An Awesome Trek Called Gingee Fort (Rajagiri Fort)
I have been wanting to post about my trip to Gingee and my trek to Rajagiri Fort for while but couldn’t find time. So now here it is – An Awesome Trek called Gingee Fort (Rajagiri Fort).
It has been a while since I ventured on a trek. Back in my college days, I used to go regularly on treks on top of small hills all around our college. The thrill and sense of happiness you feel when you reached the top all by your own effort was exhilarating. So when my friends pinged on WhatsApp for a trek, I was more than willing to join.
After a quite a lot of discussion, Tada Falls was mentioned as an ideal spot for trekking. But then one of my friend suggested Gingee Fort and quickly everyone got intrigued just by its name and decided to go to Gingee Fort. The name itself was formidable and I knew somehow the trek is going to be as well.
History of Gingee Fort
Gingee Fort or locally known as ‘Senchi’ Fort is one big fort complex consisting of two main forts – Gingee Fort and Rajagiri Fort and a smaller one called Chandrayandurg or Chakkailiya Durg. The fort are situated from North to South. Gingee Fort is towards the North, Rajagiri Fort to the West and Chandrayandurg towards South East. The walls connecting all three forts run a total length of 13 km.
The town Gingee lies around 160 km from Chennai. The original fort was built by Chola kings during 9th century AD by the Nayaks. Later on, it changed hands between the Marathas, the Sultans, the Carnatic Nawabs, the French and finally landing on the British. This fort, which is more than 1000 years old, is one of the few surviving ones in Tamil Nadu, thanks to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Gingee Fort has had various names such as Badshabad, Chindy, Nusratgadh, Gingee, etc. The local legend Raja Desinghu (Raja Tej Singh) life is associated with this fort. The Rajagiri Fort (meaning Kings Hill, the one which we climbed) is a part of the Gingee Fort complex. It is called as the “most impregnable fort in India”, which I felt was the most appropriate title for the fort after reaching the top.
The Rajagiri fort is built at a height of 800 feet and protected by a natural deep chasm of 15-20 m deep. The other two mountains are called Krishnagiri in the North and Chandrayandurg to the South East. Rajagiri is in the West.
One interesting fact about the fort which I read was when the fort was under the control of second son of Shivaji Chhatrapati Rajaram, the Moghuls tried capturing it. He successfully repelled the Moghul army, which then lay siege to the fort for seven long years. Even after capturing it, they couldn’t capture Chhtrapati Rajaram as he escaped from the fort (presumably through secret tunnels built in).
The Drive to Gingee
So we decided on the place, date, and time. A total of 11 people (3 children and 8 adults) planned to do this trek on Dec 28th, 2016. We planned to start early in two cars as it would take nearly 2 and 1/2 hours – 3 hours to reach the fort (depending up on traffic and tea/tiffin breaks). We started early around 6.30 am and took the NH32 Route using Google Maps.
The roads were quite good and it was good fun to drive early in the morning. Once you reach the town, do not depend on Google Maps, as we ended on the wrong side of the mountain. The local people were kind enough to help us to point us in the right direction.
Trek to Rajagiri Fort
The view of the hill was quite astonishing. Time and time again I was absolutely amazed at our ancestors’ ability to build structures at the most difficult of places. The mountain itself looked rugged and the thought at the amount of logistics and man power required, that went into building such a fort must have been enormous.
As we neared the entrance, we had to get tickets (Rs 15 for one person). The guy who gave us the tickets warned us of monkeys presence and advised us to carry a stick to ward them off. The initial decision to carry few water bottles and some juices was a good move, because the climb was difficult. Even though we did this climb in the month of Dec (when it is least hot), it was still tiresome. And you tend to get dehydrated quickly, so it is better carry water bottles during the climb.
The whole fort and the buildings that reside near the foothills are well maintained by the ASI. The foothills has a Kalyana Mahal, a building to keep the granaries, a gymnasium, a large pond for elephants to drink, a place to keep the ammunition, and barracks for the solider.
There were steps carved out of stone placed along the route uphill. However, I had a nagging feeling that these were not the original ‘steps’ but rather laid by the ASI to help visitors climb the fort. These steps were uneven and some quite steep.
Monkeys did made their presence felt by jumping from trees to trees and constantly looking at a way to snatch our bags (carrying water bottles and some snacks). Thankfully, we didn’t face too much problem but I did witness another group’s bag being attacked and taken away temporarily by a monkey before that group managed to ward it off using the stick they had.
Our group was 11 strong (3 children and rest adults) but our female friends found it very difficult to climb. Two of them couldn’t climb any further due to the steepness and the zigzag nature of the route, thus only 8 of us reached the top.
The last bit of the climb towards the entrance was particularly hard as it was very steep. Once you near the entrance, you see a long narrow staircase. Then comes a natural occurring deep chasm which is about 10 meters wide (approx) and 15-20 meters deep. In the olden days, they used a wooden draw-bridge, to ensure only friendlies entered the fort. This is now replaced by an iron bridge. Much to my surprise it was being repaired as the wooden planks that were used, were worn out and was getting replaced. We were able to quickly go across and enter the fort itself.
And lo and behold, what a view it was from the top! the view was amazing. There are a few structures inside, an a very impressive watch tower. From the top of the tower, you had an awesome 360 degree view. The whole effort of climbing those steep steps, bothersome monkeys all quickly faded away. There is a Venkataramanaswami temple at the top as well in addition to few auxiliary buildings.
The whole climb took us about 4 hours (up and down). The difficult part I felt was when I was climbing down, because you really need to tread carefully. By the time we all reached down, we were very tired and hungry. We thought of climbing the remaining two hills but decided against it as we also had planned to go to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary on our way back and it would be too late by then.
As I climbed down, I couldn’t help but think of the historical significance of this fort with respect to this area. The fort itself is very well designed with clear slits provided along the walls to help solider fight without getting hit. The nature of the fort complex is simply amazing. The fort is built between three hill tops with connecting walls and outposts to help protect one another.
Forget about scaling the fort, just nearing the fort and trying to capture must have been a very difficult one. The path to the individual forts inside the complex is winding. It provides the solider in the fort a clear advantage in terms of visibility. Remember it also had a moat and everything to protect from invaders. Unfortunately, we cannot see where those moats are as they are overtaken by nature and man. But it is no wonder that it took Moghuls seven long years to capture this fort.
Overall it was a very satisfactory and an awesome trek. I highly recommend anyone who has interest in trekking or wants to visit some interesting and historical places in and around Chennai to visit Gingee and experience the fort first-hand. The only thing I missed was, they could have kept some ASI guides to help people understand the significance of the fort and keep name boards/story boards to explain further what that fort meant to the people around and those who lived in the era.
Total distance traveled (from my home to the fort and back – including a quick stop over at Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary) – 330 km. If you are inspired by this post and wants to visit the place and wants more details, drop in a message in the comment section below and I will do my best to guide you.