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The Magnificent Gingee Fort

The Magnificent Gingee Fort: The Troy of the East (2020)

About Gingee Fort

Also known as the Senji or Chenji Fort, the Gingee Fort Tiruvannamalai is located in the Villupuram District. It is around 160 kilometers from Chennai and very close to Puducherry. There is a significant history attached to the Gingee Fort. The Gingee fort was said to be one of the most fortified forts in India. So much so that the Maratha King Chhatrapati Shivaji once called it the ‘most impregnable fortress in India’. The Britishers called the Gingee Fort the Troy of the East. The Magnificent Gingee FortImage Source

Who Built The Gingee Fort?

The magnificent Gingee Fort was initially built by Ananta Kon from the Konar Dynasty in 1190 AD. It was later further fortified by Krishna Konar in the 13th century and elevated to the status of being an unbreachable citadel that protected the small town of Saenji.

The Gingee Fort was also known for being the headquarters domination in northern Tamil Nadu. The fort was initially constructed as being a strategic place to fend off any invading armies. In fact, according to one account, the Gingee Fort was fortified again during the 15th and 16th centuries by lieutenants of various armies. The Gingee fort then passed to the Marathas, who were led by Shivaji in 1677 AD. The Moghuls, Bijapur sultans, Carnatic Nawabs, the French, and then finally, the British took over ownership of the fort in 1761. This fort is also closely linked with Raja Tej Singh, who is known for having revolted unsuccessfully against the Nawab of Arcot. He was eventually killed in a separate battle.

History of Gingee Fort

What is the history of the Gingee Fort? From 1660 to 1677 AD, the fort was called Badshabad by the Bijapur Nawabs, who had control of the fort during this period. When the Marathas took it over from the Bijapur Nawabs, they started calling for fort Chandry or Chindy. Upon capturing the fort in 1698 AD, the Mughals named it Nusratgadh, in honor of the commander-in-chief of the army that seized the fort, Nawab Zulfiqar Khan Nusrat Jung. It was the British and the French who called it Gingee Fort or Jinji fort. The earliest records in Chennai have records of the British also referring to the fort as Chingee or Chengey Fort.

History of Gingee Fort, TamilnaduImage Source
The Gingee fort has a history that spans well over two hundred years. The earliest rulers of this hill fort were the Cholas. The Gingee Fort was originally the site of just a small fort that was to be built by the Chola Dynasty in the 9th century AD. The Gingee fort kept on getting modified and fortified as the years passed, first, by Kurumbar, who fought the Cholas, and then by the Vijaynagar Empire in the 13th century.

According to Tamil legend, the heartbreaking tale of Raja Tej Singh is closely associated with the Gingee fort. In Tamil, the king was popularly referred to as Thesingu Raasan. Raja Tej Singh’s real-life story and his remarkable friendship with his general, Mehboob Khan, has inspired many poems, street plays, and several other novels. Tej Singh was the one who revolted against the Nawab of Arcot and got defeated. He was subsequently killed in the battle that followed. Even though the Gingee fort became a part of the Nawab of Arcot’s territory only in 1714, Raja Tej Singh’s story became a legend. Since then, his life, friendship, love, bravery, and tragic end have been eulogized in numerous poems, ballads, songs, and plays.

What all can you see in the Gingee Fort complex? The Gingee Fort complex is spread out over three hills – Krishnagiri Hills, which is named after Krishna Kon in the north, Rajagiri or Anadagiri Hills, which is named after Ananda Kon in the west, and Chandrayandurg to the southeast direction. These three hills make up the fort complex, with each having its separate and self-contained citadel.

Structure of Gingee Fort

The fort is constructed at the height of 800 feet and an added protection of an 80 feet wide moat. The fort complex also includes a seven storied Kalyana Mahal, which is a marriage hall, prison cells, granaries, and there is also a temple dedicated to the presiding Hindu deity of the city, Goddess Chenji Amman. Visitors can also check out a sacred pond called Aanaikulam inside the fort.

The fort’s walls are further strengthened by a mixture of natural hilly areas of the Chakkilidrug, Krishnagiri, and the Rajagiri hills. The gaps in between the walls are sealed with the main wall. This central wall is 20 meters (66 feet0 in thickness. There are various minor fortifications present on top of the hill as well.

Structure of Gingee Fort, TamilnaduImage Source
Since water resources are very sparse in most South Indian forts, there are two separate sweet water sources on the hill that serve the fort. Below the hill, there are three reservoirs that store rainwater. Water supply to the marriage hall (Kalyana Mahal) is brought through ancient earthenware pipes from a reservoir that is 500 meters away from the fort.

Today, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is responsible for the fort’s maintenance and day-to-day administration.

How To Reach The Gingee Fort?

The closest airport is the Chennai International Airport, which is 150 kilometers from the fort. The nearest town that has a railway station is Tindivanam. You can take a cab or a bus from here to reach the fort.

How To Reach The Gingee Fort?Image Source

Is There An Entry Fee For The Gingee Fort?

There is a nominal entry fee of Rs. 25 for Indian citizens and Rs. 300 for foreigners. The entry fee is to see all the monuments inside the fort complex.

What Are The Timings Of The Gingee Fort?

The fort remains open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Gingee Fort was declared as a national monument of India in 1921 and since then has been under the responsibility of the Archaeological Department. The Tourism Department of India runs various schemes, and tourism plans to popularize this remote and ancient fort. With its ruined forts, temples, and granaries, the Gingee Fort and its surroundings no longer have the same glamor as it once did. But it still stands witness to the splendor of a bygone era. Having seen numerous invasions, wars, and bravery take place, the fort is today a showcase of a variety of architectural techniques.