Today morning when the blaring sound of the TV and unforgiving honking of the uncaring motorists of Bangalore (or any other city for that matter) gave me a wake up jolt, did I truly realise my call to wilderness.Like our womb mothers the universal “mother” too handles her children gently, especially at wake up time. She wakes us with the tenderness of a cool breeze and the sweetness of her innumerable nightingales. If the confluence of the chirping birds, buzzing of the busy bees and the whistling of the winds are not her melodious symphony, then what is? Unfortunately, we her children, have distanced ourselves from her in our ambition driven avaricious pursuits and encasing ourselves in economic monstro-cities, where we neither have time nor the inclination to hear her call of losing a child.
Fortunately, there are still some towns which retain the ancient chords. One such; is a small town in central Karnataka called Chitradurga. Of the many meanings of this word, to me it meant “Picture Fort” and it was picture perfect in every sense of the word. Here’s how:
When Niranjan posted a treknic to Chitradurga fort exploration, I was doubtful of wasting a weekend walking through the blaring streets of a small town. However, putting good faith in my pal I arrived at the pickup point on Friday the 13th September 22:00 hrs.This and cloud burst together put something of a superstitious thought in me; were the coming events casting their shadows. Putting the thought aside I concentrated on the plan, BASC events start with a fun filled intro session and so we too got on with it. Since we were so many of us (20 to be precise) and me with an amnesic memory I hardly registered the names (ok I confess I still don’t). But the one thing I did gather was that “I am among some very interesting people”.
After intro we all settled down to individual talks and to catch up with sleep. We arrived in Chitradurga at around 03:00 hrs to a well appointed KSTDCs dorm right in front of the massive fort. Groggy with sleep we all walked in to find neat, starched sheeted beds as welcome and needless to say they didn’t have to do much for us to crash till 7 in the morning. Unlike my apprehensions I woke to the sweet sounds mentioned earlier. Surprised, I walked into the balcony to a picture perfect morning, with the towering fort for a view. The morning was bright but not sunny, breezy but not stormy, the grass moist but not damp, flowers fragrant but not heady, the birds chirping but definitely not noisy; in short it was in every way a morning I woke in the jungles.
The setting couldn’t have been any better to start the exploration of a stone fort, otherwise baked in the sun. Not wanting to miss the perfect conditions we wolfed down a sumptuous breakfast of multiple idly vadas and headed straight for the ‘after a traditional trek start group pics’. As if this scene wasn’t enough to cheer a suicidal man, the facade of the mighty fort was impeccably clean complete with a neatly trimmed lawn and garden, with playful parrots putting a spring in my gait.
Ranga (co-organiser and resident of the town) doubled as guide. “The fort” he explained “is called Kallina Kote or stone fort. Also called yelu suttina kote, or 7 circled fort meaning 7 fort walls. It has around 19 gateways and some 35 secret entrances”. Continuing with the history, he went on to briefly tell the legends “in one of these secret entrances the legend of Onkey Obauvva was played out. A lady of legendary courage was the wife of a fort sentry. One day during the siege by Hyder Ali, her husband came back from his watch for lunch. While he was eating, she went out to fetch water and she happened to see an enemy soldier stealthily crawling out of a secret entrance. Unperturbed and not wanting to disturb her husband she picked up an Onakey (heavy wooden staff used to pound raw rice) and started smashing the heads of the unsuspecting enemy, as they crawled out. After some time when the husband came out to see where his wife was he saw 10s of enemy bodies strewn around. He went ahead to alert the fort army. Alas, fate only makes legends of martyrs, obauvva was born to be one and so one of the enemy soldiers crouched behind her and put a sword through her heart.”
And so with our “guide’s” alleviating and soul stirring anecdotes we trudged along the fort (which by now had started to sun bake). Some of the places that we saw were Hidimbeswara (an ancient legend is linked to it), Sampige Siddeshwara, Ekanathamma, Phalguneshwar, Gopala Krishna, Maddu Bisuva Kallu, which means "Gun Powder Grinding stone" (this is a quadruple mill made of masonry of 3 metres (9.8 ft) depth and about 7 metres (23 ft) dia, which is inferred as a device used for preparing gunpowder during Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan’s rule) and a fort jail complex. We also did some good amount of rock climbing, not the cliffhanger sort of climb, but more like scaling a 70 to 75 degree gradient rock (its called kallina kote) like Nellikai betta. By the time we finished all this it was lunch time (thanks to Ranga’s father who was sweet enough to arrange lunch inside the fort).
We reached the dorm at around 20:00 hrs. Had dinner and without much ado went straight to bed. A good night sleep always does good to the mood and body. Following Sunday’s plan we got up early and went on a small trek to Jogi Matti forest area. This was a heaven for bird watchers. I, Damodar and Ranga had a nice time spotting/identifying birds and butterflies. By about 12:00 hrs we reached the Adu malleshwara zoo, a hapless and pathetically maintained zoo. The most heart wrenching of all was 2 Leopards cooped up in a 10X6 cell. Reminded me of Chateaux d’if dungeon.
We reached back for lunch at about 13: 00 hrs and after a quick and sumptuous meal left for home. After bidding adieu to Ranga and thanking him for the impeccable planning we hit the road to visit the Vani Vilas Sagar dam. Now starts the lungi dance saga. Niranjan had in his mail asked to get some good dance numbers to be played on the return journey, which one girl Nandini had got. We played her playlist and gyrated to all the numbers one of them being the new rage “LUNGI DANCE”, from the movie Chennai express. North and south Indians alike hit the dance floor for this till we reached the Dam.
The dam was nothing very extraordinary, despite all the rains there was very less water in the reservoir. After a quick visit and some pics, we started towards Bangalore. During the journey we finished the customary feedback session which was insightful, with myself and niru giving some gyan. By the time we reached majestic it was 21:00 hrs, we all dispersed promising to keep in touch and join back for another trip like this one.
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Written by: Govind
Date: September 14th and 15th
Date: September 14th and 15th
The Crew: Ranganath Mukunda, Srivatsa Sharma, Damodaran, Niranjan, Govind, Surendra, Manjunath, Nitin Satpute, Ravindra Joisa, Chaitra V, Nandhini Gopalan, Sandeep Bharath, Deepak Agrawal, Sree Sudhir, Mahesh Sindbandge, Mandeep, Praneeth Kumar, Divz, Omkar, Ram