingo Paes is probably the only eye witness of for the reign of Krishnadevaraya, during his visit in 1518-1520 to the empire which was later composed by Barros. He has written about his gallantary and leadership qualities but to weave a historical perspective with personal touch would be great dedication on the 500th anniversary of Krishnadevaraya ( 1509-1529 AD) the great.

The wily survivor of dynastic ambition of his step mother, who wanted her son to ascend the throne. She elicited promise from the dying king Vira Narasimha that he will get Krishnadevaraya’s eyes gorged so that he will be unfit to ascend the throne. Despite being a successful general of the army, Krishnadevaraya did not have burning ambition to ascend the throne. When his minister Timmarsu, convinced Krishnadevaraya to prepare himself to ascend the throne because the empire needed an able ruler to fight against the Turks. Timmarasu presented goats eye to convince the king that he had blinded Krishnadevaraya. Under the orders of the general the entire family of his step mother was taken into preventive custody so as to avoid controversy after the Kings demise.

During his crowning ceremony on 29th July 1509 Krishnadevaraya was anointed by holy water from rivers across the Vijaynagar Empire. ( Dates are debatable in the range of 6 months ) The priests conducted elaborate ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and invite the blessings of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The crowning ceremony was studded with grandeur and procession unknown to this part of the world. Krishnadevaraya was crowned by the high priest at the auspicious time. After coronation he inspected the entire battalion of elephantry, horsemen, cavalry marched in unison one after the other showing respect to the newly appointed King. The dancers performed to entertain the royalty. One courtesan was secretly deployed to kill the king on his accession to the throne. Appaji, he chief advisor, was aware of the conspiracy and had a back up plan to protect the king. When the courtesans came to entertain the king at night with a dagger in hand, she plunged the dagger straight into the heart. She struck a dummy and in the darkness felt the splash of the liquid. Suddenly the entire room was lit up and Appaji came and warned the courtesan and let her go free since it was a happy occasion. She was asked to keep mum during her entire lifetime regarding this incident.
Krishnadevaraya undertook a tight regime to keep his physical condition in shape. He used to get up early morning and exercise in the private gym with close confidants. He used to sharpen his skill of brandishing his sword fighting and ride horse swiftly across a short distance. He trained himself in martial arts and climbing the walls of the fort. The stunt which he wanted to badly master was to jump from his horse’s back and leap on to the elephant, which he did eventually after several attempts.

In his anxiety to keep his physical fitness at the peak he sought advice regarding his diet. He fell into the trap of wrong advice of consuming half a litre( three quarter pint )  of gingelly oil daily early in the morning on empty stomach, which became the ultimate cause for his untimely death at an age of 42 years after a reign of two decades. It may have been a conspiracy to get rid of Krishnadevaraya after his victory in the battlefield against the sultans. Krishnadevaraya eliminated his trusted lieutant Timmarsu who was suspected behind the poisoning of his son to death Thimmaraya.

The belief that every virgin queen would transmit energy to rejuvenate the king induced Krishnadevaraya to marry as many as 12 queen. Domingo Paes confirms this development stating that immediately on his accession to the throne, he was married to Three queens Thirumaladevi, Annapurna and Kamala devi. He also married his favorite courtesan during his teenage days Chinnadevi, when he was courting her secretly. He had fulfilled his promise at the appropriate time after coronation. The lineage of multiple marriage was almost akin to Lord Shiva’s erotic leanings and mating instincts. “ The belief was current that every virgin queen would transmit new energies to the Raja. Quote Mulk Raj Anand. The successful battle in the bedroom would propel the creative instinct of the king and find solutions to the tickling problem in administering his huge empire.

Despite being satiated personality in terms of sexual encounters Krishnadevaraya was known for his short temper. He was known to have insulted his enemies when they were defeated in warfare. Once he exhorted the Bahamani sultan to lick his dirty sandals as a mark of suzerainty after vanquishing them in the battle of kulburgi when he seized the Raichur Fort. ( May 19, 1520 ) He gathered enormous amount of wealth from the forts of Raichur and Gulbarga after defeating the sultans. He distributed the wealth to the temple trust of Virupaksha and Vittala complex. Some of the best jewelleries were distributed among the queens and courtesans alike to keep them in happy spirit.

Krishnadevaraya undertook guerilla type of activity during the night, he mingled with the ordinary folks and enjoyed a drink in their midst. Thus he gathered many a information regarding the public opinion on his reign. He did his own homework apart from the spy network which used to dish out information which was pleasing to his ears. Once he was given an information circulating in the Bahamani kingdom that soothsayers would warn people that a great king would take over their region and rule with an iron hand defeating the Bahamanis. This was music to his ears which prompted his to invade the Bahamani sultans and annex their territory.

How can we really believe Krishnadevaraya really ruled Vijayanagar empire unless we have an idea of the palace he lived ? The key to his greatness is construction of the iconic temples such Vittalla Complex, Hazar Rama temple and Mahanavami Dibba at Hampi. The empirical evidence culled out by Robert Swell is quite exemplary. The primary source of information on the contours of the Palace is derieved from the description of Domingo Paes ( 1518 – 1520 ) who was in awe struck by the beauty of the edifice which was just completed. The second source of information with regard to the palace decorations and interiors emanates from Leepakshi mural paintings. The third source is obviously the contemporary palaces built by the Vijaynagar emperors in the form of Penukonda, Chandragiri and the Nayak’s palace at Madurai.

The palace was obviously divided into the Public darbar area and private residential palace of the King and queens. The interiors of the durbar hall housed the Kings throne, and lavishly decorated wall hangings, such as stuffed Elephant, Tiger, Sambhars and wall paintings of the king hunting, battle scenes, mahanavami celeberations, etc. The ceremonial durbar was meeting place for the visitors and viceroys from other kingdom. The king used to entertain them after the official discussion with lavish parties, with ceremonial fireworks, dancing dramas, fancy dress parade etc. The riches of empire was displayed in the form of fashion parade by the courtesan wearing the jewellery, and elephants decked with precious stones. The visitors were captivated by stunning display of wealth and pomp
Private residential zone was to house a huge harem of courtesans and queens of the time. This area was strictly restricted for outsiders. Paes assumes there were 12,000 women including the ennuchs to please the King. There were 12 principal queens who were housed in individual chambers. No men were allowed to enter the queens chamber except the ennuchs who guarded them. The king used to place equal attention to all his queen in a sequential progress. This may have bought variety to spice of life. Chinnadevi received special attention of the king in terms of time spent during his voyeurs. Paes even though could not enter the premise managed to gather lot of information secretly, which the King was aware, but he let go the indiscretion. He knew his pompous lifestyle would be recorded in the annals of history.

Paes writes " The king lives by himself inside the palace, and when he wishes to have with him one of his wives, he orders a eunuch to go and call her.  The eunuch does not enter where she is, but tells it to the female guards, who make known to the queen that there is a message from the king, and then comes one of her maidens or chamber women and learns what is wanted, and then the queen goes where the king is .....and so passes the time as it seems good to him without any of the others knowing " 

A blend of Islamic and hindu style was adopted to build the palace and to quell the extreme heat generated during the summer months. The palace and durbar were built with a mezzanine structure with lot of natural ventilation and light. The king used to preside from the durbar hall and the sometimes the royal family members used to watch the proceedings from the balcony. The palace seems to have been fully lit with lamps and flowers during any festivity and the grandest was during dusherra. Why Krishnadevaraya adopted a blend of Islamic architecture is answered by his dealings with the arabs for trading horses prior to Portuguese treaty. This was a calculated move to appease the trading partners, and he may have even employed an Islamic architect is my conjecture.

The palace was well compounded with high boundary walls, since it housed the treasury of the empire. All the diamonds, gold, silver, and gems and stones were stored safely in an underground cellar which was opened only in the presence of the king. The currency chest was separate and it was handled by his trusted minister Appaji.

