Biking to Bhongir

Now, before you go off imagining a trip on a mega-hog like some Hell’s Angel lost on the wrong continent, let me explain. I biked to Bhongir. ‘Biked’ is a word used, for want of anything better, to say that I travelled to and from Bhongir on my Bajaj CT-100, a piddling motorcycle that is little better than a moped. However, it did get me out there and back relatively faster than anyone else I encountered on the roads, and I covered the 25-kilometre stretch of National Highway 202 in a mere 18 minutes on the way back.

Bhongir, or Bhuvanagiri, to give it its proper name, is supposed to be 45 kilometres from Hyderabad. From the little hamlet of Hafeezpet, where I live, it is about 84 kilometres. Hafeezpet, however, is not 39 kilometres from Hyderabad. Someone somewhere needs to proofread better, I think (and no, my bike’s odometer is not broken!).

The trip began, rather suddenly, when I was desultorily riding around Kukatpally wondering where to go. I had found out about Bhuvanagiri, named after the chap who built the fort on the hill, Thirubhuvanamalla Vikramaditya VI, the seventh Western Chalukya king who at one point of time was a prominent actor in the succession dramas of various dynasties, including the Cholas and the Sinhalas, and who ruled for the incredibly long period of fifty years, from 1076 to 1126 CE, a couple of days ago. Since I had nothing else to do, and felt like a long ride on my bike, I headed for Bhongir.

Finding the way to the place was very easy – everyone seemed to know the way, and I made my way through such exotically-named places as Keesara and Ghatkesar. This was the first time I had ventured into rural Andhra Pradesh (not counting the rural nature of Hafeezpet!). The landscape alternated between rocky scrub jungle and cultivated rice paddies. The rice fields were not as extensive as the ones I have seen in the Kaveri delta, but I guess to see such extensive fields ones, the Krishna or Godavari deltas would be the places to go. One outstanding feature was the state of the roads, which were surprisingly smooth and well-maintained, except for about a ten-kilometre stretch where there was actually no road, but only a dirt track.

Bhongir is a one street town, and that one street is called, predictably, Main Street. From any point in Bhongir, one could look up and see the fort, perched on top of a hill behind the town like a watchful eagle’s eyrie. After a bit of riding around (literally around the hill!, I found the access point to the fort. This was actually not an access point, but a break in the houses and shops by the roadside, and the foundation for a wall stood half-built and abandoned. Scrambling over this takes you to the base of the hill on which the fort stands.

As I parked my bike and prepared to make my way up, I was hailed from across the road. When I say hailed, I mean a man yelling, “Babu, babu” at the top of his voice. I turned around, unsure of what rule or taboo I had broken, to see a man furiously gesticulating at me to come over. So I went over, only to find that I had to buy a ticket for the privilege of visiting the fort. The ticket was three rupees, and the woman who sold me the ticket also offered to let me park my bike in the shade of her cowshed (the cow was not in) for a further sum of five rupees. I paid her eight rupees, entrusted my helmet to her to look after, and went on my way after moving my bike into the aforementioned (this should send someone into conniptions!) cowshed.

The climb up to the point where the steps began was a none-too-gentle slope that reminded me rather violently of how horribly out of shape I was. But the looming shape of the fort on top was enough incentive to keep me going. Once I reached the steps, it was better, but still all uphill. The steps led up into a large stone gateway, typical of forts where any attacker was totally at the mercy of people atop the walls surrounding the gateway. This led into a another path that led to a second gateway, beside which stood a rampart which could be ascended by a short flight of stairs. From here I saw the first of many picturesque views of Bhongir and the surrounding countryside.

Further up from here was a doorway that seemed to lead nowhere. Going through to the other side, I discovered the only trace of the fort’s Chalukya heritage – a traditional doorway flanked by typical pillars and surmounted by two boars on either side holding aloft a garland with sword in it. Guardian deities on either side of this doorway seemed to have been chiselled off. From here, it was a long steep climb to the top of the hill, where the heart of the fort was. Apart from this doorway, everything else seemed to have a touch of later rulers like the Qutub Shahis.

On top of the hill were four structures – two ancient and two modern. The modern buildings were communications huts – concrete boxes with windows. One of them was abandoned, and the other seemed to be in use, and was topped with a mass of antennae and dish antennae. All the communications equipment were marked as property of South Central Railway. Strangely enough, there were no boards forbidding photography.

The two older structures were, of course, far more interesting. One was a large, airy building, rather like the one at the top of Golkonda. It was on top of a raised platform, and was finished with plaster. Inside were what seemed to be fountains, and there was a swimming or bathing pool off to one side. Built into the platform itself were sheltered, though decidedly less salubrious rooms.

The other structure was a tall, tower-like column built on the edge of a large pool of water which seems to have been the fort’s water supply. The tower could have housed a mechanism to draw large quantities of water to be used in the different parts of the fort. On the top of the hill were also two squat towers that would have held cannon – one of them had a dilapidated cannon on it.

Looking down from the top, there was another flat topped rock nearby, with three stone buildings on it which seemed to have been living quarters.

The climb down was a little less exciting, and not at all as tiring as the climb up.

Needless to say, Bhongir too proved to be a striking point for vandals of every stripe. Here’s a sample of their work as well!

3 thoughts to “Biking to Bhongir”

  1. Navin, this is a beautifully written and photographed account of your experience in Bhongir. I lived there in the early 70’s for a couple of years, stationed with the American Peace Corps. I eventually married an Indian lady, and we lived for almost a year in Bhongir before returning to the US. It was a lovely place, but it seemed a lot farther than 45 km from Hyderabad, more a 90-minute bus ride. Still, judging from your photos, not much has changed. Lovely people there, too. Blessings to you.

  2. Thanks Bill! I didn’t have too much time on my hands, and wasn’t able to make it to the oh-so-numerous interesting places around Bhongir – but then, as long as there’s fuel in my bike and the open road, who knows what will happen!

    If you’re ever in this part of the world, do let us know – it should be fun to meet up!

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