W-Warangal Fort

*Failed attempt to complete the A-Z Challenge 2016

In the middle of a sweltering state is a treasure trove of history- that is Warangal for you.

At 150 kms away from Hyderabad is this (once) glorious capital. It was later rampaged by Muslim invaders and all that remain now are ruins.

Warangal was first ruled by the Yadavas, and was later by the Kakatiya Dynasty. The kingdom flourished under the latter. To give you an idea about how prosperous the kingdom was, and how advanced these kings were back in the 12 th century, I’m describing the fort for you.

The Warangal fort was built in the centre of three concentric levels of fortifications. The first exterior defence was a wall, this had a diameter of 2.5 kms. There was a deep trench in front of this wall that had to be filled with dirt or mud before it could be surmounted. This surrounded a moat, the width of which was around 150 feet. Invaders would have to swim across this, keeping an eye out for the crocodiles. Finally there was a wall made of stone. This wall was around 1.2 kms in diameter, and the fort, which also served as the capital city was located within this embankment.

Such an impenetrable fort was eyed by the sultanate of Delhi and was laid siege during the rule of King Pratapa Rudra II. After 6 months of constant battle, both parties agreed to a truce.  Pratapa Rudra could retain his kingship and land, and in reparation he had to surrender all the wealth his dynasty had accumulated over all these years. When the Sultanate general left Warangal, it is said that he carried the loot on the backs of 2000 camels, back to Delhi.

2000 camels. Somewhere on the back of one of those camels was the controversial Koh-i-noor diamond, which now glints from the British Queen Mother’s crown.

But our story does not stop there. Pratapa Rudra was asked to pay an annual tribute to the Sultanate which he failed to, twice.. The first time he failed, he was warned with an army on the doors of his capital. The second time he failed- (Reading about him, I am pretty certain it was his insubordination that caused this) a bigger army, led by Mohammed bin Tughlaq, by now well-versed with the workings of the fort and its battlements, forced its way into the capital. Every structure that had any religious symbolism on it (in this case-almost all structures) was destroyed. The four gateways- unique looking and free standing now, were spared because they were adorned with neutral figures. This archway is now the symbol of the Telegana tourism department, and a visitor will see replicas of these in the main streets of Hyderabad. Pratapa Rudra was taken captive, and was being transported to Delhi when he killed himself in the banks of the river Godavari en route.

Enough of History, though.

Warangal, an unsung little town, took my breath away. The fort stands ruined, but the air weighs heavy with pride. If you stood there and listened hard, they would tell you tales of a dynasty that did not need a king at one juncture- Queen Rudramadevi, who ruled before Pratapa Rudra II, could have taught us a thing or two about empowerment. The winds would sing praises about a king who refused to succumb to men of another land, and inevitably lost his life in the process. And if you listen carefully, you might also hear a stifled wail- at how unfair the past and the present have been. It is truly unfortunate that we decided to visit a city so glorious because we had nothing else to do- and not because it was spoken about with reverence, or given the respect it deserves.

 

MCD- Tranquebar/Tarangambadi

‘How much farther?’ I scowled, clenching my jaw, my butt protesting in pain. Who would have thought that sitting pillion for so long would hurt? But it wasn’t just that. It was my first time on a bike, on a distance this far, and whoever said it was about the journey, not the destination, was clearly nuts.

Ours being an arranged wedding, we (after all the trials and errors) had our own checklists that we quizzed each other about on our very first date. From lighting the house yellow to checking if I would be okay with a liquor cabinet, we got all the tiniest details sorted. One such detail was travel. Of course- I said I enjoyed traveling but had to look sheepish when his list out-did mine. So it was no surprise that soon after our wedding, N decided he needed to test all those vehement assertions I had stated about adoring travel. Within a couple of months, he got very skeptical when I gave excuses for plans twice. So one Friday night, when he threw open a plan to ride to Pondicherry, I took it one step further and upgraded it to a ride to Tranquebar aka Tarangambadi making N’s eyes glisten with happy tears.

It is surprising how quickly one can get to Pondicherry from Chennai when the sun is just about rising. We reached the Union Territory in 90 minutes and sat twiddling our thumbs, waiting for somebody to open shop for breakfast. The promenade was chilly yet welcoming, teeming with folks jogging or walking. We watched the sun rise and quickly made our way out to beat the traffic.

(Nongu and tender coconut water vendors on the ECR/ Breakfast by the beach in Pondicherry)

Riding on the ECR is always smooth- towns pass you quickly and we stopped for intermittent breaks to stretch ourselves. I was just done with Ponniyin Selvan (a book set in the era of the Chola dynasty) and we were riding by towns mentioned in the book. All was fine until we crossed Cuddalore, and the roads started getting worse. We crossed Chidambaram and I was very excited, waiting to cross the Kollidam river (as one of the protagonists in Ponniyin Selvan dramatically swims across this river in spate at one point) My disheartenment knew no bounds as we rode over a bridge built across a barren river bed. I was picturing a river in all its glory in my head- and well, it stayed that way.

In my head, I have little rooms where I box different types of people. It is my head and these are my rooms, so judge me all you want. The point here is, had I not married N, I would have boxed him in the room marked ‘Peters’ (Non-Tamil folks would not get this but you could take a guess) This is good because we have a plethora of things to talk about. Like for instance, the Silappadikaram as we crossed Poompuhar. As we drove south, there was a change in our breaks as well. From stopping for some coke and chips, we started halting when we saw someone selling tender coconut juice or fresh, juicy nongu (the Borassus flabellifer fruit)

By the time we took our fifth break, we had been on the road for a good five hours…and had crossed a whopping 280 kilometres. It was around this time that I caught my reflection on the rear view mirror, and saw a red faced, frizzy haired baboon under my helmet. ‘How much farther?!!’ I croaked and N’s voice reached my ears, along with the whistling wind, reminding me that I was handling the GPS and shouldn’t be so lax and did I want us to reach our destination safely or not.  I swallowed my anger but kept my baboon face. After all, it was my idea riding to Tranquebar.

It was around 2 pm when we reached Tarangambadi. You find the beach, reassuringly familiar; the Tranquebar fort, and the Bungalow on the Beach, which was previously the residence of the Danish Governor (later the residence of the British Administrator of the colony). As you would have understood by now, Tarangambadi was a Danish colony. The Bungalow on the Beach is now a luxury heritage hotel (the rates are on an average Rs 6500 a night plus taxes). We chose not to halt there for the night and instead only had lunch (fish, prawns and some rice- very good). The Bungalow has a colonial feel- as we walked around it, I could imagine an evening ball, with men and women in their finery dancing through the night. The rooms are also aptly named- after counts and princesses, presumably of that era.

We sauntered to the fort, it is more of a local haunt than anything else. It is small for a fort (I am comparing it to Golconda here) and with not much history, I found it disappointing. I love forts that I can weave a story about, with walls that have seen romance, treachery and war. Some fort walls appear pregnant with untold stories, looking like all they want is for somebody to sit near them and listen to their tales. More about such forts soon!

(Clockwise- top left to bottom left: The Tranquebar beach, some areas cordoned off with brick walls/ The Bungalow by the beach as viewed from the fort/ Dining area with the colonial pillars in the Bungalow by the beach/ View of the Fort from the entrance)

With nothing much else to do in Tranquebar, we decided to head back before the sun set. We rode another 120 kilometers back to Pondicherry for the night, and drank to our record 400 kilometers in a day at Le Club.

Our version of The Motorcycle Diaries has thus officially begun!