Nijagalbetta is a little known fort near Tumkur which is an excellent trekking place to visit near Bangalore. 250 yeas ago Nijagalbetta witnessed a power struggle between the Marathas, Hyder Ali and the British. Nijagalbetta had a reputation of an impregnable fort. Crocodiles in the moat around the fort used to keep away unwanted visitors during those days. On a famous night in late 18th century, the guerrilla army of Chitradurga scaled the fort using monitor lizards and chopped off the hands of Sardar Khan the ruler, changing the fate of Hyder Ali and the Marathas. Today it is a quiet place frequented by few and hence makes for an excellent half day trek from Bangalore. On the top of Nijagalbetta, there is a shiva temple, a dargah, a pond, few caves and several sculptures from the Hoysala period. If you have run out of places to visit near Bangalore, and are in the mood for a short trek, Nijagalbetta is worth a try for a half day trip.
Nijagaletta is located off the NH4 highway from Bangalore to Tumkur. After reachnig Dobbaspet pass Kamat hotel and look out for 2 Reliance petrol pumps. The route to Nijagalbetta is just opposite the petrol pumps.
The trek will take between 1-2 hours depending on stops taken on the way. Water and food needs to be carried as nothing will be available on top. A good idea would be to have a light breakfast on the way at Kamat before commencing the trek. While the trek is short, it is important to wear proper footwear as there are lots of gravel and loose rocks on the way and one can easily slip.
Nijagalbetta Fort has its fair share of history. During the latter half of 18th century, the Maratha empire had risen and Madhav Rao I reached Nijagalbetta Fort in pursuit of Hyder Ali. Nijagalbetta stood on his way to Srirengapatnam, the capital of Hyder Ali. Nijagalbetta ruled by Sardar Khan a vassal of Hydel Ali, was impregnable with its crocodile infested moat, boiling water showers from fort walls and a terrain which did not permit the use of cannons. When conventional warfare failed him, Madhav Rao turned towards Madakari Nayaka of Chitradurga for help from his guerrilla warfare team.
Madakari Nayak sent a small army of guerrilla warfare experts who attacked the fort at night in a novel way. They killed a few horses and used the meat to distract the crocodiles in the moat. Then they swam across the moat and climbed the walls with rope and monitor lizards. They tied the rope to the giant monitor lizards and threw them over the top. Once the lizards had a secure grip, they climbed over the fort using the rope and surprised the enemy into submission. The battle ended when Madakari Nayaka chopped off the hands of Sardar Khan!
This victory could have finished Hyder Ali and we may not have had a Tipu Sultan legacy. However fate had a different idea and Madhav Rao died from Tuberculosis shortly after this battle. Hyder Ali got plenty of time to recoup and the rest is modern history.
The path up the fort
The landscape enroute to the summit of Nijagalbetta
Temple of Shiva at Nijagalbetta
Sculptures from Hoyasala period
Atlas of Nijagalbetta
View from the top
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