Thursday, December 27, 2018

Penukonda Fort

Penukonda is in the Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. As per the 2011 census the population of the town is 27,382. It is about 70 km south of Anatapur and about 143 km north of Bengaluru on National Highway 44 or the Bengaluru-Hyderabad Highway. In 2017 KIA Motorsof South Korea announced the location of an automobile manufacturing plant near Penukonda with an estimated investment of 2 billion dollars. A functioning Korean Restaurant on the main street in the town attests to the validity of the announcement.

Based upon inscriptions archaeologists have determined that the well-known Penukonda Fort was built during the 14th century by Vira Virupanna Udaiyar, the son of one of the founders of Vijaynagar Empire Bukka I. The fort is in ruins and it is difficult to see the full configuration of the original structure. The remnants, however, give a fairly good picture of what it might have been at its zenith. It is easy enough to imagine that it was a formidable fort that was built for effective defence with moats and bastions. At one time there were seven bastions along the perimeter of the fort. At the Yerramanchi Gate, the main entrance, there is a large granite sculpture of god Hanuman that is 11 feet tall. The narrow streets and some dwellings inside the fort bear witness to their origins from the 14th century.

On the way to the fort hill, overlooking Penukonda town

Fort walls on the way to the top of fort hill

Jeep road to the fort hill

Entrance to the fort hill complex

Mantapa at the Royal Centre on top of the fort hill

Dilapidated abandoned Lakshmi Narasimha Temple on top of the fort hill

Mantapa opposite to the temple

View of the Royal Centre ruins

Broken gopura of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple 

Ruins of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

Garbha Gudi of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple


A large kalyani with a mantapa at the Royal Centre 

Hanumantha carving at the fort entrance

Pedestrian entry to the fort

Yerramanchi Gate: Main fort gate in Penukonda town

A temple at the entrance of Penukonda Fort complex

The Mosque is an imposing building. The entrance is clearly through what was at one time a Hindu temple entrance with a gopura. The gopura has been demolished or has been let to suffer the vagaries of nature. The entrance way has maintained the Hindu temple columns indicating a preference for appropriating established architecture to ensure legitimacy of the succeeding ruler. Given this fact, it is reasonable to assume that the original Hindu temple was razed to make way for the Mosque. 

A hindu temple converted mosque in Penukonda

The following description is provided by the Archaeology and Museums Department:

An old Hindu palace i.e. Gagan Mahal is located to the south of Ramaswamy and Eshwara temples. It was the summer palace and harem of Vijayanagara rulers. The building is facing east and composes of two stories of arcade chambers, square on plan with corner tower on the northern side. In front of the building there are steps leading into the building also staircases on either sides leads to the first floor. The ground floor consisting with recessed and forty five foliated arches in the pavilion reminiscent of the Lodi type of arches in the buildings of Delhi. The middle of the ground floor and first floor made a provision of rooms. The first floor has twelve arches and eight windows. The surface of the walls of building is coated with stucco. The pyramidal roof built-up in tiers is obviously adopted from Sikhara of the Dravidan style. The tower has six projecting windows supported by brackets. It was built by a combination of Indo-Persian architectural style known as Indo-Sarcanic adopted by Vijayanagara kings. The palace was built without a single rafter, a unique specimen architecture.

Gagan Mahal Palace built in 1585

Painting of Sr Krishna Devaraya inside the palace

Peek into village outside the palace 
The Timmarasu Prison is a monument to a great tragedy. Even great leaders like Krishna Deva Raya were driven by unfounded rumours (fake news), innuendos, and character assassinations. Belated remorse, regrettably, does not remedy the error. The small stylized building leaves no doubt that a prisoner could not escape the confines of this small space in the mold of isolation chambers in contemporary prisons. The three largest mass murderers of the twentieth century, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Hitler would approve of the accommodation.

Thimmarasu Jail 
The Basavana Bavi (Well) is an impressive deep stepped tank on a smaller scale than the one at the Royal Centre in Vijaynagar. The two entrances to the steps leading to the well are under two large bulls. Looked at from the rear it is bound to bring smiles to the face of the onlooker. There is a contemporary school building that is under construction abutting the historic well and the historic mantapa. It is a shame that this has been permitted in an area suffused with heritage. Tastelessness, evidently, is not unique to the current President of the United States.

Basavana Baavi (well)

Basavana Baavi (well)

(Click on the photographs for an enlarged view)

Text: Narasim Katary
Photographs: Srik Parthasarathy