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Bandalli's forgotten fort

Last updated: 28 November, 2011
R Vishwanath 17:45 IST

There is something really striking about the hill fort at Bandallidurga. It is probably one of the most evocative forts you would have ever seen.

Bandalli is a small village situated about 25 km from Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district. Very little is known about the history of the fort. The initial path is through paddy fields and after wading through lantana and thorny bushes, one reaches the foothills. The final path to the fort is precariously steep.

The hill is home to innumerable species of birds. If you are lucky, you can hear elephants at a distance or even see a herd passing by. It takes not less than three - four hours to reach the hillfort.

The fort is protected by three levels of walls on the trekkable side and also by the natural structure of the huge rock it’s built on. On top of the hill are a few stone structures, though it is not really clear why they were built. (They may have served as quarters for troops or the king himself).

The fort is built at a height of 1,300 m above sea level, on one of the highest hills in the area. You can get a panoramic view of the surroundings from the fort. No wonder the a fort was built here, from where whoever built it could keep watch over a large number of villages. The views are absolutely stunning, and one of the best I have seen in the region.

The north and eastern faces of the hill are meant only for those with a quest for adventure. This path is, however, certainly more interesting and will give you an idea of the intricacies of this fort’s architecture. The fort was protected by a unique natural defense system. The final few metres to reach the top are over a slanting boulder.

According to our guide, in times of attack, this boulder was smeared with oil. Any attempt to cross the boulder would result in the person slipping and falling into the kalyani (well) below. There are stone mantapas or structures on top of the hillock. At many places, the walls have been vandalised and pits have been dug by those looking for hidden treasures.

The kalyani, hidden amid the bushes, has cold water even in the peak of summer. From the ramparts of the fort, you can spot the hills of Malai Mahadeshwara Hills, Biligiri Rangana Betta, etc and thick forests all around. The sunset from the ramparts of the fort is a sight to behold. The descent is thrilling, with a part of it literally along the nearly-vertical face of the rock.

Wading through the thorny plants and tall grass leads you towards the temple, which is a little more than a kilometer to the north of the fort. The temple is dedicated to the local god, Bettanayya. The temple is built in the gap between two boulders. There is a huge nandi (bull) in front of the temple.

Apart from the temple, one can proceed towards the waterhole about a km north of the temple situated amid shola forest. Tread cautiously, because elephants from the Chikkayalur reserve forest nearby frequent this waterhole. It is advisable to reach the village before it gets dark. It is advisable get a local person to accompany you to the hillock.

It is pity that such a wonderful monument so close to Bangalore and Mysore lies lost in sheer neglect!

A major portion of the fort that bears testimony to the illustrious past of the rulers of Bandalli needs restoration at the earliest.

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