The closest virtual idea of the palace of Krishnadevaraya can be experienced by visiting Chandragiri and Madurai Nayaks palace. It is the combination of both which formed the crux of the Krishnadevaraya’s palace. The pictures uploaded are of Madurai Nayaks palace which had a close resemblance to Krishnadevaraya s palace.
Gladiators of Vijaynagar Empire :
Krishnadevaraya was constantly urged by his gurus to expand and keep his domain under check. The political strategist were very aware of the danger of the Moghul empire and the Bahmani sultans. He did not trust the Portuguese except for their trading interest. In his quest to build the finest army he recruited gladiators from various regions of his empire. One such was tribe was Mashti tribe who were nomadic tribes with a history of martial skills. They were well built with 6 feet height and well endowed body. Krishnadevaraya used their services in numerous wars against the Bahmani sultans. The role of the community was well recorded by the citation given by the king in 1515 to their ancestors who were recognized as dedicated and loyal soldiers of the Vijaynagar empire.

The authentic citation records an interesting incident which occurred in the presence of the king. Mala challenged the residents of a village in hampi to a bout of wrestling. The stake was fixed as the wives of the entire village to be given as per the directions of the king in case of defeat. The wrestling duel went on for 3 days and each and every villager who combated Mala was floored to the mat. Mala Masthi refused the prize of wives of the entire village unlike the Kauravas. He requested the king to honour with a citation signed by the emperor on a copper plate .
The copper plate is now with Kaki Rambabu, a Mala Masthi of Farijallipeta of Rajanagaram mandal. AP. S. Sudarshan, a teacher from the village, is credited with bringing this artefact to the limelight. Hindu 30TH October 2008

LEGENDARY TENALI RAMAN : The tales of the legendary wisecrack and witty Tenali Raman i am giving a go by just because it is well recorded and covered by historians. Maybe Krishnadevaraya thrived on his wisecracks after a difficult victory in the battlefield.

Naturally the legacy of Krishnadevaraya invited plenty of jealously among the Bahmani sultans who after the battle of Talikota in 1565 plundered and pillaged the palace for the treasures and artifacts collected by Krishnadeveraya after his victorious battles. It is rumoured that the wealth of the Vijaynagar empire was transported to the Bahmani kingdoms for more six months with the aid of more than 500 elephants. The very citadel of Vijaynagar was destroyed beyond recognition.

Next time around it would be my endeavour to look for remanants of Krishnadevaraya's palace.  Guys don t you think we deserve to discover the royalty's linage and imagine the prosperity of the golden era of Vijaynagar empire

ack :  A concise history of Karnataka by Dr Suryanath U Kamat, Vijaynagar by Domingos Paes & Fernao Nuniz by NBT, A Forgotton Empire by Robert Sewell.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tirumala Trekking on Vaikunta Ekdashi

Tirumala Trek

By instinct we decided to trek up the Tirumala hill from Alipiri on the 28th instant, which was Vaikunta Ekadasi. We prepared mentally and physically at 40 + we knew we will be pushing our system to the limits. The total distance to the sanctum sanitarium is around 9.5 Kms. We have had earlier attempted to climb 2000 steps in Melkalu tirupati which was exhausting. But now the bar was raised to 5400 steps in all.We started our trekk at 6.30 am loaded with Tropicana 100 % apple juice, banana and two litre bisleri with some salt and Halls. We boarded the bus to the starting point which is Alipiri, where the trekk to tirumala begins.

