The mud-fort in Devanahalli resonates with stories of valour
Sometimes, we find history right within our own backyards. But, our eyes are so used to seeking out the latest mall or restaurant that we tend to overlook the crumbled walls of an old fort right behind them. So, it is only natural that when we visit a place like Devanahalli, near Bengaluru, we identify it with the international airport rather than look at it as the birthplace of Tipu Sultan.
But a stone plaque outside the town puts everything into perspective. It announces that Tipu was born here in 1751. The town, however, owes its origins to one Malla Baire Gowda, a feudal lord who built the fort here with the permission of Devaraya of Devanadoddi, the earlier name of Devanahalli. The 16th Century mud fort was later annexed by the Wodeyars, and it was around the same time that Hyder Ali, a mercenary soldier, surfaced on the military scene. He probably settled in Devanahalli, where his son Tipu was born. The fort was later rebuilt by Tipu, who renamed the town Yusufabad and made it his favourite hunting place as well. The town, however, exchanged many hands, with various dynasties — from the Gangavadi and Hoysalas to the Marathas and Wodeyars leaving their stamp on it, before the British took over. The oval fort still stands, with bastions flanking it. It is said that there were around 12 bastions here.
As I enter the portals of the fort, I imagine it to be sleepy and desolate. But, an entire village lives right within the old crumbled gates! Legend says that Malla Baire Gowda's father, who had moved to these parts from modern-day Kancheepuram, had actually dreamt of a settlement in this area. The son was merely fulfilling his father's dream.
Walking on the ramparts, I see life unfurling in this little settlement. Some children run around, while a cyclist negotiates a small turn and disappears into one of the bylanes. Loud Kannada music can be heard from the houses huddled together. And, then, an aeroplane takes off, drowning the noise.
The Sun goes down as the temple bells toll. Two ancient temples — Gopalaswamy and Siddalingeshwara — stand here in this old town, lost to the tourists. We take in the silence for a while and walk around aimlessly.
The carvings on the gates catch our attention. Old and jaded, they stand as a symbol of the ancient times. A couple of boys run around, unmindful of the significance of their little settlement. We walk past the gates and enter the city, the chaos welcoming us back to the present.