Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Fort of Chandragiri

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 The citadel of the Chandragiri Fortress

 The Execution point (Vadha-Stambha)

The Taandava Krishna 

The Palace of Krishnadevaraya and later Vijaynagar rulers

The fountain in front of King's palace 

 The "Pushkarini" in front of King's palace

The Bastions of the citadel. This is the inner level of fortifications 

The tower (Shikhara) of king's palace

The Queen's palace (as seen from king's palace) 

Vadha-Stambha (Wide angle) 

Gopuram of Raajarajeshwari Temple in Fort premises

Chandragiri was the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, located about 12 kms from Tirupati. The forts and Mahals here are attractive tourist spots. Chandragiri denoting the 'Hill of the Moon’ is traditionally associated with Chandra the Moon God who performed penance at this place in order to please Lord Shiva. Punctuated with fertile lush green fields and hillocks, this picturesque place attained prominence during the medieval times. It has many religious structures like temples of Raja Rajeswari, Venugopala, Karttikeya, Shiva and Hanuman at the entrance of the fort as guardian deity; ponds, tanks, sculptured mandapas besides a well-built fortification at the summit.

In 1000 AD, the ruler of Narayanavaram known as Immadi Narasimha Yadav Raya built this fort near the famous Tirumala hills which is abode of Lord Venkateshwara. About 4 centuries later, Vijayanagar kings captured this territory and established their firm rule. The kings belonging to Saluva Dynasty and the auspicious lineage of great king Bukka Raya were instrumental in renovation and expansion of this fort, which was later to become the third capital of Vijaynagar empire.

After defeat in the battle of Talikota, the metropolis of Vijaynagar in Hampi was destroyed and desolated by the army of confederation of Deccan sultanates. The capital of Vijaynagar empire was shifted from Hampi to Penukonda, this fort became the third capital of declining Vijaynagar Empire in 1592 AD. With time, the fort passed down in the hands of Hyderali of Srirangapattanam. According to the treaty of 1792 AD, when Mysore state under Tipu Sultan was defeated by joined forces of Marathas and British, this fort passed on to British. The documents allowing East India Company to build Saint George Fort in Chennai were signed in this fort.

The well-secured fortification having cyclopean walls buttressed with the typical bastions at regular intervals and pierced with gateways and zig-zag entrances, appears to have been erected originally by Immadi Narasinga Yadava Raya, while ruling from Narayanavanam. The height and the width of the walls was increased in the times of Vijaynagara occupation. However, the walls clearly are not at all built for artillery based siege warfare. The height and width of the walls in most of the places is clearly not sufficient to withstand the artillery barrage. As stated in my previous post, clearly, it is a construction of pre-gunpowder era in south India. Gunpowder was first used by Krishnadevaraya in battle of Raichur in India..

The serpentine nature of the wall clearly is constructed to take the fullest advantage of the rocky Rayalseema terrain. The tactical problems posed in operationalizing medieval artillery in that region of big mountains with huge boulders are immense. The area occupied by the fort is vast, and the internal space is very intelligently utilized to ensure that considerably large number of armed forces could take refuge within those walls. One huge lake was built to ensure the water supply even when under siege.

The Raja-Mahal of Chandragiri

The fort along with the structures inside owes much of its construction to the Vijayanagara rule. Raja Mahal and Rani Mahal are the two imposing structures fairly preserved in the citadel. Both are raised on high moulded plinths and have in their layout a series of corridors, halls and rooms with projecting window balconies decorated with stucco work and supported by heavy corbels. The austere yet elegant flat ceilings are laced with a border of foliage design. The steps to upper storeys are well lit by narrow arched slits. These edifices are built in coursed rubble masonary set in lime mortar with finely plastered surfaces and limited usage of timber. These bear close resemblance with the famous Lotus Mahal in the Zonana enclosure at Hampi. The temples of Chandragiri also follow the typical Vijayanagara pattern of plan in having a sanctum, a vestibule and an open pillared mandapa.

The main door of this palace faces North direction while all the galleries and most of windows open facing vast forest and comparatively plain land in south, where perhaps army used to be stationed and King could keep an eye on them. The court of Raya is particularly intriguing. The court is on the ground floor of the palace where Krishnadevaraya's life size statue is installed along with this consort and the statues of Achyutadeva Raya as well.

Although the court is not as grand and magnificent as of Hampi, its still about 2500 to 3000 Square feet and is double storeyed. Krishnadeva Raya along with his two wives, Achyutadevaraya and Minister Council used to be on ground floor. The council probably were not seated. The subjects wishing to greet king and put forth their grievances used to enter a gallery on first floor about 15 feet from the ground. They bowed to the king sitting on the ground floor from the gallery. Pretty rare site, considering the fact that kings usually are made to sit on higher pedastle and subjects look up to him. Here, it was completely reversed. The subjects were not allowed on the ground floor of the court area. Small elegantly made teak doors guarded the entry and exit points of the court.

The house of a royal bard was situated to the west of the Raya's palace. The raagas rendered by him used to travel on the eastward blowing wind to please the ears of Raya, resting after day's work. The fountain is built in front of king's palace, where by the means of siphon alone, water sprouted through the nozzles to give a beautiful display.

The citadel of Chandragiri is double fortified with high stone walls and bastions built at regular intervals, to give the last stand against the enemy who has already broken the primary defenses. The eastern most point of the hill is made up of single huge boulder and on it is placed another giant boulder, as if someone has systematically arranged them. A huge frame is seen placed on those boulders. The structure which looks like a big huge door frame from a distance, upon a closer look, we find out that this was a point for the public execution of criminals. The criminals were publicly hung on this easternmost tip of the mountain, so that everybody, not only from fort, but also from adjacent town of Chandragiri, could see what fate awaits a person who dares to break the laws of Raya.

The Raya's palace is today converted into a museum administered by Archaeological society of India (ASI). It harbors one of the most elegant and beautiful sculptures of various deities carved in typical Vijaynagar style. The sculpture of Trimurti carved in one single rock column with Brahma at the bottom, Vishnu in between and tip of human phallus signifying Shiva at the top, is extraordinarily marvelous. Unfortunately, photography is strictly prohibited in the premises of the museum. The other interesting sculpture which uniquely catches the attention of visitors is the sculpture of a Krishna performing Tandava-Nritya (Dance of Cosmic destruction), usually performed by Shiva. It is part of a beautifully and elegantly carved pillar with Tandava-Krishna at the top. Seeing Krishna is elegantly divine mudra ready for destruction of universe is both beautiful and fearsome.

Exactly opposite to the fort of Chandragiri is a beautiful temple of Shiva. As if, Shiva is overlooking at Chandragiri with his benovalent vision towards the famous Tirumala hills is one of the divine features of Chandragiri. A place worth visiting for any enthusiast of history, culture and arts.


dguide said...

When I visited Chandragiri, the temple was under renovation, maybe next time around i would check out. Did you check out the sound and light show in the voice of Amitabh Bachchan. Nice account of the times.

Chiron said...

Thank you for the comment.

Its a pity, I could not wait for light and sound show as I had a train to catch in the evening. :-)

However I wish to visit the place again giving more time for the fort and the sculpture.

One of the awesome places, I have seen in my life, I must admit. The very aura of Vijaynagar empire gives goose-bumps. A last classical Indic empire which rose and sustained in spite of all odds to its magnificent heights.