The neglected ruins of Begur fort offer glimpses into tales of heroism, says S.K. Aruni
The Bangalore region is known for several forts and fortifications. One such is the Begur fort.
Lying abandoned in a state of negligence, the fort's history may be overshadowed by the more colourful history of a temple in the area, but it has its own significance.
Located on the route from Begur to Jigani, the fort was constructed on a hilly track, on the edge of a large tank.
Once an imposing structure
It is famous for its circular plan and covers an area of 3.5 acres. The wide mud ramparts are 30 ft wide and 20 ft tall.
There are evidences of circular bastions at regular intervals, but because of the erosion, both the walls and bastions do not convince us that they once provided protection.
The fort once had a wide ditch around its walls, the remains of which can be traced on the western and northern sides.
The main entrance — a gateway of large granite stones — faces the village on the eastern wall. It is simple, with no carvings or decoration. But, a pillar next to it, as well as the platform slab, has old Kannada inscriptions.
Three inscriptions are reported from the gateway, bearing important information about the Jain tradition in Begur.
The oldest of these is dated 900AD and refers to Tonda-abbe, who renounced worldly pleasures. She was the daughter of Nagattara, who was in charge of the region for the Gangas of Talkad during the late 9th century. When the Nolamba army attacked Begur, Nagattara is said to have sacrificed his life for the village.
The other two inscriptions date to 950 AD and mention the heroic feats of Parmmanandi-Bhattaraka, Ravikanti-Siddanti and Kumaranandi-Bhatara.
It appears that some of the inscriptions originally belonged to Jain Basadi of Begur village, which were later used for construction of fort walls.
The Kashi-Vishweshwara and Gopalakrishna temples are found on the fort premises. Interestingly, both Shaiva and Vaishnava deities are worshiped here.
The temples appear to be late 18th century construction. The dvara-palakas found outside the temple are carved in the late 18th century style.
Scholars and historians generally opine that the fort is built with mud. Until the 19th century, forts on plains were generally built with rubble or mud. But, recent surveys suggest that the fort was built with stones, with some stone walls still visible. Most of the stone walls may have been carried away by village residents to build their houses.
How old is it?
Begur was an important place from the 9th century, and continued to serve as a trading centre in the medieval period. But, there is no direct evidence of the date of construction of the fort. Its style, especially at the barbican court at its entrance, suggests that it was constructed in the late 18th century by local chiefs, but there exist no records of their names.