Oasis nestled amidst three hills

Oasis nestled amidst three hills

Oasis nestled amidst three hills

Travel to Chandravalli, a lesser known neighbour of the famous Chitradurga Fort and enjoy the taste of history, writes Rijutha Jaganathan.

Chitradurga comes from the word Chitrakaldurga which means picturesque fort in kannada.

The town, which takes its name from the marvellous fort it houses, has many other treasures.

Chandravalli is one such treasure. Located just 3 km from the fort, Chandravalli is a valley formed by three hills.

There is a subterranean monastery called Ankali Mutt which is semilunar in shape and is located between two monoliths.

An ancient monastery

The monastery was inhabited right from the Iron Age. Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva and Veerashaiva monks have occupied Chandravalli from ages.

Archaeological findings show that rulers from many dynasties like Chalukya, Hoysala and Kadamba used these caves.

Chandravalli is also a prehistoric site. Archaeologists have found evidence that the Satavahanas who are considered as the first of the royal dynasties of Karnataka inhabited this region.

The locals strongly believe that the Pandavas also lived in these caves during their vanavasa (dwelling in the forest).

A short drive from the fort will take you away from the crowded streets of the town and into the serene Chandravalli.

A clean lake surrounded by hillocks will welcome you.

The lake supplies drinking water and hence bathing and washing is prohibited. Yet you will see some local lads splashing around gaily.

A short walk up a steep slope and then a short trek will take you to the entrance of the Ankali Mutt.

It takes a while to grasp the fact that the common pillared hall houses an entrance to a 80 feet deep cave. We engaged a guide who warned us that it was going to be a challenging descent.

Armed with torches, a camera, and a bottle of water, we urged him to take us into the caves.

The cave has two doorways.

The first is the Nandi Dwara and the second is the Ganesha Dwara. The first cave is the waiting room.

There is a stone settee created for those who visited the monks.

The second cave houses a linga and platforms with intricate decorations meant for the monks to sit and meditate.

There are ornamental niches in all caves for lamps.

Ingenious minds

The third cave is the bathroom. There is a tank which serves as bath tub. It has a water inlet.

Through ingenious architecture, water that collected on the roof of the cave  seeped through the rocks and finally reached the tank in the cave.

There is also a stone platform for the monks to have yoga nidra after a refreshing bath.

The bathroom has three doorways. One doorway leads to a cave which has wall paintings. Most of it has faded and only a few patches are visible.

The paintings were done with natural dyes. In this cave, there is also an ornamental bowl meant to store vibhuti (holy ash).

The next cave has a beautiful simhasana from where the chief monk gave darshan to his devotees and offered solutions to their problems.

This cave too has wall paintings but the relief work on the walls has been defaced. The simhasana itself is decorated with paintings and filigree but it is not in a good condition.

This cave leads to the bedroom of the chief monk. There is a window next to the stone bed which overlooks the simhasana.

A secret haven

This cave has two exits, a simhadwara which leads to the khazana (treasury) and a makaradwara which leads to a meeting room and to the khazana.

This is the most difficult part of the caves.

The doorways are small and narrow. One has to squeeze and scrape through them. The makaradwara leads to the belly of the cave which is 80 feet below the entrance level. This was the secret meeting place of kings.

The khazana is located atop a shrine dedicated to Subramanya which has now been destroyed.

The khazana itself is easy to miss as it is a natural hollow formed by rocks.

This cave is full of bats whose eyes gleamed red in the light of our torches.

The guide then led us to the first cave through another short route.

Once outside, we revel in the afternoon sun and take deep gasps to fill our lungs with fresh air.

The guide then showed us the kitchen and the store room which are now completely ruined.

He also took us around the monolith which has been split into two by lightning.

Behind the monolith is a natural hawamahal. The strategic location of the hollowed stone makes it a cool paradise.

Next to the entrance of the Ankali Mutt is a small cave which houses nine lingas. Five of them are believed to have been worshipped by the Pandavas.

Chandravalli is an important archaeological site and deserves to be given importance by casual tourists and history buffs.

Do visit Chandravalli when you visit its famous neighbour, the Kallinakote (stone fort).

Chitradurga is well connected to Bangalore, Shimoga, Hubli and Bellary by road.