Structures that have stood the test of time

Structures that have stood the test of time

Maratoor Hudey

We were about to leave Martur village in Shahabad taluk in Kalaburagi district after attending a friend’s wedding when a boy accompanying the marriage party climbed a nearby tall structure. Excited, he invited others to join. While the local youth were wondering if the boy had discovered something new in the structure that dates back to hundreds of years, Hunachappa Kunnur, an elderly man from the village, said that the hude (local Kannada word for watchtower) once saved their village from enemies.
His words intrigued us and without any delay, we parked our bikes and started listening to the story of the hude. Explaining the historical background of the hude, the man made us go around the village to understand the importance of the watchtower, the life of the Nizams, Palegars and the Desai family who managed these watchtowers and the incidents linked to them.

Martur village is 15 km from Kalaburagi city. Though it is a gram panchayat, it lacks basic facilities like transport. But a stroll in the village can excite anyone interested in history and historical monuments. The watchtowers located in the four directions of the village have interesting tales stored in them.

Hudes, found in most of the villages in North Karnataka, are considered as symbols of history. Resembling a round-shaped mini-fort, these century-old fortified structures are called as hudevu, hudya, huda and vude locally. They had served as watchtowers, protecting the villagers from invaders during the reign of the British and Palegars. The word hude also finds a mention in the Kannada-English dictionary compiled by a British officer, Reeves, in 1858.

Soldiers or guards used to stand on these towers and keep a vigil on the enemies through the small openings throughout the day. They would alert their chieftain the moment they smelt some suspicious activity or enemy attack. These alerts would help the army face the enemy more preparedly. Those who used to keep a watch standing on these watchtowers came to be known as ‘Hudedararu’. Even today, some families have Huded as their surname.

When any ruler built a fort, tall watchtowers were constructed. The towers would be built using mud and stones and would have one door and big steps to reach the top. Only trained persons and no common citizen could enter these towers. However, most of these towers do not find much mention in history books and so, a detailed information on their construction is not available.

Some say that these towers not only served the defence purpose but also acted as a storehouse of food grains that were used during droughts and even as a locker to keep valuable items during wartime. Some others say that older people, children and women were given a safe shelter here to protect them from enemies whenever a war broke. Structures called ganj, which resembled these towers, were used to store water, which would be supplied to the village whenever necessary. After Hunachappa took us around the village, he showed us the hude in front of his house.

“Once upon a time, this hude was quite strong. But as years passed by, it lost its strength. The structure which was like a strong fort has now become a relic of the past,” he laments. He said that concrete measures should be taken to protect these hudes and the younger generation must realise the importance of these historical structures that have stood the test of time.

(Translated by Divyashri Mudakavi)