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Krishnagiri Fort
The second important hillock with an imposing citadel is known as Krishnagiri. It is also known as the English Mountain, perhaps because the British residents occupied the fort here, for some time. The Krishnagiri Fort lies to the North of Tiruvannamalai road. It is smaller in size and height compared to the Rajagiri fort. A flight of steps of granite pieces carries us to its top. Another fort connected with Rajagiri with a low rocky ridge is called Chandrayan Durg, Chandragiri or St. George’s Mountain. The military and strategic value of this fort has been relatively lesser, but it has some interesting buildings of later period.

The third fort for some reason is called Chakkiliya Durg or Chamar Tikri - meaning the fort of the cobblers. I really do not know why it had acquired such a name. Probably the royal saddlers and military shoemakers had set up their workshops over there, as Gingee obviously was a military encampment. There is also a smaller and less important fourth hill, the summit of which is also well fortified. There is nothing much-left of Chandrayan Durg and Chakkilli Durg. Their flanks are now completely covered with thorny shrubs and stone pieces. However, they provide challenging trekking opportunity to the visitors to Gingee.
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Sri Ranganatha Temple

Any account of Gingee should include a description of the rock-cut shrine of Singavaram, situated about 3 km from the fortress on a fifth hill called Singavaram hill. It is a unique Vishnu temple. The deity of the shrine is Lord Ranganatha. Lord Ranganatha is seen reclining on the serpent with his head turned to a side. The expression on the face of the Lord is most benign and charming. The Gingee Ranganathan can be ranked as one of the most beautiful Vishnu idols anywhere. It is interesting to note that the place where the Singavaram rock cut exists seems to have been originally a centre of Jain religion. Several small and large Jain rock cuts and monoliths are found around the temple. Gingee, hence, has emerged as an important surviving link of the Tamil Jain tradition and Singavaram hill is visited both by the Hindu and Jain pilgrims.

According to legend, it is the original image of Ranganatha from the famous Srirangam temple, which was taken away, from Srirangam and hidden in Gingee, for the sake of safety, during the plundering of Srirangam at the hands of the Mohammedan invader Malik Kafur. Lord Ranganatha is said to have been the tutelary Lord of Gingee and the personal deity (isht devata) of Raja Desingh. There is an underground tunnel that connects the Rajagiri fortress with the temple and is supposed to have been used by Raja Desingh and his queen to visit the temple unobserved. The existence of the tunnel itself is an indicator of the authenticity of the image. The fact that the idol was hidden among the rocks in a discarded Jain rock cut cave and was being worshipped unobserved by the public is enough proof of the idol being a very ancient and important one.

This tunnel is supposed to actually connect two towns, the great and little Gingee, surrounded by a wall. This wall is three miles in circumference and encloses the two towns and five mountains of rugged rocks on the summit of which were built five strong forts. The fifth mountain is Singavaram hill - in addition to the four already mentioned forts, namely, Rajagiri, Krishnagiri, Chandrayan Durg and Chakkili Durg.According to E. Scott Waring, Great Gingee referred to the whole area including Singavaram, and little Gingee was very likely to be Gingee proper, i.e., the area covered by four other mountains. There were two separate towns known as Sheo Gingee (Siva Gingee) and Vishnu Gingee (Vishnu Gingee - the latter being regarded by him as a popular and flourishing town) surrounded by walls of considerable circumference. The court of Sheo Gingee was formed into a citadel with basements and battlements and consequently thinly inhabited; Vishnu Gingee was flourishing and the resort of an immense number of pilgrims, hence it can with great probability be identified with Singavaram. A visit to Gingee would be incomplete without a visit to Singavaram to see the reclining Vishnu and the Jain rock cuts.

C K Gariyali IAS
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