Six months on, Chikkajala monument yet to be rebuilt

Six months on, Chikkajala monument yet to be rebuilt

Glorious past in a shambles

It is almost six months since the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) pulled down the compound wall of a monument, popularly known as Chikkajala ‘fort’, in December last year, as part of road-widening works on NH-4 en route the Devanahalli airport.

But the compound of the complex housing a residential space, a temple, mantapam, kalyani (pond), etc, and spread over more than two acres, stands unattended with no protection provided to the structures inside. Locals say the 200-year-old monument is now “unsafe”.

Dr S K Aruni, Deputy Director of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), said there was a sculpture of Gandaberunda (a two-headed mythological bird) in the fort to prove that that the builder followed the architectural style that existed during the reign of Mysore kings.

Krishnappa S, a resident of Chikkajala, said the fort had been there since his great grandfather’s days, and elders said it was built by a Palegar (local king). The fort complex provided shelter for people who arrived from far-off places. For the same reason, it is even now called Dharmachatra (free shelter), he added.

Sureshappa N, another resident, said the family of an “inmate” called Kote Thimmakka occupied the fort for many decades. Around 18 years ago, the old woman was murdered and her family has now taken exception to the NHAI’s move to demolish the fort compound. A related matter is also pending in the court. But since the issue is unresolved, there is none to take care of the monument.

Sources in the Bangalore North taluk office said the NHAI had demolished the front portion of the fort after obtaining the NoC from the tahsildar.

Senior NHAI officials said they had gone by the government documents and demolished the fort wall.

Suresh Moona, historian and founder of An Association for Reviving Awareness of Bangalore Heritage (Aarambh), said there were many such monuments lying unattended to in Bangalore and if nobody is taking care of these structures, at least the local civic body should come forward to protect them. 

Gathering of local public opinion and creating awareness on protecting heritage sites and structures will go a long way in this regard, he added.

“Not a fort for sure”

ICHR Deputy Director S K Aruni said the structure located next to NH-4 in Chikkajala cannot be termed a fort. It’s nothing but a private fort (called Wada) constructed by a rich business family and for the same reason, it has a house and private gardens. There was a practice of building such structures by a community called Guttedars during the Nizam period, he added.

A senior official with Archeological Survey of India said the monument does not come under their purview. Deputy Director of the State Department of Archaeology H M Siddanagoudar said the structure at Chikkajala fell under the category of unprotected monuments and it doesn’t come under the purview of the State Department of Archaeology. “There are around 20,000 such structures across the State and with the existing manpower and funds, we just cannot manage all of them.

However, we are forming heritage clubs at different levels of administration, namely district, taluk and gram panchayat, so that residents, in association with NGOs, take up the cause of safeguarding such monuments,” he said.

He also called upon the NHAI to rebuild the fort wall so that heritage of the structure inside can be protected.

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