Bandalli Durga : A Lonely Sentinel and A Bit of History

Bandalli Durga is one of the less known hillforts in Kanakapura taluk of Karnata ka. The hill is visible from a distance is within the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary. Built by local palegars as a defensive structure. The hill fort still has strong structures with ramparts with bastions. The fort overlooking plains was once impregnable and stands as lone sentinel today.It is a ideal weekend getaway from Bangalore for those interested to explore history.

Bandalli Durga : A Lonely Sentinel and A Bit of History
Ramparts of Bandalli durga fort

               There is something really striking about the hillfort at Bandalli Durga. The impressive hump beckons one than the fort itself. It is probably one of the most evocative forts you would have ever seen.

                Bandalli is a small village situated about  25 km from Kollegal taluk in  Chamarajanagar district.  Here you will find yourself greeted with a lot of warmth by local villagers. Everyone here seems to be spending his her time leisurely. Village folk approaches you voluntarily to be guided to lead you to the fort. Very less is known about the history of the fort. The initial path is through Paddy fields and after wading through lantana and thorny bushes one reaches the foothill. The sight of fresh dungs of elephants that roam in the hills leisurely will make you alert and watchful. The final path to the fort is precariously steep. This fort was perhaps the last refuge for the king's family and his faithful band.

View of Hill fort from Bandalli Village

               The hills and bushes are home for innumerable species of birds. If you are lucky you can hear the trumpet or see a herd of elephants too passing by. It takes not less than 3 -4 hrs to reach the hillfort.  Elephant menace exists during the rainy season and attempting the hill is not recommended.

              The fort is protected by three levels of walls on the climbable side, and by the natural structure of the huge rock, it's built on. On top are a few stone structures, though their purpose is not really clear (may have been quarters for troops or workers, or even the king himself). The fort is built at a height of 1300 m above sea level,  and is one of the highest hills in the area. From the top, one can see all around up to great distances. No wonder the king built a fort here, from where he could keep watch over a large number of villages. The views are absolutely stunning, and one of the best I've seen so close to Bangalore
             The  North and Eastern face of the hill is meant only for those with adventure flow in their veins. This path is, however, certainly more interesting and will give you an idea of the intricacies of this fort. The fort used to be protected by a unique natural defense system. The final few meters to reach the top are over a slanting boulder. This boulder almost overhangs Kalyani Kala , at a height of about 200 feet over it, and slopes down towards it at an angle of about 45 degrees. According to our guide, in times of attack, this boulder would be smeared with oil. Any attempt to reach the king's house over this boulder would result in a person slipping and falling into Kalyani.

              There are stone  Mantapas or structures on the top the hillock which seems to be the last refuge from the marauding enemy. At many places, walls have been vandalized and pits have been dug by those searching for hidden treasures. There is a well too below the rock face known as  Kalyani kala hidden amid the bushes. It is really surprising to see chilling water in hot summer and one can quench his thirst after an arduous climb. On the west is a high ridge, going north to south, while there are a number of hills and ridges all around. From the ramparts of the fort, you can see the hills of  Malai Mahadeshwara Hills, Biligiri Rangana BettaOmbattu Sonnaoddu betta, Bilsona Oddu betta, Manakana betta, Minasunta  Gudda, and kanchikallu betta and also a panoramic view of thick forests around. The sunset from the ramparts of the fort is really a sight to behold.!. The descent is quite thrilling, with a part of it literally along the almost vertical face of the rock.                   

                Wading through the thorny plants and tall grass (which cut hands and fingers), leads towards the temple, which is a little more than a kilometer to the north of the fort. The temple is dedicated to the local god of Bettanayya the local deity shiva. The temple is built in the gap between two boulders that stand taking each other as support. There is a huge Nandi in front of the temple, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. After paying respect to the mountain god, and spending some time here,  one can proceed towards the waterhole about a km north of the temple situated amid shola forest. While approaching the same,   walk cautiously looking around for Elephants, which do visit this waterhole often from the Chikkayalur reserve forest nearby. It is advisable to reach the village before it gets dark. It is advisable to take a local person along in you like to visit the hillock.

View of Hills surrounding the Hillock from Mantapa

               Though weekend Popular getaways around Bangalore like Muthathi, Gaganchukki  - Barachukki and Mekedatu are close by,  it is pity to say that such a wonderful monument so close to Bangalore lies lost in sheer neglect!. Bandalli fort has all features of a day trek near  Bangalore. A major portion of the fort that bears testimony to the illustrious past of the rulers of Bandalli needs restoration at the earliest. The authorities concerned should take immediate action to save the fort, failing which the only signs of the existence of a historically important fort may also just fade into oblivion..!

 Article Published in Deccan Herald spectrum Bandalli Forgotten fort

 By R. Vishwanath

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