Jun 28, 2014

Fort Malkhed ~ Manyakheta

Malkhed originally called Manyakheta was the capital of Rashtrakuta empire from 814 CE to 968 CE. This place rose to prominence when King Amoghavarsha I (Nrupatunga Amoghavarsha) shifted Rashtrakuta capital from Mayurkhandi (present day Bidar) to Manyakheta. Amoghavarsha I is said to have ruled 64 years. He authored first classical work in Kannada- Kavirajamarga. Amoghavarsha I with the help of scholars and intellectuals like Mahaveeracharya, Jinasenacharya, Ajitasenacharya and Gunabhadracharya helped spread Jainism in this region. Around 1050 CE Manyakheta was taken over by Kalyana Chalukyas, it remained their capital before moving to Kalyana. Malkhed is also known for the Brindavan of Madhva seer Jayatirtha at Uttaradi Matha. Jayatirtha was one of four disciples of Madhvacharya.

November 28, 2013
The day started with a drive from Gulbarga to Malkhed, traveling on the good road was a breeze. Malkhed is about 40 kms east of Gulbarga, the town and fort are situated on left bank of Kagini river, a tributary of river Bhima. To reach the fort we had to negotiate terribly narrow streets of Malkhed village. A pair of bastions man the fort's main entrance.

Take a look at the walls, they are built of limestone blocks 3" to 12" thick. This stone is known as Shahabad stone, they are very popular in this region. Houses are built of limestone blocks rather than bricks. Considering Malkhed fort architecture the practice of using limestone blocks for building construction dates back to Rashtrakuta times.

The walls and bastions are a good 20' high. The man walking into the fort, a young Muslim chap would become my guide few minutes later.

View of the main entrance from inside. A pari of ancient wooden doors still hung on by the hinges.

One of the main doors decaying rapidly (left). Like any other fort there's a smaller side entrance, the wooden door has somehow survived. Take a closer look at the side entrance- the black colored beam was originally a column in some Hindu temple. Seems like a Muslim king put material from a demolished temple to use here. Such sightings are quite common in forts of North Karnataka.. Mudgal, Manvi and Raichur are examples.

Dargah of some Muslim holy man. Opposite this Dargah is an arch, beyond which is the inner fort.

Walls and gateway arch in ruins.

The narrow passage opens up after a distance. A high platform measuring approximately 100m x 30m   sits at the center of the fort. The eastern end of the platform is occupied by a 30' high circular watch tower. The watch tower has a narrow spiral stairway built into it.

At the western end of the platform is a badly damaged mosque. Restoration work is being carried out.

My guide said this mosque is known as Kaala Masjid ~ Black Mosque.

We climb on to the platform. That platform will give a good view of the fort.

The narrow entrance to the stairway. On the lintel is a Jaina image and inside floral designs decorated beams of the door frame.

The narrow curved stairway is really tight, that way access to the tower is restricted.

Views from the watch tower: this is the path to the main entrance.

A watch tower on the southern wall.

Kaala Masjid and Kagini river. The smaller structure is a temple which is being restored. My friend here works as a supervisor with the contractor carrying out restoration work.

Beyond the mosque the path leads to the fort wall running parallel to the river. Close to the wall is another Hindu temple.. except for this heap of ancient sculptures there's nothing ancient about the temple.. an ancient shrine housed in a badly made cement structure.

My guide showed me some ruins of ancient living quarters- probably this was a dwelling of some royal family. In fact people still lived in within the complex. Probably they have been living here for generations.

The complex even had a courtyard with a tree in the center. Sadly the courtyard was a trash dump. I noticed several cannons lying about in trash. My guide and I cleared some fallen branches before taking this picture.

About 3 years back Malkhed fort was in news - Malkhed fort to get a facelift, nothing much has improved since then. Except for a rusty old ASI board declaring this fort a protected monument, there no other board or signage about this historically important place.

I thanked my guide for his time and left the fort. There was more to see such as the Jain Basti and Jayatheertha Brindavan however I decided to skip them because of time constraint. We head towards Gulbarga.. my next destination was Martur fort.

Malkhed fort coordinates: 17°11'36"N   77°9'21"E

Jun 21, 2014

Shahapur fort - part 3

..continued from Shahapur fort - part 2.
The uphill climb to western fort was again a thorny trek.. stepping over thorny twigs and brushed by overhanging thorny branches. Several months have passed by since the trek yet thorns remain embedded in my pair of Woodland. Whenever these shoes land over a stone or anything uneven, those thorns poke my sole.. painful at times.. another kind of souvenir :)

Pair of arched windows in the gateway.

Once inside the fort we had to negotiate a wet and slippery patch of rock. With Kamanna leading me, it was an effortless climb. In the valley, close to the fort wall is a large water tank. Locals call it Hathi Bawli ~ a tank for elephants to bathe.

Soon we reached the Kote Hanuman temple. Just behind the temple is a small shrine for three Lingas sculpted in the rock. This shrine will have a story of its own, some connection to our legendary tales like Ramayana or Mahabharata. This Hanuman shrine though ancient, the structure looks recent perhaps built during the Muslim rule.

The temple has its own water tank, again fresh and clean water. Kamanna said that people perform rituals regularly and believe in the powers of this shrine. I think this pond is called Mandakini Honda.

A short distance to climb and we reach the west end. View of the pond, Hanuman temple, the valley and eastern fort.

