Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mountain fort

With Madras becoming the favoured spot of the British in the mid-17th century, towns that were important in an earlier era faded away to being footnotes. One such is Senjee (செஞ்சி, also as Gingee), about 150km from Chennai. Actually, it wasn't much of a town at any time, but a complex fortification built on three hillocks. It is situated close to the intersection of today's NH4 and SH77; that leads me to assume it would have been in a similar position vis-a-vis yesteryears' trade routes. And anyone occupying this would have strategic control of those routes, for sure.

The hillock in the picture is Rajagiri, atop which sits the largest of the Senjee fortifications. There is also a fort at the base of this hillock; one needs to get past that to be able to go up the Rajagiri. Inside the lower fortification are several buildings - a couple of temples, a mosque, a large granary, living quarters for the soldiers and the king (and a huge tank for the elephants to bathe in), a magazine and the "Kalyana Mahal" - no, not necessarily a wedding hall, but that's what you see in the foreground, just inside the fort wall. Kalyana Mahal is a "pleasure pavilion", with a central tank, fountains at all the seven levels, with the open verandahs allowing the breeze to blow in from any side, to be cooled by the fountains.

Though the British apparently called it "Troy of the East", Senjee is still not a significant tourist magnet. That is a shame, really. Maybe the steep trek up the Rajagiri dissuades many from experiencing the fortifications fully. The ASI tries to do its little bits and pieces. But woefully short on budgets, there is only so much they can help with. It is time the citizens contribute - at the very least, by visiting and buying the entrance tickets!

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