Bagepalli's charming fort beckons

A sleepy quaint town tucked away among the hills around Bage­palli of Chikballapur taluk certainly deserves an exploration.

PICTURE-POSTCARD PERFECT: The fort at GN Palya. (Below) One of the buildings in the town and (left) Swords belonging to Gumma Nayaka, a local chieftain.                           photos by the authorThe place is called Gummanayakana Palya, GN Palya for short. Though this town has remained unknown and not spoken about, it sure has some interesting sights for the discerning traveller. A strong fort that is still in good shape, a lovely lake  at its base and an ancient temple across the bridge all make it a charming destination. 

As I drove to this place from Bagepalli, the moderately high hill fort was obscured from view by lesser hillocks and rocky outcrops.

The village with a few huts does not impress one. But if you are on the look out for something interesting, you will find a fine temple with well-carved pillars on the left. It is a pity that it has been neglected as a place of worship and is instead being used by the villagers as a cowshed. Giving it a quick glance, I went ahead to scale  the rocky hill crowned with a fort.

The hill is about 200 ft high but the town itself is protected by a ring of  taller hills except on the eastern side. A thin trail led to the base of the hill. Along the way is a small shrine of Maramma, revered by the local people. The approach to the fort is rather tricky with tall barricades on all the sides.

The exact path with steps being covered in bushes, the only way to climb, was along the rocky surface on which a solid round bastion stands on the left.

Gaining access through a breach in the wall, I came to a little enclosure with a temple. From here, steps led me through a hidden passage to the second entrance. At the top, a couple of tall boulders stand stuck together like a tower.

The few clefts in the rock have clear water. As I ambled along the wall, I passed by as many as ten strong bastions on different sides. Some of them are circular and some squarish in appearance. The views from the top are superb. Soaring hills on all sides (but for the east) seem to guard this little hillock. Down below, to the south west, is an enchanting green lake. 

Stepping down to the base I found a very artistic structure, in ruins, though. The tiny chambers adorned with intricate trellis work and arches seemed to be the abode of the queens. The structure has suffered damage because of its exposure to the elements and needs to be protected.
 
As I wondered who had lived in this beautiful fort and what its history was, I met a local, Rajanna Nayak who shared his knowledge with me. Long time ago, the Nayakas of Srisailam in Andhra landed here, during their wanderings. They decided to settle down here and earn their livelihood doing odd jobs.

Legend has it that one day, a boy lying in the sun was seen protected by the hood of a cobra. The local rulers realised he would become a ruler some day. The boy did grow up to become Vasantha Nayaka, who ruled  the small territory around.

One of the chief ’s descendants was Gumma Nayaka who named the place after him.

Rajanna who also claims to be a later descendant feels proud to show the three swords of the erstwhile rulers that he still preserves. One of the houses here still reminds you of palace architecture of old times.

The lake on the western side of the hill is charming too. Once upon a time, boating was the pastime here. Recently the forest department has developed the place as Nisargadhama with a park and children’s play area. They have also built a forest rest house here. 

A bridge across the lake leads to the temple of Sethu Narasimhaswamy. The temple of Srirama and Hanuman has huge idols. A choultry is also available for devotees to stay overnight.

Getting there

GN Palya can be reached from Bagepalli (102km from Bangalore on Hyderabad road-NH 7 ). Drive on Chelur road for 16 km and go left to travel another seven km. Autorickshaws can be hired from Bagepalli. For stay at the forest rest house, contact the RFO at Bagepalli/Chikballapur.

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