Chandragiri is one of those lesser known towns of today that has to its credit a veritable history. It was the last capital of the Vijayanagar kingdom after Hampi was routed by the Muslims at the Battle of Talikota in 1565 AD. What remains today is the fort on the hills of Chandragiri, the crumbling walls trying to make some order amidst the rocks and boulders strewn wildly about the slopes.
There are temple ruins within the fort but none of them are as interesting as the two main palace buildings named as Raja Mahal and Rani Mahal. These are in what experts call Indo-Sarcenic style. Indian influence is clear in the towers that almost mimic the South Indian temple vimanas. Broad arches open up the building both on the inside and outside. These arches are often recessed into the walls and sometimes divided into mini-arches. Corbelled windows and balconies give the overall uniformity of design, sometimes necessary to hold the design together in this mix of various styles. This is more apparent when we view them naturally from a lower viewpoint. The roof is supported on stone eaves, normally called chajjas in Indian terminology. Interestingly, no timber has been used anywhere in both these buildings.
Rani Mahal has broken fragments of stucco work. The design reminded me of similar ones seen on the Gol Gumbaz. The arches at this mahal are mostly blind arches. The walls have been heavily vandalized with grafitti. Yet in a backdrop of rocky hills it makes a pleasant picture. With a shepherd grazing his flock in the last hour before sunset, when the hills are golden in the last light of day, the whole scene is picture perfect. It is a scene of rustic life in an exotic setting reminiscent of kingdoms and cultures long gone – typical cappricio. Nearby is a well with stone steps descending down to it. It appears to be a new find recently excavated.
The museum at Chandragiri exceeded all expectations. It is a well-kept museum. The exhibits are arranged excellently and the lighting shows them to good effect. The collection is small but good. It is almost exclusively from the 16th and 17th centuries, attesting to the fact that the place did not have much importance in earlier times. Many interesting exhibits come from Yaganti and Gudimallam. There is an interesting replica of a unique 2nd century AD linga still standing at Gudimallam, a place which I intend to visit some day.
At sunset, the walk back to town from the fort was memorable. Villagers drive their cattle home. Striated clouds drift idly in a blue sky. Twilight sun warms the rocks on the hills. The bell of a goat jingles along as the herd walks before me in a light dry dust. The old shephard follows them with his stick in one hand and his small empty lunch box swinging in the other. As he reaches home, his wife is on the verandah teaching their child to read by candlelight. A motorcycle rushes past, disturbing the idle hour of the dying day. Just then, power comes back to the town and I continue on my way to my hotel.