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This was a visit to one of Tamil Nadu’s few surviving forts rather than a temple. And what a magnificent fort it must have been. Built originally by the Cholans in the 9th century, it was occupied and enlarged by the Vijayaganar rulers int he 13th century, and then the local Nayak rulers. Later it continued to have strategic military significance and was successively occupied by the Marathas and Mughals from the north, and then by the French and English.

The fort is actually three citadels, each perched on its own hill, as well as a large number of temples, palaces, stores and other huge monuments, surrounded by a mile-long fortified wall.

When we visited it was too hot and we did not have the time to climb to the top of one of the citadels, but even from just above the fort wall, the panoramic view across the surrounding, flat rather lunar landscape was impressive. I suppose it must be a result of its violent history that so many of its great buildings lie in dramatic ruins, but they still evoke a grandiose past. We saw giant elephant stables – and an elephant tank – and a vast granary complex where the rice and wheat was stored during the 16th century.

The romantic atmosphere of a place with glorious and tragic past was enhanced by the virtual absence of tourists, apart from the obligatory group of well-behaved, uniformed school children trooping by. It would have merited a day-long visit and a tramp (or scramble?) to the top of one of the citadels.

Diary     Photos     On to Tiruvannamalai