Kittur Fort is one of the major historical monuments in Karnataka and one of its famous tourist attractions. The fort is located in the town of Kittur that is situated at a distance of about 50 km from Belgaum and around 32 km from Dharwad. The small town of Kittur gained fame and recognition due to the presence of Kittur Fort and its immense historical significance.
Kittur Fort is also known as Kittur Chennamma Fort as it is closely associated with Rani Chennamma, the brave ruler who ruled over her estate from the fort. With its old palaces, monuments and statues Kittur exudes historic attraction for tourists from all over the country and beyond. But it’s most famous attraction is the Kittur Fort that stands as evidence of one of the first freedom struggles of the country that was led by Rani Chennamma. Kittur Fort also has a palace within it that is popularly known as Rani Chennamma’s palace.
History of the Kittur Fort and Palace, Belgaum
The Kittur Fort was built by Allppa Gowda SarDesai, the fifth ruler of the Kittur dynasty during his rule from 1660 to 1691 A.D. He also constructed a grand palace inside the fort that served as his residence. The fort was constructed by using black basalt rock that was found in plenty in the surrounding areas of Kittur.
The Kittur Fort was the place from where Rani Chennamma had carried out an armed rebellion against the British rulers in response to their undesired interference in tax collection in her estate. The remarkable fact is that she fought this war in the year 1824, thirty-three years before the uprising of armed 1857 that is considered in history as the first war of India’s independence.
The armed rebellion of Kittur started on 3rd December, 1824. The heroic Rani Chennamma fought bravely against the British rulers but the Kittur Fort fell in the hands of the British forces on 5th December, 1824 after a fierce fighting of three days. Rani Chennamma was captured and sent to a jail in Bailhongal.
The then British Commissioner of the Deccan region named Chaplin confiscated 16 lakhs of rupees, precious ornaments and valuables from the Kittur Fort. He destroyed the fort and the palace to avenge the deaths of fellow British Commissioner John Thackeray and other British officers engaged in the armed rebellion. Chaplin gave a free hand to the British soldiers to ransack the fort and the palace and rob anything valuable found there. He also sold the precious wooden doors and windows of the palace. Thus, the British forces robbed off everything in the Kittur Fort and destroyed the rich heritage of the fort.
Rani Chennamma, who had cultivated the dream of a free country, breathed her last in the year 1829, while still being a captive under the British rule.
All that remains of the great legacy of Kittur Fort today are some ruined walls and a very rich history associated with the ruined structure.
The ruined Kittur Fort as it stands today
The Kittur Fort was built over an area of about 23 acres. It is surrounded by a moat that was earlier fed by water from a lake lying close to the eastern wall of the fort. The walls on both sides of the fort have low height. The fort mainly comprises of the Kittur palace, a watch tower, water cisterns and an archaeological museum. The museum was added to the premises of the fort much later to preserve the relics of the Kittur fort, the Kittur palace and the antiques found in and around Kittur.
The Kittur Palace
Architecture: The palace within the fort was built in the Peshwa-Islamic style. The palace was a three storied structure that consisted of a number of rooms inside it. Among the rooms of the palace were discussion rooms, guest rooms, several rest rooms, pooja room, store rooms, a number of kitchens and bath rooms, and various other rooms.
Pole Star Vision: An interesting fact about the palace is that it had an ancient telescope that was kept in a special room reserved especially for it. This room was known as the Pole Star Vision Room and it was the room that was used by Rani Chennamma and other rulers of the fort to watch the Pole Star through the help of the telescope. Today, only the Pole Star viewing shaft that was in-built in a wall of the Pole Star Vision Room is present within the room.
The lost grandeur: The Kittur palace had a grand Durbar Hall or Conference Hall. Rooms like the Durbar Hall, guest rooms, the Dining Hall, store rooms, kitchens, etc. were architectural wonders that were tastefully decorated. Each room had two entrances. Ruins of ornamental arches and decorated shelves found inside the palace provide a glimpse of the lost grandeur of the palace. The large and spacious dining hall was designed to feed at least a thousand people at a time.
The palace had a secret well that was constructed within the premises. Brass pipes built into walls were used for water supply within the palace. The kitchen had stoves, chimneys and wash basins. Various stone containers and tanks were constructed to store water within the palace. The palace also had an in-built swimming pool.
A beautiful dwara mantapa was built in front of the palace. The mantapa was 100 ft in breadth and 300 ft. in length. It had tall and decorated pillars. There was a dairy in the foreground of the palace. The palace also had a large kitchen garden. A watch tower stood near the palace and within the premises of the fort.
The Archaeological Museum within the Kittur Fort
The archaeological museum of the fort is a treasure trove of antiques and relics. The museum has a rich collection of ancient weapons, stone idols, swords, shields, mail-coats, engraved wooden doors and windows of the Kittur palace, inscriptions, paintings, idols of Vishnu, Surya, Durga, etc. and many other priceless antiques. There are also a couple of cannons and stone sculptures that are exhibited in the open space just outside the museum building.
The archaeological museum was inaugurated by late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, on 10th January, 1967. The museum is managed by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Karnataka.
Information for visitors
- The Kittur Fort and the palace are open to all and can be visited at any time of the year.
- The archaeological museum of the Kittur Fort levies no entry fees for the visitors.
- It is best to visit the fort from September to April, as the weather is pleasant during those months of the year.
- Water is available within the fort and visitors can quench their thirst from the cool water.
- There are no food stalls inside the fort but a lot of food stalls and hotels are present outside the fort.
Where to stay
The Kittur Fort has no provision for providing accommodation to the visitors. However, there are decent places for accommodation in Belgaum or Dharwad. A few hotels and inns that provide comfortable accommodation for guests at reasonable prices are:
Sattur, Dharwad – 580002
Phone: +91 836 246 4848
Mobile: +91 99005 33077
Hotel Adarsha Palace
Opposite Lingraju College,
Belgaum – 590001
Phone: +91 831 243 5777 / 84
Opposite Horticulture Office,
Dharwad – 580001
Phone: +91 836 244 1580/ 4417
How to reach Kittur Fort and Palace
The Kittur Fort and Palace can be easily reached as the town of Kittur lies on the Pune Bangalore Highway and is well connected to the nearby cities of Belgaum and Dharwad.
Kittur is a small town that has no airport of its own. The nearest airport is located at Belgaum. The Belgaum airport operates flights to Bangalore and Chennai. From Belgaum visitors can avail local means of transport to reach the Kittur Fort.
Kittur is not directly connected by the rail network. The nearest railway station lies at Dharwad. The Belgaum Railway Station is one of the oldest stations in this region. Both the stations are connected to major towns and cities across Karnataka and the nearby states. Moreover, there are plenty of local transport options available from Belgaum and Dharwad to reach Kittur.
There are a number of buses that are available from several places like Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai, Belgaum, Dharwad and many other nearby towns and cities for reaching Kittur. Karnataka State Road Transport (KSRT) buses and a few other private buses are available from these places for Kittur. Apart from the buses, local means of transport like taxis and hired vehicles are also available for reaching the Kittur Fort comfortably.