A 12th century fortress with untapped potential for tourism

A 12th century fortress with untapped potential for tourism

Located in Villupuram on top of three hills, Jingi Fort has sunk into obscurity despite having a rich history

Located in Villupuram on top of three hills, Jingi Fort has sunk into obscurity despite having a rich history

The sprawling Gingee Fort in Villupuram district was supposed to be an ideal must-visit tourist destination in northern Tamil Nadu. However, the fort has not found the place it deserves on the tourism map of the state, mainly due to the lack of basic tourist facilities.

Known as the ‘Troy of the East’, the fort situated atop three hills – Rajagiri, Krishnagiri and Chandragiri – was considered impregnable and a symbol of the state’s glorious past. It witnessed the rise and fall of successive empires spanning centuries.

Built by Ananta Kon of the Konnar dynasty in 1200 AD, the ownership of the fort has changed hands many times. It was the domain of several empires such as Vijayanagar Nayaks, Marathas, Mughals, Nawabs, France and Britain.

According to D. Ramesh, Assistant Professor of History, Arignar Anna Government Arts College, Villupuram, “The first fort was built by Ananda Kon in 12 th century. His successor fortified the northern hill in 1240 and named it Krishnagiri, while other buildings and structures were erected by successive rulers. The following complete constructions in the fort were done under the auspices of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The fort was captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1677. It remained under Maratha rule until it came under Mughal control in 1698. It was ruled by Raja Desing (Tej Singh) for a short period before being captured by the Arcot Nawabs in 1714 and remained under their control until 1749. The fort remained under the French from 1750 to 1770 before falling into the hands of the British,” he explained.

The fort began to lose its prominence after the British did not pay much attention to its maintenance. They abandoned the structure and settled in the erstwhile Madras. The remains of the fort can now be seen with curved walls, an underground secret chamber and a ruined palace complex, Mr. Ramesh added.

Spread over 11 acres, the fort has a step well and Kalyana Mahal, durbar hall, cannon, clock tower, armoury, elephant tank, stable, granary, gymnasium, Venkataramana temple and Sadattula mosque.

The fort had two elaborate water supply systems corresponding to the Nayaks and Nawab period which at one time ensured that even the top of the fort had a continuous supply.

Heritage structures, especially those with a lot of history like Gingee Fort, should be preserved for posterity. The fort has a lot of untapped tourist potential and a lot more work needs to be done to attract tourists. “People have encroached on land belonging to the fort inside the extensive premises and cultivated crops. The authorities should evict them and take steps to promote Jinji as an attractive tourist destination,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Official sources said the Villupuram district administration, in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which maintains the fort, is working on a proposal to help put Gingee Fort on the tourism map.

“Gingee’s tourism potential has never been tapped. The proposal being prepared by the administration will focus on cleanliness and take visitors through the Rajagiri hills and the remains of the structure, which remains relatively unknown to most tourists,” an official told The Hindu. Work on the construction of toilet blocks and new ticket counters has been completed. The structure will be renovated by creating a clearing in front of the Rajagiri hills, apart from the restoration of the moat and barracks, he added.

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