On the summit, its pretty flat here, more pits and ponds.
Kamanna waiting at the western tip, looking down Tavarekere ~ Lotus Lake. He seems to reminiscing his childhood days.. probably the days he learned swimming or fishing. I remember Kamanna telling their family members are fishermen by profession.
There's Tavarekere, the largest source of water for Shahapur fort, well protected by rocky hillocks. The sight was mesmerizing, I wish to come back one day and explore the lake bank and the hills beyond. Deep in the hills is another shrine which Kamanna wanted me to see but time was a constraint. Well, some other day..
The ever smiling Kamanna poses on a rock. All the while he carried my backpack.

Walls perched precariously on the western end of the hill. Note the gateway on the lower wall.

This shallow circular pit caught my attention. It's shaped like a oil lamp. This probably is man made, a place to eat food. Many places in North Karnataka have an ancient custom, during one of the festivals people prepare food at home and visit shrines on rocky hills. Rituals are performed and offerings are made to the deities. After rituals food is consumed without plates, instead items are served on a flat patch on the rocks as seen here. Of course the place is washed with water before placing food on it. Usually few items are prepared.. anna, saru, palya ~ rice, curry and a vegetable dish.

With Sun descending fast it was time to leave, we still have a long way to go. However, Kamanna suggested we take a different route, we'll not climb the eastern hill again rather we'll walk around the base. This path is well tread, people come here to gather firewood or graze cattle and sheep.

This path went past the tamarind trees and fields we saw from hill top (see Shahapur fort - part 1) where Mounesh was working. That's Mounesh, Kamanna's childhood friend.

Ruins of the eastern fort looming over our path.
Another view of eastern fort from the ground below. In fact we are on Shahapur hills, on the middle level. The path as a gradual slope weaving between rocks. One of the rocks bore an ancient etching very similar to two etchings at Yadgiri fort. The geometric etchings consist of symmetric concentric arcs.. no idea what it symbolizes.

We soon reached the spot where Kamanna and I met.

His sack was still there, undisturbed :) He hauled his sack on his shoulder and we continued our descent. He moved so easily despite carrying the load. I was slow but it is better to be safe than sorry. In fact Kamanna would often tell me be careful with these slippery blocks, he would turn back and check if I was OK.

Back at the cab, Kamanna gave us more baarikai, Suresh the cab driver loved the taste, he was very happy to be having these wild berries. Kamanna asked us to meet at a place close to his house where we could have tea. When we caught up he was looking fresh. We exchanged contact numbers and I noted his address to send his pictures. He introduced his father and brother. I was glad to have met Kamanna, it was a wonderful afternoon. It was dark, the day was hectic and we were tired. Time to say bye to my friend.

This is the ancient gateway to Shahapur fort on the plains, its right next to Shahapur-Shorapur road.

Shahapur fort is one of the largest I've seen. Sadly the walls are crumbling and its condition seems to deteriorating fast. It needs to be protected and preserved.

Jun 18, 2014

Shahapur fort - part 2

..continued from Shahapur fort - part 1.
The hill's length is aligned in east-west direction. With the fort's main entrance at the east, we move westward as we climb. West of the summit is again a slope but as steep as the eastern slope. Here the terrain is different, natural pits and rock shelters dominate this part.. kind of gives a feeling this place was inhabited much before the fort came into existence.

One large fresh water pond and few smaller ones. If rains are normal, these pits would enough water to last a year.

The tall wall seen here is the back part of the mosque. There seems to be a gateway, its kind of hidden behind boulders.

We walk around the ponds and come directly behind the mosque.

The laughing rock. That little cave is a natural shelter, its quite low and not so deep but offers good shelter during rains.

The rock now looks different, it seems like an one-eyes monster. I feel there are many more such shelters concealed behind vegetation. Behind me is the edge of a sheer cliff.

Kamanna spotted his friend Mounesh working in his fields in the valley below. Those are tamarind trees and in the field is jowar, I think. Despite the distance we could hear Mounesh.. of course he had yell a bit. Mounesh asked if I was a foreigner!! Kamanna said "illo, nammavare."

Looking back towards the summit. Between the edge behind us and the summit is bare rock with pits and ponds.

Beyond the edge is a valley created by two mounds of the same hill. The drop is at least a hundred feet from where we stand. Notice the complex system of walls connecting the two hillocks. In plan the fort is a long ship.. and now are the mid point of that ship.
The other part of the hill looked so far away. My thought was to end the tour here but my friend was determined to take me right till the western tip :) Like I said before his energy is contagious.

We walk along the edge of the cliff, towards a gateway. Again this part of the hill has few water tanks, some natural and some man made. The arc shaped wall on the left is part of the water tank, though stagnant water looked fresh and clean.

A well designed gateway system between the two hillocks restricts movement here. The gateway has curved stairways, watch points with commanding views and own supply of water.

Looking back towards the admin center, space in between has been well utilized to store water.

View of the other end of the valley, this end is not as wide at the opposite side. Those walls and bastions discourage any attempt to bypass the gateway.

We climb down slowly because of the steep ground. The path was littered with jaaligida thorns and overhanging thorny branches of jaaligida made our progress slow. Finally we made it to the passage, a narrow one well concealed between two bastions. If not for Kamanna I would never have see this part of Shahapur fort.

On the valley floor, looking back towards the eastern fort. Having seen one half of the fort, I'm sure this hill was a busy place during Neolithic times. However, there's no evidence such as rock paintings or etchings.

Now we have another steep climb ahead.. to reach the western fort.

It is said that Shahapur fort has 7 or 8 entrances, we could see three. Unlikely we'll see any more.

..this article will continue in Shahapur fort - part 3.