The Devanhalli Fort in Bangalore

I joined the INTACH folks for a walk in the Devanahalli Fort on July 20, 2013

The 500 year old fort is in excellent condition in many parts, specially at the front section. It is six kilometers further north after the exit to the International Airport on Bellary Road, and less than a five-minute walk from where Tipu Sultan was born—at which spot there is a simple memorial to the important warrior king. I would've liked to call him a great king, but I haven't the scholarship, and there's the danger of being shouted down.

I'll stay with the fort.

It was a mud fort to begin with, one of a series in this region, which, in addition to buttress the local ruler's strength, served as shelters for itinerant traders. The forts were rebuilt by the Muslims Hyder and Tipu, with mud sandwiched between granite, the mud serving to cushion the stone when stone took fire from cannons.

The circular bastions are also a Muslim contribution, a change from the times of the Gowda rulers (of the Morasu Mokkalu clan) who built their bastions square—two of the Gowda bastions still remain. Inside the twelve bastions in this fort and along the fort walls there's evidence of French expertise. The floor space of the bastion is sloped in a ramp so as to roll ordnance with ease and speed. Along the brick-topped battlements, banquettes run the entire length, allowing gunners to step up to fire and step down to reload in safety.

A fort should be strong but it should also be blessed with good fortune for the ruler who built it. The forts of Rajasthan are said to have buried volunteering men alive at the keystone; Kempegowda's daughter-in-law, if the story is true, sacrificed herself for the Bangalore fort; here in Devanahalli, a double sacrifice was offered, of a pregnant woman, thus making it a twice blessed fort. All to no avail, because when the defenders of the Devanahalli fort learnt that the better-armed Bangalore fort had been taken by Cornwallis' forces, they fled their posts with no time wasted, and when the British arrived at Devanahalli the fort was theirs for free.

Tipu got back the fort by the terms of a truce, an ignominious truce, because the sultan was forced to hand the victors his sons as hostage. His boys took leave of him at the capital, Srirangapattana, but when they were returned, he received them at the Devanahalli fort, at a camp by the lake north of the fort. He didn't show his emotion, it is said, he only ran his hands over the back of their necks and sent them into his tent.

Robert Home's painting

Now the fort is in the possession of free Indians who have exercised their liberty to build their buildings at will, in the manner of small-town buildings anywhere in India, each building free of any adherence to a town plan. Among such buildings are a number of new temples, and some old ones, but the temple that was built along with the fort, the Venugopalaswamy Temple in the Vijayanagara style, that temple is in excellent condition and the deities in it are lovely.

A walk on the ramparts of the Devanahalli Fort is a fine experience, because the fort draws your eyes unto itself, and the mind too, so unless you will yourself to look toward the squalor and the anarchy within and without the fort, a few hours on top of it refreshes the mind, and, because of the breeze on it, the body as well.

These are notes I made during and after a walk inside the Devanahalli Fort, led by Meera of INTACH, Bangalore.