Unravel Nijagal's secrets

Unravel Nijagal's secrets

A drive along the national highway towards Tumkur from Bangalore brings into view quite a few towering granite hills on both sides. Many of them have a shrine or a fort or even both.

The hills with dilapidated temples and the forts in a state of ruin may not arouse the interest of a passing traveller. But if you explore these hills and delve deeper, an engrossing story or two may surface.

The town of Nijagal, 53 km from Bangalore beyond Dobbspet on the NH4, has a huge hill with steep slopes and enormous boulders. As one passes by, one’s attention is immediately drawn to the rocky outcrop on the left. To see more interesting sights that the hill has to offer, you have to cross both the highway and the railway track to the left and follow the mud path towards the west.

Initially, the trail is slippery because of the gravel and sand on the gradient but soon transforms into a stony stairway. As you cross the first entrance, a lovely carving of Hanuman on a boulder greets you. The path further leads to a level ground where the main hill soars high, right in front with a path leading to the left. If you tread the same path, you will reach a green pond with the shrine of Siddeshwara and the dargah of Syed Pasha a little further.

Walking past a lovely image of Ganesha on the ground, you will find the path leading to an old temple amidst the rocks. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and crowned with a simple tower, the shrine has two fairly large pillared halls. The pillars themselves are leaning and precarious. The sanctum is empty and has been dug up by vandals in search of treasure. But the doorways have a series of well-carved dwarapalakas. Adjacent to this is another shrine for Lord Shiva. The niches above the roof have stucco images. The temple is crumbling slowly and needs to be reinforced.

To trace the path back from the main hill, there is a flight of high steps supported by a handrail. The vast plateau at the top affords a bird’s eye view of the surroundings. The crumbling fort walls and edifices are all that remain of what was once a magnificent fortress. Few would ever think that this hilly town had a place in history and a battle raged here a couple of centuries ago. The fort, built by Mysore king Chikkadevaraja in 1698, came into prominence during the latter part of the 18th century when the Maratha rulers headed down south to expand their territory.

Led by Madhava Rao I, the forces moved towards Srirangapatna to annex Mysore ruled by Hyder Ali. Plundering and conquering strategic towns on the way, they stopped at Nijagal to conquer the fort. Sardar Khan, a feudatory of Hyder, in charge of the fort at Nijagal, was taken by surprise when the Marathas with the help of the famed Madakari Nayaka and his men attacked by night and conquered the fortress. Much later, as the strength of the Marathas waned, their hold on the fort slipped too. In later years, as the fort was abandoned, the structures began to crumble slowly.

The hill top has a cave temple dedicated to Siddappa (Shiva) formed by leaning rocks. A path from the left leads to another cave with the dargah of Syed Karim. It is a cool place with a pond called ‘Siddara dhone’. Beyond the shrine, the rocky slope with steps hewn on it leads to the summit. A couple of old structures which were used to store arms and foodgrains and a fine mantapa dot the way.

At the summit is a dilapidated structure with pillars, supposedly a palace that once existed. The views from here are awesome. One can also look for caverns formed by shapely boulders. Whether you are a history buff, an archaeologist or just a traveller, a visit to Nijagal hill fort is definitely worth making.

Getting there

Drive on NH4 to Dobbspet (50 km) and proceed 2 km more to reach Rayapalya. Vehicles can be parked at the hotels. Cross the rail track and follow the mud road westward.

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