Definitely not Japanese or Chinese! It’s our own fort to reckon with at Tamilnadu!
The Maratha King, Shivaji called it the ‘most impregnable fort in India’. The British called it the ‘Troy of the East’. Every religion, race worth their salt in India has ruled from this fort!
Gingee Fort encompasses three hills, the fortwalls 60 feet thick run 13 Kms covering an area of 11 Sq.Kms. The highest hill ‘Rajagiri’ to the west is 800 ft. high and protected by a 80 ft. wide moat – once filled with crocodiles with high thick stone walls. ‘Krishnagiri’ or ‘Rani Hill’ is to the north. ‘Chandrayandurg’ is to the south-east. These three hills complete the ‘Gingee Fort Complex’. All the hills are seperate and self contained citadels. They have temples, mosques, halls, palaces – seven storey high and fresh water resovoirs, high up! They also have prison cells, granaries, palaces and halls for celebrations! They were harvesting rainwater and had pottery pipes pumping and irrigating water and storing it for hot summer months!
Here, I will take you through Krishnagiri or Rani Hill. My apologies I could climb only this small hillock due to the paucity of time – I had only 2 hours with me… landing at Gingee at 3:45 pm. Rajagiri will take you at least 5 – 6 hours. Gingee Fort Complex would be a tiring two day excrusion among the ruins. This place is a spectacle during sunrise and sunsets! My continuation article on the other two hills will be when I find the time, the energy and the inclination to visit this trekking challenge area. I had clubbed this place when i visited Tiruvanamalai – the epic temple town of Tamilnadu. But this place beckons me every now and then. A challenge which will be completed ASAP!
The Kon Dynasty laid foundation to this fort in 1190. The Chola Dynasty built the fort during the 9th Century. Kurumbars modified this fort during 13th Century. In 1638, the Bijapur Sultanate took over this fort from the Vijayanagar Kings. The Nayakas, the lieutenants of Vijayanagar? Kings hugely developed this fort. The Marathas under Shivaji took over this fort in 1677. The Mughals took this fort under their rein in 1690! Raja Ram, Shivaji’s son had taken refuge fighting the Mughals from this fort. The French ruled from this place from 1750, until the British took over this region in 1762. The British ruled and made Rani Hill as their bastion. Hyderali during the Mysore Anglo War had briefly taken over this impregnable fort from the British for a while. Aurangzeb had given Gingee to his brave Rajput Commander, Raja Swaroop Singh. . . on his death Raja Tej Singh his son of 15 years had laid seize to this fort antigonizing the Mugals, The Nawab of Arcot – the Mughal representative south of India and the self proclaimed young Rajput king fought a bitter battle for seven years. The Rajput King had just 700 men against the Nawab’s thousands. There are numerous ballads, songs, plays on this brave feat of the young Rajput king even to this day! Raja Tej Singh ultimately dies a tragic hero’s death in the battle field and is cremated with honours, his young queen too ends her life on his funeral pyre – a symbolic ‘Sati’ prelavent those days! It’s believed that the 7 Goddess take care and protects Gingee and a custom of sacrificing two buffaloes existed, but i am not sure it exists now.
Going back in history, this place, Gingee was a living place of Jains during 6 AD and earlier. A particular sect of Urdu speaking Muslim called ‘Navaitha’ originate from this region homing on to a nearby village called ‘Minambur’. Gingee today has a population of about 30,000 people and belongs to the Villupuram District.
Gingee Fort was declared as a National Monument in 1921 and the Archeological Society of India takes care of it. It’s a protected monument. This place is open from 9 am to 5 pm to tourists. The caretakers extend the time by an hour to facilitate the tourists. Theres a small entry fee to enter the place. Visitors are stopped at Rani Hill or Krishnagiri around 4 pm. This beautiful impregnable fort of natural beauty which is in ruins today is a great trekking place to check your physical stamina. The view from top is breathtaking. The edifices are beautiful. The setting sun adds it’s glorious tinge in making this place a gorgeous sight. Sunrise views from the bottom of the hills are breathtaking too! Caution is advised during rainy season, the rock steps are slippery. Summers and high noons are scorching. It’s advised to start early with sunshade protection and scale the Rajagiri first and post lunch in the afternoon scale the Krishnagiri or Rani Hill. You will definitely have a good night’s sleep!
Gingee is situated on the Bangalore – Pondicherry road. Marking the distance map Gingee is 65 kms from Pondicherry. The nearest railway station is Villupuram and Thindivanam, which is 28 kms. Tiruvanamalai, the famous temple town of Tamilnadu is 38 kms from this place. Roads are state highways and in good condition. A lot of buses connect to this place. The distances from Gingee to the following places are as follows…. Bangalore 240 Kms (5 hours). Chennai 160 Kms (3 hrs) and Vellore 90 kms (2 hrs).
One can take this Tamilnadu trip of visiting Vellore Fort, Tiruvanamalai Temple, Gingee Fort and proceed to Pondicherry for a long weekend. Make Tiruvanamalai Temple Town a overnight stopover destination. Satanur Dam is also very close to Tiruvanamalai 30 Kms enroute to Bangalore. It’s summer and holiday times! Being in the sun definitely gives you. . . your dose of Vitamin D. Traveling this region, carry cash and your picnic basket of goodies with enough water. Food available is Tamilnadu South Indian cuisine. Own transport is advantageous.
Happy Summer Holidays! Have fun in the Sun!
-Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography