Sunday 25 November 2012

The island fortess where Vachanas of Basaveshwara are buried

This is not only an island with a little bit of history but also a place of legends. One such legend is that more than a lakh of verses or vachanas composed by Basaveshwara, the poet, statesman, thinker and philosopher from north Karnataka, are buried in a stone box here. The stone box is amid the Krishna river and it is visible only during summer when the level of water in the river comes down.
This is Jaldurga, the riverine island in Raichur district. As the name itself suggest it is a water fort-Jal means water and durg stands fort.
This is one of the many islands in Raichur district and perhaps the most important from the historic point of view. The island is formed by the Krishna and two other smaller streams.
The fort of Jaldurga was built by the Adil Shahi emperors of Bijapur who strengthened the ramparts and raised its height to ensure complete safety and security. Before the Adil Shahis took over the fort, it belonged to the Bahamani sultans who were bitter rivals of  Vijayanagars. The fort, for sometime, passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar before it lapsed once again to the Adil Shahis. 
Jaldurga, during the days of the conflict with the Vijayanagar dynasty, played a vital role in giving a toe-hold for the Adil Shahis. Since Raichur and Mudgal forts passed hands from the Adil Shahis to Vijayanagars and vice-versa, the Adil Shahis were in need of a permanent military camp. Jaldurga fulfilled this long-term goal.
The Adil Shahis went about building what was once an impregnable fort. Today much of the fort is in ruins. Meadows Taylor has given a graphic description of the fort.
The high walls of the fort came in handy for another purpose. There are spots on the fort from where criminals, traitors and those who displeased the Adil Shahi kings were thrown off.  People who were sentenced to death were pushed off the fort at a particular place. Such people  landed on the rocks below and died. One such spot is the steep cliff on the northen side.
The top of the fort housed a palace of the Adil Shahis. There was also a small mosque which is nowhere to be seen and a cellar. An underground tunnel originated from the top of the fort to the ground below. Today, thick vegetation covers this structure.
When you reach the top of the fort, get ready to enjoy a breathtaking view of the craggy rocks below and the Narayanapur dam which is miles away. The waters of the Krishna and its two smaller tributaries is a sight for sore eyes.
There used to be a huge vault here where riches and treasures were supposed to have been stored.
Getting to Jaldurga is rather easy. Lingsugur, the nearest town and
taluk headquarters of Raichur district, is just 13 kms away. Raichur is 70 kms away. There are plenty of buses and private vehicles operating from Lingsugur and even Raichur to Jaldurga.
This island is much different from the island of Srirangapatna. The Krishna here flows eastwards around Jaldurga and two small streams or tributaries join the Krishna creating this island. 
There are some tombs as you approach the fort. All we can guess is that they belong to the Adil Shahis. There is no name or board to give us details. There are some arches which were once doorways or gates to the fort.
Locals and old-timers will show you the places where the fort once had seven beautiful gateways.     
The walk around the fort will take you to Sangemeshwara Matha and a Yellamma Temple. The idol of Yellamma has a face which is red in colour. The trees around this temple look green even in summers. This is because of the gift of green bangles given to the Goddess by devotees. Devotees pray for a particular cause and gift Yellamma with the bangles for fulfillment of their wishes.
The other Yellamama which I saw was the one at Saudatti. (There are many temples dedicated to Yellamma in north Karnataka and Maharashtra).
There is also a temple of  Sangameshwara here.
Walk down the Yellamma Temple towards the rocky water front which leads you to the banks of the Krishna. This place is called Mandhana Maduvu.
Locals will show you a place in the river which they say can be seen during summer when the water level of the Krishna recedes. The stone here is in the form of a box which is reported to contain a lakh of verses of Basaveshwara or Basavanna. There are many versions on why and how the verses came to be hidden here.
Basaveshwara has written innumerable vachanas and they are on a variety of topics. These vachanas form part of a beautiful body of literature called Vachana Sahitya. This sahitya predates Dasa sahitya by a century.
Imagine if  what the locals told me about Mandhana Maduvu proves to be true. When I visited Jaldurga, the Krishna was overflowing the danger mark and water was also being released from the Narayanapur Dam. Hence, there was no way I could see the stone box.    
The Krishna forms a cascade here and it is called Jaldurga falls or Narayanapura falls.
The island is home to small wildlife and the Forest Department has constructed a view point behind the Sangamshwara Matha. This is part of the Jaldurga reserve forest. Take the permission of the Forest Department to explore the jungle and shoot pictures of  snakes, mongoose, fox, wild hares an even hyenas.
The small town of Jaladurga has a temple dedicated to Hanuman.If you are interested in history, I suggest you read the book, A Noble Queen written by Philip Meadows Taylor in 1878. Taylor was an adminiatrator posted in India and he started out as a clerk in the Bombay Government. He has published several novels on India, including a book on Thugs and Tipu Sultan. He has also written a book called history of India.
Banavasi, the capital of the Kadambas which is near Sirsi, was also called Jaldurga and even the Golconda fort was called by a similar name.

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