After the fast trek to Devarayana Durga, we wanted more action. One of my friends pointed out that we could do another short trek as we had time. We didn’t want to waste our time travelling long, so we settled for Madhugiri fort, which was around 40kms from Devarayana Durga. The road to Madhugiri is in bad condition and it slowed us down. We reached the fort at 10:00AM.
Facts: Madhugiri Betta (Madhugiri Hill) is the largest in Asia and second largest in the world with a height of 3930 ft. A fort was built on top of this hill which is known as Madhugiri Fort. On top of the hill/fort is a ruined Gopalakrishna temple. This is part of the Tumkur district.
Route: Bangalore (Tumkur Highway) -> Dobbespet (Right Turn Under The Flyover) -> Madhugiri (120kms from Bangalore)
Trek: The trek started at the Mughal style arch at the entrance of the fort. We noticed the Restoration work going on at the entrance. New steps were being built to make the accent to fort easy. However, we still have to trek our way up.
The ascent was relatively easy. The stairs were in place for atleast 200meters. In some places there were small steps carved out on the rock. These steps made it easier to climb the steep slope. There was strong wind which made the climb a little difficult. A little further up the steepness increased drastically.
The dangerous part came when we had to make 50 deg turn towards the east with a steep slope of 70 deg. A few years ago this was a very dangerous spot and there have been a few fatal accidents. The government had installed a flimsy railing to help make this maneuver. We found it quite easy with the railing support, but its easy to imagine how it would have been without the support.
After 20minutes we reached the halfway point. We decided to rest for a while. This point offers some spectacular view of the hills surrounding the fort. One of my friend experienced knee pain due to the strain of climbing. A 5 minutes rest did the trick and we continued on our ascent.
From this point on there were no support railings and no steps carved out. Walking on steep rocks without support is not that difficult provided we follow the basic rule of rock climbing. A good pair of shoes will definitely come in handy in this situation.
We reached the top in 50mins. The moment we reached the top we got a feeling as if someone had put a gigantic cover over our head. blocking the sun’s heat and switching on natural a/c a.k.a Wind. We had a wonderful view of the town Madhugiri and hills close by. On the top there was a small fort, nothing spectacular but beautiful nonetheless. We spent 30 mins relaxing before we started off on our descent. The decent however was quite tricky and it had to be done at a very slow pace.
History: Like most places, this fort has a lot of history attached to it. The original construction of the fort can be attributed to The Ganga Dynasty. They were great builders and had built a number of temples all over Karnataka. The rulers of Ganga Dynasty were believed to be predominantly Jains. They practiced both Jainism and Vedic religion. This can be attributed to the presence of a Jain temple near the fort. Before the fort could be completed they were overthrown by Nolamba dynasty. The Reign of Nolamba dynasty lasted a short time before they were defeated by Vijaynagar empire feudal Raja Heera Gowda. Raja Heera Gowda completed the unfinished fort somewhere around 1740 AD.
An interesting incident prompted the Gowda family to considering building a fortress. A stray sheep went missing around the Madhugiri hillock only to return late in the night dripping with water. This was music to the ears since a spring would definitely be welcome sign for rain deficient area. A decision to construct a fortress was arrived and the task was completed. The Gowdas started ruling this region based at Madhugiri Fort. Genesis of the name Madhugiri is derieved from the Honeybee colonies which were prevalent in those days towards the northern parts of the Madhugiri fortress.
Throughout the climb to the top, one can see many huge tanks used for storing Rain water. Its one of the novel innovation of the fort. It can be called as earlier form of Rainwater Harvesting. Since the fort is situated on high rock, it was not possible to supply water manually. Hence Heera Gowda’s men built giant water reservoirs.
In 1678, The Gowda’s got into an disagreement with the Wodeyars of Mysore over non submission of revenue collected being feudatory. The Devaraja of Dalavoy dynasty, who were the commanders under Wodeyar’s of Mysore soon invaded the fort and captured it. However the Gowda’s on agreeing to part with the tax were restored their title and fort. The Maratha’s invaded the territory and captured the fort. They held the fort for 7 years before they were defeated by Hyder Ali in year 1764. Hyder Ali ordered the restoration of the mud fort by building huge arches and watch towers. The highlight of the new fort after the restoration was the huge circular granaries which were used to store ragi, oil and ghee.
Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were engrossed in waging war ( 4 Anglo mysore battles ) with the British and had very little time to complete the Fortification with Islamic structures. After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the final battle with British at Srirangapatnam the entire terriorty was leased to the Wodeyar family in 1830. The British manned the fort for a brief period and used the premises to jail the mutineers in 1857. Since the Fort was built in a impregnable manner, it served as barracks and prison. The same is now converted into a civil court.