Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Bidanur Fort (Shivappa Naik’s Fort)- Nagara
Worth a stop when traveling through the Sagar-Hosnagar road you can just see it from the outside state highway and you certainly won't miss it. The very sight of the fort when you are driving your way makes a sure stop for you to visit the fort. It’s in size not much huge but still it had its own identity since Keladi-Kings time. The majestic fort of Bidanur that could survive the rampage of time and humans is one of the stupendous examples of Karnataka history.
What leaves you amazing about Bidanur Fort is that, unlike other forts in India, which are usually built on hills or with water bodies surrounding it on all sides, the Bidanur Fort is built on an elevated ground, merely few meters high. Still one can get an excellent view of several miles in all directions, especially the Western Ghats. There is no natural frontier like hilly terrain or water around the fort.
The fort built of stone masonry is almost ovoid on plan having a series of bastions at regular intervals. Above the masonry wall raises the thick parapet with a series of musket holes. Some parts of the fort that stand strong, speak volumes about the glory it enjoyed in 17th century. Inside the lofty outer walls of the fort, is hidden many treasures of the glorious past. The fort witnessed the ups and downs faced by the Keladi kings.
The entrance of the fort is marked by a slope pathway that leads you to the huge gateway with two round bastions on either side. The moment you enter inside you can see vast green pasture spread as far as your eyes can see. The courtyard inside shows signs of a former guard room. The fort is entered through a steep ramp leading to the main entrance from the north. The gateway is flanked by two bastions and has a sally port on the left side. Inside the third wall is a large open court facing which there is a terrace overlooking the fort. There are more slope path ways than staircase to climb the fort unlike you see in many other forts.
Basically you can see some ruined construction identified as the "Darbar Hall" of Shivappa Nayaka, a temple area in the centre, twin water ponds inside the fort and many more. There is a dry well, few tiny caves like structures which were probably meant for safe exit of royal family in case of invasion, and several watch posts. The fort walls had collapsed at several places and are being reconstructed using red brick.
As you explore, you can come across a broken cannon lying on the ground unlike some of the forts which only have steps, this fort has drivable path inside to most of the places, most probably to move the cannons mounted wheels and don’t forget to see four grinding stones that were used to grind food materials in those times. What makes these grinding stones, made of granite, eye-catching is its huge size. They are placed on the opposite side of each other and are supported by other granite boulders from the bottom.
Devagange, a bathing place of the royalties of Bidanur Keladis, is an engineering marvel and must visit place. It is really amazing to note the engineering techniques of those times. The water flowing from the hills above was collected in seven ponds with different shapes. These ponds were used for bathing by the kings and queens of Bidanur. Most captivating of all are the two lakes shaped like a lotus and a star with fountains in the center.
A steep ramp provided at the extreme end of the open courtyard abutting the outer fort wall leads to the observatory tower. The depression further south of the octagonal well seems to be a storage tank to the south east of which is a huge mound probably enclosing a huge rubble structure. Beyond this mound and the observatory is another structure, now in ruins having a vast opening towards south considering its isolated and exclusive location, this seems to be the place where the queens and their attendants were accommodated. On the whole, the structural remains scattered inside the fort, though in ruins, represent the meticulous post medieval layout of fort.
BRIEF HISTORY: Nagar is situated about 16 km. from Hosanagara town. Before attaining historical importance, this place was called Bidarahalli (anciently known as Bidnur) named after a small village. It shot into prominence during the reign of Hiriya Venkatappa Nayaka (1592-1629 A.D.) of Ikkeri kingdom when he annexed this region during his campaign and regularized worship in the Sri Nilakanthesvara temple. However, it attained the status of a capital from the time of Virabhadra Nayaka (1629-1645 A.D.) who succeeded Hiriya Venkatappa Nayaka .Due to the sudden attack of Islamic forces under Ranadulla Khan of Bijapur Sultanate, lkkeri was razed to the ground in 1560A.D. inspite of Virabhadra Nayaka's efforts to contain the onslaught.
Since Ikkari was becoming a centre of political and economic crisis Virabhadm Nayaka abandoned it. He built a formidable fort with beautiful palaces at strategically important point in Bidnur and made it his Capital in 1639 A.D. Virabhadra Nayaka was succeeded by Sivappa Nayaka (1645-¬1665 A.D.) who ascended the throne at Bidnur (or Venupura). During Sivappa Nayaka's time this place was buzzing with vibrant political activity. He improved and enlarged it. His successor ruled from here till it was annexed in 1763 A.D. by Haider Ali who renamed Bidnur as Haider Nagar. Now it is called as Nagar only. Haideri gold pagodas were struck here in the mint established by Haider Ali. During the Mysore War it suffered badly due to burning. Tipu Sultan rebuilt the palace and its surroundings. However, it never regained its lost glory and slowly it was abandoned to its present condition.