Gingee Fort, Villupuram district, TN is worth converting into a major tourism destination!

Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu

Tourism is, nodoubt, a money spinning business  and in South India there are  many heritage sites that have potential to attract tourists, they are in the dark. With respect to Tamil Nadu,  some declared heritage sites places do not get the attention they deserve and are not in the limelight. Their tourism potential remains either untapped or poorly exploited or just ignored due to official apathy.  

One among the sites being the historical sturdy Gingee fort near villupuram, TN.  Bestowed with tourist attractions with recorded historical chronology,  that Gingee fort,  a fine symbol of this region's glorious past, lies unheard of in other Indian states is unfortunate. Part of the reason is it is not on the  tourism map of the State  primarily due to  lack of basic tourism amenities.

.Gingee fort, horse stable on the left

Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu

In 2021 the Union Government  sanctioned ₹9 crore to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the purpose of restoration of the fort and project included a cafeteria, toilet facilities, new ticket counters, creation of a  lawn in front of the Rajagiri hills and rebuilding of the dry moat and the barracks. The ASI, the district administration and the state  tourism department will collectively work  to give a facelift to the fort to make it a popular destination. Attention will also be paid to improve the access road to the fort, besides  introducing boating facilities in the wide moat and a children’s park.  This will make the site a popular recreation and tourist site for the local and nearby residents in the neighboring district  but also for the international tourists interested in old heritage forts and military installations.

Lots need to be done to preserve this fort for the posterity and convert into a major tourist destination in north Tamil Nadu  next to Mahabalipuram, vellore and Thiruvannamalai. near Chennai.

Kalyana mahal, Gingee fort, Rajagiri, TN,

Much emphasis need to be paid for the following:

01. Well-laid access road  to the fort complex, particularly to Rajagiri. is a must;

02. Before  important sections of the forts at vantage places, installation of  a visible information board in English, Tamil and Hindi with details is essential. 

03. The tourism department must construct lodging facilities with  car park facilities for long-distance travelers. 

04. The proposed amusement park will attract the families with children. So, it is imperative the tourism department must keep the proposed amusement park lawn near the moat and restroom facilities  clean and tidy with caretakers. 

05. Shelters with drinking water facilities at select places will help the visitors a lot as it is a hot region. 

06. The authorities must take severe action  and free the encroached land on the site. 

07. Night illumination of the Kalyana Mahal tower and  the visible section of the fort will have an added advantage because it will  get the attention of night travellers on the nearby roads.

08.There are complaints about the problems caused by monkeys that seem to ambush the careless  tourists suddenly and give a fearsome stare till you part with whatever eatables you have.  For the safety of  visitors, particularly children, the monkeys here must be safely relocated to better place. 

09. The tourism department must run ads in the news papers and  install  billboards in high traffic areas like the highways in nearby cities that can be seen by lots of passengers. It is an effective way of creating awareness  among the public and the travel lovers.

10. The administration must give serious attention to cleanliness of the heritage site with proper care and this will create a soothing ambiance. 

One  of the surviving formidable forts in South India, Gingee Fort or Senji Fort (covering more than 11 acres) is in Villupuram District of Tamil Nadu about 160 kilometres (99 mi) from the state capital, Chennai, and is close to the Union Territory of Puducherry (former French colony).  

Built on a steep hilly terrain comprising three hillocks - Rajagiri, Krishnagiri and Chandrayanadurg, forming a huge triangular, the fort where the eagles dare has enclosed important military  structures  and temples. The great Maratha warrior and ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji who controlled it briefly in the 18th century, upon his visit to the site,  called it  the "most impregnable fortress in India."Presently under the control of the ASI - Archaeological  Survey of India, way back in 1921 Gingee was declared a National Monument.  

Its history is a chequered one, occupied by many dynasties in the past . Built by Ananta Kon of the Konar Dynasty in 1,200 CE,  the northern hill Krishnagiri saw fortification in 1,240 CE according to historians. The other buildings and structures were built by successive rulers at different periods.  Major ''additions and expansions took place in the fort  under the ''Vijayanagar Empire.'' and they made it an impregnable fort and put it under the control of their representative Gingee Nayaks. Briley, it came under the spell of the Bijapur sultanate in the 17th century after the fall of Vijayanagara. 

Chhatrapati Shivaji seized the fort in 1677 and it “remained under Maratha rule till the Moguls captured it in 1698''.  The Marathas to maintain this strategic fort built 20 ft rampart around the fort wall. sthe  Raja Desingh (Tej Singh) had a brief reign  and later the Arcot Nawab took control from 1714 to 1749.

After the Marathas, the French (1750 to 1770) and the British possessed the fort for some time; the latter considered it  the "Troy of the East." After the British had left the fort fell into obscurity.   

The most formidable part among the three hillocks in the fort complex is  Rajagiri with thick granite fort walls all around,  enclosing the military and palace buildings  The  fort walls stretch  13 km connecting all the three hillocks and enclosing a huge area of  11 square kilometres  at a height of 800 feet. The complex is further protected by  a 80-foot-wide moat. 

Access to the main  fort  complex is through a  wooden drawbridge and  seven gateways.  A self-contained fort to thwart long siege, inside lie  military installations, a palace   with  Durbar  hall, Kalyana Mahal  adequate water supply including  step well, an elephant tank, big granary to store food grains,  horse stables, places of worship ( Venkataramana temple and aSadathtulla mosque)  plus public hall and an open ground. The water supply system was so effectively planned  during the reign of  the Senji  Nayaks and the Nawab ( of Arcot) period, the continuous water supply could reach portions atop the hills even during the hot season.