Gingee or Senji Fort

Senji is about 104km from Vellore or 37km east of tiruvannamalai in the district of Vilupuram, Gingee has a fort, constructed mainly has a fort, constructed mainly during the Vijanagar Empire.  It was the stronghold of the Chola during the 9th century and later the Vijayanagar kings fortified and made it an impregnable citadel.  They lost it to the forces of Adil Shahi from Bijapur in 1638 and the Marathas under great Shivaji took control in 1677.  Thirteen years later Zulfikar Khan for the Mughals captured it.  Then came the French in 1750 that held it until their defeat by the British forces in 1762.

The fort is nestled between the three hills, Krishnagiri, Chandragiri and Rajagiri and the huge ramparts encompass an area of about 5km.  Of the seven gateways, the eastern one known as the Puducherry Gate and the northern one called the Arcot and Vellore Gate form the main entrances.

The Rajagiri is the highest about 180m in height.  A bridge now connects the 20m deep chasm.  The ascent to the fort is through a serpentine flight of rough steps.  There are several interesting remains like granaries, dungeons, queen's palaces, pools, and temple in the inner fort.  The Kalyana Mahal is a square court with a 27m tower topped by a pyramidal roof, surrounded by women's apartments.  A huge cannon atop the fort faces the plains. A series of low vaulted and arched cells on the west of the Kalyana Mahal served as barracks and stables for the royal army.  On its south is the Anaikulam (Elephant Tank) built of stone.  The walls of the granary are nearly 3m thick and there are stucco decorations outside, typical of the Vijayanagar style.

It is about 34km from Vilupuram on the Tindivanam-Puducherry Road is Mailam with a Muruga temple. It attracts huge crowds during Uthiram Festival in March/April.

Rising up from the yellow paddy fields like a colossus, the boulder-ridden fort of Gingee dominants the landscape for miles around.  The fort stretches across three precipitous hills Rajagiri to the west, Chakkilidurg to the south-east and Krishnagiri, a small hill to the north (also called Rani Fort) each capped by citadels.  An 18m/60ft thick wall connecting the hills encloses the fort within a rough triangle.  Looking at the steep cliffs and high bastions, one would imagine the fort to be unconquerable, but it has been captured with alarming frequency.  Founded by the Kone chiefs of Senji in early 13C, the fort was improved upon by a succession of rulers who added most of its structures, walls and monuments between 1383-1760. Passed on from the Vijayanagar kings to the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, the Marathas and the Mughals, it finally came to the French in 1750, who were driven out by the British in 1761 after a 5-week siege.  Their only significant contribution was to corrupt its traditional name Senjai to Gingee.

The fort can be accessed from the Tiruvannamalai - Pondicherry highway; a road south past the Sivan Temple leads to the main entrance.  Dominating the Outer and Lower Fort to the left is the Saadathullah Khan Mosque, built in 1717 by the army commander of the Carnatic Nawabs.  Delicate Persian inscriptions adorn its façade.  Scattered around the crossroad are the Anjaneya Temple on the fort's southern side, a Kaliamman Temple and two outer gates Pondicherry Gate and Vellore Gate. Entering from the main east gate, a circuitous path leads through an archway to the Inner Fort, dominated by a beautiful white pyramidal structure to the right, the Kalyana Mahal.Just ahead are the gymnasium, elephant tank, granary, magazine, palace site, Mohabbatkhan Mosque and a series of cells the barracks and horse stables.  Further west past a cluster of large banyan trees is the Venkatramana or Venugopalaswamy Temple, the fort's largest shrine.

Looming ahead is the 244m/800ft-high hill of Rajagiri.  Walk up past the Kamalakanni Amman shrine to the main Rajagiri Citadel with two vaulted granaries, magazine, flagstaff, clock tower, audience hall, a treasury in Indo-Saracenic style and the Ranganatha Temple in Vijayanagar style.  An arduous climb best done in early morning, Rajagiri offers great views.  To the north-east one can see Krishnagiri, dotted by the Krishna Temple, Kalyana Mantapa and oil wells.  Apart from its stunning local and grand backdrop, another fascinating aspect of the fort is the ingenious hydraulic system that transported water to its upper precincts.

Gingee is about 68km north-west of Pondicherry via Tindivanam.  The fort is 2km west of town on the highway (buses from Pondicherry or Tiruvannamalai will drop off here if requested).