The Savandurga Fort is situated on the twin hills of Karigudda and Biligudda, meaning black hill and white hill respectively, separated by a chasm. The Savandurga hills are situated around 35 kilometres from Bangalore towards the west. The hills are one of the biggest monoliths in India and are part of the Deccan plateau.
The Savandurga Fort Through History
Around 2000 years ago, the Savandurga hills were home to some human commune. Megalithic burial urns containing skeletons, copper coins, and terracotta pots were recovered from the site in the recent past.
The earliest mention of the hills is from AD 1340, in the records pertaining to Hoysala Ballala III, where the hills are called Savandi. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India, this fort was first built in 1543 by Samantha Raya, an officer under the Vijayanagar Empire. Around 1570, the chief of Bangalore acquired the fort and the Magadi region. The area was the secondary headquarters for the Magadi rulers, especially Kempegowda.
The Fort of Death
The fort was taken by Mysore in 1728. During the time of Hyder Ali, the fort prison was located among the hills. It was said that escaping from the prison was impossible. Hence the fort acquired the nickname Savina Durga, meaning “the fort of death”.
Another story connected to the fort, mentions that the fort was visible from Bangalore in the 18th century, but was inaccessible as there were no steps leading up to it. The hill was covered by bamboos and other trees which literally formed a barricade adding to the reputation of the “fort of death”.
Lord Cornwallis captured the fort in 1791, but it was later abandoned. As a result of this, there is not much left of the fort as the surrounding forest has taken over the remains.
The Savandurga Hills: Trekkers’ Paradise
Granites, laterites and peninsular gneiss form part of these remarkable hills. The River Arkavathi passes near the hills. The Savandurga hills are a trekkers’ paradise. Rock climbing and cave exploration are other adventure sports associated with these hills.
Karigudda Trekking: The Karigudda is a steep hill and one requires a permit to climb it. The seasoned trekker needs to carry rock climbing equipment to scale the vertical heights. In addition, the rocks offer some serious slab climbing routes.
Biligudda Trekking: The Biligudda is a nearly vertical climb amidst craggy rocks, but the trails are well marked. The trail can be roughly divided into four levels with each level coinciding with a fort wall, supposedly built by Kempegowda.
The second set of fort wall was where the cannons were set, though there is not much left of the old armoury. Near the third fort wall, there are some old structures left, and even an old rock pool.
Some inscriptions remain near the fourth fort wall to vet the appetite of the history enthusiast. At the top of the hill are a Nandi shrine and a panoramic view of the surrounding forests which is well worth the two and a half hours of trek.
Flora and Fauna of the Hills
The hills are situated amidst deciduous forests which houses some rare flora and fauna. Leopards, sloth bears, oriental honey buzzards, blue rock thrushes and yellow-throated bulbuls are some of the fauna associated with the Savandurga hills.
Temples in the Fort
However, the fort is well-known for another reason: there are two temples – the Savandi Veerabhadreshwara Swamy temple and the Narasimha Swamy temple located at the foothills of the Savandurga. Pilgrims visit the hills to worship the deities.
How to Reach Savandurga Fort
- By Air: Bangalore is the nearest airport and from Bangalore one can commute using local transport
- By Train: The nearest railway station is also located in Bangalore.
- By Road: The Savandurga fort is accessible by bus and taxi from Bangalore. There are no direct buses to Savandurga. One has to board a bus to Magadi road, and take another bus to Magadi road junction. From there, there are buses available to Savandurga.
Total travel time from Bangalore to Savandurga is around 2 to 2.50 hours.
Advice to Visitors
One can find small restaurants or eateries near the foothills of the Savandurga hills, but not on the monolith itself. The rocks can get quite hot during certain months and during certain periods of the day, so it is advisable to carry water and other refreshments to sustain one through the gruelling trek to the top.
The trekking and rock climbing routines can take from 2 hours to half a day. Therefore the Savandurga Fort trip can either be a one-day or a week-end gateway.