The legends of Midigeshi durga

The legends of Midigeshi durga

Driving along the highway towards the north of Bangalore, one is bound to come across many hills scattered across a dry and an otherwise uneventful landscape.

Look carefully and you will find that most of these hills have some form of a fortress in different stages of ruin, or an interesting legend that makes it worth visiting. 

There’s one such hill fort at a village called Midigeshi, north of Madhugiri. As you drive towards Pavagada, a huge granite hill with what looks like two pillars on top of it appears on the left. Upon closer inspection, it reveals itself to be a massif of two hills rising from the midst of fields. A narrow road further to the left leads to the base of the hill. 

Locals told me that it was Nagi Reddy, a chieftain, who built an imposing fort here during the Vijayanagar era. Nagi Reddy’s wife had unusually long hair that touched her ankles. She was nicknamed ‘Midigeshi’ (in Kannada, midi is ankle and keshi means hair). Over the years, the fort and even the village, acquired the name of Midigeshi.

After Nagi Reddy, Chikkappa Gowda conquered the fort after losing possession of Madhugiri and Channarayana durga in battles. In 1761, Haider Ali won the fort and ruled it for a few years before it was annexed by the Marathas in 1767. By 1774, Tipu Sultan took over. Finally it was conquered by the British forces under Lord Cornwallis but was abandoned as it had nothing in terms of wealth. 

The massive fort of Midigeshi had the usual seven gates and several mantapas in the field around it, but many of them have fallen apart.

The approach to the hill is from the eastern side beside the temple of Venkataramana. The temple was built by Nagi Reddy. The trail going up the hill passes through a couple of doorways and ends abruptly at the base of a daunting rock face. The climb is tricky.

After this midsection is an even more steep rocky patch but a flight of steps, nearly 150 of them, carved into the rock makes it somewhat easier. 

An interesting legend associated with the fort features a damsel called Chikkamallamma. Once when she was attacked , she took refuge inside the fortress and prayed to God to save her. The rock above her split open allowing her to escape after which she jumped into the fire in front of the temple of Malleshwara below. She became a legend, and in her memory, an image was carved on the rock next to the steps on the hill. However, today the image can hardly be seen, as it has faded away.

Structures atop the fort

At the top of the fort is a ruined mosque with three arches and two minarets with a fine latticed design. They each have a circular stairs leading to the top. In the vicinity, a temple of Hanuman can also be found. As you walk further west, more structures, probably meant for the storage of ammunition, can be found. A couple of dhones, named Musure dhone and Kannerammana dhone, with ample water are also seen. Two large circular structures for storing oil and ghee are still in good shape. The town has quite a few temples and it will take another half day to cover all of them.

Getting there

Midigeshi hill fort, about 122 km from Bangalore, can be reached by driving towards Pavagada, beyond Madhugiri for 20 km. Mofussil buses stop at the village. A local guide would be useful.

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