Forts in South India

Gingee Fort

Gingee Fort also known as Chenji or Jinji in Tamil Nadu, India is one of the few surviving forts in Tamil Nadu, India, which is more popular for its temples than forts. It lies in Villupuram District,160 kilometres (99 mi) from the state capital, Chennai, and is close to the Union Territory of Pondicherry. So well fortified was this place that Shivaji ranked it as the "most impregnable fortress in India" and it was called the "Troy of the East" by the British.The nearest town with a railway station is Tindivanam and the nearest airport is Chennai (Madras)-150 kilometres (93 mi)......

History

Originally the site of a small fort built by the Chola dynasty in 9th century AD, it was later modified by the Vijayanagar empire in the 13th century to elevate it to the status of an unbreachable citadel to protect the small town of Gingee. It was also the head quarters of the Gingee Nayaks, during the Nayaka domination in Tamil Nadu. The fort was built as a strategic place of fending off any invading armies. The fort was further strengthened by the Marathas under the leadership of Shivaji in 1677 AD, who recaptured it from the Bijapur sultans who had originally taken control of the fort from the Marathas. During Aurangzeb's campaign in the Deccan, Shivaji's second son who had assumed the throne,Chhatrapati Rajaram escaped to Ginjee in the distant South and continued the fight with Moghuls from Ginjee. The Moghuls could not capture the fort for seven years in spite of laying siege. The fort was finally captured in 1698, but not before Chhatrapati Rajaram escaped. It was later passed on to the Carnatic Nawabs who lost it to the French in 1750 before the British finally took control in 1761 despite losing it to Hyder Ali for a brief period. Raja Desinghu ruled Chenji an he was one of the famous kings to be known when it came to Chenji. He also worshipped Singavaram Sri Ranganatha Temple located in between Chenji and Melmalayanur. The temple is full of rock sculptures.The Bijapur Nawabs who held the fort from about 1660-77 AD called it Badshabad, while the Marathas who succeeded them called it Chandry or Chindy. The Mughals, on their capture of the fort in 1698 A.D. named it Nasrat Gaddah in honour of Nawab Zulfiquar Khan Nasrat Jang, the commander-in-chief of the besieging army. Later, the English and the French called it Gingee or Jinji. The early Madras records of the English give the spelling Chingee or Chengey.The chief source for the first two hundred years of the history of the place is the "Complete History of the Carnatic Kings" among the Mackenzie manuscripts. One Narayan, who claimed to be a descendant of the Ananda Kon Clan of Gingee, compiled it, after a consultation with numerous authorities, both Hindu and Muhammadan. According to Narayan, Gingee became a fortified place only about 1200 AD. Ananda Kon of the shepherd community, accidentally found a treasure in one of the cavities of the Western hill while grazing his sheep. Making himself the head of a small band of warriors, he defeated the petty rulers of the neighbouring villages and built a small fortress on Kamalagiri, which he renamed Anandagiri after himself.The Kon dynasty ruled Gingee from 1190 to 1330 AD, and was succeeded by the chief of a neighbouring place called Kobilingan, who belonged to the kurumba caste and ascended the throne of Gingee. He was a feudatory of the powerful Cholas. This way Gingee came into the hands of various ruling dynasties of South India, starting from the Cholas.

Architecture

The fort consists of three hills, connected by walls enclosing an area of 7 square kilometres (2.7 sq mi). It was built at a height of 800 feet (240 m), and protected by a 80 feet (24 m) wide moat. It had an eight-storeyed Kalyana Mahal (marriage hall), granaries, prison cells, a military gymnasium and a temple dedicated to its presiding Hindu goddess called Chenjiamman. The fortifications contain a sacred pond known as Aanaikulam. The walls of the fort are a mixture of the natural hilly terrain comprising the Krishnagiri, Chakkilidrug and Rajagiri hills, while the gaps were sealed with the main wall that measures 20 metres (66 ft) in thickness. It was thus an impressive sight where the defender could seal himself indefinitely.


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