Reaching Siddavatam: Day 3 saw us getting up early (7 am) to drive towards the Siddavatam Fort, Rajampet, from Kadapa, where we had stayed overnight. It was built in 1303 AD by the River Pennar and indeed epitomized the ‘Pearl of Pennar’ trail. This is the right time to visit the fort before the sun comes out and also before crowds come in.
History: The construction of the fort happened under the patronage of Matti Raja, a Tuluva, who was one of the Nayakas (chiefs) under the famous Vijayanagara dynasty, generally referred to as the Golden Age of South Indian history. The fort was further developed by Varadha Raju, who was the son-in-law of Krishna Deva Raya. In 1605, the fort was gifted by Araveeti Venkatapathi Rayulu to Yellamma Raju and his son Anantha Raju for winning the Ootukuru (Vutukuru) War. The Siddavatam Fort in its present state is said to have been built by Anantha Raju. The Araveeti or Aravidu dynasty was South India’s last Hindu dynasty.
In the 17th century, the fort is said to have been captured by Mir Jumla, a military general, and came under the Mayana Nawabs of Kadapa. A dargah and a masjid (in the pictures below) were built by the last Nawab of this dynasty, Alam Khan, near the River Pennar. The mandapams and sculptures were however spared from damage. Later, during a war in 1779–80, Hyder Ali of Mysore attacked the dynasty, captured the fort, and handed it over to his son Tipu Sultan. In 1800, Siddavattam Fort was taken over by the British East India Company. The East India Company had this fort in its possession for the next 150 years. From 1807–1812, the company kept Sidhout as its headquarters for Kadapa district. Later, the administration moved to Kadapa as Siddivatam would get isolated whenever the Pennar river was in spate. Much later, after Indian Independence, the fort came under the administration of the Archaeology Department of India in 1956.
Siddavatam Fort is spread over 30 acres, and we had 17 bastions constructed to protect the fort, which are still intact. The fort houses an ancillary passage, which allows visitors to gain access even after the closure of the main gates. It is considered the gateway to Dakshina Kashi, or the ‘Gateway of Srisailam’. We were struck by the beautiful engravings starting from the entrance of the fort to the mandapam and the various independent shrines. Carvings of Gajalakshmi can be seen on the top of the fort. An independent life-size statue of the Nandi bull stands decapitated, which was sad. This region is said to have many Siddhas— yogis who worked with natural remedies made from herbs, hence the name Sidhout. The place was also supposed to have a lot of banyan trees (Vata trees), and hence the place got its name, Siddavatam. It is recorded that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the place during his tour of South India.
There are stone inscriptions in some temples of Siddavatam that state that the Emperor Padma Chola and another staunch devotee abstained from food and water till they visited and prayed in all the temples of the village. The Chola queens would also bathe in the Penna River and offer special pujas at the temples.
The entrance to the fort, that has Lord Garuda (also enlarged) on the left; and Lord Hanuman on the left
Beautifully engraved pillars
The Dargah in the midst of the fort and other temples
The Intrepid Travellers
Pictures Courtesy: A S Diwakar (Chennai)