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Forts in South India

Vellore Fort

Vellore Fort (Tamil:வேலூர் கோட்டை) is a large 16th-century fort situated in Vellore city near Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The Fort was at one point of time the head quarters of the Vijayanagara Empire. The fort is known for its grand ramparts, wide moat and robust masonry.The Fort's ownership passed from Vijayanagara Kings, to the Bijapur Sultans, to Marathas, to the Carnatic Nawabs and finally to the British, who held the fort until India gained independence. During British rule, the Tippu Sultan's family and the last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha were held in as royal prisoners in the fort. The fort houses a Christian church, a Muslim mosque and a Hindu temple, the latter of which is famous for its magnificent carvings. The first rebellion against British rule erupted at this fort in 1806, and it is also a witness to the tragic massacre of the Vijayanagara royal family of Emperor Sriranga Raya.

Agra Fort Photo Gallery

History

The Fort was built around 1566 by Chinna Bommi Nayak and Thimma Reddy Nayak, subordinate Chieftains under Sadasiva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Vijayanagara kings called it "Raya Vellore" to differentiate it from "Uppu Vellore" in the Godavari region. The name Vellore is also spelt "Belur." The present day Chennai region and Tirupathi were under the domain of the Fort.Vellore Fort gained strategic prominence following the re-establishment of Vijayanagar rule with Chandragiri as their 4th capital after the Talikota battle . The Aravidu Dynasty that held the title of Rayas in 17th century resided in this fort, using it as a base in the battle of Toppur in the 1620s. This major battle took place for the claiming of the Raya title between two faction of the Raya family. Each faction was by their respective subordinates; the Nayaks of Tanjore, the Gingee and the Madurai taking sides to suit their interests.The Rayas also had long-running battles with their long time rivals, the Bijapur Sultans, and with the Nayaks of Madurai and the Gingee over non-remittance of annual tributes. In the 1640s, during the reign of Sriranga Raya III, the Fort was briefly captured by the Bijapur army, but was eventually recaptured with the help of the Nayaks of Tanjore.In 1806, Vellore fort was used by the British to station Infantry Military units of the Madras Regiment. The British Commander in chief of the Madras Army prescribed a new round hat for soldiers, which would replace turbans, and the removal of beards, caste markings and jewellery. The Sepoys considered this offensive, and the situation was worsened by rumours that the hat was made of the hides of cows and pigs.On July 10, 1806, before sunrise, Indian Sepoys stationed in the fort attacked the European barracks there, and by late morning had killed about 15 Officers and 100 English soldiers and ransacked their houses. Some of the rebelling soldiers also instigated the sons of Tipu Sultan to lead the campaign. The news quickly reached the colonel commanding the Cavalry Cantonment in Arcot, who reached the Fort with heavy battalions. The rebelling Sepoys, numbering more than 800, were mercilessly hounded and killed, and by noon the rebellion was put down. The events lead to a Court inquiry by the British, who decided to shift the Tipu Sultan's family from Vellore to faraway Calcutta, in isolation.The news of the Vellore Rebellion sent shockwaves to England. The Governor, William Bentinck, and Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, Sir John Cradock both were recalled on this count. This was the first rebellion experienced in the fort by the British.

Architecture

The fort was constructed in granite from the nearby quarries in Arcot and Chittor districts. It spreads over an area of 133 acres and is located at an altitude of 220m within a broken mountain range. The fort is surrounded by a moat which was once used as an additional line of defence in the case of an invasion. It includes an escape tunnel leading to Virinjipuram about 12 km away, which could be used by the king and other royals in the event of an attack. The fort is considered to be among the best of military architecture in Southern India and is known for its grand ramparts, wide moat and robust masonry.This 13th century fort was opened up to tourists and is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, and is well maintained compared to other monuments.Jacques de Coutré, a European traveller in the region during the 1610s, stated that “We arrived in the city of Belur, which is also walled, with two walls of stone, and is more than two leagues in circuit, with very deep moats full of water. It seemed to be almost two cities. I have never seen a city that was so fortified and which had such lovely walls and bastions as this one. We prize the cities of Antwerp and Flanders, but neither can compare in their fortifications or loveliness to this city”.


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