Well known 17th Century Military French Architect, Sebasten Le Prestre Vauben (1633 – 1707) has designed a lot of strategic forts for France, his favourite shape being star shaped ones for strategic reasons for warfare. One of the adopted octoganal star designed shaped fort was taken by Tipu Sultan from a strategic view point to stop the British from invading Srirangapatna from Mangalore. The Marathas and the Nizam’s of Hyderabad too had joined hands with the British forming a formidable force against Tipu Sultan.
This hilltop fort is on the Bangalore – Mangalore Highway No. 48 at Dondigal 6.4 Kms away from Sakleshpura past Hassan the foothill city. Sakleshpura is a plantation town of western ghats rich in flora and fauna, a mini hill station with limited eateries and hotels. A lot of estate plantation houses are turned to beautiful scenic home-stays! The palegars who were vassals of Vijayanagar Kings once ruled this region. Tipu Sultan annexed the region from Shivappa Nayaka of Ikkeri in 1659 and took control of this strategic location.
Tipu Sultan was fascinated by this mist covered fort and aptly named in ‘Manjarabad’ or ‘mist covered area’. He built this fort with the aide of the French Engineers who were his alliance partners from 1785 to 1792. The external walls were granite stones slabs.
There’s a moat around this hilltop fort of a thousand meters! The fort would hold ammunition and has barracks for the soilders. The star shaped walls had musket holes and cannons were placed strategically. Being at an elevated level, the advantage rested with the fort occupants in times of battle attacks! The fort also has a small pond to collect fresh rain water for the soilders needs. Apparently there was a secret tunnel from this Fort to Srirangapatna which Tipu Sultan used to commute from his capital, this is yet to be proved. The tunnel today is dark and inhabited by reptiles, the stench on entering the tunnel makes one venture inside impossible.
On a clear day one can see the Arabian Sea from here apart from surrounding areas. It’s a beautiful viewpoint of the western ghats. The outer walls have an elevated run track inside through the perimeter of the fort. A beautiful strategic designed military fort – a lovely viewpoint with vision extending for kilometres. A few loyal men could guard this area keeping off the invading armies.
Entry to Manjarabad Fort is free but one ought to be fit first walking the mud pathway and then climbing the 300 odd steps. The fort is moss ridden and looks beautiful. It takes two hours of your time visiting this natural edifice. There are no sign boards mentioning this place. A huge cluster of tuck shops and small restaurants selling knick knacks signal your arrival to the area. Park your vehicle’s safely to the edge of the highway and ascend your climb on to the Octoganal Star Shaped Fort of 18th Century. One of Tipu Sultan’s master pieces of French origin! This area is a great picnic spot weather being good. Great view point. But the sad point is that there’s no elevated view point to see the star shape fort. You are on the star platform. Next time closer to Hassan or at Sakleshpura or on your divine destination tours of Kukke Subramanya, Dharmastala, Murdeshwara & Kollur Mookambika or simply travelling to Mangalore, Udupi, Karwar or Goa. Make a pitstop and enjoy the view. Having your own vehicle is an advantage. Sakleshpura is well connected public transport place.
Enjoy your holidays and educate yourself with lesser known regions of Karnataka. Hope the Tourism Department takes this region under it’s care and develop this region with basic comfort level amenities.
Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography