Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dindigul Fort, Dindigul

Dindigul Fort, Dindigul
The Dindigul Fort or Dindigul Malai Kottai is a 17th-century hill fort, built by Madurai Nayak situated in the town of Dindigul in the state of Tamilnadu in India. The fort was built by the Madurai Nayak king Muthu Krishnappa Nayak in 1605. In the 18th century the fort passed on to Kingdom of Mysore (Mysore Wodeyar). During the reign of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan the fort was of strategic importance. In 1799 it went to the control of the British East India Company during the Polygar Wars.

There is an abandoned temple on its peak apart from few cannons sealed with balls inside. In modern times, the fort is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and is open to tourists. Dindigul Fort with its indomitable presence on an isolated rock looms high over Dindigul at a height of 380 meters. The rock spreads out, looking like a pillow and is called ‘Dindu Kal’ which means pillow rock, and it is from here that Dindigul gets its name. Dindigul Fort perched atop this craggy, windswept hill looks like a crown adorning it. The fort which was built in the 17th century has a forbidding magnificence to it. The walls of the fort are made of brick and stone that crest the pinnacle of the whole rock barring the southern flank, which is so steep that it’s almost perpendicular making artificial fortification redundant.

Dindigul Fort is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and is definitely a must visit destination if you are in the region. From the top you can enjoy some stunning views. The cannons, which are there at vantage points, can fire your imagination taking you back to a bygone era where you can picture fierce battles in your mind!  The edifice underscores the resourcefulness of Indian kings in their military architecture.

Dindigul located about 400 km from Chennai, is a strategic place located overlooking the valley through which the forces from Karnataka country gained access into the Madurai in late medieval period. The Nayakas of Madurai possibly erected the first fortification on the rock, a prominent elevated place overlooking the valley, in order to defend their country from the invading Mysore army. However, Haider Ali seems to have rebuilt the fort substantially as he used this as a launching pad to attack the British in this region during the Carnatic wars.

The British finally captured the fort in 1790 and garrisoned it till 1860. The irregular curtain wall of the fort is well built of dressed and finely jointed stone blocks with brick crenulations. There are number of cells in the rampart for the use of troops. There are number of brick structures on the top, possibly built during the British period. There is a circular freestanding bastion on the top at a strategic location on which several cannons were mounted. There is one canon of English origin now preserved over the bastion. 

Vijayanagara rulers as indicated by the inscription built the temples on the summit. Among them, the central shrine is noteworthy for the delicately carved architectural members and the moulded brick elements of the superstructure. The style of carving recalls the influence of dying delicate artistic traditions on soapstone of Karnataka. One of the inscriptions on a shrine records a donation by the Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya to the Tambiranar (the presiding deity) of Dindigul.

Dindigul city derives its name from a portmanteau of Thindu a Tamil word which means a ledge or a headrest attached to ground and kal another Tamil word which means Rock. Appar, the Saiva poet visited the city and noted it in his works in Tevaram. Dindigul finds mention in the book Padmagiri Nadhar Thendral Vidu thudhu written by the poet Palupatai sokkanathar as Padmagiri. This was later stated by U. V. Swaminatha Iyer (1855-1942) in his foreword to the above book. He also mentions that Dindigul was originally called Dindeecharam.

Geographical Position
Dindigul Fort at Dindigul is located at 10°21'41.8"N 77°57'48.0"E or 10.361598, 77.963326.

The history of Dindigul is centered on the fort over the small rock hill and fort. Dindigul region was the border of the three prominent kingdoms of South India, the PandyasCheras and Cholas. The Chera king Dharmabalan is believed to have built the temples of Abirami and Padmagirinathar. The ancient Tamil book, Silappathikaram records the city as the northern border of the Pandya kingdom whose capital was Madurai.

Historian Strabo mentions about the city in his 20 A.D. work and Pillni, the great historian of the time described about the Pandya king in his works.

During the first century A.D., the Chola king Karikala Cholan captured the Pandya kingdom and Dindigul came under the Chola rule. During the sixth century, the Pallavas took over most provinces of Southern India. Dindigul was under the rule of Pallavas until Cholas regained the state in the 9th century and the Pandyas regained control by the 13th century. In the 14th century, South India was under the raids of Malik Kafur. Dindigul was safe in the hands of Vijayanagara before Cheras take over the Pandya kingdom.

Chandrakumara Pandyan won the war against Cheras with the assistance provided the Vijaya Nagar Kingdom. The commander of the Vijaya Nagar army Kampanna Udayar played an important role in the war. In 1559 Nayaks became powerful and their territory bordered with Dindigul in the north. After the death of King Viswanatha Nayak in 1563, Muthukrishna Nayaka became the king of kingdom in 1602 A.D who built the strong hill fort in 1605 A.D. He also built a fort at the bottom of the hill. Muthuvirappa Nayak and Thirumalai Nayak followed Muthukrishna Nayak. Dindigul came to prominence once again during Nayaks rule of Madurai under Thirumalai Nayak. After his immediate unsuccessful successors, Rani Mangammal became the ruler of the region who ruled efficiently.

In 1736 Chanda Sahib, the lieutenant of Arcot Nawab Seized power from Vangaru Nayak, with the help of British. In 1742, the Mysore army under the leadership of Venkatarayer conquered Dindigul. He governed Dindigul as a representative of Maharaja of Mysore. There were Eighteen Palayams (a small region consists of few villages) during his reign and all these palayams were under Dindigul Seemai with Dindigul as capital. These palayams wanted to be independent and refused to pay taxes to Venkatarayer. 

