Laying siege to the fort

HERITAGE

Laying  siege to the fort

This fort has captured popular imagination by way of Kannada movies. The famed Chitradurga's seven-tiered fort is one of the most well-known forts of the State and draws a huge number of tourists. The fort has many stories of valour to tell, of kings and chieftains who ruled from its ramparts.

This historic fort is a veritable open air museum and was the stronghold of the Palegars or the local chieftains. However, today, the fort has been reduced to a poor state, thanks to encroachments, and is now struggling to hold its own. Every passing day sees a new concrete structure raising its head in the fort’s vicinity. This is marring the beauty of the fort. Several pleas made by Chitradurga residents seeking that the  encroachments be stopped have fallen on deaf ears.

The Chitradurga fort has a long history. From 1568 AD to 1779 AD (nearly 211 years), the fort has been ruled by fourteen chieftains (palegars). The first palegar was Chitranayaka. Among the other chieftains, the names of Bharamanna Nayaka and Raja Madakari Nayaka stand out.

The seven-tiered fort occupied over a thousand acres of land. Slowly, the many structures in the fort complex were encroached upon, and today, the fort area is on a mere 300 acres of land. If immediate measures are not taken to check illegal encroachments, in a few years, the fort will be a pale shadow of what it once was.

Wall to stem encroachments

The district administration and the Archaeological Department have been making many efforts from the past several years to evict people who have encroached upon the fort area.

A wall has also been constructed at a cost of Rs 80 lakh around the fort to ensure that no one encroaches upon the area. And yet, the departments  concerned have found it difficult to evict those inside the fort and provide rehabilitation for them.

Among the 135 families that lived in the fort premises at one point in time, as many as 15 families are still there. To ensure that these families are rehabilitated, the Department of Archaeology has sanctioned a grant to the district administration. But, no concrete rehabilitation plan has been made by the district administration as yet.

The Central government has implemented the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 in order to ensure that no construction work is undertaken in the vicinity of national heritage and protected monuments. According to this law, a 100- metre radius around the fort has been declared a prohibited area, and another 200 metres beyond have been declared a restricted area.

After this Act was implemented, the Archaeological Department has conducted a complete survey of the area and has issued notices to owners of 27 buildings that have come up in the 100 and 200 m area. It has also indicated that no new construction activity can take place in the region. “When it comes to eviction of encroachments, the National Monuments Authority will take action. If any building needs to be torn down, the designated officials of the Central government will take action,” explain Department officials.

Proposals yet to take off

Some proposals and surveys that were chalked out to spruce up the fort premises have not taken off. The sound and light show that was planned as a measure to draw tourists has still not been implemented. The Tourism Department has already sanctioned Rs one crore towards the same, to the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation. The road that leads up to the fort needs attention. The narrow lanes in the town are in poor shape as well.

A survey was conducted in the recent past to examine the possibility of a direct road that links the National Highway 4 and the fort. That has not been implemented, either.

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