Vellore Fort (வேலூர் கோட்டை) is a large 16th-century fort situated in Vellore city, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India built by Vijayanagara Kings. The Fort was at one point of time the headquarters of the Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara Empire. The fort is known for its grand ramparts, wide moat and robust masonry. The Fort's ownership passed from Vijayanagara Kings, to the Bijapur Sultans, to Marathas, to the Carnatic Nawabs and finally to the British, who held the fort until India gained independence. The Indian government maintains the Fort with the Archaeological Department.
During British rule, the Tipu Sultan's family and the last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha were held in as prisoners in the fort. The fort houses a Christian church, a Muslim mosque and a Hindu temple, the latter of which is famous for its magnificent carvings. The first rebellion against British rule erupted at this fort in 1806, and it is also a witness to the massacre of the Vijayanagara royal family of Sriranga Raya.
Vellore Fort was built by Chinna Bommi Nayak and Thimma Reddy Nayak, subordinate Chieftains under Sadasiva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire in the year of 1566 AD. Vellore Fort gained strategic prominence following the re-establishment of Vijayanagar rule with Chandragiri as their 4th capital after the Talikota battle . The Aravidu Dynasty that held the title of Rayas in 17th century resided in this fort, using it as a base in the battle of Toppur in the 1620s. This major battle took place for the claiming of the Raya title between two faction of the Raya family. Each faction was by their respective subordinates; the Nayaks of Tanjore, the Gingee and the Madurai taking sides to suit their interests.
The Rayas also had long-running battles with their longtime rivals, the Bijapur Sultans, and with the Nayaks of Madurai and the Gingee over non-remittance of annual tributes. In the 1640s, during the reign of Sriranga Raya III, the Fort was briefly captured by the Bijapur army, but was eventually recaptured with the help of the Nayaks of Tanjore.
The fort was constructed in granite from the nearby quarries in Arcot and Chittor districts. It spreads over an area of 133 acres (0.54 sq km) and is located at an altitude of 220m within a broken mountain range. The fort is surrounded by a moat which was once used as an additional line of defence in the case of an invasion. It includes an escape tunnel leading to Virinjipuram about 12 km away, which could be used by the king and other royals in the event of an attack. The fort is considered to be among the best of military architecture in Southern India and is known for its grand ramparts, wide moat and robust masonry. This 13th-century fort was opened up to tourists and is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, and is well maintained compared to other monuments.
Buildings Within The Fort:
- Sri Jalagandeeswarar Temple: The temple, dedicated to Jalagandeeswar, is noted for its sculptures, and speaks volumes of the exquisite craftsmanship of the highly skilled artisans of that period. The sculpture in the porch on the left of the entrance is a masterpiece appreciated by the connoisseurs of art and architecture. The temple was long used as an arsenal, and remained without a deity, although several years ago it was sanctified with an idol of Lord Shiva.During mughal period the idol was removed and kept away from the town, forgotten by the generation. In the year 1983 a Christian missionary spoke out side the fort ground, inside the fort an empty temple. This evoked a quick response from the Vellore elites and all gathered together and promptly placed the idol and started their prayers. The temple is maintained by a Trust.
- The Mosque: This building was constructed during the last Arcod Navab's period.
- The Church: This building was constructed during the early British period (Robert Clive, East Indian Company).
- Muthu Mandapam: This is a memorial built around the tombstone of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of Sri Lanka. Situated on the bank of the Palar River, it is just one kilometer north of Vellore fort.
- Government Museum: This is a multi purpose museum maintained by the Department of Museum Government of Tamil Nadu. Its treasures include ancient- and present-day curiosities relating to subjects such as anthropology, botany, geology, numismatics, pre-history, and zoology. Historical monuments of the erstwhile composite North Arcot district are gracefully depicted in the gallery.
Location And Transportation:
- Family of Tipu Sultan: After the fall of Srirangapatnam in 1799 and the death of Tipu Sultan, his family, including his sons, daughters, wife and mother (who was the wife of Hyder Ali), was detained in the fort. After the 1806 Sepoy Mutiny, the British transferred Tipu's sons and daughters to Calcutta. The Tombs of Bakshi Begum, widow of Hyder Ali and Padshah Begum, Tipu's wife & sons, who died in 1834 are located with a kilometre to the eastern side of the Fort.
- Last King of Kandy: Vellore Fort also became the final destination for the last ruling monarch of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815). The kind and his family were kept as prisoners of war at this fort for 17 years with his family. His grave can be found in the fort along with last raya kings of Vijayanagara Empire.
The Fort is situated in the centre of Vellore town opposite to the Old Bus stand. Vellore is on the Chennai
-Bangalore highway and is 120 km (75 mt) from Chennai and 210 km (130 mt) from Bangalore. The nearest rail station is Vellore-Katpadi Junction, where all super fast trains stop. The nearest airports are Tirupati Airport, Chennai International Airport
and Bengaluru International Airport.