Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chandragiri Palace, Tirupati

Imagine the supermoon rising on the frontiers of Chandragiri fortress besides the queens chambers and Kings Palace well lit. We were privileged to witness the sound and light show anchored by the Big B in the chandragiri fort premises at 8 pm on the 21st March 2011. The show unfolded the history in cinematic fashion.

Who built this historic edifice is matter of intense speculation ? The ASI records point to the Fort built around 1000 AD with its moat and bastion extending into the hills. This place is supposed to under the rule of Yadavarayas, who were obviously feudatories to the Chalukyas and Hoysala Emperors.

My premise is that Singhana II ( 1200 – 1247 ) who was the greatest of Yadava rulers must have laid a firm foundation for the Raja Mahal. He founded the town Singnapur, built the Devgiri Fort through his henchmen, established college of Astronomy and patronized Changadeva.

Chandragiri palace is dedicated to the moon god. All Yadavs followed this tradition which had 46 generations. Chandragiri has been passed on from one dynasty to another in quick succession. The Vijaynagar Emperors flaunted all their wealth to beautify this edifice befitting Royalty. Krishnadevaraya on his coronation committed funds to this palace and the tirumala temple tower.

The ASI records state the following facts :

Chandragiri came into the control of Vijayanagara rulers in 1367. It rose into prominence in 1568 AD and remained as seat of power for the later Vijayanagara kings under whose reign the fortified area was further extended and some of the magnificent buildings and temples were constructed. Some of the important kavyas of Vijayanagara period are said to be composed here. In 1646 the fort was annexed into the Golkonda territory, subsequently came under Mysore rule till 1792 and went into oblivion. Inside the fortification are seen eight ruined temples of saivite and vaishnavite pantheons, Raja mahal, Rani mahal and other ruined structures.

King's Palace: One of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture of Vijayanagara period, this imposing three storeyed palace adorned by the crowning towers representing certain Hindu architectural elements, was constructed with stone, brick, lime mortar and is devoid of timber. The central tower that covers durbar hall rises through two storeys. It is said to be the same venue where Sri Rangaraya granted the site of Fort St. George to the British in 1640. The floors are supported by massive pillars while the walls bear fine plaster and stucco decorations.

Queen's Palace: Similar to the Kings palace in style and method of execution, this edifice with ground floor looking like a stable and first floor containing quarters adorned with ornamental sikhara has a flat roof. Contrary to the popular belief that this place was meant for the queen or harem, the epigraphical record available from the basement speaks this building being a commander’s quarters.

The piligrims who flock Balaji Temple invariably miss out Chandragiri fort and place either for paucity of time or lack of proper transporation facility to Chandragiri fort. It is km away from the main town, which is well connected to Tirupati, and falls just besides the Bangalore Byepass road leading to Chittoor from Tirupati. One needs to catch an auto from Chandragiri bus stop or walk it up from the highway. It is just 1 km from the bye pass.

Sound and Light Show :
 The sound and light show gives one a complete idea of the history of the fort, in tandem with the religious perspective of the Balaji temple. Eloquent usage of bhajans and kirtans along with sound effects with surreal circumstances are re-created. The landscape during the day time looks slightly unimpressive since the main palace is converted into a museum, but at night it transforms into an elegant edifice, with appropriate lighting effects. Do not miss Chandragiri fortress during day and night, it is worth its effort.

Location : One can just drive down or enroute to Tirupati from Bangalore, visit Chandragiri Palace. It is located on the bye pass route to Tirupati from Chandragiri junction. Approximate distance is 14 Kms from Railway station. There is a railway station too at Chandragiri. One can board a bus going to chandragiri town, and use auto to reach Chandragiri fort. Otherwise one has to board a bus going towards Chittoor and get down at the fort junction and walk it up to the fort. This is faster mode of transport. The sound and light show timings currently are 7 pm Telegu and 8 pm English. The ticket for adults is Rs 35 and children Rs 25 per head. Normally the show lasts for 45 minutes duration.