Kalasipalyam -a place busting with people, traffic, not to forget cows! Not an inch of space at this crowded site, yet bang in the middle there is silence. A silence that astonishes you, for you don’t expect to find it in this cacophony. Yet it is there, thanks to the strong stone fort 500 years or older standing here. You enter the fort, pass the huge wooden gate and lo- a sense of calm descends. The thick walls of the fort reflect the outside sound – only silence and an inherent sense of peace greets you inside.
From ancient times forts have been defensive structures protecting the city and its inhabitants. The kings used it to mark boundaries, protect treasury, royal family; the powerful zamindars used it for protecting their property … They served as excellent places to hide as well. It was difficult to enter these premises- the surrounding moat, ditch or bush of thorns around fort making things tougher for such attacks.
There were different categories of forts. The one at Kalasipalyam and the interconnected fort for the old city or Pete was a city fortress surrounded by a moat and had thorny bushes all around it making the city invincible. It was a mud fort before transforming in to a stone fort, complete with bastions after Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan came in to power.
But not all forts were built like this. At Savandurga, Nandi hills,Shivganage outside the city –the forts were parvat durg or giri durgs.
The forts were located on high hills- the boulders, the rocky outcrop making things tougher.
Battlements, bastions, loop-holes were other strategies to make the fort invulnerable. Even today the walls, bastions and towers remain on the durg perhaps telling the stories of sieges and battles. A trek at Savandurg or Shivgange makes you aware of this. The slopes, the steep ascents, the bastions at regular intervals- makes you aware of the planning gone behind building such forts.
Srirangapatna –the harbour of Tipu was an excellent Nadi-Durga/Jal durg. The city was on an island surrounded on all sides by Kaveri.
And during monsoons when the river was in full, the fort would become impregnable. Natural and artificial defence strategies were effectively used here as well.
There were other fort types as well- dhanva durg, vana durg, nara durg etc. While dhanva durg was protected by desert, vana durg was surrounded by forests, nara durg by strong men etc.
The toppling of fort was not just victory to the enemies or the replenishment of supplies. It also meant breaking the morale of the enemy camp. The capture of Bangalore fort by the British was a blow to Tipu’s army. Most of the forts came in to the hands of the English after this decisive victory.
Today what remains of this oval fort that once protected the palace, armoury, treasury etc. is just two and a half bastions and a gateway. But it does its job- retelling history effectively.