A day trip through history & art – I – Bhuvanagiri Fort – A strategic outpost for over 1000 years !

This year, we had a day off for Ramzan on the wrong date, while the whole world celebrated Ramzan on 7th July for some weird reason, our work places decided to stick to the 6th. Well a holiday is a holiday and a holiday means travel. With a day off in the middle of the week, we could only do a day trip and till the moment we got into the car, we had not decided where we wanted to go. That’s when the Figo in-charge decided to head on to the Warangal highway to  Bhuvanagiri Fort, amid protests that it was too short a distance to be considered a real trip. If we started at 9.30 AM for a day trip, we pretty much didn’t have a choice, we were told !

The Rock of Bhongir

Setting off on the Hyderabad-Warangal highway, we reached Bhuvanagiri in about an hour because we decided to simply enjoy the drive. If you have ever travelled by train to or from Hyderabad via Warangal route, you cannot miss Bhongir as Bhuvanagiri is officially known now. Every train passes through Bhongir railway station and has to necessarily stop for signals. Bhongir is also the point from where people generally call up their relatives in Hyderabad to announce that they will be at the Hyderabad station in another 45 minutes !

One can see the fort from the train window, this writer remembers looking out of the train window, as a 10 year old on a very first visit to Hyderabad and fascinated by a fort on top of a massive rock hill. 2 decades later, this writer would pass by Bhongir on every journey home and even visit the fort a couple of times. This trip was the first time a visit to the fort was being recorded.

For starters, this is the view of the Bhuvanagiri Fort from the highway leading to the fort.

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The Bhuvanagiri Fort has been built over a gigantic monolith rock, jutting out of the landscape abruptly. We also came across an article on the internet, which says, the monolithic rock over which the fort has been built, is the exposed part of a batholith, a large mass of rock formed under the earth’s crust by cooling of magma. According to the article, this rock could be the largest batholith in the world but we do not know for sure if everything mentioned in the article is true.

Batholith or not, if you paid attention in your Geography class, you will know that the rock of Bhongir is an igneous rock, like all the rock formations that are unique to the Deccan Plateau.

The gateway to Kakatiya land

Moving on to History from Geography, when you say Bhuvanagiri Fort, one usually associates it with the Kakatiyas but its history goes beyond the Kakatiyas, to the time of the Western Chalukyas. The fort was built during the 11th Century A.D reign of King Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya, after whom the fort gets its name, Bhuvanagiri. Once the Kakatiyas came to rule this part of the land, Bhuvanagiri Fort gained in importance, it was probably a strategic fort, guarding the borders.

Today, Bhuvanagiri is the entry point into the erstwhile Kakatiya land. Starting from Bhuvanagiri, if you drive north, you arrive at Kakatiya heartland of Warangal. Funnily, when you drive from Hyderabad to Warangal, you pay your first toll at Bhuvanagiri, almost like you are paying for your entry into the region that was once ruled by the Kakatiyas.

We reached Bhuvanagiri around 11.30 AM and stopped for a quick break before starting our climb up to the fort. During our previous visit a decade ago, the initial steep trek up the rock used to be draining. Now, steps have been carved along the rock surface, making it a lot more easier to climb.

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Bhuvanagiri Fort is now on the Telangana Tourism’s radar, which has taken over the maintenance of the fort. Except for the whitewashed outer fort walls, one must say they have done a decent job of it.

The fort has also become a popular rock climbing and rappelling spot for adventure enthusiasts in Hyderabad.

It was a sunny day and clear blue and white sky contrasted against the brown hues of the rock and the fort, not to forget the white painted outer walls !

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After a brief climb you arrive at the first gateway, this is where one usually turns back to see how far they have come from the town below.

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Some more climbing and you reach the next level. It was just after the June rains and the ramparts of the fort were dressed in shades of green.

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It looked like those castles that we hear about in fairy tales, was there an invisible dragon hiding somewhere?

Fort Rock Solid !

After crossing the gateway, you will see the massive, wall like rock on which the fort has been built.

The target is to reach the ruins at the highest point of the hill.

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Being a strategic fort, you will not find palaces or living quarters. The ruins that remain are  watch towers and fortifications. One can climb up to the ruins on top of the hill, steps have been carved on the rock leading to the top.

You will realise what a gigantic igneous rock you are treading upon when you actually being climbing up. You can imagine different shapes ranging from a giant potato to a sleeping mammoth but what really boggles your imagination is the kind of volatile geological activity that must have taken place millions of years ago for a rock of this kind to form !

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Half way up the climb, you will find some ruined mandapas and enclosures. Wonder what these were used for, were they store houses, granaries?

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One can also view the ancient, indigenous idea for water storage and supply. The Bhuvanagiri region is rocky and arid and the fort must have faced water shortages, to counter it, at regular intervals along the slope of the hill, small pools had been constructed to store the rain water. When water filled up one pool, it would overflow down the slope to the next one and so on.

