Known as the Troy of the East, the Gingee Fort was known as the most impregnable fort in India.
The Gingee Fort happens to be one of the few surviving forts in Tamil Nadu. It is perched atop three hillocks namely, Rajagiri, Krishnagiri and Chandragiri that lies about 35 km from Thiruvannamalai. A huge rampart of 60 feet which can be described as ‘The Great Wall of India’ runs along the hillocks. Shivaji had called the Gingee Fort “the most impregnable fort in India”.
The Gingee Fort was the seat of power of the Pallavas from the 7 to the 9 century, the Cholas from the 10 to the 11 century and the Hoysalas in the 12 century. Much of the fortress was built when it came under the Vijayanagara rule at the fag end of the 14 century.
In its heyday, everybody fought hard to hold on to the Gingee Fort. Known as the “Troy of the East”, it changed hands many times. It was captured by Shivaji in 1677, besieged by Aurangazeb in 1691, came under the sway of the French in 1750 before slipping into the hands of the British in 1761.
The Gingee Fort, which sprawls over 11 square kilometres, houses a Kalyana Mahal, a durbar hall, a 11-feet long cannon, a clock tower, a khazana, an armoury, a large pond which was used for bathing elephants, a granary, a few temples and a mosque. The fortress had an intricate system of plumbing (even the top of the fortress was well provided with continuous supply of water), the remnants of which can still be seen. An underground tunnel connects the Gingee Fort to a temple perched atop another hillock called Singavaram, about three kilometers away.
The Gingee Fort was well laid out, taking into consideration the possibilities of a protracted siege. To gain entry into the citadel one had to cross a chasm with the help of a small wooden draw bridge which was drawn only after getting a signal from the sentries posted on the watch tower.
A description of Gingee Fort would be incomplete without a mention of De Singh. He was a chieftain from Bundhelkand whose story is reminiscent of the story of Rana Pratap and his loyal horse. In 1714, he came to the Gingee Fort on learning about the death of his father. The latter had been made the ruler of the Gingee Fort by Aurangazeb in 1700. The Nawab of Arcot, however, wanted to bring the Gingee Fort under his rule. De Singh took on the powerful Nawab of Arcot. He was only 22, yet he fought valiantly until his last breath. His wife committed sati on the pyre of her husband. Even today ballads about his courage and valour are sung, in many parts of Tamil Nadu.
When you visit the Gingee Fort, you will feel yourself virtually transported to a bygone era.
Keywords: Gingee Fort