As the years go by, nature changes its course by adapting to the civilizations that come and go. But sometimes, things remain the same and are left for the future to rediscover. Etched in these places are the stories of the battles won, the lives lost and the history made.
Karnataka with its wide topographic beauty is filled with such marvelous places that have remained unchanged since the dawn of its creation. These places leave behind a trail of history which is passed on as stories from generation to generation. One such creation is the Jamalabad Fort, located at the foothills of Kudremukh National Park on the Western Ghats.
Known to the locals as ‘Gadai kallu’, the fort lies 8 kms north of Belthangady town of Dakshina Kannada District. To some it may seem like nothing more than a huge boulder but once you move closer to the top of this magnanimous rock, you can see the residues that has been left by the past.
Gadai kallu is located 1788 ft above the sea level. It is said that even the Arabian Sea is seen from its top. And to be able to see this view, one has to climb 1876 steps along stone paths which have been manmade in the 17th century. There is no other way to reach the top other than by climbing these steps. The trip is definitely a challenge but the view from top is totally worth it.
Backed by the wild forests of Kudremukh range on the Western Ghats, Gadai Kallu provides a breathtaking view of the landscape covered by green paddy fields, areca, coconut, and rubber plantations, with flora and fauna, and also running water streams. This magnificent rock enjoys the company of people who belong to different religions because, at the base there is a church, a temple and a mosque.
Gadai kallu was constructed in the year 1794 by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Mysore Kingdom. The purpose for which this fort was constructed is quite different when compared to the others built by him. Prabhu, Alan Machado in Sarasvati’s Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christiansn notes that Tipu on his route to Srirangapatna brought around 60 to 80 thousand Canara Christians under captivity. Generally accepted figure is at 60,000 as per Tipu’s own records. Those who revolted against him were persecuted and dropped down from the top of the rock and killed. This spot is referred to as ‘Tipu drop’. The fort built upon here was later captured by the British Army defeating Tipu Sultan in the 4th Anglo- Mysore war.
Even thought the condition of the fort is deteorating, small fragments of remains can still be seen at the top of the Gadai Kallu. The ancient muddy bricks used to build structures, the architectural style of the monuments and damaged cannons can be found along the way to the top. The meanings of the symbols present on these artifacts are left for the visitors to decipher as they are not recorded in history.
At the top of the mountain, a small water pool exists which is said to never run dry. Nobody knows the depth of the pool so far. The Archaeological survey of India has now declared the rock as protected area, prohibited area and regulated area to preserve the place.
Called by many names like Jamalabad Fort, Gadai Kallu, Gadai Pathor (Konkani) and Narasimha Ghada, locals living in the areas have their own rendition of the history of the place. They claim that the history books do not do justice to preserve the story of the rock. Some claim that there is no mention about the temple located at the top on the hill and some claim that there was a masjid located at the base of the rock.
Nevertheless, this place has seen many things in its time and have shaped itself to the needs and evolution of the mankind. It still stands strong despite the cruel history that it had to witness and will remain forever as a crucial part of the origin of the region.
Photo Courtesy Fr Anil Ivan Fernandes.