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Today, these pools are a green, stagnant mess of water bottles and chips packets, clear signs of successive generations that don’t understand the value of their history.

The climb up is not very tough, if you can manage your way through the narrow steps. They are more like indents on the rock surface.

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As you climb up, you get to see the landscape of the Deccan Plateau spread out before you.

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Elsewhere, a canon rests on one of the platforms enroute.

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This canon must have belonged to the Golconda Sultan era.

After a few more minutes of climbing, you reach the top of the hill. In addition to a ruined structure, there is some communication hub at the top, probably belonging to the Indian Railways.

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This ruined structure too seems to belong to the Golconda kings.

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We do not know what it was used for. Our guess is it must have been some kind of quarters for the army stationed at Bhongir.

Walking around the hill top, you will fall in love with the views below. We fell for this one, a view of the Hyderabad-Warangal highway:

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For someone who loves the roads, this is a real feast !

Train, train come again !

If the Bhuvanagiri Fort had strategic importance a millennium ago, the Bhongir Railway station, today, serves as a strategic outpost to South Central Railway. Though very few trains are scheduled to stop at Bhongir, almost every train will halt for a few minutes for a signal break, there was time when we really believed Bhongir was a regular halt.

From the vantage point on the fort, you can watch the hustle bustle of the Bhongir railway station below.

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You can spend an entire afternoon getting blown away by the strong wind at the top, hearing no other sound except the faint sound of the train horn and watching the trains snake through the winding tracks.

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If you strain your eyes further, in the direction of the railway station, you can see the famous Yadgirigutta hill temple, 15 kms away. Here is a zoomed in picture of Yadgirigutta:

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It was a hazy day and this is the best our lens could do.

We lazed around for a long time until we decided we were hungry but yet wanted to wait and see one more train pass by. As if our wish was heard at the Bhongir station, a train promptly arrived at the station and glided out !

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Before climbing down, we wanted to try climbing onto the ruined structure. There are steps taking you to the top that remind you a lot of climbing the Charminar in Hyderabad.

The elegant arches of the structure look like a photo frame, capturing the views way better than any of us can ever do with our camera !

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The terrace of the structure is sure to bring back memories of your grandparents’ home from the 1950s !

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Only, be care while going down the memory lane, one slip and you could become a memory yourself !

Of all the views from here, this one caught our eye, keen eye !

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What is special about this view? Look to the left of the picture, you can see the Bhongir railway station and the train route. Now look to the extreme right, the road visible in the corner of the picture is the Warangal highway. Basically, we captured the railway and highway running parallel to each other in one picture ! Anybody knows of other places where you can get a view like this or is this view unique to Bhuvanagiri?

The clouds gathered overhead as we climbed down the hill, it threatened to rain any moment, looking at the black clouds, we were sure it was going to be a downpour !

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How many storms and stormy attacks have this ancient rock and fort faced together? One that note, it was time to take leave of Bhuvanagiri.

Our first thought after leaving Bhuvanagiri was lunch ! If you are travelling to Warangal and looking for good food, head straight to Hotel Vivera, about 6 kms from Bhuvanagiri Fort on the highway towards Warangal.

We had our fill of South Indian thali and Biriyani, bought some Sabudana Vadiyalu and were back on the highway. It rained a bit after we left Bhuvanagiri and while returning from the hotel, the Bhuvanagiri fort sported some waterfalls as the rain water flowed down the face of the rock. Here is a click of the Fort from the highway:

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Given how commonly known Bhuvanagiri is in this part of the country, not many people actually pay a visit to the fort, if you live in Hyderabad or plan to visit Hyderabad and check out the not so popular places, head to Bhuvanagiri and have a rocking time !

Info tidbits

  • Bhuvanagiri is an hour’s drive from Hyderabad. There are regular buses and trains from Hyderabad though express train do not stop at Bhongir.
  • The fort is a short walk from the railway station, if you have your vehicle, you can drive right upto the fort entrance.
  • Bhuvanagiri is now popular with adventure enthusiasts for rock climbing and rappelling. If you are interested in the activity, you can check out Rock Climbing School, Bhongir on Facebook.
  • If you plan to visit Bhongir during Summer, plan your trip early morning. Summer is unbearable in these regions.
  • Adventure clubs like GHAC conduct night camping and trekking at Bhuvanagiri, get in touch with them if you are interested. Do not try such adventures on your own ! Now that there is a ticket counter, they seem to have imposed timings, the fort entry closes after 6 PM. There is an entry ticket of Rs.5/-.
  • Bhongir town has good food options but we still prefer Hotel Vivera.
  • Yadgirigutta and Kolanupaka are nearby places of interest, if you are looking at a day trip. Drive on to Warangal to make it a weekend trip.

 

 

 

 

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