‘This is a result of lack of sense of history in the country'

Can a faster ride to the international airport come at the cost of centuries-old monuments? National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is implementing the road widening project of National Highway 4 leading to the airport, thinks so.

In the last week of December, demolition work started on the nearly 200-year-old Chikkajala Fort, about six kilometres before Bengaluru International Airport. The northern wall of the fort now lies in ruins by the side of the road.

S.K. Aruni, Director of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), South Regional Centre, called this a result of lack of “sense of history in the country”.

“Though these structures do not have national or state importance, the local authorities should identify them and protect them. Once demolished, they cannot be rebuilt,” he said.

Though no documents are available to ascertain the exact date of the construction of the fort, Dr. Aruni said that the architectural features of the fort indicate that it could have been built around the early 1800s.

“The decorations on the gate are similar to what is seen in the Bangalore fort, and inscriptions in the temple are indicative of the post-Vijaynagar period and the early colonial period,” he said. The fort, he said, continued the tradition of the Marathas, and though these forts are also found elsewhere in southern Karnataka, they were rare in and around Bangalore city.

Dr. Aruni estimates that the structure was probably a “wada” — a private fort built by a rich man in the village to enclose his palatial house, a temple and his private gardens. “Forts such as this are similar to those built by the Guttedars or contractors in the Nizam's region, who made their fortune working for the British,” he said.

The owner of the fort probably built it after the British occupied forts around the region around 1791.

“As the Chikkajala Fort finds no mention in these documents, I believe that the fort was built by someone who thrived out of selling supplies or conducting construction work for the British,” he said.

Regional director NHAI R.K. Gupta said that 10 metres of the fort had been acquired for road-widening as well as land for the proposed high-speed rail link to the international airport. “Though there is no plan to preserve the fort, we won't be touching the temple inside the fort,” he said.

Though the monument was unprotected, Deputy Director of the Museums and Heritage Department H.M. Siddana Gowda said that its demolition was “wrong”. “The fort has local importance and NHAI should have considered an alternative road alignment,” he said.

Mr. Siddana Gowda added that though the demotion could not be stopped as there were no legislation governing an unprotected monument, the department would ask the highways authority to cease any work on the fort.