A day trip to Gingee Fort
In a travel group called ‘Sanchari’ ( Means traveler in Malayalam), I met a guy who is also working in Chennai. He suggested me to visit this place called – Gingee Fort.
I Googled it and found the place to be very intriguing. According to it’s wiki page, the fort is so fortified, that Shivaji, the Maratha king, ranked it as the “most impregnable fortress in India” and it was called the “Troy of the East” by the British. I was about to find out the reason myself.
This was a good weekend spot from Chennai and so we started our journey from Chennai to Gingee on our motorcycles. The map shows a different route but we decided to cruise along the East coast road and then turn to Tindivanam. The road is really good for bikers with trees on both sides and villages that keeps you away from the busy city life. It took us around 4 hours to reach Gingee. Gingee has three hill rocks, we decided to hit the Queens fort first.
We started our hike to the top of Queens fort. It was really not that easy, especially with extreme heat and unavailability of water. We had carried 2 bottles each, which we had almost finished when we reached on the top. Motivated, we continued our climb. We could see the steps were also built by hand cut stones and not by machines. When you notice carefully you see small holes in pattern on those steps. A local guide explained us that they chip out holes and hammer wooden chunks into it. Slowly wetting the wooden chunk would expand and crack them into desired shapes. I was deeply astonished by the effort that went into all these monuments.
We reached to the top of queens fort in around one hour of trekking. The view was actually breath taking as you could see the whole town from a height with wind in hair. The queens fort had an old temple and a mosque (Throne) which is degrading to the core.
We could see that there is no proper care given to the monuments there but indeed the degradation actually contributed to its view. I started roaming around a temple which had many ancient carvings and statues. Even though most of it was damaged, I loved it’s construction and the stance of it. The pillars around the temple were very exciting to run through. Surprised to the core, the view just got a whole lot exciting when we climbed to the throne (Mosque). We could view the entire structure built on the top of the hill. There were dance stages, music thrones, temples and many other structures.
There were less number of people ( maybe due to the tough hike up) which made me peacefully enjoy the view. The place had so many similarities with Hampi and you could see big boulders lying here and there as if someone has stacked them there purposefully. I could see mural paintings which are really old, destroyed because many people had scribbled their names on it. The art work on the whole monument was intricate and also had a story to depicted. It took me around 1-2 hours to have a walk through the whole place.
The walk was tiring as there is no water available on the top and the climate was really hot, not to mention the steps. We started our descent by around 12 pm and took around half an hour to come down. Then after lunch, we started for Kings fort. The Kings fort is around 1 km from the Queens fort. We could make out from the outside itself that we were going to struggle on this one.
We parked our motorcycles and started the hike. The guards said the entry to mountain top is restricted after 3 pm, so we had to speed up a little. Unlike Queens fort, this complex contains a well maintained garden and a variety of buildings. One of the striking buildings was the ‘Kalyanamahal’. It was really tall and stood there really taking a stance. We also found granaries, prison cells, and a temple dedicated to its presiding Hindu goddess called ‘Chenjiamman’. The fortifications contain a sacred pond known as ‘Aanaikulam’. There was one building that was huge and caught my attention. It was marked as gymnasium by the archaeological department but I read on wiki that it was a granary. (Still confused about that!) We got inside the so called gymnasium and started shouting to hear our echos. There were many other buildings to explore but we remembered the guards warning us about the timings.
So around 2:45 pm we started to climb the second hill. We were already exhausted by first one but thought of giving a try. The height was more than expected but there were trees and flat roads in between which was relaxing. Just as the last one, there was no water available on the top so we carried more water this time. The way up was much more interesting than the previous one because of the view. The whole fort was built on the top on huge stones and the view from below was really amazing.
The hike continued with baby steps because we were almost exhausted due to heat and dehydration. The thought of not giving up made us reach the top. I jokingly mentioned to my friend that no wonder they call this fort impregnable. I mean, who could climb all this way up and attack this fort. Its so tiring!
We kept on hydrating ourselves and took rest until we reached the top. There was no crowd at all even though it was a weekend. The reason was clear to me 😉
After making it to the top we started exploring the monuments there which mainly included a temple and some old cannons. The view from top was breathtaking and very similar to Hampi. There were boulders scattered everywhere and small shrubs in between them. There was nothing much to explore on the top when compared to the Queens fort except a small temple. We could see ‘Venkataramana’ temple from the top which stood covering a wide area. I wanted to explore the same but by the time we reached the top we were done for the day and were running out of time. We took some good rest and started our descent. The guards had already started to shout to leave the place as soon as possible, as the complex locks down by 6 pm. Tired and dehydrated, somehow we reached down.
We didn’t actually bother to explore more, instead we went straight outside searching for water. After a proper rest we started journey back home, leaving ‘Venkataramana’ Temple for our next visit. It ideally takes 2 days to explore the whole fort complex including the temple. The two main attractions to explore are the King and Queens fort complex. The other ones are really small and nothing worth the climb. We reached back to Chennai around 10 pm. Tired but satisfied!
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