Though it it has been long abandoned and many of its buildings lie in ruins, Chitradurga Fort was at the center of Deccani politics for three centuries. It was originally brought to prominence by a branch of the Nayaka clan, but the fort has ties to even earlier periods in India’s history. Carvings of the Edicts of Ashoka dating to the 3rd century BCE have been found at the fort, and a legendary duel described in the Mahabharata between the hero Bhima and the man-eating demon Hidimbasura is said to have taken place on its grounds.
The Nayakas built their stronghold in Chitradurga in the 1500s. The neighboring Vijayanagara Empire wanted to exert more influence in the region and brought the fort under their control for a time, then fell in the 1600s. The Nayakas resumed their rule in the region and expanded the fort even further.
At the height of Nayaka rule, Chitradurga Fort had 18 temples, 19 gateways, 38 posterior entrances, 35 secret entrances, multiple reservoirs and warehouses, and 2,000 guard towers. The fort successfully repelled a near-constant stream of would-be invaders until 1779, when it fell to Hyder Ali of the Kingdom of Mysore. After the British defeated Hyder Ali’s successor Tipu Sultan elsewhere in Mysore, Chitradurga Fort fell under British control. Called Chitaldoorg by the British, the fort was then used to station British troops.
Today, Chitradurga Fort is a beloved landmark in Karnataka, but it is little-known in the rest of India, let alone the rest of the world. While much of its history has been marked by bloodshed, it serves as a cultural monument and place of unity for Kannadigas.
Know Before You Go
The fort is open from dawn to dusk. Visitors should note that the fort is not wheelchair-accessible, and many sections contain steep inclines. Tickets must be bought at the front gates, and entrance fees are ₹5 for Indian citizens and ₹100 for foreign nationals.