A ROCKY Inn dominates Penukonda , or the “Big Hill”, with walls rising up its steep sides to form an almost triangular fort. A strategic Vijayanagar citadel from the 14th and to 16th centuries, Penukonda was the capital of the succeeding Aravidu rulers until it was captured, first by the Qutb Shahis, and then by, the Mughals followed by the Marathas. Today, gateways, watchtowers, dilapidated halls and shrines skirt the path to the summit.

At the foot of the hill is the walled city, with its main gateways in the northern and eastern sides. To the south is a large tank. The main monuments are situated along the city’s north-south road. The Parsvanatha Jain Temple here contains a remarkable sculpture, dating from the Hoysala period (12th-13th centuries), of the Jain saint Parsvanatha (see p396) standing in front of an undulating serpent. The 16th-century Sher Shah Mosque, nearby, has an arcaded facades and a bulbous dome.

Further south, standing next to each other, are two granite temples dedicated to Rama and Shiva. The pilastered facade walls of the Rama Temple are brought to life by carvings depicting episodes from the Ramcsyana (see p27) and the Krishna legend, while scenes from the Shiva mythology are sculpted on the walls of the Shiva Temple.

The adjacent Cagan Mahal is a palatial structure dating to the Vijayanagar period. An arcaded verandah leads to a vaulted hall with rear chambers. The domed pavilion above is topped by a pyramidal octagonal tower. A similar, smaller tower tops the adjoining staircase. To its east is a square pavilion with curving eaves, a pierced parapet and an octagonal pyramidal tower. The interior has traces of intricate plasterwork. Nearby is a well with an ornate entrance shaped like a lion.

A short distance north of the walled city is the Dargah of Babayya, the shrine of a 16th-century Muslim saint. A popular pilgrimage place which was much patronized by Tipu Sultan (see p51 7), it holds a big fair in December.

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