A koel sang its welcome note as the car came to a standstill at the corner of the dusty village road. The tamarind tree offered shade and hid the melodious singers among its leaves. Kites had begun to circle the skies in search of their next meal. A bush chat scanned the surroundings from a fence while sunbirds hopped from one shrub to another. The power lines running along the village offered a favourable perch to some Green Bee-eaters, who kept flying in and out, as if they were performing a dance. A Black-shouldered Kite looked at us intently as we walked along the small village lanes leading to the base of the hill. When we got closer to the base of the hill, the steep rock surface meeting the open skies made it look like a daunting climb.
Channarayana Durga, the hill fort that was the destination of the climb is known as a strategic fort with 3 levels of fort walls. For an untrained eye, each level of the fort wall looks like pieces of history from various parts of India. The topmost fort walls have a rectangular bastion and give a feeling of looking at The Great Wall, while the lower ones seem to have round bastion.
As we started to scale the rock surface, we expected it to be bare and uninteresting, but to our surprise, we found tiny flowers bobbing their heads to the cool breeze; they had managed to grow in the creaks and small patches of soil. Whether it was their beauty or our tired limbs that made us stop every now and then will remain an eternal point of debate. A pair of rock agamas appeared from their hiding to check who disturbed their peace and quickly retreated on seeing the group.
Soon the village was just a tiny dot at the distance and the beautiful views of the hills nearby and the fields kept us company as we gained altitude. Swallows from the deep crevice on the rock surface took flight, they kept a close eye on us to ensure we were at a safe distance from the nest. Lime butterflies fluttered around the green patches close by. The first line of walls of the hill fort became visible; they were covered with flowering ivy gourd. A banyan tree has laid claim to some parts of the fort wall. A small mantapa that looks like some remains of a temple offered respite from the sun. There are also ruins that look like places used to store grains and ammunition as well as a place where people might have lived.
Slightly further from here along the walking along the fort walls there lies a pond, overlooking the pond is a giant banyan tree; a keelback swam away having been disturbed by the hikers. The green waters of the pond and lush green from the trees around offer a serene place to rest.
The climb from here is not very steep and has steps laid out. During the months soon after the monsoon, small flowers bloom on the tiniest patch of green and in some parts of the fort, one gets the feeling that a special carpet of purple and blue is laid out just for the visitors. The terrain offers plenty of sightings of butterflies like the Red Pierrots, Common Emigrants, White Orange Tips, Danaid Eggflies and tiny blues. As one comes closer to the last set of fort walls, nawabs are seen chasing each other to claim their territory. Little pools of waters turned out to be hideouts for frogs the size of a thumbnail – their skin matched the texture of the rocks, making them hard to spot. The top of the hill offers a breathtaking 360 degree view – the kites and the buzzards add to the mesmerizing sight, the gentle breeze and the chirping of the bulbuls at a distance ensures a tranquil setting for anyone seeking to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city.
The fort at Channarayana Durga is believed to be built by Channappa Gouda, a chieftain from Madhugiri, in the 17th century. The Marathas and the Mysore Wodeyars later occupied it until the British took over during the third Mysore war before abandoning it. The fort offers history buffs different styles of fort walls and bricks constructions. While treasure-seekers have ensured that no stone is left unturned, the ruins offer an insight to the powerful leaders who once ruled it.
How to get there:
Channarayana Durga is about 100 kms from Bangalore and 36 kms from Tumkur. The village has small shops but it is advisable to carry food, water and a cap for the trek. The climb to the top of the hill will take you about 90 minutes.