by Swatee Jog
Sometimes, it takes a wake-up call for us to appreciate things that surround us. The Belagavi Fort was declared a Heritage Monument according to Section 4(3) of the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961. Bharatesh Education Trust’s campus being situated bang at the entrance of the Fort and its ramparts visible to us every day, we have routinely answered visitors’ questions and shown them around this heritage site. We thought about spreading this awareness to students as well and hence a very small group of students, faculty members and members of the BET management, organized a Heritage Walk to the Fort on 26th April 2015 from 6.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m.
Kamal Basti was the first stop. Built in 1204 A.D., it is an exquisite structure which has been restored since it was in a dilapidated condition. Said to have built by Bicchi Raja, a minister with the King Kartavirya IV, it is so called because of its ceiling comprising a dome with 72 lotus petals, each seating one Tirthankara. Below the magnificent ceiling is a round stone platform where dancers would present their art. The deity inside is that of Neminath Tirthankara in shining black stone. Another stone idol of Parshwanath Tirthankara has been installed in the Basti which was recently found near Hindalga, and is today being worshipped. Shri Rajeev Doddanavar and Shri Vinod Doddanavar, both patrons of ancient history, explained the details of the monuments.
Kamal Basti has another smaller neighbor called the Chikka Basti which has no idol. The two are said to have been part of a complex of 108 bastis of which only 2 survive today. Not much is known of the remaining bastis and temples inside the fort complex. This basti has, on its façade, a beautiful panel of carved idols, each riding a different animal. A similar kind of pattern is seen on the panels on Kamal Basti, one of which is the symbol of the Hoysalas (a boy fighting a lion). Students of Bharatesh cleaned the Basti’s premises as part of a social obligation.
Belagavi Fort is home to some of the tallest, rarest and magnificent trees in Belagavi as also a host of Flora and Fauna. Many trees have a girth of more than 7 to 8 feet and reach upto 75 to 100 feet in height. Mangium, Sandalwood, Tamarind and Pogamia trees were spotted. We could also spot a rare Naga champa tree (Couroupita guianensis) also called the Cannon Ball tree owing to its huge ball sized fruits. The tree can be spotted from a distance due to its strong odor.
Students were motivated to spot a Hornbill and a Woodpecker and win prizes, which they duly did! A Great Indian Grey Hornbill nests on the tree bang opposite the Kamal Basti and was spotted feeding its tiny ones. Camouflaged in the woods, it could have been missed for the tree’s bark. The woodpecker was spotted on the trees lining the ramparts while a number of Bharadwaj ( Greater coucal) were seen. Kingfishers, with their superb blue colour could be spotted regularly. Most of the trees are in full bloom and hence the early morning air was filled with a unique fragrance.
The students then walked around the Military canteen and proceeded towards another ASI site which is thought to have been either another Jain Basti or a Shiva Temple. It has a large part broken, but the beauty is unmistakable. There is no deity inside this temple either and is locked. We could not get permission to visit the Jamia Masjid and the Gallows for this particular date, which can be shown by Army personnel. A second round of walking is essential for that. We, at Bharatesh, plan to organize more such walks to the Fort and other Historical monuments in Belagavi.
The area is beautifully maintained by the Army and houses training hurdles, walls as also a huge ground. A farm inside the fort grows exotic foreign vegetables like Broccoli, Lettuce, Parsley, etc. which was a delight to visit. We walked around the fort’s periphery and climbed many parts of the ramparts. The portion opposite Khot Villa is clean and one can climb up and see the vast expanse of the moat that encircles the Fort. It is still filled with water at that point. However, a lot of weeds have grown in other parts. The vegetable market waste is seen dumped in the moat just behind the market. It is sad to see that the Fort is crumbling at many parts and begs for attention. Similarly, shrubs and trees are growing in the crevices of the Fort’s wall which is also considerably damaging the structure and robbing it of its beauty. Likewise, the moat also needs regular maintenance by cleaning the weeds and by cleaning the vegetation and preventing the use of this moat as a dumping ground for vegetable waste and garbage. A peoples’ movement is required to restore the lost glory of the Fort.
Belagavi fort is a unique experience since it is located on ground. Its historical significance is the biggest heritage for every citizen of Belagavi. Schools, families and Social groups must organize trips to this fort and see the ancient structures, the architecture, the flora and fauna and appreciate what the city has in its palms. Such walks help kindle interest in the young minds and a deep sense of appreciation for what History has left for us to cherish.
About the Author: Swatee Jog is a Training and Placement Officer Bharatesh Global Business School 188, Old P. B. Road, Belagavi.