Gingee Fort is gigantic, intimidating, and beautiful. Of all the forts in Tamil Nadu, Gingee is the most impressive. It is a wonderful example of forts within a fort. Its 13 km long walls enclose an area of 11 square km along with three hillocks. Perched on each of these hillocks is a citadel. The highest of them is at Rajagiri Hill, which is considered to be the finest rock fort in India. Here you get to see the beautiful amalgamation of natural defences with man-made fortifications. Steep hillocks, protected by rows of ramparts and surrounded by thick forests, were hard to reach for the marauding enemy troops. Yet the fort has witnessed the rules of all the dynasties that were present in South India along with Mughals, followed by the French and the British. Hence, despite the strong defenses the fort was pierced several times.
Note: There are two videos of Gingee Fort at the end of the post.
As per some of the inscriptions, there was a settlement of the Jains on the site of the Gingee Fort in 200 BC. Pallavas are supposed to have taken charge of the place in 600 AD. In 897 AD Pallava Kingdom saw its downfall and Gingee came in the hands of the Cholas who ruled here until 1103 AD. Then Gingee witnessed brief stints of Pandyas and Hoysalas. It came to the fore after becoming a fiefdom of Vijayanagar rulers in 1400 AD. But soon after becoming the feudal lords of Gingee, Nayakas declared their independence from Vijaynagar rulers. And it became an autonomous kingdom. The Nayakas continued to rule here until 1649. Then came several Muslim dynasties like Bijapur Sultans and Mughals. Around the middle of the 18th century, Gingee came under the control of the French for a short while and soon enough it was taken over by the British.
Monuments in Gingee
The Main Citadel
The main citadel is situated atop the steep Rajagiri Hill. The height is about 800 feet. It takes a strenuous climb to reach the top. But once you reach the top, you would find that all the huffing and puffing on the way was worth your while. Along with the remains of the old structures, there are commanding views of the surrounding landscape from the top of the hill. Up there you will find a granary, a few pavilions, and a beautiful temple. A small troop of soldiers was stationed here as this citadel was to be used only in the times of crisis. It was kind of impossible to approach this citadel by the raiders because the climb is too steep. And midway there is a draw bridge which would be lifted down. Below this bridge there is a deep chasm. No wonder this citadel is considered to be the finest rock fort in India.
The Lower Fort
There are many temples in Gingee but the most impressive is the Venkataramana Temple situated in the lower fort. This huge temple, with its mandapas (pavilions) and beautiful gopurams (welcome gates), is a quintessential south-Indian temple. The sculptural art here is spectacular. Also this temple is the site of the classical dance performances which are hosted several times a year. Kalyana Mahal – a five-storeyed building with a small pyramidal structure at the top – is also situated in the lower fort. This palace was meant for recreation. Around it there are royal enclosures which have been excavated. These enclosures would remind you of the ones at Hampi – the capital of the Vijaynagaras.
This citadel is perched on a 500 ft high hill, north of the Rajagiri Fort. Today you can see here the remains of palace apartments, a granary, and a pavilion. The finest monument here is the Ranganathswamy Temple. Just like its counterpart – Venkataramana Temple – in the lower fort, this temple has an open pavilion. Ranganathswamy Temple was meant for the rulers who could worship here in privacy.
Chakkiliya Durg is also known as ‘Chamar Tikri’ which means the fort of the cobblers. Probably the royal saddlers and cobblers would have their workshops here. There isn’t much to explore in Chakkiliya Durg.
How to Reach?
Railway: The nearest railway station for Gingee Fort is at Tindivanam, 30 km east.
Road: Gingee is 156 km southwest of the state capital, Chennai. And the temple town of Thiruvannamalai is just about 38 km west of Gingee.
Air: Chennai International Airport is 134 km northeast of Gingee.
Gingee Fort is situated in the Villupuram district, 125 km south of Chennai. Here is the map showing the driving directions to the fort from Chennai.
The citadels of Gingee Fort and its rocky landscape are beautifully captured in this short video:
This video will tell you in detail about the history and monuments of Gingee Fort: