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Vijayanagar

Travel

Chandragiri : A Small Fort With A Rich History

Chandragiri is a village in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh with quite a rich history. It is home to a small fort originally built in the year 1000 AD, by the Yadavaraya rulers who ruled these parts for about 3 centuries. In the 14th century, the fort became a part of the Vijayanagara empire which had its capital in Hampi. In the 16th century, an alliance of Deccan Sultanates defeated the Vijayanagara army in the Battle of Talikota, and killed its ruler Aliya Rama Raya. They then proceeded to plunder and destroy Hampi to ruins. The slain king’s brother survived the battle, and he moved to Penukonda in present day Andhra Pradesh. From there, he ruled the now weakened and diminished kingdom. The last Vijayanagara king made Chandragiri his capital, but the empire disintegrated after his death. Next, Chandragiri passed into the hands of the Golconda Sultanate and finally the Kingdom of Mysore.
The Chandragiri Fort with a granite hillock behind it

This granite hillock forms the backdrop of the Chandragiri Fort

Now the fort – you enter it through two gateways, with carved pillars typical of Vijayanagara architecture. There are two parts in the innermost enclosure – a lower fort and an upper fort. The upper fort was closed to public when we went – I’m not sure if it’s always like that. A granite hill forms the backdrop to the lower fort, which has two important buildings. The first is the King’s Palace, a three storeyed palace with a durbar hall in the middle. Apparently, the greatest Vijayanagara ruler, Krishnadevaraya, lived here until he ascended the throne. If you’ve been to Hampi, you’ll notice the resemblance this building has to the Lotus Palace there. The ASI runs a museum in the King’s Palace now. The other building is the Queen’s Palace, which is smaller, but similar in design. It is believed to date back to the reign of Krishnadevaraya’s successor.
Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

The King’s Palace, Chandragiri Fort

The Queen's Palace, Chandragiri Fort

The Queen’s Palace, Chandragiri Fort

There is a reservoir at the base of the hillock, which would collect rain water flowing down the slope, making the fort self-sufficient for its water needs. The moat around the fort was filled by rain water as well.

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

The gate that leads to the innermost part of the fort

The ornate pillars on the inner gate

The ornate pillars on the inner gate

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

Details on the inner gate

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

Details on the inner gate

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

The very ornate entrance gateway in the second fortification

Details in the entrance gateway

Details in the entrance gateway

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

Ornate Vijayanagara style pillars

Chandragiri Fort, Chittoor District

Details in the entrance gateway

Chandragiri is about 145km from Chennai, and 230km from Bangalore, but I really wouldn’t recommend going all the way – for all its rich history, the fort itself is not too remarkable. But if you are in the vicinity, like in Tirupati, which is just 14km away, do check it out. A sound and light show happens at the fort every night, with narration by Amitabh Bachchan. I didn’t watch it, but since the history of Chandragiri is rich, I’m guessing it must be good. Please note that the fort is closed on Fridays.
 
And finally, another interesting bit of trivia about Chandragiri: in the 17th century, the British East India Company purchased from Chandragiri’s king’s general, the piece of land where they built Fort St. George. The regions around the fort grew into present day Chennai, known as Madras earlier. You might have heard of the Madras Day celebrations that now take place each year – they are held on the anniversary of that historic transaction.

Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries III

After visiting a couple of Shiva temples in Kanchipuram, we moved on to the Vaikunta Perumal and Varadharaja Perumal temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As you’ve probably guessed, Perumal means Vishnu 🙂 The Vaikunta Perumal Temple was built in the 8th century by the Pallava king Nandivarman II.  Lion pillars like the ones in the Kailashnathar temple make an appearance in this corridor as well.
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
An Iyengar priest at the temple
The Varadharaja Perumal Temple was built in the 11th century, when the Chola kings ruled over the region. Additions were made by later Chola and Vijayanagara rulers. The structure to the left of the above photo is a 100 pillared hall, an exquisite example of Vijayanagara architecture. The pillars are carved with scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
As with most temples, photography isn’t allowed in the innermost part of the shrine, where the idol of the main deity is. The walls and ceilings there are covered with gorgeous murals from the Vijayanagara period.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine on the way to the main one of Varadharaja Perumal. The temple was shutting down for lunch.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine under a peepal tree in the huge open corridor around the temple.
Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries II

The Kailashanathar Temple is the most beautiful temple in Kanchipuram (read about the city here), and probably the most beautiful of all Pallava temples. It was built between 685 and 705 AD – its construction was started by Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II and completed by his son Mahendravarman III. It was during the reign of Narasimhavarman II that the practice of building structural temples began. By structural temples, we mean the kind of temples we see today – built from scratch, as opposed to carved out of rocks. The Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram was built during his rule as well, and you can see the similarity in the shikharas of the two temples.
Kailashanathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance wall is lined with 8 small shrines and a doorway to enter the temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
A chamber with a blue door flanked by huge dwarapalas or guardian deities supports the main gopuram
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance to the inner compound that houses the main shrine
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The main temple with a pyramidal shikhara that resembles Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
All along the wall enclosing the shrine, are 58 small shrines decorated with carvings and frescoes.
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Small shrines supported by lion pillars all around
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Erect lions in different directions all around the base of the shikhara
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Intricate carvings and paintings fill all the small shrines and niches between them
Our next stop was the Ekambareshwarar Temple (also called the Ekambaranathar Temple), Kanchipuram’s largest temple, also dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are 5 Shiva temples in South India that represent the 5 natural elements. Of these, the Ekambareshwara Temple represents the Earth. The temple was built in the early 7th century, when the Pallavas were in power. But the 57 meter high main ‘gopuram’ and a thousand pillar square corridor around the central shrine were built later in the 16th century under the rule of the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadevaraya.
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
An idol of ‘nandi’, the bull, facing the inner shrine
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
One side of the thousand pillar square corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
1008 Shivalingas line the outer edges of the corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
The imposing entrance tower or gopuram