GINGEE (locally called Senji) Fort is a remarkable example of military engineering. Its three citadels, dramatically perched atop three hills – Krishnagiri to the Borth, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast southeast – are enclosed by solid stone walls to form a vast triangular-shaped area extending more than 1.5 km (1 mile) from north to south. Built by the local Nayaka governors, feudatories of the Vijayanagar kings, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the fort was occupied by Bijapur’s Adil Shahi Sultans¬† the Marathas¬† the French and finally the British.

This once-great fortress city is clotted with dilapidated arcaded chambers, mosques, inandapas, small shrines, tanks and granaries. Many temples, mostly dedicated to Vishnu, survive as well. These include the deserted temple in the main citadel on the 242-m (794-ft) high Rajagiri Hill. The most prominent, however, is the great Venkataramana Temple, in the foothills of the outer fort, near Pondicherry Gate. This was constructed by Muthialu Nayaka in the 17th century. Its original pillars were removed by the French and used in the Government Square at Pondicherry. Near the gateway are panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Vishnu Purana.

A Ranganatha Temple and a Krishna Temple, both smaller than the Venkataramana Temple, are located on Krishnagiri Hill, as is the Durbar Hall. The Durhar Hall has balconies extending to the edge of the hill which provide good views of the surrounding countryside. The fort’s finest monument is the Kalyana Mahal, a square hall built for the ladies of the court. The building has a central eight-storeyed pyramidal tower with a single large room on each floor. There are also traces of a network of natural springs and tanks that provided an excellent supply of water to the citadel. One of the tanks, Chettikulam, has a platform where Raja Thej Singh, a courageous 18th-century Rajput chief and vassal of the Mughal emperor, was cremated. Tamil folk songs glorify Gingee and Raja Thej Singh, who was killed in a heroic battle against the Nawab of Arcot.

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