The initial climb of 2640 steps was quite steep and we managed to ascend with frequent breaks of every 100 steps initially and later 50 steps. It took us nearly an hour and half to reach the 2 km check point. Many devotees undertook the climb with various rituals, such as applying kum kum, turmeric and some were even lighting camphor on the steps as they were climbing. Obviously they must have taken a oath of sorts to get some wish fulfilled in the bargain. A silent prayer was uttered by some devotees, and some were chanting Govinda, Govida........all the way invoking the blessings of the Lord of Seven hills.Enroute one can find washrooms and drinking water, and for those who would like to undertake the trek to tirumala in the night, it is well lit with street lights all the way to the peak. On special occasions we find devotees distributing various eatables such as tamarind rice, sweet pongal, fruit salad, water, butter milk, kheer etc. So the entire trek would seem like a grand picnic.

At midpoint one has to undergo tagging inorder to have a dharshan at the temple vide VQC queue, which takes a maximum of 2 hours. This is faster than paid dharshan. We just got ourselves enrolled and proceeded on winding through the hillocks. The greenary and the scenary is quite pleasing to the eyelids. After 3 kms one enters into the roadway which leads down, in case one decides to abort the walk, one can take a bus back to Alipiri and board the bus uphill from Alipiri. We were surprised to find an ambulance stop enroute for helping patients in case of emergency.It was a pleasant surprise, to find a deer sanctuary almost at 6th km uphill. We spent time taking picture and video by feeding the deer. There is a view point too of the valley and a huge banian tree enroute. One can come across a huge Hanuman statue and a temple wherein the piligrims can take a break.From here on the trek becomes much more easier on the knee and one is confident to cover the balance distance with ease. We reached the top and heaved a sense of relief. Our dress was drenched with sweat, but surprisingly we did not feel the tiredness at all. Maybe it was due to the blessing of the Lord Balaji.

We quickly went to Kotiteerta and had a refreshing bath. Here one is not allowed to use soap and surprisingly the water is crystal clear and well protected in terms of barrier. The water is well clorinated and purified by constant circulation.Overall the trekk to tirumala is a different experience, and don t undertake the short cut method of descending on the steps instead of climbing. Descent can be more painful and strenous on the knees and calf muscle, which i had undertaken almost two decades ago and regretted for a week trying to re-coup. All the best for those who would venture to trekk upto to the abode of Lord Balaji. I hope you will enjoy the journey through my video.

Palghat Fortress

We went to attend wedding of our family friend Anoop Manghat in Palghat, we arrived in the midnight from Alwaye by bus, after covering Munnar, Keladi by Taxi, which was crowded to core and we were lucky to get down in midst of the highway.  Anoop had booked our hotel, but we had to finish our dinner.  We had lovely kerala parotas along with egg curry and than moved to our nest.  Next day till noon we were busy with marriage, and took the breather by visiting Palghat fort in the noon.  

Historical Perspective
In one of his edicts Ashoka states across the mauryan empire I have planted banyan trees for providing shade to men and animals alike. In a distance of eight kosas I have commissioned wells, rest houses and other infrastructure for travelers, piligrims, traders and for the army too. These infrastructural developments have been undertake by other kings of the time too, but not with an intention of spreading Dhamma. My aim is to ensure that people are contented enough to practice the gospel of Buddha. The traces of the ancient trees are found on the highways of Kerala. The remains of Buddhist artifacts point to presence of their domination till the Shaiva sects overtook their domain.

The domain of Vijaynagar empire obviously included the Kerala territory for their rich revenue base in trading. Spices, Sandalwood, Teak and ayurvedic formulations formed the mainstay of trading with the Arabian and European region. Palaghat Gap seems to have been identified as the main stay for a trading centre. The traces of the empire was in the form of building temple. A prominent temple was obviously constructed in the premises of the present Palghat fort along with a bazaar established for trading in front of the temple. This temple was in existence probably till 1766, when Hyder Ali invaded the territory and unleashed a reign of terror. He demolished the temple and modified into a Fortress. The signs of the temple is clearly evident from statues of Ganesha embedded into the wall of the fortress and the gateways and their pillars used for construction of inner citadel. Tipu carried out his own agenda based from this fortress till he occupied the throne at Srirangapatna. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1790 the fortress was temporarily occupied by the Zamorins of Calicut who seemed to have further fortified.