In 1748, Venkatappa was made governor of the region in place of Venkatarayer, who also failed. In 1755, Mysore Maharaja sent Haider Ali to Dindigul to handle the situation. Later Haider Ali became the Maharaja of Mysore and in 1777, he appointed Purshana Mirsaheb as governor of Dindigul. He strengthened the fort. His wife Ameer-um-Nisha-Begam died during her delivery and her tomb is now called Begambur. In 1783, British army, led by captain Long invaded Dindigul. In 1784, after an agreement between the Mysore province and British army, Dindigul was restored by Mysore province. In 1788, Tipu Sultan, the Son of Haider Ali, was crowned as King of Dindigul.

In 1790, James Stewart of the British army gained control over Dindigul by invading it in the second war of Mysore. In a pact made on 1792, Tipu ceded Dindigul along with the fort to the English. Dindigul is the first region to come under English rule in the Madurai District. In 1798, the British army strengthened the hill fort with cannons and built sentinel rooms in every corner. The British army, under Staten stayed at Dindigul fort from 1798 to 1859. After that Madurai was made headquarters of the British army and Dindigul was attached to it as a taluk. Dindigul was under the rule of the British Until India got our Independence on 15 August 1947.

The fort played a major role during the Polygar wars, between the Palayakarars, Tipu Sultan duo aided by the French against the British, during the last decades of the 18th century. The polygar of Virupachi, Gopal Nayak commanded the Dindigul division of Polygars, and during the wars aided the Sivaganga queen Queen Velu Nachiyar and her commanders Maruthu Pandiyar Brothers to stay the fort after permission from Hyder Ali.

Dindigul Fort is thought to have been built by Muthu Krishnappa Nayaka of Madurai (1601-1609 A.D.) There is a decrepit temple on top of the hill dedicated to Abirami Amman which may have been built by him too.  It is supposed to have been originally a Shiva temple, dedicated to Lord Padamagiriswara, built by the Pandyas whose architecture it bears a resemblance to. Tipu Sultan removed the statue of Abirami Amman to thwart spies from entering the fort.

The rock fort is 900 ft (270 m) tall and has a circumference of 2.75 km (1.71 mi). Cannon and gunfire artillery were included in the fort during the 17th century. The fort was cemented with double walls to withstand heavy artillery. Cannons were installed at vantage points around the fort with an arms and ammunition godown built with safety measures.

The double-walled rooms were fully protected against external threat and were well ventilated by round ventilation holes in the roof. A thin brick wall in one corner of the godown helped soldiers escape in case of emergency. The sloping ceiling of the godown prevented seepage of rainwater.

The fort has 48 rooms that were once used as cells to lodge war prisoners and slaves, a spacious kitchen, a horse stable and a meeting hall for the army commanders. The fort also has its own rainwater reservoirs constructed by taking advantage of the steep gradient. The construction highlights the ingenuity of Indian kings in their military architecture.

At Dindigul Fort, do check out the cave on the south western side of the rock. The cave has rock-cut beds similar to the Jain - caves of Thiruparankundram. In fact, the Pandya inscription on the Shiva shrine confirms the existence of Jains in Dindigul.

The fort is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and maintains it as a protected monument. An entry fee of ₹5 is charged for Indian citizens and ₹100 for foreigners. The fort receives few visitors in college and school students and the occasional foreign tourists. Visitors are allowed to walk around the tunnels and trenches that reveal the safety features of the structure. The temple has some sculptures and carvings, with untarnished rock cuts.

Visitors can view the ruins within the fort walls, arsenal depots, or animal stables) and damaged halls decorated with carved stone columns. Visitors are allowed to go up to the cannon point and look through the spy holes. The top of the fort also offers a scenic view of Dindigul on the eastern side and villages and farmland on the other sides. Lack of funds and facilities has kept the fort misused by nearby dwellers. But in 2005, Keeranur-based ASI in Pudukkottai district fenced the entire surroundings and refurbished some of the dilapidated structures.

Opening Time
Tickets to see the Dindigul Fort will be issued from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The Dindigul Fort will be open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Entrance Fee
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - Rs. 5 per head.

US $ 2 or Indian Rs. 100/- per head (Free entry to children up to 15 years)
Dindigul is served by town bus service, which provides connectivity within the town and the suburbs. Minibus service operated by private companies caters to the local transport needs. There are 150 town buses operated daily across 128 different routes. 
The Kamarajar bus stand is an A-grade bus stand covering an area of 5.37 acres (21,700 m2) as of 2007 and is located in the heart of the town. The Tamilnadu State Transport Corporation operates daily services connecting various cities to Dindigul. The State Express Transport Corporation operates long distance buses like ChennaiBengaluru and Tirupati.
There is significant truck transport with around 400–450 trucks entering the town for loading and unloading activities daily. Three wheelers, called autos and Call Taxi are also a common public transport system.
Dindigul Railway Station was established in 1875, when rail line for Trichy to Tuticorin was constructed. Dindigul railway junction is located in the rail head from Chennai to Madurai and Karur to Madurai. It is also connecting Dindigul to Palani. All south bound trains plying south to Madurai from Chennai pass via Dindigul. There are also passenger trains running either side from Madurai to Tiruchirapalli and Palani.
The nearest local and international airport is Madurai Airport located 70 kilometres (43 mi) away.