Mudgal's crumbling fortress
Raichur district in the northern part of Karnataka is known for its arid landscape, full of boulders and rocky hills.
In spite of the perennial Krishna and Tungabhadra flowing through the region, the vegetation here is restricted to sparse jungles and dry bushes.
Notwithstanding the lack of natural resources, the area gained a lot of importance centuries ago as the scene for many historic battles. The high hills that dot the landscape were the ideal spots for building forts and royal residences.
Mudgal, an eponym of a saint, with a massive fortress, though dilapidating, is one such landmark. The fort that sits away on a hillock is worth a visit. The high rising hill in rocky tiers paved for the construction of royal houses at the summit, surrounded by sprawling acres guarded by a series of walls.
Blend of architectural styles
As you approach the summit from the northeast side, the towering fort walls built with large-sized stones come into view. The deep and wide moat surrounding the fort full of water adds life to the otherwise dull exteriors. The bastions look like a ship floating on the water. The entrance reached over a narrow bridge on the moat is imposing with barbican towers on either side complete with the guard rooms and windows.
It is a point of interest to note that the Hindu and Islamic architectural styles have been blended appealingly. While the outer walls have sculptures of gods like the Hanuman, the arch of the gate has a Saracenic touch. The passage leads through another gate called Kati Darwaza, which has iron spikes to intimidate intruders. A whole settlement lives inside the premises much as the subjects did in the days of the kings.
Walking past the shanty houses, I scaled a slope to a wide undulating rocky plateau. The views from here are extensive. The range of hills in the south stand like a defensive barrier while the crumbled ramparts mark the periphery. The sight not to miss here is the array of boulders in odd shapes. The most amazing of them all is a heap of pillow-shaped boulders stacked together.
The top of the hill with the tower-like structures is further west, but the approach is tricky with a deep ravine separating it from the surroundings. On the way to the top is a huge magazine for gunpowder. The summit was where the royalty lived in the bygone days.
Despite the extravagance that seems to have gone into building this fort, not much of its history can be gathered at the site, except that its existence goes back to the period of Yadavas of Devagiri in the 12th century. From the time the Bahamani kings took over, a series of wars ensued with the kings of Vijayanagar till about 14th century. At some point in history, Mudgal was also a part of the Kakatiya kingdom of present-day Andhra Pradesh.
The citadel, also called Bala Hisar, was probably built during the Bahamani rule to serve as the royal residence. Most of the structures have fallen apart over the years and all that remains is a small enclosure with tall towers. Being the highest point of the hill, the scenery from here of the vast countryside beyond the walls of the fort makes the climb worth it. At the western end is a large cistern called Hikrani Baoli. This enormous bowl of about 400 ft holds rainwater all through the year. The fort has another entrance in the west. The walls at many places look cyclopean with the stones neatly placed without mortar.
Mudgal can be reached by a bus from Bangalore. If you are driving, then take the NH 4 up to Chitradurga and NH 13 via Koppal. The nearest railway station is Bagalkot ( 30 kms). The nearest airport is Belgaum (200 kms approximately).