Wednesday, February 15, 2023

King of the hill

Rajasthan has a little over a hundred forts and Maharashtra has over 350. Compared to these states, Tamil Nadu does not have much to offer by way of forts, with around 30 such. There are a few that can be visited as a day trip from Chennai; this is one such, even if the 250 km distance is a bit of a stretch for a day trip.

The Ranjankudi Fort was built in the 17th century by a jagirdar of the Nawab of the Carnatic. An oblong structure, it is encircled by a moat (now largely dry) and has fortifications built at 3 different levels. The lowermost is the basic ramparts of the fort and enclosed within it is a large space called pettai which was supposedly the setting for open markets / fairs and also for battles. One such battle was the 1751 Battle of Vallikondah; though it was fought in the fort, it is named for a village in the vicinity. Unsurprisingly, it was a battle between the French and the British, a small piece in the conflicts between them across the globe. The French lost this one; even though they had captured the Ranjankudi Fort, they were unable to access the Kottai medu, the uppermost tier above the pettai. That's where the Nawabs had their private residential quarters - and a swimming pool as well.

This was a strategic location in those times; Trichinopoly was a large city and if one could take control of Ranjankudi, it could be the base from which Trichy could be threatened. This was the main reason for this fort coming up on a hillock where there were only shrines to Siva and Hanuman earlier. The locals have it that there is still a lot of treasure - well, artefacts, at least - to be found inside the fort walls, where they have been stashed away by soldiers and generals who never returned. Maybe that's a story to be made viral, to attract greater numbers to this fort!

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