While ‘Uluru’, a humongous natural rock formation in the Northern Territory region of Australia attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year and has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a similar structure here in India, in Telangana, is completely ignored.
Located along the Hyderabad-Warangal highway near the town of Bhuvanagiri, Bhongir is a great batholith rock that is millions of years old. What’s more, perched over this geological wonder is also a man-made one - a historic fort that stood as resistance to invaders!
A batholith is a large mass of intrusive igneous rock that forms from cooled magma deep in the Earth's crust, running kilometres deep. They get exposed due to millions of years of surface erosion and continental uplift. The one in Bhongir is one such rock which is spread over 72 km and rises 500 feet above the ground with perilous drops on all sides. Interestingly, smaller lava intrusions solidified on the surface are known as laccoliths, such as the Gilbert Hill in Mumbai.
Apart from its geological significance, the great batholith at Bhongir is also historically important. It was seen as a perfect setting for defence against attacking powers, and over centuries an impregnable fort was built on it.
The foundation of the Bhongir Fort, which is also one of the earliest forts in the Deccan, was laid by the Western Chalukya ruler Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya VI in the late 11th or early 12th century. At that time, the Chalukyan capital was Kalyani or present-day Basavakalyan in Karnataka.
According to inscriptions in the fort, after the Chalukyas, the fort passed to the Kakatiya dynasty, a subordinate of the Western Chalukyas. The Kakatiyas declared their independence during the latter half of the 12th century. Its rulers added their own touch to the fort and Bhongir Fort played an important role during the reign of the famous Kakatiya queen, Rudramadevi. She was one of the few women to rule as a monarch in the Indian subcontinent. Even Venetian traveller Marco Polo who visited the region around 1289 CE was astounded by her and wrote of her valour in his autobiography.
Rudramadevi was succeeded by her grandson, Prataprudra who faced the might of the Delhi Sultanate in 1303 when Alauddin Khilji sent an army to plunder the kingdom. The Kakatiyas successfully defeated the large army. But repeated attacks over the next two decades proved to be difficult. Prataprudra surrendered before the enemies for want of supplies in 1323.
After the fall of the Kakatiyas, several small kingdoms came into existence. One of them was the Musunuri Nayakas, who raised a banner of revolt against the Tughlaq rule and established their kingdom between 1325 and 1368 CE.
The Bhongir fort was a very important military post of the Musunuri Nayakas. By the 15th century, the fort would pass under the control of the Bahamanis and the Qutub Shahis of Golconda, who used it as a prison.
But by the end of the 15th century, advances in artillery technology hit the fort and it was no longer of great strategic value. Over the subsequent centuries, the Mughals, the Nizams of Hyderabad and the British had little use for it and it was soon abandoned. Not much is known of its later history.
The fort is quite an architectural marvel. Much of the present structure, resplendent with Islamic architectural influences, dates back to the Bahamani and Qutub Shahi period, from the 14th to the 17th centuries, and displays characteristics of the architectural style favoured during that era.
A moat encircled the fort at one time, and there were stables, wells, ponds and an armoury. The law courts stand out beautifully, with teak beams supporting walls lined with exquisite carvings, floral motifs and mehrabs (a panel showing the direction of Mecca). A beautiful but dilapidated pavilion stands at the top of the hill, offering a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Today, the great batholith and Bhongir Fort form little more than an interesting backdrop for those zooming along the busy Hyderabad-Warangal highway. Barely anyone stops to look at this wonder, which is both a geological and historic marvel.
– DID YOU KNOW?
It is rumoured that Bhongir Fort once had an underground secret tunnel that went all the way to Golconda Fort. This, of course, has never been proved.
– LHI Travel Guide
Bhongir Fort is in the Yadadri Bhuvanagiri District of Telangana and about an hour’s drive from Hyderabad. There are regular buses and trains from the capital and the fort is a short walk from the railway station.