Crumbling fortress of Lingsugur

When we talk of an island and a fort in Karnataka, the immediate association is of Srirangapatna. But, the remote and virtually unknown territory of Raichur district has a unique island fortress on a hill. We are referring to Jaladurga, which literally translates into a fort on water in Kannada. Hardly 13 kms northwest of the dusty town of Lingsugur, the Krishna river flowing east forks around a moderate hill and the two tributaries join again further to create a beautiful island hill.

When rulers held sway...
The area being contiguous with the Raichur belt, has extensive wastelands of stones and boulders amidst a dense shrubland. It is the ideal setting for a fort, because the approach from surrounding areas is difficult and a panoramic view from the hill top makes this location ideal for a fortress. The place gained importance historically centuries ago when a solid fort was built and successive rulers held their sway at different points in time. But, there are no clear records in history that says the fort was once a stronghold of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. Today, the fortress is in a bad shape with a few walls here and a bastion there. Nevertheless, the beauty of the place has not been lost thanks to the place being farflung and unheard of.
Landing here after an hour-long arduous journey for a mere 13 kms on a heavily potholed road, I was met by an old man, Lakshman, who offered to show around. As we walked for a kilometre out of town to the west, we could see on either side a few tombs of the kings of yore. They had no names or elegies. As we neared the first entrance arch, Lakshman said it was actually the third, the fort having had the usual seven gates, many of which had crumbled.
The thin trail leads to the Sangameshwara Matha before which a path to the right goes down to a temple of Yellamma. The shrine is simple with the goddess’ face in a fiery red. Bunches of glass bangles, especially green ones offered by the pilgrims hang all over the tree branches. Further down, the path leads to the banks of the river Krishna. This is not sandy but full of boulders smoothened by the splash of the river water. This place is called Mandhana Maduvu. According to local belief, a box-like stone is hidden in the river which can be seen during summer. This is said to contain a lakh of the verses of the great saint Basavanna and are yet to be made known to the world!  

Jaladurga reserve forest
Beyond the Sangameshwara Math, a steep gradient goes up to a view point built by the Forest department. In fact, the entire area falls under the Jaladurga reserve forest that is home to wildlife such as the fox, hyena, hare and mongoose. Small time hunting for game most often goes unnoticed here.

Great views of the Krishna
This spot not only commands a magnificient view of the river gorge of Krishna and the extensive boulder strewn hills but is also a good resting place midway. Much higher, a solid bastion perches on the northern edge high above the river. This was from where the prisoners and culprits were pushed down to the river. The near vertical drop looks dangerous enough to even dare to look down. The trail turns left and climbs up with the Sangameshwara temple in a depression on the left. The top of the fort once had a palace and a cellar too. An underground escape route also existed which is now covered by stones and wild growth. The Narayanpur dam in the far west, the blue river bifurcating into two down below and the lush green slopes to the east all make for picturesque views.   
On the way down is the Sangameshwara temple with Saracenic spires and a gadduge. A small stone here has an inscription in Urdu followed by lines in Devanagari script. Near the town of Jaladurga, a temple has been built recently for Hanuman.

Getting there: Lingsugur, 13kms away is well served by buses. The nearest railway station is Raichur, about 70 kms away. The first bus from Lingsugur leaves at 9 am.uses ply from Jaladurga at 3 pm & 7 pm.

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