July 05, 2012

One Day Ride : Pachapalli Dam and Rayakottai

Prelude
The quest for uncharted destinations around Bangalore continued, and I stumbled on an one-day ride which could cover Panchapalli Dam, Bettamuligalam and Rayakottai. Tossed this idea in CouchSurfing's Bangalore chapter and was quick to get a few replies. Finally, 4 were ready and we agreed to meet at the NICE exit from Bannerghatta Road as the first meeting point at 6am - the guys were prompt and we started after cursory greetings. 2 Bullets(Royal Enfield), 1 Pulsar and 1 Avenger.

to the nether world.

Just before the Tamilnadu checkpost, one of the Royal Enfield's (Puppax's) brokedown and it took us close to an hour to find some help - we did not get any mechanic and the owner had no option but to halt and see if he could try 'carrying' the bike in a mini-truck or tempo. We left Puppax and continued the ride (later Puppax called us when we were in Panchapalli Dam, that he successfully carried the bike back to Bangalore).

Continue on the Hosur Road, and turn right at the Rayakottai junction (you will see a green highway traffic board which instructs that Rayakottai is on the right). Continue and hit Denkanikottai.

Breakfast
He had an awsum breakfast at Ganesh Bhavan at around 9:00am. This was Vijay's discovery in one of his previous rides, and i must vouch for the fact that the pongal served here is the best i have ever had till date, the serving was big/large too. Idlis were also good; and we had 1.5 plates of pongal and around 4 idlis and a coffee. We decided that we would chuck Bettamuligalam; we were running slightly slow and also Bettamuligalam required that you had to retrace the road(accoridng to the map)- and i do not like retracing paths. Instead, we decided that we would hit Panchapalli Dam and then see if there was a good road to Rayakottai.


Panchapalli Dam
After the heavy breakfast, we continued onwards to Panchapalli Dam. The roads were good and the winds were strong. I could feel the bike drift awsumly.  The first views of the Panchapalli Dam's catchment area were not impressive, but still it was a change of scenery. Since we had visited in late summer, and monsoon has been pretty dismal this year, the water level was low. But one could imagine how this area would be green and full of water post-monsoon.


The dam did not have any visitors , and we loved the wind.There are lots of boulders strewn around the place, and i think this would be a good place for the rock climbers.

Release into the canals

Catchment area, Panchapalli Dam

The valves to control the gates, you can see the boulders on the hill
We went near those valves(in the above pic), and the wind was 5x faster than that in the road; the helmet if just left on the ground was moving on its own. The place and the almost-noon-sun were perfect. After clicking a lot of pictures, we inquired about the road to Rayakottai and were told that the roads are good and reach there easily.

The ride was beautiful and the nice blue skies with occasional clouds and the roads with tamarind trees on either sides were perfect. We reached Rayakottai in 30-40mins.



Rayakottai
As earlier mentioned, we did not intend to do Rayakottai, and it was in our radar only if time permitted. Nevertheless, due to the change in plans Rayakottai turned out to be a nice discovery. After hitting the town, we inquired around for the fort and were told that the tallest boulder that you could see from road was the one. We parked our vehicles at one of the houses near the entry to the fort, and offloaded the extra luggage. Bought some biscuit packets and started the climb.


The locals told us that 'we'(referring to the fact that we were city-dwellers) would take close to 1-1.5 hours whereas 'they'(the rugged people from the countryside) could easily do it in 30mins. In fact, one of the locals(who had a paunch) wanted to have a bet with me for a Lakh rupees that he could climb the structure in 30mins(sigh!).

The trail easily recognizable, there are stones in the form steps, and after the initial hiccups with the ascent it becomes easy on the knees. There is not much shade during the ascent, hence shades/coolers would be useful. We stumbled on this entrance(guess this was the security-briefing area in those days :P ), the structures are dilapidated and there are no mentions of what-is-what, and hence continued the climb with the occasional click-breaks.


After a few more minutes, we could see the walls of the fort and then we hit is what can be the main-entrance to the fort. These were heavy-strong structures.

 


My initial research had informed me that Rayakottai was Tipu Sultan's fort, but there was no mention of Tipu Sultan anywhere, nor did the ASI(Archeological Survey of India) have any boards educating the masses about the place.

