Gingee Fort

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Weather:

Time Required: 1-2 hrs

Timings:

9:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Entry Fee:

Indian citizens- INR 15
Foreign citizens- INR 100
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Gingee Fort, Thiruvannamalai Overview

Known as the "Troy of the East" by the British, Gingee Fort is located in Villupuram District of Tamil Nadu, 160 kilometres from the state capital, Chennai and near the Union Territory of Puducherry. Locals have given the fort some notable names such as Senji, Chenji, Jinji or Senchi Fort. The majestic fort has three different hilltop citadels and a massive boundary of thick walls and cliffs. Owing to its enormous structure the fort is fortified to the extent that Shivaji, the Maratha king, named it as the "most impregnable fortress in India." Visiting the fort makes one learn the reason for why it has been called by such influential names. As you reach the fort, you realise that it has been located at the most strategic location which made it difficult for the enemies to enter its premise. The fort indeed is a result of genius minds.

Constructed mostly in the 16th century by the Vijayanagara Empire, the fort was later captured by the Marathas following the rule of Mughals, French and British on it. The fort was then sadly abandoned in the 19th century. Today while few foreigners visit her, Gingee is heavily flocked by the domestic tourists for starring in various films. The main road between Puducherry and Tiruvannamalai segments through the fort, just to the west of Gingee town. Out of the three citadels situated atop, the most unchallenging to reach is Krishnagiri which rises on the north side of the road. To the west is the highest of the three, Rajagiri, and the most distant and least compelling is Chakklidurg which lies in the south-east direction. The remnants of the Gingee fort and their dramatic beauty form a peaceful setting making it a very worthwhile spot. Hence, a day trip to the fort is no harm. You surely are going to return with some fantastic pictures and a rich sense of history.

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The Gingee Fort has a massive architecture. The complex is on three hillocks namely, Krishnagiri to the north side, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast. Though the three hills have their separate citadels, they together form a fort complex. What connects them is an enormous triangle from north to south formed with bastions and gateways. These ways give access to the most protected parts of the fort as well. The fort walls are high as 13 km enclosed by the three hills which are connected by walls surrounding an area of around 11 km sq. There is a seven-storeyed Kalyana Mahal or the marriage hall, prison cells, granaries, and a temple dedicated to its presiding goddess called Chenjiamman within the intricacies of the fort. It also contains a sacred pond, Aanaikulam. The walls are a mixture of the naturally hilly terrain comprising the Krishnagiri, Chakkilidrug and Rajagiri hills, while the gaps are sealed with the main wall measuring 66 ft in thickness.

The Gingee Fort has three magnificent citadels-

1. Rajagiri
The very first and the foremost fort, Rajagiri was initially known as Kamalagiri as well as Anandagiri. It is 800 m high and to enter the citadel one had to cross a small wooden bridge. Kamalakanni Amman temple is also present here. The Citadel has essential parts of building such as the stables, meeting halls for the public, granaries, mosques, shrines, and pavilions. It has the magnificent Kalyan Mahal, Ranganathar Temple, watchtower, and the bell tower as well. There is also a site museum at the very entrance of the fort which has been set up by the Archaeological Survey of India. It contains sculptures about the different periods and many dynasties that have ruled Gingee.

2. Krishnagiri
The second hillock contains the citadel of Krishnagiri. Kown as the English Mountain, it was occupied by the British residents. It is smaller than the Rajagiri citadel and has granite steps which lead towards the fort. The strategic and military value of this fort has been relatively less but has some impressive buildings of the later period.

3. Chakkiliya Durg
The third fort for is called Chakkiliya Durg or Chamar Tikri. This is the least important fort and was occupied by the Chamars. The Chamar warriors used to stay here. Their flanks are now covered with stone pieces and thorny shrubs.

Moreover, water resources are usually less in South Indian forts, but here it was well managed in the Citadel. There are two water sources on the summit. Below it is the three reservoirs for rainwater harvesting process. Water to Kalyana Mahal essential through a connection of earthenware pipes from the repository located at a distance of 500 m from it.

The Fort remains open on all days from 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM.

1. Travel on a weekday to avoid boisterous crowds.
2. Carry sunscreen and wear a hat or cap.
3. Pack light snacks as there are no restaurants till Tindivanam.
4. If you are adventuresome, a slow, tough hike to the top of the hills is invigorating.

The pages of this fort's history have many accounts. The Mackenzie manuscripts behold the one such sources of Gingee Fort's construction. Going by the words of historian Narayan, a small village called Melacerri, situated 4.8 km away from Gingee has some traces of fortifications of the fort dating back to 1200 AD. The history behind its construction lies in the hands of Ananda Kon, a person belonging to Konar, the shepherd community who had accidentally found a treasure in the cavities of the Western hill while he was grazing his sheep. With this finding, Ananda made himself the head of a small group of warriors, and after defeating the petty rulers from nearby villages, he went on to build a little fortress on Kamalagiri. He renamed it to Anandagiri after himself.

The Konars ruled Gingee from 1190 to 1330 AD. Kobilingan, a chief of some nearby place belonging to the Kurumbur succeeded the Konars. He then lost the throne to the powerful Cholas. Since then Gingee has been in different hands, beginning from that of Cholas and ending to the British, the Kurumbur, Vijayanagar empire, Marathas, Sultans, and Carnatic nawabs all have been the rulers of these majestic walls. 

During the 9th century, the site was built by Cholas, modified by Kurumburs, and re-modified by Vijayanagar clan in the 13th century. Another account says that the fort was constructed between 15-16th century by the Gingee Nayaks, and was strengthened by the Maratha king, Shivaji in 1667 AD. After the Marathas, Moghuls, and Carnatic nawabs, the fort lost itself to French in 1750 and then to British in 1761. Lastly, Raja Desinghu ruled the Chenji during the 18th century after which it was probably abandoned. 

Located in Villupuram district, 160 km from Chennai the fort can be reached by taking a cab or some private buses. 

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