Devanahalli Fort is located just off India’s longest Highway NH 44 on the section between Bangalore and Hyderabad. When driving from Bangalore, it is about 10km from the exit to Kempe Gowda International Airport.
Despite living in Bangalore for several years and wanting to make a trip to the fort, despite driving on the highway past the fort on several different occasions, despite knowing that organised walking tours take place on weekends, I have somehow not been able to make time to see the place. So on a random weekday, while I was in Yelahanka with time to spare, I ventured to see the place on my own.
A low archway forms the entrance to the oval fort and a narrow road divides the fort in half. The fort walls are made of granite blocks and the upper 1/3 section of the wall is made of bricks and lime plastering. The simple designs on the wall on the inner side of the archway have a very Indo-Sarcenic look. Upon entering through the arch, I am greeted by two small patches of green lawn on either side of the narrow main street followed by a small temple on my left. The temple, probably made of granite was painted in bright ochre and the fading board (in Kannada) tells me that it is dedicated to ‘Shri Neera Baagilu Anjaneya Swami’. Steps (almost all worn away!) lead me to the rampart of the fort.
The fort appears to be three-tiered. The top tier being the rampart itself with several bastions and look out points and guard shelters. What little remains on the facade of some of the guard rooms appear to tell that the tiny rooms were each ‘decorated’ differently. The middle tier is the walkway, a wide footpath and the lower tier is a few feet below the other two levels and is where the village exists. If you look out of the fort through the ‘look out points’ you can see the dry bed of the Devanahalli kere (lake). Either the lake extended all the way to the foot of the fort or there was a moat around the lake. But now encroachment makes it impossible to tell.
The end opposite to the archway is where the fort wall breaks and steps lead one down to the main street. At that point is a fairly large square room on the rampart. It might have held ammunitions or provisions for the guards or might have been a check post, I am not sure. I walk down the steps onto the main street and walk left (eastward and away from the fort wall). The street is lined with small shops that include pawn brokers, jewellers, grocers, small cafes, garment shops, a school; basically everything a town would need. The main street ends in a relatively new arch that abuts the State Highway SH 104.
I turn round and walk back, make a right onto Bazar Street, visit the Ranganatha Swamy temple, come back to the Main Street, and walk a few steps and discover an old and abandoned two storey house that looks so out of place, that I stood there and stared at it for a few minutes. It looks like a small, simple haveli that has been transported from Rajasthan to Devanahalli! I wondered if a jeweller or an old fashioned banker lived there in a bygone era. Plain stone pillars support a first floor and the first floor of the house supports a terrace on simple Corinth pillars. The monkey top windows look intact and capable of keeping rain and wind and monkeys out for another 100 years! The main door looked solid but plain with 4 big and two small and simple ovals etched on it. The wooden door jamb on the contrary looked pretty with nice designs.
A few steps later, I see another bright blue house, not as big as the first one, but eye-catching nevertheless. The house seems to have undergone many a changes while still retaining a bit of the past in its windows and terrace walls and corinth pillars.
As I walk towards the fort entrance I see more temples on either side of the road. I attempted to walk the right rampart but was discouraged from doing so by the gardener who proudly told me that he is the one that maintains the left side lawn patch and it is better kept than the one on the right, though I could not tell the difference 🙂 Mr. Left Patch Gardener tells me rather proudly that Mr. Right Patch Gardener comes from Bangalore and therefore has no time to tend to the lawn (whatever!!). Mr. Left Patch Gardener goes on to tell me that his then newly married granddad came to live in Devanahalli and our man is the third generation to live there. They are mostly farmers and while we were chatting he was busy grazing his cows!
1) The fort is dotted with several temples. Most of them were closed when I visited.
2) Worn out steps lead to the right hand side ramparts as well. But the right half is in a state of neglect and I decided not to walk on that side, even though I did try.
3) I do not know the extent of the fort, but it looks like the main street of the fort dissected the fort in half and extended beyond the fort walls and outside towards what is now the Devanahalli new town.
4) Within the fort there are many short and narrow paths that veer off from the main street. Really tiny houses sit on either sides of these narrow paths.
5) At the edge of the Devanahalli kere is an Anjaneya temple sitting next to a small dargah.
6) As stated earlier, many temples dot the fort. The temples seem to have undergone some amount of restoration and renovation. But the work comes across as of poor workmanship and quality and even seems to have deviated from the original architectural style and design. For example, the gopura in front of the Chandramouleshwara temple looks very modern, while the temple itself looks old, simple and desparate for a facelift. Similar facelifts at the Sri Venugopala Swamy Temple and the Mariamman Temple looked out of place to me.
7) There is a small monument outside the fort and a few meters away that supposedly marks the birthplace of Tipu Sultan.
8) Midway from the fort and the monument to Tipu’s birthplace is an ancient pond (Kalyani).
9) There are no boards or signs to guide or narrate the history of the place.
10) My slow jaunt took up about 1.5hours.