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Magnificent forts

Print edition : Jan 04, 2008 T+T-
The Rajdarbar inside the Gandikota fort.-

The Rajdarbar inside the Gandikota fort.-

The Rajdarbar inside

The Gandikota, or gorge fort, dating back to A.D. 1123 in Gandikota village on the right bank of the Pennar river, 15 km from Jammalamadugu in Kadapa district, is an architectural splendour.

Gandikota acquired its name from the picturesque gorge (called Gandi in Telugu) formed between the Erramalai hills, which are also called the Gandikota hills. A deep valley and impassable hills with massive boulders of red granite, reminding one of the Grand Canyon, surround the fort, situated amid wild forests. The gorge formation is such that the Pennar river flows about 90 metres below on the western and northern sides and is said to have offered strong natural defence to the Kakatiya, Vijayanagar and Qutub Shahi kings who ruled from the fort.

Yogi Vemana, a famous Telugu poet hailing from Kadapa and the author of 4,000 poems, is believed to have lived in the Gandikota area. Inside the fort, there are many structures in varying stages of decay. The fort has a Jamia Masjid with two minarets, two ancient temples of Madhavaraya and Raghunatha and a large granary with a vaulted roof. It also has a magazine, a graceful pigeon tower with fretted windows, a palace built with bricks and plastered decorations, and some wells. An ancient cannon lies in the fort.

The Rayalacheruvu tank, with its perennial springs, irrigates lime and plantain gardens. The tank was supposedly connected to a fountain in the Jamia Masjid. There is an undated inscription on a boulder near the Nagajhari outside the fort, depicting the dedication of two gardens there to the Madhavaraya temple. There is a Persian inscription on another boulder near what was a garden called Parebagh with a waterfall at the foot of the hills on banks of the river.

The Siddhavatam fort covering an area of 12 hectares, dating back to A.D. 1303, on the banks of the Pennar is at Siddhavatam, 25 km from Kadapa, and is known as the gateway to Srisailam. It encompasses beautifully sculpted temples of Siddheswara, Bala Brahma, Ranganayaka Swamy and Durga inside it. Seventeen square bastions, which protected the area, provide an impressive sight. Two majestic gateways have embellished pillars and carvings of Gajalakshmi at the top. The Archaelogical Survey of India is undertaking the renovation of some dilapidated structures in the fort.

M.V. Subramanyam