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The Three Hills - The Three Citadels
As already mentioned the Gingee Fort complex is situated on three hillocks. In fact all the three hills together constitute a fort complex, yet each hill contains a separate and self contained fort. The first hill, where the main fort is located, is called Rajagiri. Originally it was known as Kamalagiri as well as Anandagiri. The fort here is most impregnable. It is about 800 ft. in height. Its summit is cut off from communication and is surrounded by a deep, natural chasm that is about 10 yards wide and 20 yards deep. To gain entry into the citadel one had to cross the chasm with the help of a small wooden draw bridge which was drawn only after getting a signal from the sentries on the parapets that a friend was approaching.

The naturally strong rock on which the fortress is located is further strengthened by the construction of embrasure walls and gateways along all possible shelves and precipitous edges. It forms the principal fortification. Seven gates have to be traversed before reaching the citadel. This citadel contains many important buildings apart from the living quarters of the royalty, like the stables, granaries, and meeting halls for the public, temples, mosques, shrines and pavilions jostling each other.
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The lower fort consists of the following important monuments:

  • Vellore Gate.
  • Pondicherry Gate - probably improved by the French during their occupation (1751-1761).
  • The Prison - on top of Pondicherry Gate.
  • Royal Battery - probably erected by the French.
  • Venkataramanaswami Temple - probably built during the Vijay Nagar period. - The original tall, graceful monolithic pillars from the temple are said to have been carried away to Pondicherry by the French and to have been fixed around the place de la Republique, near the old pier.
  • Pattabhi Ramaswami Temple - architecturally very important.
  • Sadatulla Khan’s mosque, contributed by the Nawab of Arcot.
  • Chettikulam and Chakrakulam tanks.
  • Platform where Raja Desingh’s (the hero of Gingee who fought gloriously with the Nawab of Arcot and died on  the battle field). His body is to have been cremated by the order of the Nawab with full honours and in orthodox Hindu style, while his young Rajput wife committed sati.
  • A large stone-image of Hanuman.
  • Prisoner’s well where the prisoners condemned to death were thrown and left to die of starvation

The inner fort consists of the following important buildings:

  • Kalyana Mahal, perhaps the living quarters of the queens.
  • The Royal Stables.
  • The Royal palace that is in ruin. It has two large slabs of polished stones that had served as bathing platforms for Raja Desingh and his Rani.
  • Gymnasium
  • Anaikulam tank
  • Granaries
  • Magazine

Shrine of Venugopalaswami, where the sculpture of Lord Krishna playing on his flute is accompanied by two female figures. They are supposed to be his two wives, Rukmani and Satyabhama. This is the best piece of sculpture in the place.It is amazing to see that even the top of the fort is well provided with water supply and several wells, sumps and storage tanks are located in the fort complex at various levels. One also sees a site museum at the entrance of the fort set up by the Archeological Survey of India containing sculptures pertaining to various periods and many dynasties that ruled Gingee. There are also guns and cannon balls made of stone, strewn about the fort.

In order to reach the top one has to undertake a trek for over an hour. School children love to trek to Gingee Fort and I have trekked up many times with my children. We used to sit on top of the queen’s palace where a cool breeze blows and eat our breakfast…

C K Gariyali IAS
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