There are many room like structures at the top which have plants/shrubs all around; and the local shepherds roam around with their goats in these premises.



Dried up pond at the top



We reached the peak in about 30-40minutes and spent around 45mins clicking around and exploring the place.





A quick descent and a beautiful ride till Hosur - again those roads with tamarind trees. I am in love with roads with tamarind trees - there is certain style and culture about them.[A nice read on the related subject]

And i was back at my place by 4pm.

Post Ride Research:
I did not have much time to research about the place before visiting Rayakottai but my curiosity arose many times post the ride. I wanted to know why Tipu Sultan had to have a fort in Rayakottai. And my research did not give me much literature to peruse but a few references which are as follows.

In the "Gazetteer Of South India" By W. Francis (Mittal Publications, 1988) Rayakottai is briefly mentioned:
Rayakottai("Kings fort') - Village in Krishnagiri taluk of Salem District, Madras, situated in 12D 31N and 78D 2E.Population(1901) 1,497. To the north stands the hill with its ruined fort which gives tghe place its name. This commands one of the most important passes between the Mysore table-land and the Baramahal, and was of great importance in the Muysore Wars of the 18th century. Its capture by the Major Gowdie was the first exploit in the Lord Cornwallis's march. It was ceded to the British by the treaty of 1792, and under its wallas the army of General Harris encamped in 1799 before entering Mysore territory on its way to Seringapatam. The place was at one time a favourite residence of military pensioners.

There is a mention of the fort in the "History of Tipu Sultan" By Mohibbul Hasan (Aakar Books, 01-Dec-2005):
Of all the passes which led from the Carnatic into the table-land of Mysore, the Palakad Pass formed the most easy route. I t was nearer Bangalore, and it was by this pass that the Mysore armies had always invaded the Carnatic. It was commanded by several forts of which Hosur and Rayakottai were the most important. Cornwallis, therefor , first turned his attention to their conquest , which would not only open a free communication with the Carnatic , but would also protect it from the incursions of Tipu's horse.

On July 15 Cornwallis marched towards Hosur, situated about 28miles SE of Bangalore. The Sultan had tried to improve the defenses of the place but they had been left incomplete. On the approach of Major Gowdie's detachment, which had been sent in advance it was evacuated. The garrison tried to blow up the fort, but the Major's advance was so sudden that they failed in the attempt. The fort was occupied on Jul15. The hill forts of Anchetidurga, Neelgiri and Rutlengiri surrendered a few days later.

Major Gowdie was next sent to Rayakottai which was garrisoned by 800 men. It consisted of two forts, one at the bottom,  the other at the top of a huge rock. ON july 20 Gowdie succeeded in seizing the lower fort by an assault. He then made an attempt to capture the main fort. The garrison put up a stiff resistance, but on the approach of the main army under Cornwallis, the Commandant lost heart. He accepted a bribe from English, and on  July 22, on condition of security of private property and permission to reside with hsi family in the Carnatic, surrendered the "lofty and spacious fort, so strong and complete in all respects that it ouught to have yielded only to famine and a tedious blockade.  Kenchillydurga, Oodiadurga and other small forst also submitted at the same time. Rayakottai, Anchetidurga and Oodiadurga were garrisoned; the others were dismantled. Thus, with the exception of Krishnagiri, the capital of Baramahal, all the posts necessary to establish an easy communication with the Carnatic had been secured.

On top of Rayakottai Fort
It is noteworthy that Rayakottai was one of the MOST places in the Carnatic, and am REALLY sad to see it's current state of affairs. Hope the ASI and Government take care of this place suitably, and the public is educated enough to not to scribble on the walls.

Tips:
1. Start early; You can easily return to Bangalore by 2pm or so if started early.
2. Ganesh Bhavan for Breakfast - MUST! I would go here again, just for the breakfast :)
3. Post monsoon should be a nice season for Panchapalli dam.
4. There are not many great restaurants along the highway, and only the towns have some limited options.
5. Rayakottai needs some time at the top - exploring stuff. I would guess that it gets pretty hot during summer, despite a cloudy weather we could feel the heat(but it was not bad).
6. If you are lost or do not know the route, ask the people, you cannot go wrong :)

Route :

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