Deliberating on how to spend the weekend, I remembered a sign board that read Madhugiri which I had come across on a visit to the famous Lakshmi Shrine at Goravanahalli. After discussing for a while, we decided to go there. For some background details, I ran a quick search on the internet and I found that Madhugiri is a quaint little town located about 43 km north of Tumkur and is famous for a glorious fort built on a single hill – the second largest monolith in Asia.
We packed some travellers favourite – Puliyogare and Curd Rice and gallons of water and set out early in the morning to conquer the fort. We took the same road as we did to Goravanahalli. Madhugiri is about 17 km from Goravanahalli and there are many direction signs along the way. We reached there at about 10.30 a.m. and found out that there were no tourist guides and hardly any visitors to the fort. Some local lads where roaming about the fort trying to find their own paths. Looking at the fort from below we thought that it would hardly take an hour to climb. We took a few bottles of water and started climbing.
In the beginning, the paved pathway and newly constructed steps gave us hope that it was going to be an easy climb to the top. We climbed enthusiastically and leisurely only stopping to catch a breath now and then. But after five minutes we came across a rock which just had small crevices as foot holds. After that the climb became easy once again. It was nice to climb freely, soaking in the atmosphere without having a guide filling our ears with history, names of kings, etc. We were free to imagine and make up our own stories.
We climbed, climbed and climbed some more. The fort seemed to be rising as we kept climbing. We went on with great determination, but now we had to stop every few steps to catch our breath. As we went higher the views got better. The area surrounding Madhugiri is rocky and has many other hillocks sculpted by the elements. Even the view of the fort kept changing as we climbed. Clicking a few photos and wondering how people carried such huge stones to build the fort walls, we reached half way up. There, we came across a huge tank. We marvelled at the engineering of the inlets to the tank from the higher slopes. There were a few crumbling structures on one side of the tank. The other side of the tank had a rudimentary stairway leading to a watch tower.
The climb from there onwards was difficult. There were just crevices on the monolith which served as footholds. There was a railing all along which we held on to for our dear lives. It was a good two hours since we started.
It was noon and the harsh sun was melting our determination. Somehow, we reached the top and found hundreds of monkeys blocking the final gateway. We couldn’t get through the gateway so we sat there precariously perched on the crevices for a good half an hour and then began descending.
It was quite tricky to get down. The railings were heated by the sun and we held on to them in spite of our burning hands. Any little shady nook looked like heaven and we ran towards them. After about an hour we reached the foot and collapsed on the stone benches below the shady trees. It was a great experience. I would definitely go there again in spite of my sore legs and baked skin.
I could not find conclusive literature about who built the fort though it is clear that the fort was built initially by some ruler and then improved by another. One can see two types of walls there – one built from brick and the other from stone. One will also notice different types of architecture in the doorways and other crumbling structures.
I would recommend you to leave Bangalore as early as possible so that you don’t end up climbing under the harsh noon day sun. Do carry food and plenty of water. Madhugiri Fort is approximately 110 km from Bangalore. You can drive out to Tumkur on NH4, turn right and drive for another 40 kilometers to reach Madhugiri. Alternatively you can turn right at Dobbspet, about 20km after the toll gate at Nelamangala and take the road to Madhugiri.
P.S. This article was published in Spectrum ,Deccan Herald on 24th April, 2012. Deccan Herald