The antecedents of the Palghat fort have not being revealed to the world for sake of maintaining the communal harmony is quite understandable. However the fact and traces of the hindu temple and Kalyana mantap now being converted into a museum courtesy ASI is evidence enough for keen observers. Some historians point towards a jain temple too being present in the temple complex which may have crumbled. A proper carbon dating of the pillars would reveal this fact too. The British have modified the Kalyan mantap into a cosy residential house for one of their generals. The pillars of the mantap have been used to construct the residential quarters, which have subsequently modified into a museum by ASI after it took charge of the Fort in 1925 AD. The main building houses a prison for petty crimes. 

The fort is built across an area of around 50 acres with a Rhombus plan covering all angles. There are 8 strategic watch towers, surrounded by a moat filled with water. The land around the fort is beautifully landscaped with greenish turf and plants. There is private garden too which is ticketed. It is well endowed with variety of flora.

One hanuman temple is located near the citadel of the fort with an ugly contraption of corrugated sheet protecting the premises against rain and shine. Probably protecting the heritage of vanquished Vijaynagar emperors. The developments may be treated by historians as encroachment but the fact remains that an ancient temple edifice has been modified by the rulers of the time, to suit their strategic interests. The political pressure to maintain status quo has prevented eviction of the temple priest and their family, probably protecting their livelihood more than heritage.

The fort itself is a beautiful bastion constructed with granite stones which could probably withstand the cannon firing from the enemies. The crocodile infested moats have been designed to protect the fort being besieged from all sides. The inner fortress may have been designed to hold around 1000 soldiers, and the outer area would have housed around 20,000 soldiers living in tents and temporary structures for ready movement of troops.

A palace for the kings seems to have been converted into the present day jail. The harems of the queens seems to have crumbled due to lack of maintenance. If one can stretch their imagination there must have been plenty of spicy foods cooked in the premises and abundance of romantic interludes from the time of Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Zamorin and the British.

In all probability the French architects were involved in renovation of the Palghat fort like the Forts in Bellary and Sandur. The positioning of the cannon grooves is well executed and planned by the architects taking the safety factor into consideration. There is a well close to the outer edge of the fort wall for drinking water catering to needs of the soldiers.

Overall the Fort symbolizes the defense strategies of medieval times, combined with ancient trade routes formed by Palghat Gap which was the entry point from Eastern to Western coast. The Tamilakam region obviously gave birth to a separate culture which influenced the kerala coast to a large extent. The destruction of the most important trading centre Kodaganallur during 1341 floods paved way for diversion to Kochi harbour, along with Kozhikode port. The visit to Palghat fort does not tax once pocket because there is no enterance fee levied by ASI, which is heartening. One can spend upto 2 hours comfortably closely observing various facets of the Fort, the inner ramparts and outer garden area along the boundary of the moat.

 Palghat fort is located bang in the centre of the city. It can be reached by air through Coimbatore, Calicut and Angamalli airport. By train one can reach Palghat from Chennai, Bangalore, Mangalore and Trivandrum which is covering all the four corridors.


cannons ready to fire

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Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Basically i am down to earth, take friendship to its logical end. It is my endeavour to create a wealth of co-operative ventures. Basically being a marketing man i have the acumen to spot winners. I am privileged to travel the length and breadth of the country, courtsey my father, who was with Indianoil, my employers such as Nutrine, Kurl-on, Hindustan Pencils, Prestige, Crystal, Bell Ceramics, Pentel, Sezal, Commander. Currently i am involved in Tourism, Booking Air Tickets, Agent for Jungle Lodges and Resorts Limited and Taj Group of Hotels and a numerous hotels across India. Depending on the needs of a traveller i would recommend the destination and accommodation best suited to their budget. Humour takes me on. Let us have a win win situation for all. I love travelling for sake of adventure, photography and discovering the heritage. Life is a journey and let us enjoy our drive. Come share your travel experience on indiabackpacker.