The Bellary Fort is a tall standing monument, rising sky high from the heart of Bellary. With a strong historical allusion, the roads of Bellary have been trodden by horses, stamped by elephants, rummaged by tanks and cargos, and recently run on by cars. Almost equidistant from Bengaluru (300 kilometers), the capital of Karnataka, and Hyderabad (361 kilometers), the capital of Telangana, the Bellary Fort reiterates its strategic location as an important political stronghold, and does justice to tourists from both the places. Ballari Fort is located within the city limits.
The legend of Bellary has been reverberated in ballads through ages. Some myths say that the city is named after Indra, the king of Hindu Gods, who destroyed a demon named 'Balla' here. Others say that it gets its name from Balari, a name for Goddess Durga. Yet other folklores link this place to the epicenter in Ramayana where Rama met Sugreeva, and Hanuman. History differs saying that Bellary is a name derived from the old Kannada word 'Vallari' and 'Vallapuri'. An inscription from rule of Ganga Dynasty of Talakad, testifies to the territory of Sindha Vishaya, which today consists of Bellary and Dharwad districts. In the Hoysala period, the dynasty of 'Bellariya Naredu' had sovereignty over Bellary when it was known as Kuntala Desha, though it subsequently came to be known by the name 'Vallari-Vallapuri'. Bellary also gets its mention during the rule of dynasties like Satavahanas, Kadambas, Kalachuryas and Hoysalas. The presence of two hills quite sum-up the historical significance of this city. The entire city along with the fort is strategically planned around the 'Ballari Gudda' or Fort Hill and the 'Kumbara Gudda' or Face Hill. While the 'Ballari Gudda' is the second largest monolithic hill in the world, the latter is called Face hills because solid granite rocks here resemble sharp features of a man's face. Having always been the unkempt spawn of the Mauryas, Satavahansas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Kalachuryas, Sevunas and Hoysalas, Bellary was finally nurtured by the Vijaynagar chieftain Hande Hanumappa Nayaka. With the fall of Vijayanagar in 1565 however, the feud also saw its downfall with ambushes from Shivaji, subdual from Adoni Sultan Balasat Jug, resistance from Nayakas and finally, usurp by the Mysuru Sultan Hyder Ali. It was under Hyder Ali's reign that the Upper Fort was renovated and a lower fort added to the fort's glory. A French engineer was relied on with the burden of restructuring the fort; the extended lower fort is his brainchild. However, it was soon realized that the 1976 feet high citadel of the fort was planned on the Bellari Gudda, completely disregarding the taller Kumbara Gudda, and was now vulnerable to external incursion and Hyder Ali's unharnessed wrath was bestowed upon the engineer who lost his life in the very city that he planned. Ambiguities exist about the French man's grave, as it is supposed to be located at the fort's eastern gate, but the natives consider it to be the grave of a saintly Muslim man. The same Muslim natives can also be accredited for protecting the grave till date. With the defeat of Hyder Ali's son Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Battle of Mysore in 1799, Bellary, which was officially annexed by Wodeyar Asaf Jah II, got transferred to the British Presidency of Madras under the Subsidiary Alliance. The fort has deemed perfect to be their Cantonment and has served the same purpose throughout the span of their rule. Today, the Upper Fort stands as an edifice of historical importance while the Lower Fort still accommodates active offices, orphanages and educational institutions.
A walk up the hill is the only way to reach till the end of the upper fort. So, the little trek on the granite path is a brief hiking experience preceding a long dive into the pages of history. The temples, pools, cisterns and a well restored arsenal and barrack call out for visitors to come and have a look. The fort compound is also blessed by Lord Hanuman' Temple adjacent to the Upper Fort and the Kote Anjaneya Temple. Brownie point is the perfect selfie spot on the fort terrace which gives the skyline panorama of the city. A total of minimum 3 hours stroll is a must if you plan on visiting the Bellary Fort. During the British period, buildings were added namely the Commissariat stores, the Protestant church, orphanage, Masonic lodge, post-office and numerous private dwellings while the eastern turret was adorned with a huge mural of the Indian Flag later. Across the time travel, one might also come across working public buildings, offices, educational institutions, temples and churches. The best time to visit is a late afternoon in the months of October-February, when the cloud stands between the fort and the sun The sun begins to set as the fort eventually closes, and the view of a sun hiding behind the horizon while you walk down the hill is beyond literal expression. Choose a weekend or a day of national importance, and you will also see the fort lavishly illuminated.
A visit to the Bellary Fort is a short trip in distance but a long one across time. Having been built in different folds by different rulers, the Bellary Fort bears imprint of contemporary architectural panaches topped with an exotic French signature. Unlike the past, when Hyder Ali had the French engineer executed for planning a structure vulnerable to intrusion, the fort is now open for visitors throughout the year during timings 8:00 AM - 5:25 PM. A small amount of INR 5 is charged only at the time of entry which happens through the only gate of the fort.