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The Age-Old Hill Fort of Karimnagar

There are many forts to explore in Telangana, that stand as a rich testimony to the heritage prominence of the region for several centuries. These forts have witnessed the reign of many dynasties, and offer fascinating insights into the lifestyle, military ambitions, conquest, engineering innovations, architecture and other aspects of yesteryear rulers.

The Elgandal fort, located in Elgandal village amidst the palm groves on the left bank of river Maner is one such historic structure of Telangana state. The village is situated about 10 km from the city of Karimnagar on Karimnagar-Vemulawada road.  It was under the control of the Qutub Shahis, the Mughal Empire, and the Nizams of Hyderabad.

Originally known as Veligundula, the structure of Elgandal is a hillfort built which was initially during the era of Kakatiya dynasty (1083–1323). The mighty structure served as a stronghold for the warrior clan of Musunuri Nayaks. The fort was later occupied by the rulers of Qutub Shahi dynasty in the 16th century during which QuinamulMulk was appointed as the commander. It subsequently went into the administrative control of the Mughal Empire.

Consequently, Amin Khan was appointed as Khiledar of Elagandal during the rule of Nizam of Hyderabad Nizam-ul-Mulk, Asaf Jah I (1724–1748) followed by Muqarrab Khan. Mirza Ibrahim Dhamsa was the Khiledar of this fort during the rule of Nawab Salabat Jung, who rebuilt the structure and strengthened the fort in the year1754 when it was under the rule of Sikindar Jha (1803-1823). Bahadur Khan and Karimuddin both served as Khiledars while the town of Karimnagar was named after Karimuddin. Mahbub Ali Khan, the Sixth Nizam, shifted the District Headquarters while reorganizing the districts, from Elagandal to the present-day Karimnagar in 1905.

There are two mosques imposingly constructed one on the top of the hill and the other at the foot of the hill. The exterior walls are decorated with floral designs in stucco. There are two dilapidated temples, one dedicated to Narasimha swamy on the top of the hill and the other is Hanuman temple at the foot of the hill.  Inside the fort area there is an ammunition building, mosques, two jail khana, wells and other structural edifices. There are two stone fortification walls i.e., the outer and the inner.

Brindavan tank located outside the eastern gateway of the fort, was built by Zafar-ud-Doula in 1754. The minarets here oscillate when these are shaken. “DhoMinar” (DoMinar) built by the Nizams, features two tall pillars whose height is approximately equal to that of Hyderabad’s famous monument of Charminar.The rulers of Elgandal surrounded this fort with a crocodile-filled moat which was about 5 metres (16 feet) wide and 4 metres (13 feet) deep to stall enemy incursions. The site is also home to a mosque and an eidgah, where special Eid prayers are held.

The Department of Archaeology & Museums, Telangana has taken up the preservation of Elgandal fort, withfunds sanctioned by the 13th Finance Commission. This involves restoration work on an area of 50-60 acres of the hill fort, which was a military bastion in earlier times. The ammunition buildings, mosques, jail khanas, wells and other structural edifices are being conserved with the efforts of the department.

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