The Impregnable Gingee Fort

29 Mar

I visited the small town of Gingee on 14 March 2017 during my travels in the old Arcot Nawabdom. “Gingee” is the British spelling. In Tamil script it is “Senji” and pronounced “Chenji” just as one might hear “Sankarankovil” pronounced “Changarankoyil”.

Gingee Fort is 38 km due East of Tiruvannamalai. Gingee is a Taluk of Villupuram District.

The Gingee fort was originally buil by the rulers of the Chola dynasty during the 9th century AD. It changed hands to Kurumabr and then to the Vijayanagar Empire in the 13th century.

The fort was strengthened during Maratha occupation under the leadership of Shivaji in 1677 AD.

Shivaji recaptured Gingee from the Bijapur sultans who had earlier taken control of the fort from the Marathas.

During Aurangzeb’s campaign in the Deccan, Shivaji’s second son Chhatrapati Rajaram who ascended the throne, sought refuge in Ginjee. The Moghuls laid siege to the fort but could not capture it for seven years. In 1698, the fort capitulated, but by then Chhatrapati Rajaram had escaped.

The fort later came under the control of the Carnatic Nawabs who lost it to the French in 1750. The British assumed control in 1761 although it was lost to Hyder Ali for a brief period.

“The Gingee Fort complex is on three hillocks: Krishnagiri to the north, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast. The three hills together constitute a fort complex, yet each hill contains a separate and self-contained citadel. Connecting them — forming an enormous triangle, a mile from north to south — are 25-metre thick walls, punctuated by bastions and gateways giving access to the protected zones at the heart of the complex.”

The first hill, where the main fort is, is called Rajagiri. Originally it was known as Kamalagiri as well as Anandagiri. The fort here is most impregnable. To gain entry into the citadel one had to cross a chasm with the help of a small wooden draw bridge which was drawn as soon as the host troops crossed it.

I bought a tourist’s ticket for Rs.15 and set out to climb the steep slope on Rajagiri hill. The climb was so steep that with the best will in the world, I could not get beyond a third of the way where there was a circular landing with a hole in the center… probably a rotating gun turret for mounting a cannon.

I have an injury on my left knee from an old motorcycle accident and I thought discretion was the better part of valour and made a dignified retreat. In many parts there was no railing and I had to take great care not to miss my step and fall into the boulder-filled abyss.

Shivaji ranked Gingee as the “most impregnable fortress in India” and it was called the “Troy of the East” by the British.

3 Responses to “The Impregnable Gingee Fort”

  1. Narendra March 30, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    This is first time I have seen the photographs in fine details. Curious to know where is water storage among broken rocks.

    • Ajit Mani March 30, 2017 at 11:47 pm #

      As indicated in my blog, I visited only Rajagiri, the most impregnable of the three forts. I climbed only to about a third of the way to the top. The only info I can give you in reply to your question about water storage is:

      Water resources are usually sparse in South Indian forts, while it was well managed in the Citadel. There are two sweet water sources on the summit and below it there are three reservoirs for storage of rain water. Water for Kalyana Mahal was brought through earthenware pipes from reservoir located 500 m (1,600 ft) from it.

    • Ajit Mani March 30, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      For a more complete set of photos of Gingee Fort, please visit the following link:

      India - Tamil Nadu - Gingee Forts - Rajagiri Fort - 5

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