Remains of the day

HISTORY

Remains of the day

A forgotten past: The imposing Nidgal hill and the fort. Photos by the author

Nidgal Betta, with its relics and ruins including many crumbling structures, has much to offer to historians, researchers, tourists, trekkers and archaeologists. Also, it is home to some rare species of flora and fauna.

This hill with a lot of historic significance is at a distance of 25 kms from Pavagada, labelled as a backward taluk, in the district of Tumkur. The Nidgal Fort area, once called Kalanjana Giri, Kalanjana Durga and Neelavathi was a prosperous town and a capital under the reign of the Gangas, Nolambas, Hoysalas, Cholas, Mysore Wodeyars and Sultans. Following the decline of the Vijayanagara empire, the Amara Nayakas or Palegars who came to prominence ruled this province either as independent chieftains or as tributaries till 1798 with Veera Thimmanna Nayaka as the last Palegar.

Architectural beauty

Standing tall in the midst of a nearly 60-km radius of mountain ranges, the hill with its unique fort, makes for a grand picture. The huge fort, built with heavy-sized stones, has seven portals with stone idols of door keepers (dwarapalakas) carved on either side. The rest houses and the stone mantapas all reflect the military readiness of the then rulers. The citadel has innumerable caves and underground passages for safety. Nidgal is home to many architectural marvels with carvings on stone pillars which portray wild animals like lions, wolves, elephants, bears, serpents etc. You can also spot engravings of rishis in meditative postures, chariots in a drawn position and other innumerable designs which all tell tales of yore. At every hundred yards, you will spot a temple or a basadi with many stone edicts inside them that speak about the builder or the donor of the same. Nidgal is a land of countless number of temples of multiple gods and goddesses of Shaiva and Vaishnava sects.

A stone idol with carvings. Photos by the authorApart from architectural wonders such as temples and forts, the region also has Jain basadis and masjids, all in a dilapidated state with moss growing all over and haunted by bats. A few prominent places of worship that have been renovated with prayers being held even today are the Lakshminarasimha Swamy temple, Veerabhadra Swamy temple and Parshwanatha Jaina basadi. On the last Monday of Shravana, the entire hill is full of pilgrims and tourists who throng every temple and make a beeline to the peak of the hill.

However, mutilated stone idols of Nandi, the peetas of Shivalinga, Hanuman and other snake stones strewn across the thorny bushes on either side of the paths make for a sorry spectacle. At every hundred steps that lead to the summit, you can spot water bodies, some small, some large, some dried up and some with stagnant water covered with bushes, plants and creepers. Today’s Nidgal area has two tiny hamlets where people still follow the traditional type of agriculture and cultivate ragi, jowar, flowers and vegetables on small plots. Water is supplied to these fields from the century old wells by way of the picotta system. Cattle and sheep rearing provide another means of livelihood to poor farmers who find themselves answering curious questions from travellers and passers-by about local history.

Panoramic views of landscape

While scaling the hill, at every step, you will be treated to beautiful panoramic views of the landscape below and the hill scape around. The ruined fort palace with eroded granite structures, rusting canon that remain at the top have all seen better and glorious days. The rich flora and fauna of the deciduous forest here presents another attraction to the visitor. Though rain dependent, the region has large, tall trees of many varieties making it a region of dense vegetation. The landscape is interspersed with wild flowers of myriad colours making it picture postcard pretty. Wildlife like the cheetah, wolf, bear, rabbit, peacock abound in this forest. In spite of centuries of enemy invasions in the past and decades of aggressive treasure hunters raiding the area, Nidgal Fort still stands. It is an area of immense tourist potential, and need to developed along the line of Hampi.

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